Story: Evan “Evo” Yates
Photography: Andrew Link
As much as we appreciate our automotive past, there comes a point when trusting your creative instincts trumps sticking with the status quo.And even if charting your own course could produce mixed results, building a car to your liking could be the difference between a run-of-the-mill muscle car and a one-of-a-kind custom classic.
Sal Martinez Jr. of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has owned his 1971 Chevelle SS for nearly a decade. He originally purchased it as a former drag car in rolling chassis form and fully restored it back to hot rod spec with a bright orange paint job, 15-inch Raceline wheels and the typical muscle-car rake. But after the veneer of a fresh build had worn off, Sal found that his Chevy spent more time tucked in a garage than on the pavement where it should be. “I got bored with it,” says Sal. “It was pretty old man-ish.” So Sal committed to revamping the Chevelle to his preferences, utilizing aspects from his other automotive passion, mini trucks, but also paying homage to a vehicle his father once owned. “Me and my old man used to build hot rods for many years before he passed,” says Sal. “We actually had built a ’71 that was silver, and I was supposed to get it, but my stepmom sold it off when my dad passed away.” He continues, “That was my motivation to build this car the way it is now.”
The goal for the build was to combine elements Sal loved about the mini truckin’ scene with aspects he loved about hot rods. “I saw the Texas guys doing 24x15s on Silverados and thought I could get them on the Chevelle,” explains Sal. “Like a truck-themed hot rod, something that could stand out, because I was tired of blending in.” Thankfully, Sal bumped into the fellas from Intro Wheels at a car show in 2013 and, after a few conversations, decided to partner up and make Sal’s dream a reality. To get the ultra-wide steamrollers to fit out back, lots of modifications were necessary on the Chevelle. “The whole floor was cut out, and we did one solid tub instead of two tubs,” says Sal. “The rear end was shortened nine inches on each side.”
For the paint, Sal wanted to get away from the typical hot rod colors and do something more his style. He chose a charcoal and silver theme but added his own twist: “The paint has a satin clear,” says Sal. “I always talked about doing satin but let people talk me out of it, so this time I didn’t tell anyone—I just did it. And if it didn’t turn out right, at least I did what I wanted.” The body was also shaved of its door handles, marker lights and fender trim for a nice, smooth aesthetic.
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To the casual observer, the interior looks fairly stock for a ’70s-era Chevy. However, upon further observation the custom details come to life, such as the dash that, although it looks period correct, actually comes from a C10. “In mini truckin’, a lot of people use old dashes,” proclaims Sal. “I really wanted a metal dash because these Chevelles have crappy plastic dashes.” Thankfully, Sal found a ’65 C10 in a friend’s salvage yard, and after a three-day process to cut it out of the old truck and an even longer process to properly fit it in his Chevelle, Sal had the dash he desired. One of the most unique aspects of the interior is what Sal fabricated to overcome the challenges the full rear tub presented in relation to his 4-year-old son’s ability to ride with Dad. Sal ended up modifying the rear jump seat out of an older Toyota Tacoma and modified it fit perfectly with the tubs to allow his son to have a proper seat in the rear. Now that’s something Sal Sr. could certainly appreciate.
• Performance: 383 stroker motor with forged rods, pistons and crank; roller rockers and lifters; GM Performance aluminum heads; Voodoo Solid Roller Cam; Edelbrock Performer aluminum intake; Demon 850 carburetor; MSD pro-billet distributor; Hooker Shorty Headers; MagnaFlow custom-built exhaust; Detroit Locker with 4.11 gears; built 350 turbo transmission with trans brake
• Exterior: Shaved door handles, rear side-marker lights and fender trim; brushed stainless moldings; LED headlights; Steel Grey paint with light silver flake rally stripes and satin clear; shaved firewall with bead roll; bead-rolled wheel tubs, front wheel wells; powder-coated frame; Rhino-lined complete undercarriage
• Interior: ’65 Chevrolet C10 dash; shaved gauge panel; Vintage Air A/C system; 2001 Toyota Tacoma rear seats
• ICE: Pioneer double-DIN head unit; Dakota Digital gauges
• Suspension: Accuair speed switch setup; Slam Specialties rear bags on a custom two-link with watts link; full custom back half; modified S10 cups; Hotchkis tubular upper and lower A-arms; two 11-lb. nitrous bottles repurposed into air tanks; aluminum hardlines; Wilwood drop spindles and front brake upgrade, rear disc conversion
• Wheels/Tires: Intro Twisted Vista II wheels, 22×8.5-inch front, 24×15-inch rear; Pirelli PZero tires, 235/30/22 front, 405/25/24 rear
• Shout-outs: Mike Hathaway Designs (frame, sheet metal and paint); Tom at Billet & Acrylic Fantasies (custom billet); Mark Zarat at Vintage Air; Jose at Intro Wheels; Bobby Hillgaertner, Nate West, Keith Bryan, Frank Cavaliere, Greg Savior, Rigo Avila and all my other AcrophobiA brothers