Can somebody hit the snooze button, please? Perhaps it's just an uncanny coincidence, but it seems like every middle-age car guy has the exact same story. You know, searching for that long-lost muscle car from their youth, trying to relive the glory days of when they had more hair and a smaller waistline. Struggling to stay awake while hearing these yawn-inducing tales of woe makes getting reamed on a cup of Starbucks almost worth the money, but anyone who runs into Keith Kanak won't ever face that dilemma. First off, the man has plenty of hair, and secondly, he's got a trimmer waist than punks half his age. More importantly, you'll never hear him whining about how he's dying to find a car just like the one he had in high school. That's because his '64 Chevelle SS is the car he had in high school. In the 40 years that he's owned it, the Chevelle has seen high school hangouts, college road trips, dragstrips, canyon roads, construction sites, rebuilds, repaints, marriage, kids, and 200,000 miles of jolly good times. In its latest incarnation, Keith wrings the daylights out of it on the autocross, outrunning many a checkbook car in the process. Clearly, any hot rodder who thinks that variety is the spice of life has never experienced the glory that comes from sticking with the same car for decades on end.
Raised in Southern California during the peak of the muscle car era, Keith's fate as a lifelong hot rodder was sealed at birth. Sweet rides littered the streets in his neighborhood, and he fondly recalls catching the bug in his friend's '65 Pontiac Catalina. "That car had a Tri-Power 421 and a four-speed, and I still remember what it sounded like. It was my first taste of a cool car,” he reminisces. When he reached driving age, his parents hooked him up with one of the coolest hand-me-downs imaginable, a '64 Chevelle Malibu strapped with a 327 small-block and a Muncie four-speed. Although inheriting a badass muscle car might seem like an easy ticket into the world of hot rodding, a string of freak events made sure that Keith earned his admission. "The Malibu was totaled after it got T-boned at an intersection. I purchased my current '64 Chevelle to replace it in 1974 for only $500 when I as a junior in high school. It started life as a 283-powered car with a three-on-the-tree trans, a Palomar Red body, and a white painted top.”
Like any true hot rodder, Keith salvaged what he could out of his wrecked Chevelle. "The 327 motor and four-speed trans made it through the wreck, so I transplanted them into my new Chevelle. Soon afterward, I added a 12-bolt rearend and the biggest sway bars I could find,” he recalls. With the running gear sorted out, Keith addressed the car's aesthetics. "After massaging the body, I repainted the car and then added a set of 15x7 Rally wheels. The black vinyl bucket interior was in good shape, so after installing a four-speed console the car was finished. It served as my daily driver all through high school, but sadly, it got stolen outside of my school toward the end of my senior year. I had never been so pissed off in my life!”
At the time, Keith was working at a local Chevron station where he befriended some local L.A. County Sheriffs. News of the heinous crime spread quickly, and within three weeks the car was found. "The car sustained some front end damage and the engine and drivetrain had been stripped, but I finally got my Chevelle back. I immediately put plans together to build a 327 small-block to L79 specifications using a set of camel-hump cylinder heads, a hydraulic cam, and a Tri-Power intake manifold with Rochester carbs,” Keith says. "After matching the motor up with a TH400 trans, sourcing a new front clip and repainting the front end, the car was back on the road again. It took me through my college years with frequent trips to the original Irwindale Raceway, and lots of trips up the mountain roads to Big Bear Lake. As I started my career in construction, I hauled all my tools and supplies in the Chevelle until I got a work truck.”
In the years that followed, Keith's story isn't all that different from every other hot rodder's. He got married, had kids, and focused on work and family. The big difference, however, is that he never sold his high school car. "The Chevelle sat at my dad's house for the next 17 years and was only driven occasionally. I eventually moved to Arizona, and after my father passed away in 1997, I brought the Chevelle back home with me,” Keith says. By that time, he was ready to hop on the wagon once again. "I put together a detailed three-stage plan for the Chevelle's next incarnation that involved updating the body, interior, and drivetrain. I decided to paint the car blue, and after I saw a '98 Corvette in Nassau Blue, I sent the Chevelle out to get painted the same color. Next, I restored the interior and replated and polished all the trim and painted surfaces. The old 327 I built in 1975 still ran pretty well, but I upgraded the transmission to a 700-R4 overdrive in preparation for a future engine upgrade. To complete the restoration, I upgraded to factory-style disc brakes, some new BFGoodrich tires, and 3.73:1 rearend gears.”
The trick MSD Atomic EFI system features fuel rails and an ECU that’s integrated right int
A functional cowl induction system doesn’t always require a big hood. Keith built a custom