1971 Chevy Chevelle

Text By Jim Smart Photos By Bob Ryder

A Proud Legacy of Muscle-Bound Performance Lives in Robb McIntosh’s Garage
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Even if you’re the most die-hard Ford, Mopar or AMC guy, you have to acknowledge that Chevrolet’s Chevelle is easily the most Popular Classic Muscle Car Ever Made. There is no Equal..The Beauty of Chevy’s timeless Chevelle mid-size is its large footprint. They were well-made automobiles for the masses, and GM built a ton of them in a number of U.S. and Foreign assembly plants. When it comes to performance enthusiasts, Chevelle has been the most versatile platform in the world on which to build muscle. 
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Chevelle was launched in 1964 to compete head on with Ford Fairlane and the rest of the intermediate market. There were full –size Impalas, Bel Airs and the humble bare-bones Biscayne with the police/taxicab interior. There was also Chevy ll and Corvair. However,  Chevrolet really didn’t have a car line for the mid-size market. When Chevelle rolled onto showroom floors in the fall of 1963, the market was hungry and buyers were ready to step up.
At 65 years old, Robb McIntosh remembers the Chevelle well. He was coming of age when the cars were introduced. In 1964, the Chevelle’s best years were yet to come and so were Rob’s. The Chevelle would reach its performance pinnacle in 1970 with the LS6 and ground-pounding, 454-ci solid lifter power with 450 hp on tap. It was easily the baddest muscle car Chevrolet ever produced.
When Robb bought this 71 Chevelle in 2009, he was on a mission to build a stellar ride as a tribute to his late-wife Colleen, who lost her fight with cancer nearly four years ago. The ride is a true testament to Robb’s dedicatioin:  “My son Robbie helped me with the car,” he says, “and Mitch Lanzini inspired me to take it to the next level.”

Before you is the Chevelle’s best side, a great rear ¾ shot captured by Maximum Drive’s Editor Bob Ryder, where you get an idea of what Chevelle has always been about—power. On the ground is rolling stock we only could have dreamt! About 40 years ago. Those super-wide G10s and Nitto Invos put the “heavy” in the “Chevy.” They provide handling and they get this Chevelle’s 502-ci power to the pavement. Underneath is a GM 12-bolt with 3.70:1 cogs in locking style. Robb’s Chevelle is all about packaging and assembling the right combination of components. You want parts that mesh together smoothly with lockstep precision. What Robb gets for his hard-earned money and time is a GM intermediate that can go anywhere, yet deliver rocket ship power as needed. This is where fun and function meet and get along.

The 1968 Chevelle moved through a number of changes that kept it fresh. From 1968-70, Chevelle had twinset headlights and a variety of sheet metal revisions. In cost-cutting moves, the Chevelle’s grille because simpler over time with fewer and fewer parts to ease assembly and save money. By 1971, Chevelle had larger single-set headlights and a one-piece plastic grille, which would remain through 1972. Despite these changes, the car remained sharp with a tough-guy disposition. Parking lamps and side markers stayed single shared units with easy-to –service lamps, sockets and lenses. One GM innovation, the bolt-on front fasciaa, makes it possible to alter a car line’s appearance without extensive sheet metal changes. What’s more, it made vehicle assembly easier.

Heavy Chevy power on the ground for stopping and for going. When you’re building a hot Chevelle, you want braking to work as well as the engine its trying to stop because all of that power is destructive if you have no control of it. Robb understood this going in, which is why he opted for Classsic Performance products disc brakes in all four corners. In front are 13-inch CPP discs with Budnik 19 x 8-inch G10s and Nitto Invo 255/40/19s. In back are CPP 12-inch binders working in snison with Budnik 20 x 10-inch G10s and Nitto Invo 295/35/20s. The big footprint translates to great handling and stopping power. And when it’s time to get it on, these wide Nittos put power where it belongs, at the pavement, for excellent traction. We like the smoky burnouts, but what really counts is what you do with the power.

