Jim Gollwitzer wasn’t even a gleam in his father’s eye when his ’64 Chevelle was born in the heat of the Cold War era. Young Jim didn’t know it when he was just a wee lad but he was destined for a lifelong enlistment in the army of Chevelle fans. He got his draft papers the day his dad came home with a brand-new ’72 Chevelle. By his 14th birthday he was regularly wrenching on the Chevy, and by 16 he proclaimed the car as his own. He hasn’t stopped fighting to keep alive the old promise of a chicken in every pot and a Chevelle in every driveway.
Twenty-five years later, Jim’s battled through the restoration of a whopping 40 Chevelles, keeping five for his personal collection. (PHR managed to catch his ’72 in mid-bodywork for the cover of the Aug. ’09 Readers’ Projects issue.) Naturally the first one was near and dear to his heart, and he’s kept rubbing on it for the last 25 years. Most recently, this clean ’64 300 Deluxe former-fairgrounds-bruiser-turned-bracket-racer entered his life and he donned his fatigues to strategize a victory plan.
The majority of the interior was as Jim bought it. He says the previous owner spent gobs o
Like all good plans, there had to be some assumptions made. “A couple years ago, I didn’t have a first-generation, ’64-65 body style, and with the economy the way it was, I knew that there were some deals out there if you were at the right time and the right place.” Jim put the word on the street that he was looking for a ’64 and hoped his spies would turn something up. One of his feelers landed on a guy in the construction industry who was feeling the impending pinch of the economy and knew he had to develop some cash in a hurry before the buyers dried up. After meeting with the seller, Jim says he practically talked the price down himself and Jim took it home for a paltry $7,900. He couldn’t believe his luck. Little did he know the low price was but a small victory in the battle to turn the car into a dream piece.
The 300 is one of the lesser known A-body variants sold as a basic bottom-of-the-line model. GM developed the A-body as a midsized car to compete with the likes of Ford Fairlanes and Dodge Darts. While the Fords and Dodges were suffering from an identity crisis by resizing larger cars from the early ’60s, the Chevelle was born from a clean slate and was blessed with a clean body. Pentastar and Blue Oval offerings in ’64 retained some of the cluttered body lines of the Eisenhower years and the General knew that if they wanted a head start on the free-thinking market of the mid ’60s, they would have to walk away from the designs of the previous decade and start anew. Chevelles were the result of this new plan.
Offered in a number of option plans, the basic breakdown showed the car available as a base model 300 sedan (post), Malibu sport coupe (hardtop), Malibu convertible models, and the upscale Malibu SS version. El Caminos were also an integral part of the family line and developed their own fan base. The all-new A-body was an immediate smash hit as sales for the first year skyrocketed to over 370,000. Couple that with sales of the Buick Skylark, Pontiac Tempest (and GTO), Olds F85 (and Cutlass), and the success of the A-body family from GM was pure dominance.
As Jim dragged the two-door home and began a more thorough inspection, he hoped the seller was better in construction than in car building. The newbie appeared to make all the mistakes a 16-year-old would make. “It had so many accessories from the electric fuel pump and the fan and all that, that it overloaded the ignition circuit. The guy who I got it from really didn’t know what he was doing so you had to literally start the car by crossing a screwdriver on the starter terminal.” Coupled with a tank of bad gas, it wasn’t exactly the best runner when Jim bought the project. By the next afternoon though, he had replaced the burnt-out ignition switch, swapped out the bad gas and faulty transbrake switch, and threw in some new spark bolts, and it was on the road again.
The post Malibu has a softer shape than the more common hardtop, and was designed for the
Jim isn’t one of those guys who sits around on his thumbs all weekend, so by week two, he had put all of the accessories on relays as they should be and properly reconnected the factory wiring harness. Unfortunately the car drove with all the sportiness and reliability of a WWI tank. It was time to drop this thing to DEFCON 1 and work on the engine.
A small-block with old-school ported fuelie heads had all the right internals but it just wouldn’t get out of its own way. The Weiand 177 huffer was doing its job, but it was never designed to run with a stock vacuum secondary carb. A call to the Carb Shop supplied Jim with one of their Stage 4 840-cfm blower carbs. The Holley double-pumper released the power within but that came with the side effect of generating more heat than being on the wrong side of a napalm barbecue. Being a wheeler-dealer, Jim traded the old Convo-Pros that came on the car for a new aluminum radiator, slapped on an electric water pump, and while scrounging the local Volvo dealership’s dumpster, he came up with an incredible power electric fan from an ’05 Volvo S80. The engine was now hot and cool at the same time.
