Paychecks and accomplishments can vary from job to job, but in the end, we all work toward one major goal: retirement. But retirement can be a funny thing. Sports stars seem to dabble with it and "retire" for a season or two, only to come out and play once again. Richard Morris wasn't that way. He went into retirement to get back to the sport he loved. With all the things that life can throw our way, our favorite things seem to get put on the back burner only to be brought up again when there is more time to relax. Relax Richard does, but it doesn't come on the golf course, or at some gated community in Florida. No, Richard can be found at a car club meeting or at the dragstrip.
After years of planning and preparation, retirement finally came. Though Richard has a 401K plan, it's clear that this Chevelle didn't require very much of that fund, as our cost-chart handily demonstrates. Richard raced another '65 Chevelle with a 327 in NHRA's Super Stock class, and set a national speed record back in the '70s. Kids came along, and that put the drag racing on the back burner. Street rods came into the scene when his kids were growing up. "That got the boys burned out on cars," Richard says, "so I had to build this one alone, and I did everything I could myself. Bodywork, fabrication, suspension, and putting the motor and everything else together." Richard found this Chevelle in October 2000, and went to work building the car for his retirement in 2007. "The car was super solid and also in the middle of a frame-off restoration. Even though it was still in primer, missing the interior, and didn't have any of the trim pieces, I just couldn't pass on the deal," Richard says. Much of what he bought, he sold. The motor, transmission, rearend, power steering, and many other parts that came with the car were sold over the Internet. With the extra cash in hand, and a fresh palette to start with, it took two years to get it the way he wanted, and he made his first pass in October 2002.
Clean and simple is the name of the game. The Chevy big-block has iron 781 heads and a rel
The Chevelle seemed like the perfect car. "It had '60s styling, and I had always wanted another Chevelle for a drag car. A friend of mine had a '72 Buick GS that would leave the line at 1,500 rpm and run consistent all night long. I always envied the way he never had to thrash on the car and could still run good all night," Richard says. So the goal was set: build a car that could tear up the track without getting torn up at the same time. And tear up the track it does, consistently running low 11s. It's even gone as fast as 10.80 at 123 mph. Getting that kind of performance without lots of routine maintenance required a big-block Chevy. Marion Performance in Marion, Arkansas, bored the block .030 over, balanced, and then decked the block. Four-bolt mains were then added to the center three main caps. Richard then filled the motor with a forged steel crank, 12:1 compression Sealed Pro pistons, and Eagle forged connecting rods. A COMP flat-tappet camshaft with 248 degrees at .050 and .595 inches of lift opens and closes the valves. On top of the engine is a set of iron oval-port heads filled with COMP pushrods, springs, lifters, and rockers. All work together to move the Manley valves. "The late John Lingenfelter said the oval-port 781 castings flow better than all other oval-port big-block heads when fitted with the 2.19 intake and 1.88 exhaust valves, so that's what I used because they work better with the low-rpm, high-torque motor I wanted," Richard says. He bowl-ported and cc'd the heads himself. Feeding all this is an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake topped with a Holley 750-cfm carburetor. "Ronnie Sox used a 3/8-inch non-braided fuel line with one electric pump on his 9-second Hemi, so I figured I could do the same and run 11s," Richard says.
The Chevelle uses a Turbo 400 and a narrowed 9-inch rearend to put the big-block's power to the wheels. The 400 is fitted with a TCI valvebody and governor to allow the 1-2 shift to be either automatic or manual. Not tearing up the equipment is a big concern for Richard: "I'd rather spend time enjoying the race than working on the car. Using a 10-inch Precision Industries (1,800- stall) converter really saves the car from the beatings. The thing makes enough torque to pull it off the line in a hurry, and really move at the top end." Much of this has to do with the 4.30 gears in the rearend. The 29x10-inch Hoosiers plant the power to the ground without the aid of traction bars.
Consistent 11-second e.t.'s are produced with a virtually stock suspension. Competition Engineering shocks are at all four corners, with Air Lift air bags in the rear. Six-cylinder Chevelle springs are used in the front between the stock control arms. The rear wheelwells have been mini-tubbed to fit the 10-inch wide Hoosiers. The 9-inch rear has been narrowed 3 1/2 inches, and has Chevy flanges on the outer ends. "With this rearend, I'm able to run the stock rear drum brakes," Richard says. The front was updated with Wilwood discs for some added stopping security.
Stopping is a high priority, seeing as how Richard wouldn't want to mess up his $950 paint job, or the fiberglass bumper and hood. "I wanted the look of the Z-16 that was only available on 201 of the Chevelles made in 1965. It's the period-correct Regal Red from GM, one of three colors the Z-16 came in," says Richard. "I dropped it off at a local body shop in Franklin, Tennessee, and came back a couple days later, and it looked like what you see here, except for the hood; that was done after I had the car painted. A couple of guys said the scoop was worth some time and speed in the quarter-mile, and this Mustang scoop just seemed to have the '60s look I was going for. The striping was just to cover up my work." All the exterior trim is Z-16 correct, which means there was a large price tag on all the pieces.
The interior is fitted with seats from a Honda Civic, and some gauges were added to keep tabs on the big-block's vitals. The tach mount is something unique. Richard wanted to be able to see the tach when looking down the track, so he found a piece of metal in his shop that was just the right size to get the tach where he wanted it.
Richard has also made his drag racing capabilities visible. Through all the years of hard work (and putting his true passion on the back burner), making a consistent drag car has become the easiest way for this 61-year-old to enjoy his retirement. With a top-ten finish in points in the NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock class for the 2007 season, Richard proved he is a fighting force in his class, even more so with a runner-up at the 2007 World Finals in Memphis. He plans to take his ultra clean machine to more races this coming season. With a new anti-rollbar in the rear, 60-foot times will be even quicker, but who can complain about 11-second passes and 120-mph trap speeds? With the '60s-era styling and the durability of a tank, this big-block combo is sure to never see retirement.