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Saved from the crusher, classic Chevelle gets ‘slammed’

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

How does the old saying go? Sometimes it’s better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.

Thus it was at General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground where a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle, originally an SS 396 painted yellow with black racing stripes, was scheduled to be crushed after its long service to the vehicle and powertrain development groups.

The car was used for dynamic testing in Chevrolet crate-engine development programs but had come to the point where its only remaining assignment was to go to the crusher, the sad but typical fate for the vehicles automakers use for internal testing and development.

Except instead of crushing the car, engineers hid it away and recently worked with Chevy designers to bring it back to brilliance as one of two “Slammer” concept cars displayed on the Chevrolet stand at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show of the automotive aftermarket industry.

“We try to do a heritage build every year,” GM design staffer Todd Parker said as he stood between the Slammers — the ’69 Chevelle and a 2017 Camaro.

The original plan was to take the old car and update it with modern Chevrolet Performance parts to show the possibilities of such a project to those who buy, sell and apply aftermarket products to their own or to their customers’ builds. But as the Chevelle was coming together, the team realized that it could apply those same hot-rodding skills to soup-up a brand new Camaro, perhaps even establish a bridge between the classic and contemporary Chevrolet performance coupes. Muscle then and now, if you will.

Under the Chevelle’s hood is an LT377 Chevrolet Performance crate engine, good for 525 horsepower and linked to a 4L75E automatic transmission. The Camaro retains its 455-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 powerplant, albeit somewhat tweaked in the process.

Both cars got a paint shade called Dazzling Black, air-adjustable suspension, Brembo brakes, interior redos in a shade called Adrenaline Red and leather-covered Camaro seats for the Chevelle.

Custom billet aluminum wheels were created — 18-inch front and 20-inch rears for the Chevelle, 22-inch front and 24-inch rear for the Camaro.

To further update the Chevelle, it got Bluetooth audio, keyless entry, electric power steering, LED lighting, polished grille inserts, a front spoiler and its bumpers were “minimized.” Similarly, the Camaro got some ground-effects body work (sans rocker panels, which would have been on the ground when the car was lowered), as well as unique aluminum grilles, a new engine cover and performance exhaust.

As usual, engineering program manager Rich Downing and his crew at Milford did the skunkworks engineering.

It also was Downing who ’fessed up about the car being withheld from the crusher.

Looking at the cars, the Slammed Camaro appears sensational, and could anyone really argue that Slammed wasn’t a much better destiny for that classic Chevelle?

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer