Building Your 1965 Chevelle With Big-Block Power Comes Easier When It’s In The Genes
By Brian Brennan – Photography By John Jackson
When the time comes to sit down and write a car feature the tech sheet pretty much tells the story, coupled with one or two great backstories from the owner. But every now and then we come across a car feature where the owner and the car are stories unto themselves. Tim Strange, of Lewisburg, Tennessee, is both a car builder (Strange Motion Rod & Custom), a personality within our hobby, and a dyed-in-the-wool hot rodder. So where do we begin? Do we talk about Tim or his very cool ’65 Chevy Chevelle with big-block V-8 for power? How about we blend the facts and let the hot rod Chevelle “speak” for the two of them.
It’s often said that much of what a son will do is a direct result of his “genes.” You know the good stuff passed on from father to son (with a healthy dose of Mom, too). Turns out Tim’s dad, Dan, was into Harleys and built several choppers. However, it soon became apparent that having a Harley or two around the house wasn’t going to get the job done as the kids began growing. In place of the Harleys, a continuous line of Chevy Tri-Fives began to show up.
When the time came for Tim to work on his own four wheels, he sold off four of his 4-H pigs (yep, Tim has lots of farmer in his gene pool), gathering up enough money to purchase his first ’55 Chevy. But in time that too went down the proverbial road and, in its place, a ’64 Chevy Chevelle came home. This Chevelle underwent several transformations during his early years and eventually led to national recognition at the ripe “old” ages of 19 and 20.
Over the 30-some years at Strange Motion, Tim has fabricated, performed body and paintwork, assembled, and tuned any number of hot rods. But something he always wanted to do was build a hot rod with his dad. Sounds easy enough but being somewhat geographically undesirable to one another (nine-hour drive apart) made it a tough row to hoe. However, with the death of his mom, Tim and his dad would have something positive to talk about and work on. All projects begin with a steady diet of pics passed back and forth swapping ideas—the usual stuff around what color, wheels and tires, motor, suspension, and so on. But they both agreed it needed to be in a ’60s-style hot rod with a timeless look and stance. Something that 20 years down the road would still be appealing.
The ’65 Chevelle here was his friend’s car at one time. Matt Lindbom provided the ride that Tim and the rest of their high school buddies tooled around in. As life does, it got in the way and the Chevelle was languishing in a barn when a tornado struck. Once the storm moved on the Chevelle was damaged with some sheetmetal missing. Over the course of time Tim was able to talk Lindbom out of the ’65 Chevelle and the rest, as is often said, “is history.”
Back home in Tennessee the build began with Tim and Dan joining their ideas. Tim has his “day job” at Strange Motion and on the weekends he would often find himself handling all sorts of announcing chores at various car shows. (The staff at Modern Rodding and our sister publications found ourselves being interviewed by Tim at the recent Triple Crown of Rodding event.) The project began to drag on and took some five years to get rolling. During this time frame Tim would have his dad, Dan, come down for a week or so at a time and get in father/son build time.
The A-platform Chevelle came out in 1964, with the ’65 being nearly an identical car that was sold from 1964 to 1978 in three generations. It was one of Chevrolet’s entries into the burgeoning muscle car market, receiving all of Chevy’s potent V-8s–small- and big-block alike. Tim’s ’65 Chevelle uses its stock frame with a handful of worthwhile changes. It should be noted that the body is channeled 1-1/4 inches over the frame to achieve the final stance and appearance.
Once on the chassis table Tim and his dad agreed on the stance they were looking for, so Tim rounded up the American Rebel wheels, 15×7 and 16×10, wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber, measuring 205/70R15 and 265/70R16. The wheels set the stance and the frame rake. From here the cutting torch made its appearance. Tim opted for a 2-inch narrowed Fatman Fabrications IFS crossmember that was fitted with Fatman tubular A-arms, drop spindles, sway bar, and Ridetech coilover shocks with Wilwood disc brakes. The drilled-and-slotted rotors combined with the polished Dynalite four-piston calipers are fed by Earl’s Performance Plumbing through a Wilwood master cylinder and pressed into service by a stock pedal configuration with a reworked brake arm. Steering chores fall to the T-bird rack-and-pinion with an ididit-painted steel tilt column.
