No, you’re eyes aren’t playing...
No, you’re eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That’s not Smokey’s ’67 Chevelle racing on dirt. It’s one sweet replica.
The car is unmistakable, notorious, infamous, innovative and, of course, illegal—at least in Bill France's eyes. I'm talking about, obviously, Smokey Yunick's legendary Chevelle, the actual version of which was chronicled in the Oct. '11 issue of Circle Track and is currently for sale. Most of us, however, couldn't afford the six figure asking price, so if we wanted one, we would have to take the path traveled by one Steve Tucker from Germantown, Tennessee.
By day, Tucker works for Parts Plus, but at night he and a group of friends transformed a skeleton of a '67 Chevelle into a first class Street Stock that pays tribute to one of the best mechanics to ever turn a wrench.
"I found the car on eBay in Dothan, Alabama, and purchased it for $500," says Tucker. "It was an original 327 four-speed car but none of that was there. All we got was the shell and frame, plus the rearend."
On the hot rod scene, a '67 Chevelle is a perfect restoration platform, but examples that are completely missing the interior floor are often, and unfortunately, bound to be parts cars or headed to the crusher. But Tucker had bigger plans for this diamond in the rough.
In the early phases of construction...
In the early phases of construction of the car, Steve Tucker took it to Larry Shaw Race Cars down in Batesville, Arkansas, for some ’cage work.
"I love stock cars and the grassroots element of our sport that they represent, but I think we have negatively impacted the fan appeal of the class by choosing mostly Camaro and Monte Carlo platforms to build upon. We all look alike."
But his motivation goes deeper than looks. "I have always admired the innovative spirit of those guys who came before us. Those guys, like Smokey, who for the most part were self taught but had the passion to ‘figure it out.' Part of me thinks it is good that a person interested in getting into racing can pretty much order everything they need from a catalog to put a car together. But another part of me thinks we lost something from the time when people built these things by hand and every car was unique."
So, Tucker built a replica of Smokey's legendary Chevelle.
Beyond the NASCAR-style door...
Beyond the NASCAR-style door bars, you can see how the floor of the Chevelle is non-existent. There was a significant amount of fabrication to be done to get the car race ready.
He got started by taking the car down to Larry Shaw Race Cars around Christmas 2010. There, Shaw employee Ferrell Fike built a 'cage. With the foundation complete and the car back in Memphis, Tennessee, Tucker and his group got to work on it in January 2011. All of the interior and bodywork was done by Tommy and Sonny Ray of Ray's Automotive. They happen to be dealers for Shaw Race Cars and have ties to local Memphis area track Riverside Speedway dating back to the early 1950s, when their father drove a "B" car there. Riverside would become the future home track of the Chevelle.
The car sports a 360ci Chevy engine with a two-barrel carburetor backed up by a Muncie transmission. The driveline features a lot of products from Comp Cams and Quarter Master, as well as a floating 9-inch rearend. Tony Wilson at Wilson Competition got the whole thing purring along and ready to race.
By April 14 they had the car complete and on the track. "In its first outing with this green driver behind the wheel we managed a Ninth Place finish after starting at the back of the pack in 16th," said Tucker. "And we brought all of the fenders home.
There is one final interesting fact about this car that caught our attention. "We are running on E85 race fuel which is a first for this part of the country," says Tucker. A '67 Chevelle dirt track car running on E85? Smokey would be proud.