In the early years of the car, technology changed so quickly that after just 20-years of production it had surpassed the mode of transport used in the previous 2000 years — the horse. And, to this day, that rate of technology and evolution hasn’t slowed. Each and every year, cars are built to handle better, conserve more fuel, and make more power. While it’s the manufacturers that spearhead many of these improvements, there are similar things happening in the muscle car world, too.
Auckland panel shop director Patrick O’Keeffe is one of those people who’s been caught up in that cycle of constant evolution. After owning a variety of cars in his time, five years ago he completed the build of one seriously cool 1967 Camaro. With arrow-straight panel work, super deep gloss black paint and 20-inch wheels, it was ahead of its time, and a standout wherever it went. As we all know, though, it’s hard to stay at the top of the game for long, and Patrick was well aware that he either needed to rebuild the Camaro or build something else if he wanted to continue wowing crowds and scoring trophies.
After convincing his wife Marcia that they were better off holding on to the Camaro and building something new, as well, the search began for a 1967 Chevelle. While he’s a Chev fan, it wasn’t the brand of the car that mattered the most; it was his simple love of the shape, especially that of the rear window area. Unlike the ’65 Chevelles, the ’66 and ’67 feature a sunken rear window and stretched C-pillars for a unique look.
After hunting on the internet, he found a suitable car just 180 miles north of LA, and promptly organized for it to be shipped back home. It had no engine and was sunburnt, but a predominantly straight body. What little panel work there was could easily be taken care of by his team at Boss Panelbeaters. While general collision repairs are what they specialize in, there’s always a classic or two of some variety in the shop, so things like smoothing off the firewall and massaging the 45-year-old metal back into shape was a breeze.
After having a black car (the Camaro), Patrick knew he wanted something different — something that stood out, but remained classy at the same time. Being not only a DuPont specialist paint shop, but the winner of DuPont’s annual Refinishing Shop of the Year competition, the choice of paint brand was an easy one. The colour, on the other hand, took a few months of searching through the thousands of available options and spraying near-on hundreds of test panels. The final colour he decided on is a Lamborghini hue, with a serious amount of pearl in it.
While Patrick had his team busy on the body, he was busy himself putting in an order with Rod and Performance NZ for all the suspension and brake components required. With handling and braking being a high priority for the build, a full Heidts suspension kit was ordered, along with a Wilwood brake kit. The Heidts A-arms not only come with modern geometry and late-model ball-joints to replace the worn-out items, but also drop the car down and provide mounting points for the QA1 coilovers.
The rear end includes an adjustable four-link and matching coilovers and, to top it off, large sway bars have been fitted at both ends, too. Covering those massive brakes are 20-inch Showwheels rims measuring in at an impressive 10-inches wide on the rear and 8.5-inches wide on the front.
During the build, the body was lifted off the chassis, and the chassis sandblasted before being painted to the same flawless finish as the panels. Then, before the body was re-fitted, the underside of the floor was sprayed to match. The finishing touch to the paintwork was the badges, which have been airbrushed onto the rear ends.
A late-model fuel-injected motor was always part of the build plan, and when you consider how little it costs to get a reliable yet high-power injected engine, it’s easy to see why. The engine chosen was an LS1 from a 2004 HSV and, after talking with the guys from Protune, Patrick decided that the factory 297kW could easily be increased with no detrimental effects. To do so, a Power+Plus Typhoon manifold was fitted along with a 90mm Holley throttle body and LS2 injectors. To provide the fuel, Patrick had Fabtech build a 110-litre drop tank utilising the factory HSV in-tank fuel pump. A pair of ported Pro Comp heads were also sourced and fitted with Manley valves, to make the most of the new camshaft’s upgraded breathing capabilities.
With the engine fitted to the chassis and the chassis back with the body, Protune was enlisted to wire it up and get it running. While the final performance tune hasn’t taken place as yet, it’s estimated the car should make around 550hp, which is not a bad improvement from stock at all. To get that power to the ground, Patrick chose a 700R4 automatic transmission,
but rather than using a second-hand transmission of unknown origin, he had Rod and Performance NZ supply a brand-new turn key built item with a stage-two shift kit and 2500rpm stall converter. The Chevelle 12-bolt diff is the only remaining part of the driveline that the car left the factory with, although it too now has new internals in the form of an LSD head.
When it came time to sort the interior, the decision was made to keep it fairly original, although somewhat modernized below the surface. A full assortment of Dynamat heat and sound insulation was installed, which adds to that new car feel. The other major advancement is the installation of a serious Sony Xplod sound system by the team at Rapid Radio. Besides the two 10-inch Sony subs, two amps, custom centre console, custom kick panels, and custom-painted enclosure in the boot, the Rapid Radio team also installed a fully functioning toolbox. On the other side of the boot is an equally useful and important beer holder! Unfortunately, the boot wasn’t completed in time for our photoshoot.
After an 18-month build period, the car was recently unveiled to an excited crowd at the Jenner’s Hall Of Fame show . From the reactions and comments on its debut, it looks like the car has had the desired effect of stopping people in their tracks. We’re guessing it will continue to do exactly that for the next five or so years, when Patrick will no doubt decide to raise the bar yet again in the name of continual evolution. Exactly how he’ll top this build, we’re not quite sure, but we certainly look forward to finding out!
Patrick O’Keeffe: 1967 Chev Chevelle
Engine: 2004 LS1, ported Pro Comp heads, Manley valves, GMPP springs, stage 3 cam, Power+Plus Typhoon manifold, 90mm Holley throttle body, HSV in-tank fuel pump, LS2 injectors, 110-litre stainless drop tank, Doug headers, 2.5-inch exhausts, stainless mufflers, HSV radiator, X-Air intake
Driveline: GM TH700R4, 2500rpm stall, 12-bolt diff, LSD head
Suspension: Heidts A-arms, QA1 coilovers, Heidts four-link, oversized sway bars
Brakes: Wilwood six-piston front calipers, 14-inch Wilwood rotors, Wilwood four-piston rear calipers, 13-inch Wilwood rotors, Hydraboost booster
Wheels/Tyres: 20×8.5 and 20×10-inch Showwheels
Exterior: DuPont Lamborghini Orange
Chassis: Boxed rails
Interior: Stock retrim, Dynamat, Sony XAV622 double din head unit, Sony XSGTR1720s components, twin Sony XSGTR100L 10-inch subs, twin Sony XMGTR4A amps, Sony
Performance: Approx 550hp