STRIP TEASE

NZV8 - - EVENTS -

Ar­riv­ing early at any drag meet any­where around the globe, you’ll be met with hoards of greasy-fin­gered driv­ers and crew mem­bers fu­ri­ously spin­ning span­ners on cars, per­form­ing last-minute checks and pre­race rit­u­als. If you were to stum­ble on An­dre Gil’s stun­ning Chevelle dur­ing one of those walks, you’d probably find some­thing dif­fer­ent. Sure, a car of this level re­quires last-minute check-overs, but you’d be un­likely to find greasy hands any­where near it. In­stead, you’d find the car al­most sur­gi­cally clean, and An­dre, a self­con­fessed per­fec­tion­ist, calmly pol­ish­ing it. While there’s no ques­tion that the car was built to ful­fil An­dre’s dreams of go­ing fast, it also had to look the part. Iron­i­cally, its current ap­pear­ance is a com­plete con­trast to how it looked when it be­gan its drag rac­ing days un­der the own­er­ship of Bill Kil­gour. Bill, a Kiwi liv­ing in Los Angeles, pur­chased the car as a dead stock LS6-pow­ered ma­chine, be­fore get­ting sucked into the world of street rac­ing, in which hav­ing a sleeper was the best way to make some side cash. The de­sire to win saw the ad­di­tion of ni­trous, which soon saw the demise of the LS6 en­gine. An LS7 was fit­ted, and the rac­ing con­tin­ued. The leg­endary tales of the good old days have been passed along to An­dre — there was the time an un­known char­ac­ter chal­lenged Bill to a race for $500; Bill ac­cepted and soon lost the race and the cash. Rather than give up, though, he made the car quicker and won his money back a few months later. Bill and the Chevelle re­turned to New Zealand in 1989. By that time, the duo had moved their stree­trac­ing an­tics to the drag strip. At the start, the car would run 12s, then 11s, be­fore trac­tion be­came an is­sue, and the only way it could be fixed was by fit­ting some de­cent-sized rear rub­ber. This was when Terry Bow­den be­came an in­te­gral part of the car’s fu­ture, fab­ri­cat­ing a new back half chas­sis and four-link sus­pen­sion set-up. To make the most of the added rub­ber, a Pro Stock en­gine was sourced and the car was soon un­beat­able in Su­per Stock class. Deal­ing to the com­pe­ti­tion when­ever it ran, the car was the first in the class to drop into the eight-sec­ond zone and picked up a huge num­ber of tro­phies and fans to match. One of those fans was An­dre Gil, who, at the time, was rac­ing a Ca­maro street car, and he soon ended up in the same po­si­tion Bill had got to — no mat­ter how much more power was added, the times didn’t drop; there sim­ply wasn’t enough trac­tion. A chance con­ver­sa­tion with Terry let An­dre know that Bill was hang­ing up his boots, and, al­though the Chevelle was not be­ing ad­ver­tised, it was up for sale. Two days later, An­dre owned it, Bill fir­ing it up in the mid­dle of sub­ur­bia to drive it onto the trailer one last time. For the first few sea­sons, the car was cam­paigned as pur­chased, win­ning var­i­ous meet­ings in­clud­ing

the na­tion­als. Sadly, though, as the cost of making the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated power required to be at the pointy end just kept climb­ing, the class be­came a vic­tim of its own suc­cess and im­ploded. De­ter­mined not to go to forced in­duc­tion, An­dre parked the car up. For­tu­nately, on more than one oc­ca­sion, his wife Vanessa talked him out of selling it, know­ing he still had un­fin­ished busi­ness with it. Fi­nally, af­ter years of ques­tions about when the car would re­turn, the snow­ball be­gan to roll in 2014, and the re­build com­menced. It be­gan with the car’s re­turn to Terry’s Chas­sis Shoppe, where the sus­pen­sion and chas­sis were up­dated. A sway bar was added, along with a rear wing and chas­sis con­nec­tors, and a few changes were made to the steer­ing set-up. With Terry be­ing ev­ery bit as much a per­fec­tion­ist as An­dre, it’s fair to say that no en­gi­neer­ing stone was left un­turned. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously done busi­ness with Rod­ney Hol­land at Rod­ney’s Restora­tions, An­dre would trust no one else with the paint job. Look­ing at the elite-level, show fin­ish of the car, it’s easy to see why. Along the way, a few al­ter­ations were made to the body, such as shav­ing the side re­peaters and mod­i­fy­ing the front clip to get the stance bang on. Af­ter ini­tial in­de­ci­sion on the colour, Rod­ney won out with his pick of the cus­tom PPG Cham­pagne fin­ish in which the car was soon coated. While Rod­ney was work­ing on the car, An­dre was sort­ing a new en­gine combo. Sure, he could go

