Long before we espoused the virtues of the '73 Chevelle and Laguna body styles in the story, "9 Cars You Need To Build," Tony Lloyd of Aurora, Colo., had been busy working on his vision of this overlooked musclecar. Tony's journey to these pages started back in 1986 when he picked up the heavy Chevy for the meager sum of three hundred bucks. He was only 15 and it wasn't long before he was driving it around as his daily ride and occasionally hitting the drag strip over the next few years. Eventually, other life priorities took over and the '73 sat neglected. Over time the car became a storage bin for boxes and even had to suffer the indignity of being a refuge for local rodents. His wife, Joey, even took to calling it the "mouse house." This travesty persisted until three years ago when Tony decided the time was right to get to work on his ride. But not everyone shared Tony's vision. As Tony puts it, "I've always been a Chevy man, but I didn't want another '69 Camaro. This car is completely different, yet still cool as hell. Everybody, including my friends and family, always played down the car. They thought it was ugly, too big, too heavy, whatever. They thought I was crazy, but I like to prove people wrong." The more people questioned his choice, the more determined he was to turn his forgotten zero into an asphalt hero.
The body was pulled from the frame and received new floor pans and quarter-panels. After the side marker lights were deleted and the body was made suitably straight, Wright Weldon of Castle Rock, Colo., shot the car in the two-tone custom silver and black sand mica paint. The entire underside was then sprayed in Speedliner sound deadener. With the bodywork done, it was time to tackle the frame and suspension.
The complete frame for the '73 was stripped, then powder-painted in gloss black. The stock control arms got new PST poly bushings and the factory spindles were ditched in favor of Bell Tech two-inch drop versions. Since Air Ride Technologies didn't make a specific kit for Tony's vintage Chevy, a Camaro kit was modified to work. ShockWaves up front and air springs out back combine with rear KYB shocks to make for a comfortable ride and let Tony nail the perfect stance and still be able to navigate less than ideal roads. A 1.25-inch front sway bar from PST helps manage the body roll, but as an old street racer, Tony says this ride is more at home blasting down the straight and narrow. When it comes time to dissipate speed, Tony counts on his Baer Track brake system with 13-inch front and rear rotors. Chromed Bon Speed rollers in 17x8 up front run inside Nitto 245/45R17 tires while in the rear massive 235/30R17 Nitto drag radials are wrapped around 17x12 hoops. Tony did all the suspension work himself and feels that even though the car is more of a straight-line brawler, it still handles curves light years better than it did.
In an effort to completely purge the "mouse house" moniker that his wife, Joey, had bestowed on the Chevelle, Tony even ditched the stock mouse motor in favor of rat power. The 496 cubic-inch torque monster was bored .30 and stroked .250 inches. Other than some of the machine work, Tony (a mechanic by trade) did all the engine work himself. SRP pistons in a pump-gas friendly 10:1 compression ratio were connected to the SCAT crank by way of matching SCAT con rods. A hydraulic COMP camshaft is turned by a COMP double-roller timing chain to ensure precise timing. Topping off the short-block is a set of ported and polished GM rectangular port high-performance iron heads with 2.25-inch Manley intake valves. The heads also sport COMP springs and pushrods along with Harland Sharp roller rockers. To fuel the big-inch engine, Tony went with an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake topped with a Demon 850 annular-discharge carb. The timing is set at 22 degrees, which is perfect for the high elevation of Tony's hometown, but was a bit too much for the Nevada desert, where we experienced mild detonation. MSD controls the ignition and a Milodon pump and oil pan keeps the engine well-lubed.
The big-block breathes in through a K&N filter and out through a set of Jet Hot coated Hooker headers mated to a 3.5-inch exhaust system with a pair of 40-series Flowmaster mufflers. The car was finished just before its date with our cameras so no dyno numbers yet, but Tony is confident that they will come in around the 550 horsepower range. To get all this power to the pavement in a reliable manner, Tony opted for a built-up TH350 three-speed automatic transmission with a 10-inch B&M 2,500-rpm stall converter. A stock driveshaft spins back to the stock posi rear end loaded with 4.10 gears. This combination makes for violent acceleration, but is nearly unbearable on the highway. Plans call for a Gear Vendors overdrive unit to find its way under the Chevy in the not too distant future.
Finding reproduction parts for a '73 Chevelle is about as easy as convincing a shark to go vegan. Not being one to let a lack of new parts get in his way, Tony set out to refurbish and recover all the factory interior parts. Auto Trim Specialist in Denver, Colo., repaired and recovered the stock dash pad, then stitched up the back seats and headliner in a mix of black cloth and vinyl. Pro Car front seats keep occupants firmly in place and a welded S&W roll bar provides an extra measure of safety along with a place to mount half of the four-point harness system. AutoMeter carbon fiber gauges keep tabs on the various systems while a B&M ratchet shifter helps Tony slap his way through the gears. A steering wheel by Billet Specialties dresses things up a bit and helps keep the torque-producing Chevelle under directional control. Tony and his wife love their tunes and they love them loud. A Pioneer head unit feeds the signal into a 300-watt amp for the Infinity midranges and tweeters while a 600-watt sub amp thumps a 12-inch MTX sub-woofer mounted in a custom enclosure. This all works together to create an interior that's comfortable enough for an extended cruise and safe enough for a pass down the dragstrip.
As previously stated, Tony's Chevelle had just been completed when he trucked it all the way form his high-altitude home in Colorado to the bright lights of Vegas. Actually, the car was done ahead of his original planned completion date. Tony told PHR: "I was taking my time and finishing the car at an even pace. I had the unfinished body bolted to the frame and I just dropped the engine in it when I received the May 2005 issue of PHR. I read the 'Bangin' Gears' section by Hunkins entitled 'The Forgotten Cars' where he talked about rides like my '73. This got me pumped up and I went from three to four nights a week in the garage to five nights and weekends wrenching on my car. I knew I needed to get the car done and I wanted everyone to see my vision." It wasn't easy for Tony to get it all completed, but he did and was the first guy to respond back to that editorial. This all led us to a meeting in the middle of nowhere where Hunkins got to shoot a car that he has coveted while others have forsaken. Hopefully, many others will see what's possible with some vision and a lot of hard work.