Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Classic Muscle Car Family - Part 1


Story and Photos by: Shannon Hammett

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In 1989, on Rossville Blvd. sat a 1966 red Chevelle with a black vinyl top, black interior and a for sale sign. It was just what Simon Duffey, owner of Duffey's Radiator, had been looking for. He bought the Chevelle for $3500. Simon and his cousin, James Brown wanted a show car. Although the Chevelle was in pretty good shape, it would still need a lot of work to turn it into the show car that they envisioned.

“Simon tore the car down,” said James, “It was in pieces for a while. So, I called up Bobby Chastain in Cleveland. Bobby said that he would paint it and help us do all the body work, but that we would have to put it all back together. All three of us had a hand in restoring this car.”

Over the course of three years, Simon and James would do a complete restoration on the Chevelle.

“We would work on it maybe three days a week,” said James, “Bobby did all of the paint and body work. I owned a detail shop in Ringgold for several years. I do professional detail work for a lot of the high-end show cars around here. We did all the final detail, all the fitting and all the vinyl and chrome work. It's got a 375 horse power, 396 big block, Muncie 4-speed, a posy traction rear-end, Flowmaster exhaust and a lot of extras. We went with PPG triple black paint and Rebel Red SS interior. We've had this car apart so many times that I've lost count. There's not a nut or bolt on this car that I haven't turned personally.”

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Finally, in 1995 the restoration was complete. Simon and James built this Chevelle to show, but I doubt that either one of them could have ever foreseen just how many shows they would enter and win.

“In one year we did 64 shows,” said James, “We were gone every weekend. We've got a wall of trophies that's just incredible. We have around 400 trophies. Over 200 of them are 1st place. I'm not talking about a class trophy; I'm talking about best over all show trophies. Super Chevy, World of Wheels, Pigeon Forge; we've won all of them. My favorite win was at the Nationals. We've won best of show at the Nationals three times. Another neat show that we won was at Dale Earnhardt Jr's place in October of last year. He hand picked 100 cars from all over the U.S. and we were one of them. We were also at at the Dale Earnhardt Nationals when Dale Earnhardt Senior invited 100 cars there. We placed 3rd in that one. Simon used to be a Golden Gloves boxer. He was a semi-pro boxer; it was what he did for a living. So, last year at the Chattanooga World of Wheels, our display looked like a giant boxing ring. We had the red carpet and black poles all the way around it. We ended up winning 'outstanding custom' and 'outstanding custom engine'.”

This Chevelle started out with a $3500 price tag. Recently, Simon and James have turned down offers for as much as $90,000.

“We've had this car sitting on fields against Boyd Coddington and Chip Foose cars,” said James, “And have beaten them all. We have traveled from state to state to shows. It's pretty neat for a small town person that no one knows to come in and win the show. This car was not built in a professional shop. We made this car what it is in a block building with a gravel driveway and floors that had to be wet down. It was built and painted there. We are taking a car that we've got a quarter to an eighth of the money that these other guys have got in their cars that they never drive, and we're beating them. The November, 2000 issue of Super Chevy Magazine claimed that this car was the straightest black car to sit on their show field. It's great to have a car that we can drive and enjoy and still compete with.”

. . . To be continued

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