Joe’s admittedly a relative late comer to the custom show car scene. Joe’s history with mechanical mayhem included a ’73 Corvette in college, several motorcycles, and helping his dad wrench on classic cars. In 2002 Joe’s father found a 1957 Pontiac Chieftain in Nova Scotia. Joe went to help him pick it up and on the drive back Joe drove the car from Moncton to Neguac. Joe instantly fell in love with classic car culture, and told his dad “the bike’s for sale, I’m getting one of these!!!”
Once the bike was sold, Joe went out and bought himself a ’56 Chev Belair to build as a custom street rod project. Purchased as a blocked and sanded, ready to paint car, Joe thought he had it made. Unfortunately, someone else’s idea of ready for paint, isn’t always everyone’s idea of ready to paint. Joe ended up taking the car back to bare metal and removing way too much body fill. Knowing that this build was likely going to take at least three years, and having just sold his bike, Joe realized that he needed a toy to bridge the gap until the ’56 was complete. That’s where the Chevelle comes into the story.
The Chevelle also required some much needed work. After driving it 3.5 hours from point of purchase, the next day he was told that one of the wheel bearings was about two more rotations from him ending up in a ditch at the side of the road. It was also sorely underpowered with its factory 307. All those things aside, Joe fixed it up and drove it for a couple of years, attending the odd local car show, becoming part of the car show culture, and just generally having fun. By the time the ’56 was done and started making a name for Joe on the car show circuit, his wife Lee said that he couldn’t sell the Chevelle as she had become somewhat attached to it. However, the ’56 had put a dent in the car building budget and they now had two young daughters.
When Joe decided he was going to build the Chevelle he wanted, it was going to be custom, and in the newly coined “resto mod” style, and on a strict budget. It had been a while since Joe had touched the Chevelle, as it sat for a few years while they enjoyed the ’56. Part of the problem was that the ’56 was different, garnered a lot of attention, and was the jumping point for each of Joe’s builds to be different, better, and original than what other builders were everything on the Chevelle was going to have some level of custom touch. It would still look like a ’71 Chevelle, but it would leave muscle car enthusiasts scratching their head as to how it was different from a stock ’71 Chevelle.
Joe spent part of 2011 and early 2012 looking at car magazines and design ideas on line before he really started to tear into the Chevelle. One idea that caught his attention early on was taking a modern interior and putting it in a classic car. Not just the seats, but the dash and as much of the interior as could be customized to fit. This is how he came up with the idea to take the dash and console from a 2010 Camaro and carefully customize it to fit where the ’71 dash once presided. The door panels and back interior quarter panels are also custom designed fibreglass panels from Fesler Built Products. The panels were wrapped in leather and adorned with billet handles.
The last custom touch to the interior was to get electric, leather bucket seats from an ’09 Acura TL, that also ended up being the perfect donor car for back seat as well. The backrests were removed from the front seats,and the only modification required for the back seat was to cut the top half down a little as it was too tall to fit properly in the Chevelle. One word of caution that Joe wishes to pass on to folks that use donor electric seats from a newer car is “yellow.” Seems one of the yellow wires is meant for the seat’s side impact airbag, and when you’re trying different wires to make theseats functional, this is one wire to leave alone…
Although the car sits on the original frame, the suspension was upgraded to an airride system. The front received disk brakes, but the rear end has the original drum brakes. The rims are from Boss and measure 20x10 in the rear and 18x8 in the front.
The motor is a 6.0L LS motor out of a truck. Originally Joe was going to put a big block in the car, but his friend Steve Wade talked him into the 6.0L LS motor. Big blocks are renowned for guzzling gas, and if not cooled properly have a tendency to overheat easily. Steve pointed out that Edelbrock had a carburetor kit for 6.0L LS motors, resulting in a high horsepower carbureted engine that is better on gas and doesn’t overheat. In the end the 6.0L LS also cost about half the price for building a big block engine with comparable power.
Joe had some very specific ideas for customizing the Chevelle’s body, but first he needed to replace the rear quarters, the front clip, as well as get new doors and trunk lid from two donor cars. Once the body was sound, mods were numerous, but so subtle in some cases, they are easily overlooked. Starting from the top, the drip rails were shaved smooth. The door handles were removed and replaced with electronic door poppers. The pins on the hood were shaved and all the side markers were removed and filled. The most subtle, and maybe the modification that cause most people to scratch their head, is that rather than tucking the bumpers by cutting them into pieces and putting them back together, and possibly cutting the frame, the front fenders and rear quarter panels were extended into the bumpers with sheet metal. Not only does this refine the look of the car, it makes the car look longer than a standard Chevelle; a discussion Joe has had many times. Once all the modifications were complete, and the body was as smooth as possible, Joe had Ghislain Aubé spray House of Kolor’s “Blue Blood Red” over the entire body. At the time this particular colour was difficult to obtain as it used a pigment called Xirallic that adds shine to particular paints that aren’t metallic, but a solid colour. It just so happens that the only company producing the pigment was located in Onahama, Japan, a town devastated by the 2011 tsunami that also caused radiation to
leak from the Fukushima reactor that wasn’t far from Onahama. After many months of persistence, Joe finally found the person at House of Kolor that knew where the quarts of Blue Blood Red were stored. The final “modification” to the body is not adding the double stripes on the hood and trunk. Although many questioned why Joe didn’t put the SS stripes on the car, I think everyone will agree that stripes would actually take away from the clean, looks like it’s moving while sitting still, styling that Joe had in mind when he started. After trying several different modifications to the exterior window trim Joe came across an article that he thought would be perfect for the Chevelle - carbon fibre. Not a sticker, and obviously not real carbon fibre, but paint. The template for the pattern was rubber mesh that you would purchase to line a tool
box, and the process involved sanding the stainless, adding one coat of primer, two coats of cast metal grey, covering the trim with the mesh and adding two coats of black, and finishing everything off with two coats of flflat clear - voila, carbon fibre!!!
Although the original plan was to unveil the build at the 2013 Radical Speed Sport, an issue with rear end gears delayed the Chevelle’s completion. When the car was finally complete, Joe first brought it out in public at the Atlantic Nationals in July 2013. While getting something to eat from the concessions, Brian Fuller, one of the show’s guest stars caught a glimpse of the car and made a bee line to see it. Winnie and Woody were sitting near the car and tried to get Joe to get back to the car so that Brian could ask him some questions. Joe calls this his “builders validation” day. Awards are awesome to get at car shows, but when the award you receive comes from a top rank builder, you know you’ve done something right. Joe’s next validation for all of his hard work came when he entered the Chevelle in 2014’s Radical Speed Sport. He was judged as one of the top six first time Canadian cars (Radical Speed Sports Hub City Six) and was a finalist for the much coveted Robertson Award. At some point in 2014 Joe and his family came to the realization that custom car building was more than just a passing fad for Joe, and that his passion for car culture ran deep. In order to quench his new found thirst they made a deal with Greg Turner to purchase the Radical Speed Sport franchise and become the new
faces of Atlantic Canada’s largest indoor car show. Since then Joe has used his creative energy to take Radical Speed Sport to new heights. Does this mean he’s walked away from custom car building? Bite your tongue, and wait to see what 2021 brings…