Chevy High Performance article - September 2004
The Mojo's Workin'
Patrick Wilson's '67 Chevelle Has All the Right Chops
Text and Photos by John Nelson
Patrick Wilson has got a bit of voodoo magic working for him. Sure, he has he moments where everything clicks on stage, pounding the skins for Weezer (don't worry if you're drawing a blank—we'll bet your kids are hip to his one). We're talking about Patrick's '67 Chevelle, about which he says: "I wanted a car that had big power and predictable handling all day long, and I considered a BMW M5 or Mercedes E55, but this car has so much mojo that I'm glad I didn't."
Patrick's journey toward owning a bare bones, corning carving, 12½-second quarter-mile daily driver that he is unabashedly jazzed about started early on, as he watched his father and brother tinker on and even paint classic American musclecars right in the garage. Unfortunately, Patrick's father died when he was eight, and, as he puts it, "that life went away." The life that came calling, however was in music, and Patrick paid his dues as a struggling musician. But when Weezer became a success with its Blue album and its hit singles "Undone (The Sweater Song)" and "Buddy Holly" in 1994, Patrick decided to reclaim the car part of this life. Ironically, this newly minted rock star went car shopping like us wannabe rock-star guys do, finding a car in one of SoCal's primary trader rags, The Recycler. "Cars from the mid '60s and Chevelles especially look right to me," Patrick told us, so he ended up picking up a '67 Chevelle, a cream puff 283 'Glide car.
The first step for Patrick was to do something of a restification on the car, which he thought was cool, especially when the 283 was replaced with a mild 350. A little suspension work happened as well, but the work done up until sometime in '03 was pretty tame. At that point, Patrick tells us, "Things went downhill ... building this car became a sickness." The bug took root during a Web-surfing session, when Patrick came across the Hotrods to Hell Web site (www.hotrodstohell.net). CHP readers are familiar with HTH's CenterDrive truck-arm rear suspension setup from our April '04 article "Hell Camino." After researching the subject on the Internet as much as possible, Patrick then headed out to HTH's Burbank digs, spending hours at the shop, talking with HTH proprietor Steve McClenon, and soaking up as much info as he could. But it took a look at the Chevelle From Hell, HTH's hardest-core in-progress project, a car McClenon describes as a "200-mph-plus daily driver Chevelle" (don't worry, you'll see it here when it's done). This final push set Patrick on the downhill slide, and he left a deposit along with the car to start work that day.
In this case, however, installing HTH's front and rear suspension turned out to be only the beginning. "It (the truck-arm setup) made such a drastic difference," Patrick told us, "I decided I needed big beans to go along with the handling." M&R Engines of Glendale, California, got the call, and responded with a 507-horse 409ci small-block—if Pat was looking for beans, he certainly got the super-sized portion. McClenon and HTH massaged the Chevelle here as well, though, building a new firewall and transmission tunnel to accommodate a 3-inch engine setback. In an A-body, McClenon told us, moving that weight rearward leads to more forward bite and better cornering. It's hard to argue to the contrary, since Pat's Chevelle tore through our 600-foot slalom in 63.1 mph, a performance many new cars would be thrilled to match. And did we happen to mention the 12.55 and 115.70 quarter? Mojo, indeed.
Quite simply, Patrick is thrilled with the way his Chevelle turned out: "I appreciate its simplicity and the craftsmanship that went into it. Everything on the car has a purpose, and there's nothing unnecessary going on, which is very satisfying to me. I don't think I would get the same feeling from a mass-produced car." One feature, though, got added at Mrs. Wilson's insistence, and that's the very slick, ultra-tucked 'cage with snout bars. Jen Wilson happened to see an HTH car that had been through a slight incident—one that obliterated the car, except for what was inside the rollcage area. So the missus had her way and Pat got a very cool, almost unnoticeable rollcage. Pat's also enthused bout the stock car pedal assembly, the inner fender delete, and the custom gauge pod where the heater controls were. Best of all though, he says, "Other than the bigger wheels and boom tube exhaust, it looks like your grandma's ride." Grandma never had it like this, we'll tell you that.
"It's fun to have a musclecar that can hang with pretty much anything no matter what the application," he says. "I don't consider myself a particularly great driver, but even with all the power I still feel like the car doesn't get ahead of me, and I attribute this to the excellent chassis. It's a ridiculously fun car to drive." "So, this thing's a driver?," we asked. "Hell , yeah," Pat shot right back. That, friends, is what happens when you got your mojo working, on stage or behind the wheel.
- What do we have here? Miss Plain Jane Chevelle with a neat set of wheels? What lies beneath tells an entirely different story.
- A look under the hood is enlightening. The 507hp 409 provides plenty of motivation. If you're a real A-body devotee, you'll notice that the firewall has been remade, permitting a 3-inch engine set-back. The snout bars tie into the rollcage, making this, along with the truck-arm setup, one stiff chassis. Extra-large Wilwood binders (added after our test session) make stopping an immediate proposition.
- The interior also looks pretty tame, until you notice the trick pedal setup, Corbeau seats with Deist harnesses, and, of course, the very nicely done tucked-in rollbar. It's definitely a nice place for logging a little twisty-road time.
- The American Racing Salt Flat wheels are a unique touch, as is the NASCAR boom-tube exhaust with custom tips. If you don't see this one coming, you'll certainly hear it.
- Testing day ... a little gas, a little clutch, a little tire smoke; it all adds up to 12.55-second quarters.
- Pat does work for a living; his job is just more fun that most. Here he kicks the skins for Weezer. A 10-year anniversary version of the band's breakthrough "Blue" album has recently been released. Photo by Karl Koch.
- And here's Pat again, taking time out from working on "Land, Air, Sea" by his solo project, The Special Goodness, to hang out with the Chevy High guys as we thrashed his Chevelle at the track. Given the performance numbers we got, he didn't mind too much.
- It looks good resting at this turnabout on SoCal's Angeles Crest Highway, but this Chevelle's forte is carving the corners on the way there.