Art takes patience. In the case of company co-founder Sharon Voelkel’s 1967 Chevelle project, we are working towards building a masterpiece. Ace builder Kurt Blackgrove has put a lot of hard work into this project, thus far. That means the rest of us have been watching and waiting patiently. A lot more work must be done — though not at RideTech. With most of the heavy custom fabrication complete, Sharon’s Chevelle will move to Smitty’s Custom Automotive in Tiffin, Ohio for bodywork, paint and final assembly. Before it goes, you get to see the car mocked up prior to Kurt’s artwork getting covered in paint and leather.
Like us, you no doubt enjoy seeing scratch-built parts in bare metal, before bondo and paint hide all of the hard work. Though inner wheelhouses are often overlooked, Kurt completely hand-fabricated these pieces from flat sheet. The originals could have been reused, but that’s not the point of this project. Few will recognize or appreciate the time and craftsmanship involved in creating the parts’ complex curvatures and detail. Some will mistakingly assume that the OE items have been modified. A ton of work went into creating the reliefs for the upper A-arms as well as the lines and shrouds that hug and overlap the frame rails.
Shifting focus to the very front of the vehicle, you finally get a complete look at the car’s bumper and chin spoiler execution. From the factory, 1966-1967 Chevelles have a very classic face. The iconic design is hard to modernize and improve upon. Though some of the original bumper remains, it has been cut, shaved and and reshaped. The bumper has been narrowed and pulled closer to the body. The corners of the front fenders have been modified to accept the bumper sides. The bumper features a new front surface that incorporates two engine air intake openings on either side plus an additional engine cooling intake in the center. We are holding off on discussing the front grille.
Air Intake System
The Chevelle features hand made, symmetrical intake air ducting. Bret Voelkel wants the engine bay to look like the underhood of a Mercedes-Benz AMG, Aston Martin or Ferrari. These cars have carefully packaged and presented engines. We think Kurt nailed the complex look. Once past the two openings located on either side of the front bumper, air flows into ducts that run up inside the front fenders. It then flows across the top of the radiator support towards the centerline of the vehicle before turning 90 degrees to enter the twin throttle bodies. To make it all work, Kurt built the inner fenders and radiator core support from scratch. For perfect symmetry, the cast aluminum intake manifold has been cut and re-welded. Note that the top sections of the air intake ducts are unfinished. The metal has been “pancaked” so that they can be finish-welded as perfect mirrors of each other later on — Way cool.
Rear Bumper and Trunk
More hand-fabrication is evident at the rear of the car. Some of you may have seen some of these modifications before, but here it is all mocked up together. In order to seamlessly weld and blend the quarter panel extensions into the body, Kurt made replacements from scratch. It’s another subtle modification that requires advanced fabrication skills. The rear bumper is the last part of the car to receive attention. Though we are biased, we think this is the best bumper ever to grace a ’67 Chevelle. It complements the front bumper nicely. As you study the back of the car, it keeps getting better. Poke your head into the trunk and discover that the sides have been fitted with custom RideTech “icon” plates. A simple “trap door” provides access to the in-tank fuel pump, should it ever fail.
Though we are eager to see the car completed, the final vision is coming into focus. We’re loading the car up and taking it a few hours east. Chris Smith and the team at Smitty’s Custom Automotive will transition Sharon’s Chevelle from a metal art sculpture to a painted, fully-functional grand touring machine. We hear that Sharon has already picked out a color. Though there is plenty of work ahead, it’s nice to see this car moving towards the finish line.
Sharon’s Chevelle features RideTech’s complete air suspension system. Click HERE to learn more.
For Smitty’s Custom Automotive, click HERE