Ben Brown used good old Aussie dedication to turn a tatty American streeter into a blown, 'bagged show-stoper
This article on Ben's Chevelle was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Street Machine
BUYING a car from the USA is a huge gamble, and one that plays on your emotions for months as you wait for your investment to cross the Pacific Ocean on the slow boat out of Long Beach.
I’ve done it, and so has fellow Central Coast resident Ben Brown with this ’72 Chevelle – although back then it was nothing like the candy-coated elite-level show car it is now!
“I wanted something different,” Ben says. “I love the fat rear end of a Chevelle, so I began my search in the USA and ended up buying this car, which was on the show Car Warriors.”
One headache from Car Warriors turned into a bit of a saga for Ben. “The front windscreen was really badly installed, so when Rod tried to get it out, it smashed. As it turns out, chasing a ’screen for a ’72 Chevelle is quite hard. After about 100 phone calls I got onto the guys at Ralph Moore Autoglass and they had one in stock, ready to go”
While that sounds like a beaut purchase, it didn’t quite turn out so well. You see, Car Warriors sees legendary hot rodder Jimmy Shine give two teams just 48 hours to build cool rides off the same base vehicle. Ben’s Chevelle had been put together by SPG Customs from Philadelphia, though the tight time restriction was evident when Ben saw the car in the flesh for the first time.
The Chevelle gets down on RideTech ShockWave air struts in front, with bellows-style Air Ride ’bags in the rear and Fox shocks controlling oscillation. The stock pressed-steel control arms were binned in favour of tube RideTech units, while an AccuAir e-Level system electronically controls ride height with three presets
“When it turned up it was nothing like the photos and not finished how it was on TV. I was so excited tracking it on the ship all the way from New York, but then it turned up and it didn’t start, none of the electrics worked, and the interior was held together by a few screws. I cracked the shits and ripped the whole interior out of it.
“I was just going to redo the interior and get it registered as a weekend cruiser, but then things started to snowball. I spoke to a mate about the paint, as it had a terrible pinstripe down the side and we needed to rub the car right back to fix that, so I thought I’d change the colour.”
Rod’s Custom Restoration was given the job of changing the Chevelle from blue to black, although Ben threw a spanner in the works at the last minute.
Behind those epic 20in Intro V-Rods, there’s Baer four-piston T4 calipers working on 330mm slotted and cross-drilled Baer discs up front, with stock drums out back
“I was going to go black right up until I spoke to the guys at House Of Kolor and we decided to go Candy Apple Red instead,” Ben laughs. “To Rod’s shock I turned up with all the gear for Candy Apple Red instead of black. In the meantime I had purchased a set of V-Rod wheels from Showwheels and had them ready to rock and roll for when the car was finished being painted.
“Rod finished the car and, when I went to pick it up, everyone was amazed at how good the colour looked, and that right there was when the bug really hit.”
While many of us would be spending hours locked in the shed putting our car back together so we could drive it as soon as possible, Ben took a mature approach by sitting back and thinking of exactly what he wanted the finished product to be.
“I took it home and parked it in the garage for about a year while I worked out where I wanted to go with the car, slowly getting parts for it,” he says. “It was all quite tame until I was on Facebook and saw a brand new blower for sale; that’s where the game changed for me and I called Rob Zahabi up at Rides By Kam. We discussed a plan of attack for about two hours on the phone and, about a month later, I did a road-trip up to the Gold Coast with a ute full of parts and a half-finished Chevelle in tow.
This is where Rob took over and got the car to where it is today.”
The engine bay is dripping in Billet Specialties parts and custom chromed pieces. The radiator is a custom piece, with Maradyne thermo fans pulling cool air at idle. Gears are clicked in a manualised TH400 auto, running to a GM 12-bolt diff fitted with a Positraction LSD, as was optional on big-block Chevelles back in the day
The Rides By Kam team handled that custom interior with new dash and centre console, fitted the Air Ride air suspension, updated the steering with rack-and-pinion and an Ididit column, and resprayed the front end after some minor transport damage on the trip to Queensland. They also sent the 383ci small-block Chev down to Jake’s Performance to be rebuilt.
“The Chevelle came with a brand new crate Edelbrock 383ci stroker, but we had to rebuild it to suit the blower, with new pistons and some other parts,” Ben says. “It’s only running 5psi or 6psi, which is very under-driven.”
The first-gen small-block is an iron four-bolt block and rocks a pair of Edelbrock Performer aluminium cylinder heads, but the attention-grabber is that Blower Shop 6/71 and manifold, topped by a pair of 750cfm Holley four-barrel carbies, and plumbed with Aussie Speedflow fittings. Spark is provided by MSD, while the 98-octane fuel comes via a Holley mechanical pump. A custom twin three-inch exhaust blows out the spent gasses.
Rides By Kam really knocked the cabin out of the park. The seats are VE SS foams customised to make four buckets, swathed in cream leather. The Billet Specialties tiller has also been wrapped in cream leather to match
Before the SBC was re-installed, Rides By Kam smoothed out the firewall and painted it to match the shell. Ben then went to town with the Billet Specialties catalogue, and what didn’t come from them was sent to the chromers for an almost mirror-like finish. Despite the amount of work undertaken, the Chevelle was ready to be picked up a year after Ben dropped it off, and it debuted at Summernats 29.
Kam also installed the stereo system, with a Kenwood DVD source unit and Hifonics speakers, subs and amp
“The car was finished in late December 2014 ready for Summernats as its first show, and I was stoked to get into the Top 60. I got an Encouragement Award and, more than anything, got valuable advice from the judges on small changes and tweaks we needed to do.”
The dash and console are fibreglass items from The Shop LLC in the USA, sprayed Candy Apple Red to match the shell
While some would think a few tweaks might be a couple of weekend jobs or bolt-on covers, Ben isn’t one to do things by halves. “I’m in the middle of working out a plan for a new and improved PH FAT, which includes tubbing and notching the rear end, smoothing everything, a possible colour change, rollcage and new motor combo,” he says. “I want to be in the 1000hp club to enjoy Powercruise, but still have a show-quality car at the same time.”
We reckon Jimmy Shine would like this ’72 Chevelle a whole lot more now Ben has worked on it.
1972 CHEVROLET CHEVELLE
Colour: House Of Kolor Candy Apple Red
Type: Edelbrock small-block Chev
Blower: Blower Shop 6/71
Carbs: Twin Holley 750cfm
Gearbox: Manualised TH400
Diff: GM 12-bolt Positraction
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front suspension: RideTech ShockWave air struts, RideTech ShockWave XA shocks
Rear suspension: RideTech airbags, Fox shocks
Front end: RideTech control arms, AccuAir e-Level air management, rack-and-pinion steering
Brakes: Baer 330mm discs and T4 calipers (f), stock drums (r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Intro V-Rod;20x8.5 (f), 20x10 (r)
Tyres: Roadstone; 225/35 (f), 275/30 (r)