The frame itself is boxed while the rear portion of the framerails were narrowed 5 inches, combined with a 5-inch kick. In front the frame was also Z’d upward 5 inches, eventually yielding the low stance that Tim was seeking. All this frame massaging yielded a wheelbase that is stretched 1-1/4 inches and now measures 116-1/4 inches. In the back there is a polished aluminum Currie 9-inch rearend centersection that’s fitted with a Yukon Posi gear set. From here it is held in position by a polished Ridetech triangulated four-link along with Ridetech coilovers. The final frame was smoothed with all the necessary metalwork performed by Tim.
Now, a hot rod isn’t a “hot” rod until we look under the hood and see what brings the Chevelle to life. In this case it is a 500-plus horsepower big-block Chevy. The block came about as Dan traded out some work for digging fence post holes for the block. (Now that’s good old farmer trading at its best.) In Tim’s case he opted for a 454 Chevy big-block that was then reworked by Shacklett Automotive and screwed together by Pat Topolinski. The result is a 505-inch V-8 that packs 10 to 1 compression with a Clay Smith grind. The block was ground smooth to enhance its appearance. To this potent short-block is a vintage ’60s Weiand aluminum intake as well as a pair of iron heads, all smoothed and painted to match the block. A complete set of ARP hardware is used to screw this big-block together. On top is a Holley 750 double-pumper four-barrel carb fed by a Holley electric fuel pump and dressed up with a finned aluminum ’60s-era air cleaner and valve covers. Firing the delivered gas and air mix is an MSD Pro Billet distributor with a 6A electronic ignition backed by an MSD coil incorporated with Taylor plug wires. The “juice” originates from a pair of trunk-mounted Optima YellowTop batteries. Exiting the now-spent gases are a combination of Sanderson headers matched to Tim’s own fabricated custom exhaust system utilizing U-Fit Flowmaster 2-1/2-inch mandrel bend kit that is now Cerakoted and enclosed with DEI wrap. The custom exhaust flows through a pair of Flowmaster 80-series mufflers and is held in position with several of the Welder Series exhaust hangers. A custom aluminum radiator is paired with a Cooling Components dual electric fan to handle the cooling chores. Several other useful engine accessories include the Eddie Motorsports five-drive serpentine belt system, a Powermaster starter, and a B&M oil cooler. Bolted to the really big big-block is a Bowler Transmissions 4L80E equipped with a B&M converter, a Hurst shifter with a Speed Dawg shift knob, and a combination of Lokar cables and dipsticks.
The body is basically stock sheetmetal, but it was slicked over through de-badging, the hood nosed and peaked, nicely gaped doors, decklid, and hood. The body does feature a custom floor, trans tunnel, rear wheeltubs, and the body is channeled 1-1/4 inches over the frame with the rockers extended downward 1 inch. Speaking of the engine compartment, the firewall was moved back 1 inch and then recessed an additional 5 inches as the engine itself was set back 5 inches. From here the hood features a custom steel hood top and scoop along with Eddie Motorsports billet hood hinges. Tim took charge of the body- and paintwork, spraying the Chevelle in a Tamco custom blue.
Inside there is a lot that looks familiar but then there are also a handful of aesthetically pleasing changes. The factory steel dash is painted in a matte blue finish that is then fitted with Dakota Digital gauges and an original radio-delete plate. However, there are plenty of “good vibrations” to enjoy through the Kicker Bluetooth-equipped stereo enhanced by a Kicker subwoofer, four round speakers, all powered by a Kicker amp, and wired into place by Chris Robinson. There is also a Vintage Air A/C to keep the clime cool along DEI Boom Mat for sound insulation. All the necessary wiring is based on an American Autowire harness installed by Ricky Burks.
From here a painted ididit tilt steering column topped with a Budnik leather-wrapped wheel are positioned. While bucket seats are no strangers to a ’65 Chevelle there is something special about this pair. Tim pointed out to us that in the past his dad’s hot rods always used Impala bucket seats and a big Hurst shifter boot. So, time to round up a pair of ’62 Impala buckets while Dan crafted the rear seat, complete with the Impala center speaker grille. The rear seat base appears to be a bucket seat to work around the trans/driveshaft tunnel. Mike Rogula performed the handy stitchwork using blue vinyl and a vintage cloth insert material from a ’59 Cadillac. From here the carpeting, door panels, and headliner were handled by Tim and his wife, Carrie, at Strange Motion.
Well, there is no better way to build your dream ride than to get your dad involved and have all of those dreams come true.
Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Family Tradition