Car enthusiasts hold survivors in high regard. Original paint, trim and upholstery from the sixties are rare commodities, and therefore, historical artifacts. For Aaron Oberle, buying an all-original survivor Chevelle was just the starting point for a much more challenging and interesting journey. Since GM A-body cars consist of a body-on-frame design, Aaron carried out a plan to engineer a thoroughly modern chassis while retaining his car’s survivor body in its entirety. It all went down in Aaron’s family garage.
Aaron found his 65 Chevelle on Craigslist complete with its original 6 cylinder engine, a 2 speed Powerglide transmission and only 64,000 miles on the odometer. Amazingly, the car spent its entire life in Massachussetts, where rust never sleeps. For a while, Aaron drove the car around in stock form with its skinny tires, hub caps, drum brakes and all. Once the nostalgia wore off, Aaron upgraded the antiquated factory chassis with bolt on hardware from ABC Performance. The car also received ABC’s first set of minitubs for early A-bodies and the factory frame rails were boxed for strength. After driving and enjoying the car for a while, Aaron devised a plan to take his Chevelle to new levels of performance.
Aaron is an engineer by trade. Recently retired, Aaron was part owner of a firm that develops manufacturing solutions for big companies, including car manufacturers. With that sort of resume, Aaron has the skills and the resources to think beyond bolt-on parts. So he designed his own chassis in Solidworks, then reached out to Ron Sutton Race Technology in Rancho Cordova, CA. Ron was tasked with fabricating a new front frame section that would be grafted onto the original frame rails. Ordinarily, it would make sense to work with a local fabrication shop or to simply buy an existing aftermarket chassis. Aaron, however, pursued a “clean sheet” approach by communicating ideas and goals with Ron Sutton. In turn, Ron’s shop built a front clip from scratch using his long travel, low roll design philosophy. A lot of race car fabricators turn their noses up at pro-touring cars. Their perspective is that if you want to go racing, build a real race car. Ron Sutton, gets Pro-Touring. These cars are fun to drive on the street and on the track. Versatility and character meet technology and performance. Aaron’s Chevelle possesses al of these attributes.
Back in Michigan, Aaron grafted the one-off Ron Sutton front clip onto the car’s original, boxed frame rails. This approach preserved some of the original chassis and simplified body mounting. Aaron then set out to design and build his own 3 link rear suspension with a Watts link. Unlike the front suspension, Aaron designed and built the rear suspension himself. A custom rear frame section was added between the factory frame rails and the rear bumper horns with the Watts link mounted to the frame rather than the axle. With the upper link offset slightly to the right, a small 1″ tall box was added to the trunk floor for clearance. Aaron built ever part of the rear suspension from scratch including mounts, brackets and links. RideTech TQ Series Triple Adjustable coilovers with Ron Sutton valving are used at all four corners. The chassis is finished off with StopTech 6 piston front and 4 piston rear brakes along with a Sweet Manufacturing steering rack. Aaron chose 18″x11″ Forgeline RB3C wheels and 315mm B.F. Goodrich Rival S tires front and rear.
So how does it all work? For starters, Aaron’s Chevelle delivers excellent ride quality on the street. Likewise, the car sits and looks great as any hot rod should. We’re drawn to the original gold (Sierra Tan) paint with complementary bronze Forgeline wheels. On track at the Motor State Challenge, Aaron is thrilled at his chassis’ increased grip — especially in the rear. Those fat 315mm tires help get the power down. Aaron’s Chevelle is equipped with a 600HP Mast Black Label 416 LS engine backed by a Bowler T56 and a Strange Engineering 9″ with 3.70 gears and a Detroit Locker. It’s a unique build, for sure. That was the plan.
While few of us possess Aaron’s engineering skills and resources, we can all appreciate a great car. Aaron took a timeless survivor and carefully updated it. The end result is a car that is fun to drive while respecting its survivor status. Aaron says he’s excited to attend more high performance driving events with family and friends while scheming about his next project. If you see an old granny Chevelle out their on the track, try to get a close look before it passes you by.
For RideTech TQ Series Coilovers, click HERE
For Ron Sutton Race Technology, click HERE
For an article about the Motor State Challenge, click HERE