The Driver’s Seat (Part 2)

Some Guys, Some Girls, and Their Chevelle
The story of a certain Lemans Blue 1969 Chevelle Super Sport

Last month, Mark just purchased his ‘69 SS right off the dealer’s lot and began to experience cruising in his OWN muscle car.

Mark enjoyed the nightly cruising and the occasional street race, which he won his fair share of. But he grew tired of the “clunky” Muncie Shifter. Seems he couldn’t speed-shift into third gear, and now the transmission would “grind” when shifting into third gear. A trip back to Suburban Chevrolet was in order to take advantage of the warranty and have the repair performed. While at the dealership, the service manager suggested he purchase a Hurst Shifter for better performance. Mark explained he was going to purchase one right after he left the service bays and install it himself. He told the service manager that he worked at a local service station and new “a lot” about cars and had his own tools. This impressed the service manager, who promptly offered Mark a higher paying job than he presently had. He considered the potential benefits and gladly accepted!

With his new found income, Mark went to the local speed shop to buy some new goodies. A Hurst Competition Plus shifter, Accel distributor cap, rotor, wires, and coil, and two 15x8 Crager SS mags and two L60-14 street tires for increased traction. He took his new goodies home and quickly installed them. When he was finished, Mark boxed up the original parts and hid them in the garage, just in case he’d ever need them. They would make great “reserve” parts.

With the modifications successfully installed, it was time to take a trip to Capital Raceway to see what the L78 could do. His first pass recorded a 14.4 second ¼ mile time at 96 MPH, followed by a 14.2 second run at 98 MPH, followe dby a 14.1 second run at 98 MPH. Now bitten by the “drag-racing” bug, his next goal was to get the car into the low 13 second times. He began to plan the next series of modifications. .

He returned to his friends at the speed shop and, after much discussion and advise, Mark selected a set of headers, a custom exhaust system, ladder bars, and a Stewart-Warner tachometer in place of the “lame” tach in the dash. With his boss’ permission, he used a lift at work and removed the cast iron exhaust manifolds, air pump, and the stock exhaust system. He then carefully installed the performance parts. At first, Mark couldn’t decide whether to keep the original components or throw them away. His boss gave him permission to keep them upstairs in the attic, which is what he did. After all, he may need them as reserves.

One weekend before the tracks closed for the season, Mark returned to Capital to try out his new mods. His ¼ mile times drastically improved, to 13.4 at 104 MPH. He was very happy with his progress, but decided he would make more modifications over the winter to extract MORE performance out of the L78.

Over the winter, mark made more tweaks to the engine, bolted on more performance goodies he received as Christmas presents, and prepared for the new cruising and racing season. The Chevelle now ran a respectable 12.8 ¼ mile time at 106 MPH. Mark began making a name for himself as “the man” to beat. That time came sooner than he thought. .

One night while at the Circle Drive-In, a particularly “nasty sounding” 1970 Chevelle rolled into the parking lot looking for a challenge. Could this car have one of those LS6 454 engines Mark had heard about? The two adversaries began discussing terms of the race and, with encouragement from his girlfriend Debbie, Mark agreed to race the new Chevelle. He gave it all the L78 had, but the LS6 beat him by a fender. Saddened that he was beaten, Mark would not give up. He was going to order one of those LS6 engines from the parts department and install it in his ‘69! !

After installing the crate engine, Zoom clutch, and some more speed equipment, his Chevelle was now running a 11.9 ¼ mile time. Mark once again achieved his “top car” status. .

The following year, Mark and Debbie married and settled into their own home. She didn’t mind him spending money and time on the Chevelle at first, but soon objected to the large portions of his paychecks he spent on speed upgrades. Mark felt it was a necessary evil to maintain his “top car” status!

Over the years, his family grew to the point where the Super Sport did not meet his needs anymore. Gasoline was periodically rationed, there was less and less time to cruise, and instead of going to the track on weekends, there was yard work and house work to do. Debbie continued pestering him to sell the Chevelle and buy a ‘family“ car. In 1975, Mark bought a new Malibu wagon from the dealership he worked at, but REFUSED to sell the ‘69. He removed the tags and parked it in his garage. But Debbie wouldn’t give up, and FINALLY convinced him to sell it two years later. It was a decision he would later regret!

Click Here for part 3.