1964 Chevrolet Chevelle
The 1964 Chevelle Convertible Restoration
The owners of this car had dreamed of an Ermine White / Blue interior 1964 Chevelle for many, many years. Having owned and worked on several cars throughout life, this retired gentleman did not have the patience to do another full-car build on his own. He and his wife were referred to us by an individual that had seen several of our personal cars and knew we had just opened DCC to build cars for other people. They contacted us and asked if we would come to Avenal to see the car and its parts. Just as promised, the car was a completely worn-out rolling chassis with body shell just sitting on it. All other sheet-metal was off of the car.
The entire frame was stripped and cleaned. The owners chose satin-black POR-15 coating as opposed to having it powder coated. The stock 10-bolt rear differential was updated with an AUBURN Pro-Series posi unit. The 3.08 gears were in great shape, so they remain in place. Drilled and slotted four-wheel disc brakes from THE RIGHT STUFF were utilized for safety, performance, appearance and affordability. Stock rubber bushings were used for the majority of the front suspension to retain the most comfortable ride. Since this vehicle is going to be driven all over California (and possibly other states) we did not want to lower it too much. We kept stock-height spindles and installed a complete HOTCHKIS SUSPENSION package. I refused to waver on this upgrade, as well as the disc brakes. To be a comfortable “go anywhere safely” cruiser, I insisted on front and rear anti-sway bars, as well as KYB shock absorbers. Since we also added more than 100 horsepower over anything this car could have ever exited the factory with in ’64, I insisted on upgraded rear trailing arms. The whole suspension kit came with all four coil springs (1.25” drop), the rear trailing arms, both sway bars, and much better mounting hardware. All new MOOG steering components were utilized to bring the steering assembly to better-than-new condition.
The now-handsomely upgraded/updated rolling chassis was covered in thick plastic then rolled back underneath the body.
A custom steel driveline was fabricated by PERFORMANCE UNLIMITED in Bakersfield, complete with extreme-duty SPICER U-joints. A new front yoke was added and the whole shebang was balanced before pick up. After that was installed, the pinion angle was checked.
The vehicle’s owner provided five “Clover” mags in 15”x7” size, which were mounted with 245/60-15 COOPER Cobra tires with raised-white-lettering by RADIUS TIRE. One assembly was thrown in the trunk as a spare.
BODY and PAINT
The shell “tub” was bolted to our rotisserie to keep it rigid and allowed us full access and mobility. As the pictures dictate, it had been media-blasted and one coat of primer applied. The quarter panels had already been replaced and had been flared-out in the wheel area to allow bigger tires without mini-tubs. I actually liked this idea and was very anxious to see how the end result would look. It seemed too good to be true….when we stripped the primer off to see what we were dealing with – – we found a BUNCH of bondo. It was ½” thick in some spots. Whoever had welded the new quarter panels on had introduced WAY too much heat and warped the entire panels. Before we proceeded, we had the owners come take a look and approve one of two repairs. Either A LOT of metal work at our shop / OR / completely replace the quarter panels AGAIN. A decision was made to continue forward with what was in front of us. Our body guys used an alternating method of heating and cooling the worst areas to shrink the metal. This labor was costly in both time and money. As the pictures show, it was worth it in the end. We also believe it was still significantly more cost-effective for the client than cutting and replacing the damaged panels.
A new body mount kit was installed and the body was assembled onto the chassis. After it was torqued down, the X stiffening braces were cut from the door jambs. During this maneuver, a chunk of metal fell from the latch area of the driver’s side body. It had trapped water between two areas of bare metal. So, more rust was cut-out and new metal was welded in place, body worked and sealed.
The doors were body-worked and then bolted onto the body with owner-supplied rebuilt hinges and latches. The front fenders were also straightened up and then attached to the rest of the assembly. Body gaps were adjusted and set. Finish block-sanding took place just before rolling into the booth. The chassis was still protected by the plastic and at this point, and we didn’t have any glass to worry about. White self-etching sealer was applied to all of the sheet-metal. This step seals any bare-metal spots and gave a blank canvass for the Ermine White base-coat, followed by PPG 4010 clear. We were now ready to cut away the protective plastic from the chassis.
