There's a lot to be said for the KISS principle. You know: Keep it Simple, Stupid. Bryon Pryde, a professional hot rod fabricator for over 20 years, has the tools and the skills to put together pretty much whatever he wants. (Plug: Pryde Metalcraft, 602-799-7966.) If he chose to, he could take a car buildup right over the top and into the next county. He's got the technology.
But check out this neat little Chevelle he's built: It's subtle, conservative, clean—elegant in its simplicity. Classic, in a word. From middle distance, the car could almost pass for your typical Day Two restomod—until you start really looking at it, and you see how slick and well screwed together it is. Nope, instead of putting himself in the trick bag with flash and gadgets, Bryon has chosen to focus his efforts on simply enjoying his Chevelle. And he's been enjoying it for a quarter of a century now.
Number one in Bryon's book, obviously, is functionality. We'll start under the hood with the straightforward 461ci big-block. Essentially, it's a .030-over LS6 crate deal with Edelbrock oval-port heads boasting untouched 290cc intake ports. With the compression ratio pegged at 10.0:1, the combination is dialed in to run on regular pump gas. The cam is a .587/.570-inch Crane hydraulic roller, the intake manifold is an Edelbrock Performer, and the fuel delivery is handled by—look at this—a rather shaggy-looking Rochester Quadrajet. Oh, how quaint.
Bryon doesn’t know the exact date on this old photo, but he’s been driving and working on
Here in the age of OCD digital management systems, the package doesn't look like much. But it works. On the dyno, the engine makes an easy 500 hp at 5,500 rpm, but here's the good part: It pounds out over 500 lb-ft of torque across the entire range, from 3,000 rpm to redline. It's a torque monster, a torqueasaurus. With a stock Turbo 400 three-speed automatic working a 12-inch torque converter and 3.08:1 gears, the 3,900-pound Chevelle motors through the quarter-mile like a boss—in the mid 12s at 107 mph. On its daily street tires.
It's all part of Bryon's plan. "I built this car as time and money allowed while driving it every day," he says. "I built it to be a fun driver that is faster, and brakes and handles better than stock, but still keeps the look of a classic American muscle car." Accordingly, he's focused his modifications on the prudent and effective, for example in the Hotchkis suspension upgrades: tall B-body spindles and tubular upper control arms up front, with the company's lower control arms and adjustable upper links at the rear. The sway bars are also Hotchkis pieces, 1.375-inch front and 1.00-inch rear, with the whole deal tied together with Hotchkis chassis braces. Front and rear springs are from H.O. Enterprises; shocks are Bilsteins.
Just as with the engine, the chassis combination may not be trick-o'-the-day, but it works just fine. It works well enough for Bryon to perform most respectably in the autocross events an SCCA buddy roped him into, and also at Goodguys venues and on permanent road courses. Nevertheless, Bryon says the biggest change in the car's character was in the brake package, a four-wheel disc setup from Baer. In his eyes, the new brakes transformed the Chevelle from a museum piece into a modern, everyday driver.
And that's important. As we can see, there's been some serious bonding between Bryon and his '69 since they first met, and he's about nurturing the relationship. "I bought this car back in March 1988, and I'm the third owner," he says. "The original little old lady owner was in her mid-to-late 50s when she bought the car. She saw it in the showroom and had to have it because it had red bucket seats. When I got it, the car was in very good original shape with 102,000 miles. The interior was original, also the paint on the hood, roof, and decklid." And while the Chevelle has now been massaged from one end to the other over the past 25 years, it still retains much of its original genetic material. The transmission, driveshaft, and GM 12-bolt rear axle are the date-coded components the Chevelle was born with.
"This is a true hot rod," Bryon says. "It's been driven 100,000 miles since I've owned it. I've raced it at four different dragstrips and two different road courses." The Chevelle has also done a ton of Goodguys and Super Chevy shows and some Hot Rod Power Tours, we note. As Bryon says, "It's been wrecked, blown up, and caught on fire. I just hope I don't put it on its roof!" We hope so too, Bryon. Have a blast with your sweet Chevelle, and check back in with us in another 25 years.
This little item illustrates Bryon’s practical approach to hot rodding. Faced with a belt-
Carefully selected chassis upgrades from Hotchkis Performance allow the Chevelle to haul t
The Chevelle’s cabin is so cherry it hurts. The carpets and seat covers have been replaced
BY THE NUMBERS
1969 Chevelle SS396
Bryon Pryde, 46
Queen Creek, AZ
Type: 461ci big-block Chevy
Block: Chevrolet cast-iron
Bore x stroke: 4.281 x 4.00 inches
Rotating assembly: LS6 forged crank and rods; SRP forged pistons; Speed-Pro rings
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Cylinder heads: Edelbrock 290cc aluminum oval-port, unmodified
Camshaft: Crane hydraulic roller, .587-/.570-inch lift, 226/234 degrees duration at .050-inch lift
Valvetrain: Manley stainless valves, COMP Cams stainless roller rockers
Intake manifold: Edelbrock Performer
Carburetor: vintage Rochester Quadrajet
Fuel system: block-mounted fuel pump and regulator, stock tank
Exhaust: custom headers and fabricated dual exhaust system by Pryde Metalcraft
Ignition: MSD distributor, 6AL ignition controller and coil; MSD wires
Cooling: Ron Davis aluminum radiator, Edelbrock aluminum water pump
Output: 500 hp at 5,800 rpm, 520 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm
Builder: Terry Smith, Hi Power Specialties, Phoenix, AZ
Transmission: original matching-numbers TH400; Hughes 12-inch torque converter
Rearend: original matching-numbers GM 12-bolt; Moser axles and aluminum girdle
Differential: original GM limited-slip unit, 3.08:1 ratio
Frame: factory original with Hotchkis chassis braces
Front suspension: Hotchkis B-body spindles and upper A-arms and sway bar; Bilstein shocks
Rear suspension: Hotchkis rear control arms and sway bar; H.O. springs
Steering: Drag Power GM box modified by Lee Power Steering
Brakes: Baer 12-inch Track front and 10-inch Touring rear; two-piece rotors
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: PS Engineering 17x8 front; 17x9.5 rear
Tires: Nitto NT450 P255/50R17 front; P275/50R17 rear