Sal Perez will be the first to tell you that building a 1967 Chevelle in front of a smattering of video cameras and mics isn’t easy. In short, “it was tough,” he says about MAVTV’s Chop Cut Rebuild production that, for the most part, took place behind the doors of his Southern California workshop, American Muscle Cars.
Film crews and builders occupied the same close quarters throughout, which meant seven-day work weeks that burned into the night to make up for lost time became customary. Hear Perez, and it may not sound like it was all worth it, but he’s quick to justify all of the drama: “I had skin in the game,” he says about the finished product that, after all of this was done, was his to keep.
But the Chevelle wouldn’t be Perez’ for some time. First, sheet-metal manufacturer AMD (Auto Metal Direct) would get its hands on the car, who was appointed by the show’s producer to fit its off-the-shelf body panels to the most rusted-up and corroded body the team could find. According to Perez, the specimen they’d ultimately source was worse than anybody expected, which led to the Atlanta, Georgia, company replacing every single one of its panels before its being shipped off to Perez where the remainder of the build would take place.
Before AMD would do its part, though, and shortly after signing on, Perez reached out to Kars by Kris, who drew up renderings and developed the blueprint that everybody would soon follow. Once AMD was finished, ABC Performance fitted the Chevelle with its signature suspension system that’s made up of tubular A-arms and Viking Performance coilovers. Out back, a Currie Enterprises nine-inch rear end was put into place before loading it all up and shipping it off to Perez some 2,000 miles away.
The shell was delivered to Perez with the clock all of sudden ticking a whole lot faster. “It just didn’t seem realistic,” he says about the amount of time they were given to make all of this happen. None of which stopped the crew at American Muscle Cars from customizing the Chevelle exactly how they thought it ought to be, though. Like gapping each body panel for consistent fitment throughout, modifying the bumpers for tighter clearances against the body, and removing their mounting hardware for a more streamlined look. “I just didn’t like how the bumpers looked,” Perez says, “so I tightened them up and brought them in.” It’s details like these as well as arriving at the sort of ride height Perez wanted that wouldn’t be sacrificed. As such, wider rear wheel tubs had already been retrofitted into place by the same guys who’d bolted in the suspension, and Perez modified the trunk floor, outer rear wheel housings, rear suspension mounting points, and front inner wheel wells. Here, there was no room for compromise.
Underneath the modified hood that flows into the customized and smoothed-out cowl panel, Perez and company looked to a fuel-injected, 525hp LS3 engine and Tremec six-speed transmission under the guise of General Motors’ Connect and Cruise powertrain package. A tunnel was formed to allow all of this to fit, followed by its getting all wired up and then mocking up the pedal assembly, fuel and cooling systems, brakes, and steering, at which time it was delivered to MagnaFlow where the custom headers and exhaust system were fabricated and installed.
The car was once again transported, this time from Magnaflow’s headquarters to Ron Mangus Hot Rod Interiors who carried out the team’s vision inside. At last the Chevelle was beginning to look like it was nearly complete, which meant now was the perfect time to tear it all apart and prepare it for paint. Perez assigned three from his crew that, together, block-sanded, prepped, and painted the body nonstop until its completion, all before being put back together, going back to the interior shop for final fitment, getting color-sanded, and then embarking on a final outing to nearby Westech Performance Group where it was fired up and tuned.
“You’ve really got to sneak up on this car to notice it,” Perez says about the subtle yet effective modifications that’ve been made and that’ve become customary of the sort of projects his firm’s been cranking out for the past decade. “We wanted it to look stock, but also look like it was on steroids.” A tough job by any measure; even tougher when you’ve go an audience in front of you and a deadline time itself says is this side of impossible to meet.