The re-chromed bumpers were installed and holes were (nervously) drilled in the body for restored non-SS trim.
The client wanted a 5.3L LS1 engine so he could keep the “327” flags on the fenders. We already had a used LM7 (5.3L) engine. Naturally, it had EFI already, but we replaced the pickup-truck intake with a passenger car unit for hood clearance. It was a 60,000-mile engine, so after a compression test, we replaced the seals and freshened up the serpentine accessories for reliability.
The attached 4L60E automatic overdrive transmission was also freshened up and re-sealed. Instead of bent-steel transmission lines, we prefer to assemble leakproof dash-6 braided units in-house.
The LS1 was painted the requested Chevy Orange and coupled with the 4L60E trans. Ceramic coated HOLLEY cast-iron LS1 exhaust manifolds were bolted on. A PYPES EXHAUST stainless-steel mandrel-bend exhaust system was installed, along with included X-pipe and their Street-Pro mufflers.
A fresh fuel tank was installed, complete with new sending unit, and a 255 LPH WALBRO pump provides pressurized fuel to a GM Corvette fuel filter/regulator combo via (once again) dash-6 braided fuel line. A brand-new 3/8” OE (steel) fuel line was added to the frame, which now serves as the EFI return. We prefer this method to allow the vehicle to easily return to factory (carbureted) configuration if desired by the owner.
The customer’s remanufactured ’64 radiator was fitted with dual fans, staged appropriately by the ECM. LUCAS fluids were added from front to rear. Some fuel was added to the tank, the ignition key was turned, and the 5.3L lit right off without incident.
With only a driver’s seat installed, this rig was driven around the block to check engine, transmission, and brake functions. All went very well. For the first time in an unknown amount of years – – this car was UNDER ITS OWN POWER!!!
ELECTRICAL and OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT
A full powertrain harness was purchased from HOWELL EFI. AMERICAN AUTOWIRE was selected for the rest of the wiring in the entire car – head lights to tail lights. A POWERMASTER starter was secured in the proper location. This entirely new electrical system is being fed by an OPTIMA battery to avoid the normal damage caused by leaky (acid) flooded batteries. A 4.3-amp CTEK battery conditioner/maintainer was hardwired onto the car, which will keep this classic ready to go at any time. DAKOTA DIGITAL VHX-series gauges were installed in a new instrument bezel.
A complete VINTAGE AIR direct-fit generation-IV HVAC system was selected to handle the interior climate control. The entire unit is controlled by a 1964 AC control lever module – converted to electronic actuators.
INTERIOR and TOP
The owner provided us with a mobile audio amplifier wiring kit. We installed this along the floor between the dash and the trunk and put down a significant amount of DYNAMAT sound deadening insulation. The convertible top power/hydraulic retrofit kit was also installed, along with a shiny new windshield and all three mirrors. We installed the owner-provided power widow kit. Initial window positioning was established.
The Chevelle was taken to MARK’S UPHOLSTERY in Visalia, CA for its custom convertible top, carpet, and upholstery. HANFORD GLASS unraveled the window regulator issues and power top mechanism adjustments.
During its time away from DCC, the owner had a stereo system installed, complete with power antenna and speaker-accommodating kick-panels. The owner wanted a BLUE convertible top, which we found is not available pre-fabricated. So, it was custom-built from scratch in the material of his choosing. Going this route also meant the client could upgrade from plastic to a glass rear window, which was not an option in 1964. The owner re-painted the convertible top “skeleton” and our upholstery vendor handled the rest.
Upon its return to DCC, the speedometer and other gauges were calibrated and the car was given its final polish and wax. The fuel tank was filled, gauge calibrations were verified and all safety items were double-checked for tightness and function. Since all of the weight was now in/on the vehicle, it was taken to Radius Tire for a digital four-wheel alignment. All lights and power accessories were tested one last time and a date was set for the clients to take delivery of their “brand new” 1964 Chevelle Convertible. With all the updates/upgrades to the suspension, electrical system, gauges, air-conditioning, drivetrain, suspension and brakes – every aspect of this Chevelle is now better than it ever could have been from the factory. This vehicle is now back on the road, racking up rewarding mileage for its owners.