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!