Colleen’s Dream

Written by Chad Reynolds/ June, 2014

A Big Block 1971 Chevelle Who’s Arrest Me Red Paint Isn’t The Only Thing That Grabs You

The first time I laid eyes on Robb Mcintosh’s Big Block 1971 Chevelle, I knew we had to shoot a feature on it. The paint is insanely straight and bright, the stance is mint, but the thing that really grabbed me was the Big Block Chevrolet under the hood. With the LS craze in full swing, Big Block cars are once again grabbing attention because they aren’t the norm. We dig them. Clearly so does Robb, because when we asked him why the Big Block, his response was “Because everyone else is doing an LS. A Chevelle is supposed to have a big block in it. I wanted the old school big block. It’s a 502, which is a big block, and it’s in a Chevelle, which is the way it should be.” We can’t argue with you there Robb. And we can’t argue with the insane Mitch Lanzini Body Works paint, or Westminster Auto Upholstery stitch job either. And before you start to think this is some simple car, the devil is in the details, and there are lots and lots of details in this one. Seriously? The stripe reminds me of a Heavy Chevy optioned Chevelle, the stance is just right, and it looks like a million bucks just looking pretty.

“But why did you title the feature Colleen’s Dream?”, you ask. Well, as with most hot rods, there is a story behind this one. It actually started back in 1998-99 when Colleen and Robb decided to build a car for their son Robbie. They spent a very reasonable amount on that car, but Colleen was still freaked out and couldn’t believe what it cost. Robb wasn’t specific, but we got the impression that they spent less than $20k redoing Robbie’s Camaro.

Fast forward to 2009, and Colleen was in a serious battle with cancer and didn’t want Robb sitting around taking care of her all the time. “Near the end when I was taking care of her she told me to go and get a project car to take my mind off of her. I bought the car in 2009 off of E-bay sight unseen out of the state of Washington. I asked her what color she wanted the car and she told me it should be red. When I got the car home I put it in the garage and didn’t touch it until after she had passed. My son Robbie and I started working on the car and we had to replace all of the sheet metal except for the roof. It was a frame off restoration.The frame was powder coated along with several other parts under the hood. When it came time for paint I went to talk to Mitch Lanzini in Huntington Beach to paint the car. When the car was at his shop I would go and check on the progress and visit with Mitch. Since then we have become good friends. Between Mitch and my son they were the driving force to take it to the next level that made the car turn out so well. It was a 3 year project of love. I’m sure my wife would not have approved of spending as much money as I did but I’m sure she would be proud of how well it turned out.”

Based on what Robb told us, we’re pretty sure that Colleen would most certainly have wanted to spend less, but given the process, and the result, we’re pretty sure she was giving a little guidance from above. When she said Red, Mitch, Robbie, and Robb went Red. Viper Red to be exact, one of the coolest Red colors to every get splashed on a hot rod. The way it pops in our photos is amazing, and the cool backgrounds around Pomona California that we chose don’t hurt either. The truth is though, we could shoot a cell phone pic of this car in front of a trash pile and it would look stunning.

Despite Colleen’s passing almost 4 1/2 years ago, Robb and his son Robbie, along with lots of help from Mitch Lanzini, kept on moving on with the project. Robb tells us that “The whole budget thing would have been a lot less because we just wanted a nice restoration with stock upholstery, etc. Bu it snowballed. The only original piece of sheetmetal is the roof. Mitch then wanted to lose the sidemarkers and the locks on the doors and trunk. So at some point it was just ‘to hell with it, who cares about the budget!’ “The original 30k budget is now at least three times that we’d guess, but well worth it based on the result. Robb said that there were plenty of times during the entire process where Mitch and Robbie would push him and he’d lose out on the vote. “They would always win.”, he said. Ultimately they helped push Robb to build the Big Block 1971 Chevelle he always wanted, which, despite the cost, is surely what Colleen wanted when she first told him to go buy a new project.

Leo Glasbrenner, multi time NHRA National Record Holder and acclaimed Stock and Super Stock Eliminator driver, built the 700r4 at Rmac Transmissions in San Dimas, Ca. Robb hasn’t been pushing the car hard yet, because it’s mostly been in cruise and show mode for the past year, but knowing Leo the thing bangs gears and will live with anything Robb can throw at it. Out back a Currie 9″ with a Detroit Locker, 3.70 gears, and 35 spline axles handles all the torque the 502 can throw at it. We’re pretty sure this thing will do burnouts for days and not care at all.

As we stated earlier, in Robb’s eyes there is only one engine that should be in a Chevelle, and that’s a Big Block. In 1971 the 454 was king, but it’s not 1971 anymore, so Robb called and ordered a Chevy Performance Parts ZZ502 that makes 502 horsepower and 567 pound feet to stuff between the front fenders. It’s got the as delivered hydraulic roller camshaft, aluminum oval port heads, a Holley 850, and GM HEI ignition, but has been upgraded with a set of Harland Sharp roller rockers under the valve covers.

To get the stance just the way he wanted it, Robb chose CPP tubular upper control arms, QA-1 Coil Overs, and Global West lower control arms up front. Out back CPP arms, lowered coils, and Bilstein shocks smooth the bumps and plant the tires. And speaking of tires, the Nitto Invos found a really nice home wrapped around Budnik G10 wheels. Up front the 19×8’s are wrapped in 255/40/19s, and out back the 20x10s are wrapped in fat 295/35/20s. We’re not always fans of big wheels, but on this big round car, they look just right.

As mentioned before, Mitch Lanzini’s Body Works in Huntington Beach did all the stunning paint work. When the car came in, Mitch wanted to lose the key locks on the doors and trunk, and he also wanted to shave the market lights off. Robb wasn’t sure, but with Mitch and Robbie’s “encouragement” he went for it. He’s glad he did, because despite the subtle nature of the mods, they give the car a much smoother appearance that he loves.

Mitch’s idea to clean up the body ultimately spread to everything in the car. Under the hood, what looks like a super clean factory style engine compartment features tons of smoothing and finish work that looks like it was always that way. When we look at this car there is something about it that makes us think that the designers at GM sure would have loved to put together a 1971 Chevelle like this back in the day.

Mitch’s prodding also spilled over to the interior. Robb talked to multiple trim shops and famous upholstery guys, only to decide that spending $15k-2ok on interior just wasn’t what he wanted to do. Ultimately he was referred to Pete at  Westminster Auto Upholstery, and was immediately confident in what Pete and his crew would put together. Robb wanted the interior to be able to keep up with, but not overshadow, the new red paint. With no direction other than horizontal pleats, and red stitching, Pete came up with a design that is amazing. It looks like it belongs, is unbelievable comfortable, and it garners lots of attention on it’s own, Well done Pete.

When we asked Robb how the entire process was, and if he was ever stressed, he told us that it was a 3 year labor of love, and that it was fun. As he put it, “It was stressful when I wrote the checks, but other than that it was fun.” And since Colleen told him to buy it so he had something fun to do, and since he painted it red just like she asked, we’re pretty sure Colleen’s dream of seeing here husband and son happy, despite the circumstances of her illness and passing, has been realized. She’d be proud we’re sure.

 

Robb would like to give a special thanks to his son Robbie, and Mitch Lanzini. He’d also like to thank Pete and the crew at Westminster Auto Upholstery and Leo at Rmac Transmissions. And last, but certainly not least he’d like to thank his lovely wife Colleen for the support in this life and the next.