Speed freak Chuck Murray bought a 1970 Chevelle SS in 1976. His intention was to make it a "race car." The muscled-up Chevy coupe already had a performance pedigree.
The Chevelle was sold new in Chicago at Nickey Chevrolet, a legendary local car tuner. Murray purchased it from the original owner and before long it was even more of a snorting, rip-roaring asphalt-pounder. The heart of it was a "funny car" drag-racing engine Murray installed with a friend's help.
The pair also mounted a roll cage and aftermarket hood, complete with a hole to reveal massive twin carburetors. Murray's goal was to turn in fast times at area tracks. However, the clock the leadfoot punched most regularly was the 9-5 variety.
For several years he commuted from his home in Rogers Park to his job on the Northside. On his very first trip, he couldn't help but show the unruly brute off. His office had a big loading dock ramp around back. Egged on by some pals, he goosed it up the incline into the warehouse.
"I nailed the gas hard," recalls a chuckling Murray. "The front wheels lifted clear off at the top. It shocked them and definitely surprised me."
That heart-racing memory is as clear as day to him now, just like another: the cost of fueling up. Murray remembers paying a wallet-emptying $7 a day for the round-trip work commute.
Murray did get his Chevelle to Union Grove Raceway for a handful of runs but says he never had it fully dialed in. It was frustrating but never dampened his fun. In 1979, Murray sold the SS to prioritize family. He never forgot about it and in 1999 went looking for a replacement.
In 2002, the Libertyville man found one sitting neglected in a sun-soaked Arizona boneyard. "I wanted it as close to my original car as possible," Murray said. "Although it needed to be more 'streetable.' "
The first step was stripping the vehicle to bare metal, which revealed extreme damage. "The car had been hit in every corner," Murray said. There were "dings, scrapes and holes all over the place."
Murray moved forward and in four years overhauled the heap into a truly showstopping machine. The car was painted in Astro Blue and given a black vinyl top, matching its predecessor. Everything underneath was powdercoated and strengthened with an aluminum cross member.
Big four-wheel disc brakes were installed along with tubular upper and lower control arms. The enthusiast wanted the same fire-breathing spirit of that first SS, so he installed a 565-cubic-inch V-8 race engine. Murray built it himself.
The result is a machine that not only likes to race (which Murray has done), but also run -- and stop. Since the vehicle's completion, Murray has driven to Niagara Falls (twice), Ohio and across Tennessee.
"The car is great on the long trips," Murray said. "It's fast enough for me but comfortable enough for my whole family. It's a win-win."
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