Some people buy them and build them from scratch, then there’s guys like Charlie Bailey who buy good cars and make them even better!
Words: Marcus Gibson Photos: Team Speed Demon
1968 Chevrolet Chevelle
Engine: 572ci big block Chev, Bowtie 10.2-inch tall deck block, 4-bolt mains, 254/264 duration @ .050, .632 lift, 109/119 lobe centreline hyd roller cam, 6.53-inch 4340 H-beam rods, 9.7:1 forged pistons, floating pins, Bowtie rectangular port aluminium heads, 118cc chambers, 2.25-inch and 1.88-inch stainless valves, 1.7:1 rockers, modified Edelbrock Victor R manifold, Holley Dominator EFI, stainless 2.25-inch Lemons Headers, 3-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers, aluminium radiator, Vintage Air serpentine system
Driveline: Tremec 5-speed, Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, Lakewood SFI blowproof bellhousing, billet shifter, Chev 12 bolt diff, 4.11:1 gears, posi head
Suspension: CPP 2-inch drop spindles, Edelbrock shocks 450lb springs, Hotchkis top and bottom tubular arms. Hotchkis Pro Tour sway bar, 12.7:1 AGR 800 series steering box, Hotchkis triangulated four-link, Delrin bushings, super low springs
Brakes: Wilwood master cylinder, vented discs and four pot calipers
Wheels/Tyres: 20×8.5-inch and 20×10-inch Niche wheels, 245/35R20 and 245/35R20 tyres
Exterior: Custom paint, custom splitter
Interior: Custom leather retrim, Dakota Digital gauges, custom dash insert
Performance: 612Nm, 597hp at the wheels (5567rpm)
If there’s one thing we can possibly agree on it’s the fallacy of seven-day builds that many US car programmes portray. Case in point: the Foose series that went for years telling us you can bang out a quality finish just in time for an unsuspecting victim to break down in tears. Those builds, if they are to be believed, are astounding. However, TV can be deceiving and a quick ‘whatever happened to …?’ internet search regularly shows up a sorry tale of what became …
Anyway, while we’ll attempt to agree that seven-day builds can happen, the result is sometimes less than desirable. Yes, while the TV may be saying it happens, there’s also a bunch of realist car builders over there who work a more believable pitch.
One of those unsung heros in Texas comes from a totally different background. Tim Duncan (look him up), made his millions playing basketball for the San Antonio Spurs and, during his tenure around the hoops, had a penchant for enjoying decent car builds. It was there that his passion would lead after retiring from the court and how Blackjack Speedshop came into being.
While still bouncing a ball or two, Tim also found a ready market in other players of the NBA. And with a cool quarter billion (yes, billion) in the bank, he could afford to play hard when it came to toys. With Blackjack supplying cars to the stars, that’s where this little feature in NZV8 comes to the fore.
Back in 2015, Tim and his team were inspired to start a build for LaMarcus Aldridge; a Chevelle to enjoy among his other collection of toys. Budget wasn’t a problem, so off Tim and Blackjack went. A genuine 138-code ’68 Chevelle was the chosen canvas and a large big block five-speed was to do adrenaline duty.
Rather than attack the classic lines like some celebrity builds, Tim kept the Chevelle OEM — bar a set of Kindig trademark door handles and some cleansing of side lights. The rest stayed outwardly as GM had created nearly 50 years earlier. Underneath is where things changed drastically. LaMarcus was used to manhandling Italy’s finest in sports and supercars, so a sad, old full-frame from GM wasn’t going to cut it. Tim knew this, so the body came off and his team proceeded to add high-end aftermarket trinketry to refine the handling.
Hotchkis tubular arms and sway bars, along with drop spindles and urethane bushings, were complimented by an AGR quick-ratio steering box. Wilwood slotted and drilled rotors went onto the spindles with corresponding Wilwood four-pots all round, so that a big set of rims could be fitted. Initially, LaMarcus chose 22-inch Forgiatos, but, before long, they were swapped out for a more sedate set of US Mags, in line with the car’s classic restomod appearance.
With the links, steering, and brakes all sorted, it was on to the driveline. Not one to pussyfoot around, Tim threw a crate 572 at the car, then added a Holley Dominator EFI system and MSD on top for good measure. A set of Lemons big tube headers lead to a full three-inch custom exhaust incorporating oversize Flowmasters. A Tremec five-speed is clutched by a Centerforce Dual Friction and pressure plate inside an SFI-spec Lakewood bellhousing. A bullet-proof driveshaft was fabricated that leads to a welded 12-bolt with posi, C-clip eliminators, and 4.11 gears. Yes, this thing was always going to put a smile on anyone’s dial. With over 600 horses on tap and the modern capabilities of the Holley system, pure grunt with smooth tuning is how we’d describe the driveability.