GM’s intermediates of the era all have the same side profile, and it’s a memorable persona. At a glance you see Pontiac GTO, Olds 4-4-2 and Buick GS because the greenhouse was shared by all of these GM lines. However, only one enjoys the powerful muscle car legend of Chevelle with its sculpted fenders and quarter panels. These slippery stamped panels gave Chevelle character linke no other mid-size at the time. And thanks to these huge wheel wells, you can fit a lot of rummber and aluminum in them. The Budnik G10s and Nitto Invos deliver a stunning message of power and brawn. Visible through the spokes are those CPP disc brakes we were talking about earlier. In 1971, we never could have envisioned 19- and 20-inch wheels, yet they look right at home because this was a body born for them.
BUILDER: Robb, Colleen and Robbie McIntosh, Pamona, CA
FRAME: Stock unmodified GM intermediate frame
SUSPENSION: Front: CPP tubular upper arms, Global West lower arms, QA-1 adjustable, lowering coils
BRAKES: CPP Big Brake kit with 13-inch front and 12-inch rear
WHEELS: Budnik G10 19 x 8-inch front and 20 x 10-inch rear; Nitto Invo 255/40/19 front and 295/35/20 rear

Scat Procar custom-upholstered, fully adjustable bucket seats give us a rush with their red-on-black stitching  and breathing holes designed to keep a hot posterior cool. Side bolsters keep you stable in hard corners. Good lumbar support helps you steer clear of backache on a long trip. Adjustable seat backs articulate to just about any driving position. The Budnik G10 steering wheel matches the G10 wheels perfectly. Team McIntosh worked together to keep everything consistent throughout.

Westminster Auto Upholstery took the Chevelle’s original rear seat frame and spring and built an incredible rear seat with red stitching and heavy side bolsters for extraordinary comfort.  This is a back seat to comfort you whether the trip is local or long distance. Not even in high-end luxury cars did the General get it this good, and check out the armrest! Quarter trim panels were also custom-fabricated by Westminster Auto Upholstery.

Inside, Robb introduces us to a world of craftsmanship carried out by people who aren’t content with the mundane. They want over-the-top results, and that’s what Robb got when he visited Westminster  Auto Upholstery in Anaheim, CA. We like this custom-made center console with a B&M Quick Silver ratchet shifter for the GM 700-R4 underneath. That’s a Covan Thunder Road dash insert with Auto Meter Sport Comp instrumentation. Vintage Air provides climate control for year-round comfort in any kind of weather.
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Talk about the stuff dreams were made of 40 years ago! You could buy rebuilt crate engines all day long from your Sears Automotive Center and perhaps Pep Boys for a couple of hundred bucks. However, you couldn’t buy a new high-performance engine that made 500 hp and 567 ft-lbs of torque for the same kind of money. If you wanted power, you gathered up the right parts and visited a reputable machinist. Robb took a common sense path to power and bought a GM Performance 502-ci ZZ502 crate bigblock for his Chevelle project. This is Chevy’s 502-inch ZZ502 big-block (P/N 19201 1332) all new, right off the truck from Detroit. For approximately nine grand you get the entire package from carburetor to pan, including a GM factory-assembled short-block with 4,470-inch bore and 4-inch stroke, GM performance aluminum heads with 2.250/1.880-inch valves and 110cc chambers, a hydraulic roller cam with 112-lobe centers and .527/.544 valve lift, 224/234-degree duration at .050-inch, aluminum dual-plane high-rise Holley 850-dfm 4150 water pump and GM’s own HEI ignition. Everything necessary to get the pipes hot is here. Robb poted for a nice billet front dress serpentine belt drive to pull everything in close.

When you order a crate engine, be prepared to sweat details that make the difference between average and extraordinary. Robb opted for ceramic long-tube headers for cooler operation and good looks. Made-4U ignition wire holders and routers make a huge difference in terms of durability and neatness. Comp Cams roughcast aluminum valve covers with stud fasteners make the grade and are easy to service. Beneath the Comp covers are Harland Sharp roller rockers for great improvements in internal friction. On top is an 850-cfm Holley 4150 with a GM Performance dual-plane high-rise for exceptional low- to mid- range torque. A Ron Davis radiator bolted right in, providing adequate heat transfer and cooling. Because the firewall has been shaved, you have a clean environment void of pesky eyewash, because neatness counts.

ENGINE: GM Perfromance ZZ502 big-block Chevy crate engine; 502 ci, 502 hp/567 ft-lbs, with tuning and minor mods closer to 600/600; 4.470-inch bore, 4.000-ich stroke; hydraulic roller camshaft; aluminum oval port GM heads; Harland Sharp roller rockers; GM performance dual-plane manifold; Holley 850-cfm 4150; GM HEI ignition

TRANSMISSION: GM 700-R4 built by Remac Transmissions, San Dimas, CA

REAR AXLE: Ford 9-Inch from Currie Enterprises with Detroit Locker and 3.70:1 gears and 31-spline axles

BODY AND PAINT: Viper Red with black graphics by Lanzini Body Works in Huntington Beach, CA

INTERIOR: Westminster Auto Upholstery, Anaheim, CA, black custom upholstery over Scat/Procar bucket seats, Covan Thunder Road dash insert, American Autowire electrical, Budnik G10 steering wheel