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It’s the ’66-’67 Chevelle’s longer and sleeker look, bigger and restyled grille and front bumper, curved windows, and bulked-up rear fender lines that snake-charmed Karmyn James the first time she’d laid eyes on one. The available, 375hp and 396 cubic-inch big-block that was offered in short supply really wasn’t all that bad either.
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None of which James forgot about when mulling over what sort of car she oughta enlist when the stars of having enough time and money for a restoration of her own aligned. All of this led her to the online classifieds, where she scoured not for anything short of the sort of rusted-up and ramshackle bodies that you’d typically do your best avoiding and that cried out for rescuing.
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Rescuing in the form of ridding the body and frame of its decades worth of corrosion and rust, and the ’67 Chevelle Malibu she’d soon find ultimately being bathed in 1965 factory General Motors color Evening Orchid. The ’67 was coming into its own at the hands of James, and she was just getting started. “It was a rough-looking, rusty, and empty project,” she admits of the barren chassis that sat neglected on the seller’s unhitched trailer bed. But James also talks about how all she could see at the time was what she called her “future neck-breaker.”
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Which is exactly what led to James’ ’67 getting noticed on Magnaflow’s official Facebook page (facebook.com/magnaflow) where we asked fans of The Wall of Authority to submit pictures of their builds and we’d pick the best of the best to feature right here. Needless to say, James delivered.
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The alterations transcend past the sheetmetal, where James commissioned a fully redone interior, designed by her and executed by BK Upholstery, stationed not far from James’ Santa Rosa, California, home base. Also nestled among the restitched and refreshed inside is a Kenwood headunit that feeds a smattering of the company’s speakers.
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But speakers never made anybody go any faster, which is why you care about the 383-cubic-inch stroker engine James had fitted underneath the hood that mates to the TH350 transmission. Chevy’s 383 starts with its widely used 350 short-block that plays host to the slightly modified crankshaft yanked from the company’s 400-cubic-inch engine. The crankshaft’s longer stroke, along with the right pistons and connecting rods, means displacement, horsepower, and torque all just got bumped in the right direction.
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James, along with friends and family Sonja Vasquez, Al Saldana, and Ron Strelow, who lent hands throughout the four-year build-up, augmented the long-block with stainless-steel, JBA long-tube headers matched to a MagnaFlow exhaust system at one end and a Holley Double-Pumper carburetor at the other. For James, the sort of power all of this translates into is just fine for getting her to and from the Central California car shows, meet-ups, and cruises she now regularly finds herself at.
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Hard work and long hours were put into the build by James and company, and that’s exactly how she wanted it. It’s true that she could’ve bought somebody else’s finished project, she says, but that would’ve taken most of the fun out of it. “I wanted my own creation, my own masterpiece.” For James, being able to see past the rust and the dents, in part, made all of that happen.
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Words by Aaron Bonk
Photos by Sonja Vasquez