All new fuel and brake lines went through from back to front, before the body rejoined its chassis. Up front, a monster radiator was built to handle the Texas heat while Vintage Air’s billet-bracket serpentine system tacked itself on to the front of the engine and routed air conditioning into the cabin.
Creature comforts are a must when it comes to celebrity status, so attention to detail was key inside the cabin. Windows have been tinted, electric motors added, and all weather strips and rubbers are fresh. Remote locks, alarm, and obligatory ear-melting stereo add to the wiring tangle. Even the ignition buzzer has been made to work. The seating is a work of art. Custom black leather diamond with red stitching has gone into every section, along with the revised dash and console. And the boot has been trimmed out with LaMarcus’ initials and a set of panels trimmed up to hide the accessories inside the trunk.
It certainly is the little things that make a truly good build exceptional. One that definitely wouldn’t happen in seven days. The dash received a full complement of Dakota Digitals, along with an LED touch pad for the tunes in the console. Like I said, it’s the little things that make a standout.
When it came to the body, Tim enlisted Chris Shuler of Boerne Stage Kustoms to put the icing on his cake. Chris and his team straightened and aligned every panel and then laid down a candy red you could swim in. Starting with a House of Kolor base coat of Zenith Gold (BC12), he then sprayed four coats of Apple Red Kandy (UK11) before finishing the ocean-deep paint with SG100 clear. Put it this way, if you ever get to see this car in the flesh, you’ll get what we mean about being able to swim in it.
Strangely, ownership changed hands fairly quickly after LaMarcus enjoyed it for a season. Maybe the lure of those Italian stallions — and, I hate to say it – a Tesla was too much of a draw, but anyway, the car drifted away from Texas and ended up down in Florida where it then popped up on eBay.
That’s where this story gets interesting. Titirangi’s Ivan Vlasich spotted it, threw in a bid, and bang, the thing was shortly thereafter on the water to New Zealand. Yes, there’s been a few celebrity cars that have visited our shores in the past, but we’re fairly sure not one has had an NBA connection.
Ivan certed said Chevelle, and sorted a few idiosyncrasies before deciding that he wanted another challenge. And guess what? In walked Charlie Bailey (yes, he of many cars), and just hours after selling his last adventure, he then owned something he’d wanted for years — a solid big block–and–manual shifted Chevelle.
Not one to rest on his laurels, it was straight down to Takanini Auto Service Centre, where Hamish and team wove their magic once again. A set of revised lowering coils, new 20/22 rolling stock, and the obligatory cut-outs went in. It was then off up to Kayton at Real Rides for him to fabricate a new air dam, along with subtle changes to its character in the form of new wheel-arch trims and grille treatment. Like we said, it’s the little things that count.
Instead of taking the car to one of Auckland’s usual V8 tuning workshops, Charlie decided it was time to test one of his neighbours. Little did he realize that Iain Clegg owned not only New Zealand’s quickest GTR, but he also ran a talented team down at his workshop in Mount Wellington. The car headed off to ST Hi-tec for a re-map on the Holley Dominator, and it was a smiling Charlie who got it back with a nice shiny dyno sheet stating 577 horses at the wheels and 805 pounds of torque. And the best part? Iain was nice enough to do it for a box of beers. Considering that Charlie had been quoted close to $5K to have the tune sorted elsewhere, Ian’s bill was a welcome gesture of goodwill to his neighbour.
So there you have it: a celebrity car made better than before in little old New Zealand. Just goes to show, even an unlimited-budget build can be made better down at the bottom of the Earth.
Car Club: Meadowbank Bridge Club
Previously owned cars: As a teenager started in the Rotary world, soon moved to American and Aussie stuff, EH wagon, HT Monaro, ‘67 Impala, ‘69 Camaro, ‘57 Chevy, ‘62 C10, ‘61 Apache, ‘67 Chevelle, ‘59 Belair, ‘74 Camaro, ‘71 Camaro, ‘70 Chevelle and a plethora of Harleys
Dream car: Loads, presently an Aussie-style burnout monster along with a ‘67 Nova done in Pro Street style….watch this space
Why the Chevelle?: I was in the right place at the right time.
Build time: My bits were done in a couple of weeks
Length of ownership: 6 months
Charlie thanks: My wife and kids for putting up with my addiction, Kayton Coughey of Real Rides (and his mad team), Hamish Paton of Takanini Auto Services for believing in my ambitions and never saying “no” Iain Clegg at St Hitec for a fantastic tune and Ivan who sold me his celebrity purchase at a reasonable price.
This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue No. 184