on­line, click a link, and en­ter a credit-card num­ber, but that’s not his style. In­stead, his de­sired combo was in­ten­sively re­searched and built by lo­cals that he could trust. In this in­stance, those lo­cals were Tony and Anthony Marsh at Marsh Mo­tor­sport. As An­dre says, “Tony guided me to pur­chase the cor­rect parts, right down to ex­ter­nal as­sem­blies such as the Auto Verdi dry-sump pump made in Swe­den. Build­ing an en­gine like this is an ex­er­cise in knowl­edge, blueprint­ing, and as­sem­bly sev­eral times to check, achiev­ing the cor­rect clear­ances. Weeks and months later, as­sem­blies and com­po­nents ar­rived, some di­rectly and most sup­plied by Shane at Segedins.” In­cluded in those parts was a Dart Pro block, which the Marsh team filled with the most high-revving and re­li­able parts avail­able. The fin­ished combo dis­places 517ci and makes its peak torque of 945lb·ft be­tween 7500 and 9300rpm. It’s a nar­row win­dow, but that’s what’s required to make the re­li­able 1200hp of which the Chevelle is ca­pa­ble. Al­though a Chuck Mann–built TH400 was soon strapped to the back of the en­gine, it’s the beau­ti­ful Terry’s Chas­sis Shoppe head­ers hang­ing

BILL KIL­GOUR SOURCED A PRO STOCK EN­GINE AND THE CAR WAS SOON UN­BEAT­ABLE. IT WAS THE FIRST IN SU­PER STOCK CLASS TO DROP INTO THE EIGHT-SEC­OND ZONE

each side that cause trouser bulges in the pits. Many drag cars are let down by their in­te­ri­ors — this car was never go­ing to be one of them. Some reengi­neer­ing work sees the driver now po­si­tioned a foot rear­wards to achieve bet­ter weight dis­tri­bu­tion. This was made pos­si­ble by fit­ting a pedal box and shift­ing the cus­tom steer­ing col­umn, gauges, and seat fur­ther to the back of the car. The rest of the func­tional-yet-show-qual­ity in­te­rior fea­tures plenty of cus­tom an­odized com­po­nents along with plas­tic work by the team at Plas­tics Con­struc­tions. The build plan was for a raw me­chan­i­cal look, which ex­plains the lack of soft fur­nish­ings and all the ex­posed fas­ten­ers. While the build may have spi­ralled some­what, it stayed true to the orig­i­nal in­tent of keep­ing the car’s his­tory, which meant that, de­spite all

the ob­vi­ous dis­ad­van­tages, there was never any in­ten­tion to con­vert it to a full tube-frame chas­sis. That said, how­ever, there’s not ac­tu­ally a lot re­main­ing of the car’s orig­i­nal com­po­nents. To date, the Chevelle’s been back on track for a hand­ful of meets and the crew are get­ting their heads around what’s required to run a car at this level, while An­dre fa­mil­iar­izes him­self with the hot seat. Driv­ing a car with a nar­row rev range isn’t easy, but An­dre loves the chal­lenge and the thrill it pro­vides. The true per­for­mance po­ten­tial of this car is yet to be re­vealed, but the jour­ney to get there is as im­por­tant as the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. In fact, the real end des­ti­na­tion for the car may well be a re­turn to where it all started. Yep, there’s a chance that, one day, we’ll see the car back on the street!

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