June, 1999 Feature Car of the Month

Rick Eckenrode’s 1969 Chevelle SS 396 L78

Many of my friends know how fanatical I am with this Chevelle. I watch a sampling of weather reports before taking it out on the road. I do not deliberately drive it during morning or evening rush hour. And I never leave it where I can’t see it! Except when my Chevelle is parked in the garage, I’m always keeping tabs on it! But I DO have fun with it after a few minutes in the driver’s seat.

At one time, I used this Chevelle as a daily driver, commuting to and from Towson University. Even then, I’d search for the “end spot” to park it in. Although it did not look as good as it does now, I did use it as a weekend warrior and cruiser. Many weekends were spent cruising such places as The Thunderbird Drive-in, Perring Parkway Burger King, and The Circle. And many grudge races were settled up on the unfinished portion of I-95. Most of the time it was very dependable but it did break down on a date. Claire was not very impressed with me nor my “hot rod” when it would not start in front of her house. Decked out in our prom-wear, the last thing we needed to do was fix a car! Luckily, her neighbor helped us out and it performed flawlessly the rest of the evening. We’ve been together ever since!

Many of our dates included attending area car shows such as the Baltimore World of Wheels, Super Street Sunday, and a few others. Eventually, the “show-car bug” bit me and we knew it was time to turn the Chevelle into something special. It was also time to find something more economical to drive every day!

In 1982, I began to save my money and began refurbishing The Chevelle. Reproduction parts were not available like the are now, and many parts were discontinued through GM. As a result, many of the original parts were refurbished and reused until replacements were available.

The body was stripped of the original Cortez Silver finish and the body panels were massaged back into shape. I could not find black SS stripes, so they were painted back on and then masked

Before the whole car was sprayed Medium Pewter Poly base coat/clear coat. While the body was apart, I began detailing everything I could reach. The undercarriage was stripped and detailed while I replaced suspension parts. A complete interior kit was installed to give it an as-new appearance. The original 396-325 was gone, but a ‘66 396-375 was located. It received a modern rebuild and was installed in the engine bay. The original M20 4 speed still resides under the floor boards and is topped by the original Muncie shifter. The detailing continues to this day and probably will never stop. And a restoration this old does require maintenance!

My Chevelle is optioned out quite well. In addition to the requisite SS 396 Equipment, it has a black bucket seat interior with center console, Am-Fm radio, rear window defogger, auxiliary lighting, cushion grip steering wheel, gauge package, remote trunk release, headlight washers, F41 suspension, SS stripes, door edge guards, bumper guards, 355 posi, and chambered pipe exhaust. It even rides on spiral shocks and reproduction Goodyear Polyglas Tires. It’s all stock as it would have left the factory.

Since completion, I’ve entered it in many shows and won many awards. That fear of taking it outside the garage I spoke of before usually disappears after a few minutes of driving. I drive it to all shows and it has been as far away as Indianapolis Super Chevy Sunday. And I feel I have the BEST trophy of all - my first car!

Rick Eckenrode (#011)
Bel Air, MD

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