The harmonies of the Beach Boys' "409" reverberate through your head every time you see the crossed flags on a front fender. You look for them, since you know what they mean. Seeing those three little numbers bolted to a piece of steel shouldn't mean so much, yet they do. If the original song and car were timeless classics, consider this car the remix version backed by the heavy beat of a modern soundtrack.
The Chevy 409 carved its own legend by winning races and delivering enough power to shut down almost anything else on the street. As time passed, the big "W" was eclipsed by the Mark IV 396, but no one forgot about the 409. The clean lines of the '61-65 Chevrolets the 409s were installed in guaranteed that. While we'll always have a soft spot for any "dual-quad, four-speed, positraction 409," modern craftsmen are taking the legend to greater heights, but an EFI'd, six-speed, positraction 474? Sing along with that!
The latest example of this awesome "technostalgia" movement is before your eyes. Credit goes to last year's Street Machine of the Year award winners Doug Shultz and his crew at Streetworks in Washington (253-813-5844).
While powerplants will almost always be enough to keep our attention, there's plenty more to this car than the driveline. We're crazy about the combo, so we'll dive in and share some facts. The powerplant began life as a vaunted 409, but with the addition of a modified 454 crankshaft and an overbore it now delivers a full 474 cubes. The factory iron heads were worked over by engine builder Curt Harvey and teamed with custom JE pistons to deliver 10.5:1 compression. An Isky cam with .578-inch intake lift and .608-inch exhaust lift tickles the valves, and the 284-degree duration numbers contribute to a healthy rumpity-rump while remaining streetable. The ultra-rare intake manifold was cast by Algon and was one of six ever made to support mechanical injection atop a 409. Now converted to modern electronics, the vintage intake serves up air and fuel according to the whims of an ACCEL DFI Gen VII processor. Horsepower and torque figures are on par with modern standards, as the 474 cranked out 650 hp at 5,500 rpm, and 590 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm--Street-sane rpm levels, to be sure. This was no bolt-on operation, however. The Streetworks team had to fabricate several trick components beyond the intake adaptations. The water pump extensions, crank trigger, headers, and the alternator mount/drive assembly are all one-off Streetworks-fabricated parts.
Backing the stout "W" is the highly vaunted Richmond six-speed. This ultra-modern manual box features a wide range of gear ratios so any customer can tailor the gears to his or her own needs. The transmission was designed to take tremendous amounts of power and still provide a comfortable, streetable driving experience. In a big car making big power, strength becomes top priority when shopping for a manual trans. A custom driveshaft links the Richmond box to a Ford 9-inch armed with an Auburn posi and 4.11:1 cogs. Serious hardware, to be sure.
The dreamy drivetrain is only a small part of what makes this car so cool. The envelope is certainly an eye-catcher! The '62 Chevy was a smooth flowing design, and the decision to make a modern statement is built on these attractive bodylines. The simple Jason Rushforth-designed, two-tone DuPont Jet Black-over-Honda Silver paint scheme (by Rich Thayer at R&J Customs) highlights the lines and makes the car look longer. Extensive lowering (courtesy of four Air Ride Technologies airbags teamed with 2-inch drop Superior Spindles up front and custom control arms out back) emphasizes the effect, and the final product looks longer and lower than it actually is. A quartet of KYB shocks smoothens the bumps and offers exceptional ride quality for a car this low. A little air in the bags, and proud owner Dennis "Mac" McClendon is ready for a long haul.
The stance was developed to work in concert with the wheel and tire package. Streetworks wanted to push modern style to the edge, and the choice of Coddington "Smoothie II" wheels in 18x7-inch (front) with 4.5-inch backspacing and 20x10-inch (rear) with 5-inch backspacing delivers the look. Between the wheels and the pavement are 225/40-18 front tires and 275/35-20 rear tires. The wheels look best when filled with disc brakes, and the fronts are 12-inch GM units while the rears are Ford Motorsport pieces (remember, that's a 9-inch Ford rear).
With the striking stance and appearance issues covered, the interior could be tackled. What would be the best way to represent the modern throwback look Streetworks was after? Should they take cues from the import crowd and use wild colors? Would an understated luxury leather treatment add some elegance to the car? Should it be as racy as the powerplant? The right call was to replicate a factory-flavored interior with modern materials and workmanship in red to sharply contrast the exterior's black and silver hues. The dash now boasts a full complement of Auto Meter gauges, a custom console snakes between the seats and mimics a factory unit to house the Long shifter. The seats are covered in simulated leather with tweed inserts in a style that hearkens back to a different time. Credit goes to Kay Weir of Grants Pass, Oregon, for the incredible red upholstery work.
There's more going on here, too. As if all that wasn't enough, it's time for a quiz. Did you notice the wind wings were removed? Have you found the air filters? Twin K&N units live behind the headlights. A subtle red accent stripe splits the black and silver exterior colors, and references the interior. Did you see the subtle blisters formed into the hood to clear the custom EFI ram air tubing? Like this entire project, it's very subtle, but very cool.
If you still have The Beach Boys stuck in your head, we're sorry. Listen for a deep backbeat, look this car over, and imagine how that great old "409" song would sound if it were expertly remixed. The vintage automotive flavor of the early '60s translates quite well into the new millennium, and plenty of street heroes could still get their clocks cleaned by this 650-horse ego smasher. It was built with much respect to the original, but now it's playing a song all its own. We like the tune.