Owner Picks Between Two Classic Chevys
By Scotty Lachenauer – Photography by the Author
Matt Cirocco, of Massapequa, New York, found himself with a daunting dilemma on his hands. “I found out about a good builder 1972 Chevelle for sale locally. When I got there I saw an equally cool 1969 Camaro the seller was willing to unload.” After much deliberation, a decision was made to grab the Chevelle for his new project. You never know how lady luck is going to treat you on any given day, but luckily for this guy he slept well knowing he made the right choice that day.
Once the Chevelle found a home at Matt’s house, the planning started. Built up as a basic driver, the 350ci automatic ride was the perfect vehicle to build his dream car. The game plan was to bring the car over to S/P Classics Ltd. in Amityville, New York, where proprietors Steven McCrory and Peter Colasanto would discuss options with the new owner. “I wanted to be ‘conservative’ at first, so [Colasanto] said ‘Let’s do a Crate 454, rebuild the tranny, add Vintage Air, some disc brakes, and fresh wheels.’ As [Colasanto] would call it, the ‘Grand Slam,’” Matt says.
That time would come quickly, as very soon down the road Matt decided he needed a bit more out of the Chevelle. “So, I headed back to S/P Classics and said what’s next? [McCrory] and [Colasanto] knew I was hooked and that I wanted to go to the next level,” Matt says.
S/P delivered the goods by ordering up one nasty big-block for the Chevelle. “We went with a Shafiroff BB540. It was a ‘no brainer’ as the shop is right here on Long Island and their work is top-notch,” Matt says. The engine is based on a Dart Big M 9.8-inch block, stuffed with an SSRE/Scat 4.250-inch stroke steel crank, Scat I-beam steel rods, and JE/SRP 10.5:1 compression forged aluminum pistons. A Comp Cam hydraulic roller and roller lifters get the valves jumpin’, and Dart Pro 1 325 aluminum heads, Edelbrock Victor Series intake, and a Quick Fuel 950 carb top the mill. All this big-block goodness is conservatively rated at a 715 hp at the crank.
The guys at S/P also installed a fresh TREMEC five-speed trans to back all the power the big-block could muster. It feeds a Moser differential stuffed with 4.11 gears. The 35-spline axles spin a set of Budnick Chisel wheels, 18×10 out back and 17×8 up front. The rears are shod with 305/40R18 Mickey Thompson rubber, while the fronts are wrapped with 225/50R17 BFGoodrich skin. Wilwood brakes do the stopping, using four-piston calipers mated to 10-inch rotors.
To upgrade the suspension, Matt went with Hotchkis upper and lower tubular control arms with Hotchkis springs. To soften the ride, he installed a set of AC Delco shocks. Out back, he added a set of Hotchkis coilovers and upper and lower trailing arms to get the ride he desired. A set of Hotchkis sway bars help stabilize this A-body in the turns.
When Matt bought the Chevelle, the body was in reasonably good shape. It had survived the brutal maritime weather patterns that Long Island is known for. However, since this Chevelle was going through a metal metamorphosis of sorts, the owner decided to freshen up the paint with a brilliant layer of PPG Mulsanne Blue on the flanks and the new GM 2-inch cowl hood. Black SS stripes finish off the look. All paintwork was handled by V&J Auto Body in nearby Lindenhurst, New York.
Interior-wise, Matt wanted to keep its vintage look but add a few comfort bits and upgrade the original dash. The factory seats were redressed in TMI upholstery and carry a vintage look while adding more cushion in the bolster and lumbar areas. Matt chose a full set of Auto Meter gauges, including a tach on the original column to keep track of vitals. A 1970 Chevelle steering wheel retains the old-school feel. Vintage Air controls the climate and Pioneer supplies the road tunes for Matt’s frequent forays out onto the Island.
Once the Chevelle was updated, Matt wasted no time testing out his newfound power. The reviews came in fast and fierce. “It is honestly just an adrenaline rush to drive … from the handling to the power, it is a nice escape from the every day. This car has been such a piece of my life’s history as well. From the friendships I’ve made with it to proposing to my wife, Christina, in the car, it has been truly amazing and has treated me very well. The experience of building the car was not only educational but an instrumental part of my passion for muscle cars to this day,” Matt admits.
There are plenty of people to thank here. “First off I’d like to thank my wife, Christina, for being patient with all the car shows. I drive her nuts! A special shout out to the Cirocco family for their support, along with Lou Sedita for his advice and encouragement. Thanks to Stacy Figman at Stay Fast Performance for tuning the car, 631 Coatings, and Steven McCrory and Peter Colasanto. S/P is no longer in business, and sadly my friend [Colasanto] [died]. [McCrory] has now retired so I dedicate this story to [Colasanto] and S/P Classics. Rest in peace, cowboy!”
There’s one more thing of note. You see, after buying the Chevelle, he could not stop thinking about that 1969 Camaro sitting there without a home. “I admit, a year after I got the Chevelle, I broke down and stopped over at Old Man Vinny’s shop again. I just had to have that Camaro, which luckily was still available. I bought that one and stuffed her in the garage right next to the Chevelle,” Matt says. Sometimes the best choice is not making a choice at all …
Type: Shafiroff big-block
Block: Dart Big M
Displacement: 540 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Cylinder Heads: Dart Pro 1 325 aluminum heads
Rotating Assembly: SSRE/Scat 4340 4.250-inch stroke steel crank, Scat 4340 6.385-inch H-beam steel rods, JE/SRP 10.5-1 forged aluminum pistons with coated skirts
Valvetrain: Comp Cams solid roller lifters, 1.550-inch roller springs with steel retainers, Comp Cams 1.7 Ultra Pro Magnum roller rockers
Camshaft: SSRE/Comp Cams custom “Street Roller” camshaft
Induction: Edelbrock Victor Series aluminum intake, Quick Fuel 950-cfm carburetor
Exhaust: Hooker Headers, Borla Mufflers, 3.5-inch stainless pipes
Output (at crank): 715 hp
Transmission: TREMEC TKO five-speed
Rear Axle: Moser 12-bolt with 4:11 gears
Front Suspension: Hotchkis upper and lower tubular control arms, AC Delco shocks, Hotchkis springs, Hotchkis sway bar
Rear Suspension: Hotchkis coilovers, Hotchkis upper and lower trailing arms, Hotchkis sway bar
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers with 10-inch rotors, GM master
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Budnik Chisel 17×8 front, 18×10 rear
Tires: BFGoodrich 225/50R17 front, 305/40R18 rear
Steering: Stock column with 1970 Chevelle steering wheel
Instrumentation: Auto Meter
HVAC: Vintage Air
Bodywork: V&J Auto Body (Lindenhurst, New York)
Paint By: V&J
Paint: PPG Mulsanne Blue
Hood: GM 2-inch cowl