Mechanically sound, he felt it was the perfect time to test the mettle of the car, mano a mano, at the dragstrip. He borrowed a set of slicks, adjusted the tire pressure, ran through his burnout procedure, and with the two-step now fully functional, ripped off a killer 11.70 at 114 mph! He felt the tide of the war turning in his favor. Now it was time to move onto the more aesthetic side of the build.
As Jim progressed in his budget build, he took his skills toward dressing up the engine compartment. He found it was tough finding someone who could do a decent job of cleaning up and restoring (or resto-modding) an engine bay for a reasonable price, so he took to doing it as a side job. “It’s a neat little niche that, so far, I haven’t found anybody who just does engine compartments,” he says. “It gives me a little competitive edge, and I’m sure somebody will copy me but that’s OK.” He gave his engine bay what he calls his “driver” package with cleaned up but functional details.
As one of the least common styles, the 300 has become a rarity but one with a definite fan base. One might think that just due to the fact that it is a ’64 Chevelle, parts would be a cinch to pick up. Not so much. There were only a quarter as many 300s made as other models, and they have small unique traits such as distinctive badging, taillights, headlight bezels, door trim, and enough subtle interior differences to make restoration a real pain. Jim’s ’64 interior was in decent enough shape that on the surface he could skate by. It did look a bit like something out of an ’80s ZZ Top video with tweed seats, and a third-eye brake light, so he scrounged up a pair of tan leather seats, once again from his vast network, and gave it a mild freshening up.
The Pro Street stance really makes the car look right. He traded out the old Convo Pros an
Say “Why-And.” The baby blower takes center stage in the Chevelle’s engine bay. Jim spent
Jim stood back and looked at his project, but realized it still had a bit of the Reagan/Gorbachev pre-Soviet self-destruction film left on it. “I had gotten most of that fixed and swept most of it off the car, but it still had the typical two-tone stripe going down the top of the fender into the quarter-panel. It was a silver and gray stripe. As a quick attempt, I had some House of Kolor Chameleon paint. I picked that up and used that as a base and resprayed it with chameleon. So then I took it to a car show and Johnny Hunkins walked up and says, ‘If you just got rid of this violation I’d put it in the magazine.’ So two weeks later I sent him a picture of the car without the stripe.” For a grand total of less than $13K, Jim fought the good fight and the rest, as they say, is history.
The battles were long and hard. Jim fought for his postwar Post with all the vigor of a Seabee on D-day. In the end, victory was his and the only scars that remain as proof of the skirmishes are a pair of smoking black lines on the long, cold tarmac.
He hasn’t stopped fighting to keep alive the old promise of a chicken in every pot and a Chevelle in every driveway.
By The Numbers
1964 Chevelle 300
Jim Gollwitzer, 43 • Roselle, IL
Best quarter-mile: 11.70 at 114 mph
Type: small-block Chevy
Displacement: 355 ci
Compression ratio: 10.25:1
Oiling: Melling pump with factory oil pan
Rotating assembly: forged OEM
Cylinder heads: double-hump with 2.02/1.60 valves
Camshaft: Isky solid-roller, .642-inch lift
Valvetrain: COMP Cams roller rockers, 1.6 ratio
Induction: Weiand 177 blower
Carburetor: Carb Shop Holley, 4150-style
Ignition: MSD 7AL
Exhaust: Hooker headers, Flowmaster 44 series mufflers
Cooling: aftermarket aluminum radiator with dual fans
Transmission: TH400 trans reverse manual valvebody, 4,100-stall
Rear axle: Ford 9-inch, 4.88 gears
Unibody: custom rollcage, six-point
Steering: stock manual box
Front suspension: stock, Chassis Engineering coilover conversion
Rear suspension: Chassis Engineering coilover
Brakes: four-wheel drum
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Race Lites 15x3 (front), 15x15 (rear)
Tires: 165/15 (front), Mickey Thompson Sportsman 31x18.5 (rear)