Monday, March 14, 2011

Scott Parkhurst Interview Part 1

After mucho hype, it's finally time to fire up the SGE interview series. Our historical first guest is none other than my own boss and owner/builder of the '67 'Chevelle from Hell' wagon, CarTech Editor, Scott Parkhurst. Picture us sitting on toolboxes, jangling at the workbench in Scott's spacious shop compound (his home garage). So, without any further adeu, how 'bout a warm SGE welcome for Scooott Paaarkhuuurst!!!
(Imagine theme music here)

Welcome to the blog, Scott. How's it hangin, Chief?

Just right, thanks (don't call me 'Chief' here).

(Gotcha Chief). Scott, 'America's Coolest Station Wagons' features 65 wagons. We asked each owner, "Why a wagon?" and your response was, "I bought it to be a functional vintage daily driver and tow vehicle for my GTO road racer. I went a little overboard on the upgrades. No regrets though!" Your book feature is packed with tech specs and the buildup of the car, but how did it go from 'daily driver and tow vehicle' to harassing megabuck race cars on the road course?

I can't tell the story of the wagon without some mention of the GTO, which wasn't really a GTO. Bear with me.

No sweat.

I'd always dreamed of owning a really hot '65 GTO.

Who hasn't?

Ha! I know. The crisp, square lines, the stacked headlights, the little scoop on the hood, the fact it was lighter than the '66s and others that followed it...

I'm right there with you.

So I found a '65 LeMans for sale when I lived in Huntington Beach. I got a good deal on it and immediately began dreaming of making it a GTO clone and modifying it.

We seem to have led parallel lives in this department. But how'd it turn into a station wagon? Pixie dust?

Well, I even allowed myself to dream of a killer tow vehicle. Something that'd look the part and be from the same timeframe. Jason Walker - a guy I worked with at the former McMullin/Argus/Yee/Primedia magazine factory - was writing for both Super Chevy and Street Rodder at the time. He was driving the '67 wagon to work regularly. He didn't want to sell, but as these things often happen, I had some parts he wanted and he had the wagon I wanted. We traded off and I began working on the wagon almost immediately.

Did it look then like it does now?

Not exactly. It boasted three different colors (four, if you looked closely) and that simply wouldn't do. I bought a couple cases of white primer spray cans and made the whole car that color within a week. It was a big improvement.

Ha! I never would've guessed you'd do something like that! You just earned another hero point... Okay, so you made the most of what the factory and father time gave you to work with...

It had a later 350 installed, but the Powerglide and 10-bolt rear remained in the car since its birth, untouched. The speedo didn't work, so I had no real idea how many miles were actually on it, but I didn't care - all the stock stuff would be replaced. Jason had upgraded to aftermarket front disc brakes and the wheels were Edelbrock 17 X 8s with Nitto 450 rubber. The coils had been cut to lower it and it looked pretty good. It started, stopped and turned.

I didn't realize you started with such a nice car. Is that 350 the one you built up into the current powerplant?

No. I built a 383 small-block to power it. I wanted it to run on 87 octane, since this was to be my daily driver. Being a performance guy, I wanted as much power as I could get on the 87 octane. I threw every trick I knew into the build and aimed at 500 peak horses at 6,500 RPM. When the engine made 545 at 6,500, even I was surprised.

Man, that's major gow, on cat pee gas! Again, most of the specs are in the book, for those of you wanting to duplicate Scott's efforts - just remember to duplicate them EXACTLY, if you want to get similar results. So, now you had a fresh engine...

I dropped the engine in at a pal's shop. He said I could take a day to do it. One single day. I rounded up some pals and we got going early. I drove the car home late that night. It sounded really mean and it was. But that Powerglide was not happy - it slipped and slid whenever I eased the pedal down even halfway. The need for a new transmission just moved to the top of the list.

Then, of course, we chose to move across the country, to Minnesota. The return to a four-season environment dictated that this would no longer be a daily driver. My new job as Editor of a start-up hot rodding magazine allowed some of the upgrades to happen as magazine stories. The move to a T56 6-speed was one of them.

And that's only the beginning of the beginning of the 'Chevelle from Hell' story behind the story. Get the rest of the dirt behind the build next time, followed by Scott's driving impressions of the finished product. And more... Coming soon in Part 2.

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