Chris Rock doesn't have to worry about job security anytime soon, but Frank George is a rather funny chap. Not funny as in causing involuntary bladder contractions, but he most certainly has a twisted sense of humor. While the numbers on his Chevelle's fenders represent the biggest disappointment of a small-block ever built by Chevy, between them sits a beastly 496ci Rat. It's like a Big Mac that's handed to Nicole Richie in the drive-thru-relieved that it may live to see another day, only to discover Rosie O'Donnell sitting in the back seat. Such trickery is just plain wrong, but on the other hand, it's hard not to chuckle. Psychological warfare aside, with 10.65-second ETs, this Chevelle has no problem laughing at the competition.
As you would expect, false advertising of this caliber makes for some interesting conversation. "People walk up to the car and say, 'That's an awfully fat 307 you have in there,'" says Frank. "I tell them 'It's 307 ci on one side of the motor and 307 ci on the other.'" The math still doesn't work out, but at least 307x2 is closer to the truth than 307x1. You see, Frank's funny. Funnier still are the antics the badges inspire. "I had a ricer pull up to me at a stoplight one day and purge his nitrous system," Frank tells us. "When he caught up to me at the next light, he said, 'That's not a 307 you have in there!' He probably had no idea what a 307 was, but just saw a small number on the fender and thought he could take me."
That small number is a vestige of the car's granny-mobile heritage. When Frank picked it up seven years ago, it was still equipped with the original 307 engine, TH350 trans, and 10-bolt rearend. An experienced bracket racer, he was looking to get back in the game after selling his '68 Camaro in the mid-'80s for-shoot us now-$2,500. "That's just what Camaros were selling for back then," explains Frank. "No one had any idea those cars would become so valuable someday." While he was clearly on the losing end of that deal, Frank relinquished his chump status by scoring his Chevelle for just $4,000. "Chevelles were selling for $7,000 to $10,000 at the time, so it was a very good deal even back then," he says. "The car's owner was moving out of state, and wanted to unload it quick."
Perhaps the sweetest part of the deal was the Chevelle's excellent overall condition. Aesthetically, not much has changed in the last seven years, as the car's previous owner performed all of the bodywork. That allowed Frank to allocate most of his efforts into going fast (instead of getting robbed by a body shop), which helped keep the total budget around $20,000. "I can do engine work and interior work myself, but I'm not a body man," he says. "It's no show car, but I get compliments all the time on how straight the panels are." The only visual changes made during Frank's ownership are the addition of Weld Wheels and a cowl- induction hood.
Making a farce out of those infamous badges is a 496 big-block built for roughly $8,000. That's quite cheap by Rat motor standards, and cheaper than many small-block buildups of lesser output. The key to keeping costs in check was resisting the temptation to build an over-the-top combination. "I'd love to have a 540, simply because the extra inches would improve driveablity," explains Frank. "But you can easily spend $20,000 to $25,000 on a high-end big-block like a 540 or 632, since they require such expensive aftermarket parts. A 496 is much cheaper to build, since you can use a factory 454 block out of a junkyard, bore it 0.060 inch over, and drop in an affordable 4.250-inch crank." Conversely, Frank opened his wallet up extra wide when it came time to select the cylinder heads. "The heads are where the power's at, so that's where I spent the money," he says. "Heads aren't where you want to cheap-out, so I got a set of AFRs, which I think are the best for the money." To offset expenses, Frank sold the Chevelle's old engine and driveline combination for $1,000.
On the chassis dyno, the 496 thumps out 526 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, despite the Chevelle's power-eating TH400 trans and loose 3,800-stall converter. As a bracket racer at heart, Frank routinely puts that power to good use at the track. The car's best pass to date is a 10.65 at 125 mph, which is even more impressive considering its portly 3,908-pound race weight. "My goal with this project was to run 10s naturally aspirated, but since I've already accomplished that, my new goal is to run 9s on the bottle," he says. Frank has already installed a Nitrous Express plate system good for 300 hp, and he estimates that a 150hp shot should get him into the 9s.
For its 125 mph of trap speed, the Chevelle runs a respectable ET, indicative of an extremely efficient suspension. Surprisingly, the design is quite simple. Up front, the underpinnings are rebuilt but completely stock. Other than Lakewood traction bars and Southside Machine boxed control arms, the rear suspension is stock as well. Its simplicity notwithstanding, the Chevelle traverses the track's first 60 feet in a brisk 1.48 seconds, with the aid of 28x10.5x15 Mickey Thompson ET Drags. Deep 4.57:1 gears in the 9-inch rearend certainly helped, but Frank has since swapped them out for 3.89s in preparation for the nitrous.
Without question, the Chevelle's most outstanding attributes are its speed and the nominal sum of money for which it was built; however, it's more than just a track star. Frank drives it on the street three to four times a week, and logs close to 4,000 miles on it each year. His travels includes cruises and shows, as well as the occasional street skirmish. Frank's not one to brag, but when probed, he admits to embarrassing a new LS7-powered Z06. He even drives the car to local tracks when it's time to put the hurt on his fellow bracket racers. In lieu of trophies from car shows, Frank has a wall covered with plaques from his various victories. This is a true competition-proven street car, and this is our kind of guy.
Through the years, Frank's Chevelle has suckered its share of foolish competitors into races, laughing at them hysterically when they learn the consequences of false advertising the hard way; however, Frank's unique sense of humor lets everyone else laugh at him-at least just once. "I call my car the Black Pearl after the ship in Pirates of the Caribbean," explains Frank. "No one can catch Captain Jack Sparrow's ship in the movie, and no one can catch my car on the street or at the track." Like we said, Frank's a funny guy. The really funny part is that what he's saying is true.
When Frank bought the Chevelle,...
When Frank bought the Chevelle, its original "307" badges were faded and ugly.
The only work necessary in...
The only work necessary in the interior was replacing the springs and covers on the front seat, cleaning the original dash panel, and installing a repop steering wheel.
The nitrous system runs off...
The nitrous system runs off of a separate auxiliary fuel system that has its own cell, pump, lines, and regulator.