“When I turned 50,” Jack King told me, “I told my wife I really wanted to buy a Chevelle. ‘I’ll tell you what,’ she said, ‘you make it to 60 and behave yourself, and we’ll see what we can do.’”
Jack must have behaved himself, because two months after he turned 60, he was the proud owner of this stunning 1969 Chevelle SS.
Jack found the Chevelle via an eBay ad from an automotive painter in Kentucky. “His paint work is what sold me,” Jack said. “If this car was ever another color besides garnet red, you can’t find it.”
The perfectly straight body and flawless paint job obviously didn’t need work. “It’s about as good as it gets,” as Jack accurately described it.
But when I asked Jack what else on the car he had to work on, he said, “It’d be easier if I told you what I haven’t done.”
The biggest part of that work was with the 454 engine. Astute Chevy-ophiles will correctly point out that Chevrolet didn’t put 454s in Chevelles in 1969, and Jack’s did originally have a 396. When the 396 had to be replaced, the owner wasn’t worried about it being a numbers matching car, so he opted for the bigger big block.
And that’s a theme Jack has maintained with his work on the Chevy – period correct, but not necessarily factory correct.
So Jack’s engine features a Holley mechanical fuel pump and 750 double pumper, points and condenser ignition, and some chrome on the alternator, power steering pump, and intake manifold.
That was all working well until Jack spun the rear main bearing. “We were hoping it was an oil pump failure,” Jack recalled. “Most people will tell you oil pumps just don’t fail. And true to that…” Jack didn’t have to finish the sentence. It wasn’t the oil pump.
The spun bearing sent metal shards throughout the engine. The cast iron heads were fine, but everything internal to the block had to be replaced. Swafford Competition in Rome, Georgia handled the rebuild.
It was during the rebuild that Jack found out this 454 was from a 1974 Chevy pickup truck. They knew that because it had a truck camshaft in it. Truck cams are designed for lots of torque, but not much horsepower. Jack wasn’t planning on using the Chevelle for towing, so the folks at Swafford replaced it with a more performance oriented camshaft. A stint on Swafford’s dyno showed the 454 is now putting out 436 horsepower.
Jack couldn’t say enough good things about Swafford, and it was a mutually agreeable relationship. The folks at Swafford primarily build race engines, so they were really excited to have “an old style 454” to work on.
Headers feed out to the dual exhaust system that looked brand new when Jack purchased the car, but, he said, “I needed a little more rumble,” so he installed FlowMaster Super 10 mufflers. The Super 10s and that new camshaft produce a great exhaust note.
From the factory, the Chevelle had an automatic transmission, but somewhere along the line it had been replaced with a 4-speed. Since he’s owned it, Jack has replaced the trans with a fresher, better shifting Muncie M-22. Originally the car had 2.73 gears on an open rear end, but the Muncie now turns 3.73 gears on a Positraction differential.
That new camshaft, and those new rear end gears, certainly improved the Chevelle’s acceleration, but Jack did point out that it came at the expense of some gas mileage. The Chevelle now gets about… well, let’s just say you don’t need two digits to express the MPG.
The factory front disk / rear drum brakes are working great so Jack has kept them. The front coil spring suspension has been completely rebuilt with stock components. The rear suspension has been replaced with an Eibach suspension supplemented with air shocks. The 17” American Racing rims and Uniroyal Tiger Paw radials give the car a classic hot rod stance and look.
Jack replaced the factory instrument cluster with a complete set of AutoMeter gauges that look fantastic. And he added a CD player for his “vibes”. “If you’re from the 60s and 70s,” Jack explained, “you’ve got to have your vibes.” I certainly agree. The CD vibes come through door mounted and rear deck mounted speakers, again keeping with the period correct approach to the build. The seats have been reupholstered using the stock stitching patterns.
Jack purchased the car for $26,000 and has doubled that investment with his modifications. But he also told me, “You won’t get your hands on it for less than $80k, if you want this one.” And if he did sell it, “I’d start right back with another Chevelle,” he said.
“It’s been an interesting trip,” Jack said, and he’s grateful to his wife Ginny for supporting him all the way. “She’s been a good sport. I’m grateful she lets me play in my hobby.”
“I’m just in love with it. It’s the car I grew up with – I had a ‘68 at the end of high school. I’ve had Camaros and the Cutlasses and Corvettes, but this is always the one that stuck in my mind.”
It’s easy to see why.