489-cube big-block 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle coupe

Dave Cufone bought this 1971 Chevelle on a whim, hoping to make a quick buck. Until he started doing burnouts

Photographers: Guy Bowden

WHEN South Aussie Dave Cufone sourced himself an ultra-desirable ’69 Camaro SS and organised to have it shipped over from America, he was informed that there would be some leftover space in his shipping container. Rather than waxing philosophical as to whether the container was half empty or half full, Dave went shopping and found another car to fill the space.

This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Street Machine

“I searched the internet for big block-powered cars and this popped up,” he said. “I’d never even heard of a Chevelle but it looked cool and I thought I could sell it on and make some money, so I paid the guy and he drove it down to the docks and loaded it into the container for me.”

When the ’71 Chevelle landed Down Under, Dave took a shine to it, despite its dents and daggy paint. So much so, in fact, that while he promptly rebuilt the Camaro to spec and sold that, the Chevelle hung around. However, it was simply gathering dust in a far-flung corner of the workshop until his buddy Sid decided to strip it back to the metal and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was completely devoid of rust.

Dave quickly hatched a plan to create a tough yet legal and fully engineered street car, and set about carrying out the right-hook conversion. He fitted a flat firewall, then shifted the original pedals and column across, mating it up to an HJ Holden power steering box fed by an electric pump. He then plated, recessed and smoothed all the metalwork, and beefed up the rear end with QA1 coil-overs and a 31-spline nine-inch with a Truetrac centre.

With the steering and suspension sorted, Dave attacked the bodywork with help from Sid and another mate, Steve.

“The rear quarters in particular were tricky. Originally I had Convo Pros with 29½x12½ Mickey Thompsons under it — we had to pump the guards by about an inch to get them to fit.”

He then set about applying the Special Black base coat and gunmetal SS stripes himself, finishing it with DeBeers clear coat, after which he slotted in a 600hp aspirated big-block.

“I had an engineer come and check it out and he was quite happy with it,” Dave said. “It was to the point where it was all but ready for pre-rego testing but then I started doing skids and things got a bit side-tracked. I put a fuel cell in it, then the blower went on and I started having a heap of fun at events.

“I might go back to the original plan one day but right now it’s just too much fun the way it is.”

The 489ci rat motor was pieced together by Steve Tonks Automotive as an aspirated pump-fuel combo. Even so, at moderate boost levels and on a diet of avgas with a splash of octane booster, it’s been rock solid since the 8/71 Weiand, twin 950cfm carbies and water-to-air intercooler were added. Keith Black pistons and an Eagle crank and rods make up the rotating assembly, while heads are alloy Brodix Big Brodies and the cam is a Comp Cams roller.

An alloy radiator works in tandem with an electric water pump and a boot-mounted icebox to ensure that the engine keeps cool, calm and collected for the full duration of a skid. Hooker headers feed a twin three-inch exhaust system complete with Magnaflow mufflers but Dave much prefers the sound of open pipes, so he only bolts it all up if he absolutely has to.

Power figures? “I wouldn’t have a clue!” he said. “It had just over 600hp when it was aspirated, so if I had to guess I’d say mid-700s, maybe more. It seems to make good power but it hasn’t been back on a dyno since the blower went on.”

Based on recent performances, there’s no question that the ’charged 489ci big-block makes enough grunt to toast a set of tyres in no time at all, which is all well and good, considering that’s all Dave intends to do with the car in the foreseeable future.

“I’m glad that the car lost its direction as an engineered streeter. It’s an event car and it’s loads of fun but the people I’ve met since I started doing skids have been a real highlight. It’s won some trophies like Toughest Ride and Best American at shows here and there, and it’s done well in a few burnout comps, too.

“I had a crack at Springnats (page 108) recently and ended up on the podium amongst all the big-hitters, then came second at Mallanats a week later — I was rapt. The pad at Springnats was huge — I enjoyed that because the Chevelle is a big car. It’s good to have enough room for a nice, fast entry!”

Since building the Chevelle, Dave’s come across another ’69 Camaro and pretty much everything he needs to piece it together. It’ll be decked out in the same colours and paint scheme as the Chevelle, with a big set of Showwheels rims and a ProCharged 632ci pump gas engine.

“I’ve always wanted a nine-second street car,” he explained. “The Chevelle would probably run a good time but with the blower hanging out the bonnet it attracts too much attention and it’s not really what I’d call a street car anymore.”


Colour: Special Black

Brand: 489ci Chev big-block
Induction: Twin 950cfm boost-referenced carbs, Weiand 8/71 blower, Weiand blower manifold, water-to-air intercooler
Heads: Brodix alloy Big Brodies
Camshaft: Comp Cams roller
Conrods: Eagle
Pistons: Keith Black
Crank: Eagle
Oil pump: High volume
Sump: Moroso
Preferred fuel: Avgas
Fuel system: Magnafuel 500
Cooling: Alloy radiator with twin thermos, boot-mounted icebox
Exhaust: Hooker extractors, twin three-inch system with Magnaflow mufflers
Ignition: MSD Pro Billet distributor, MSD 6AL

Gearbox: Turbo 400, 3500rpm TCI converter
Diff: Nine-inch, 3.55:1 gears, Moser 31-spline axles, Detroit Truetrac

Springs: Lowered standard (f), QA1 coil-overs (r)
Shocks: Competition Engineering 90/10 (f), QA1 coil-overs (r)
Brakes: Upgraded GM discs and calipers (f), upgraded drums (r)

Rims: Billet Specialties Street Lite, 17×7 (f), 17×11 (r)
Rubber: Nitto, 225/45/17 (f), 315/35/17 (r)

My wife Cindy and kids for understanding my passion, Tonksie for the engine build, Craig from CK Tuning, Luke for electrics, Sid and Stevo for helping with the bodywork, and everyone else who helped out on the build, including my bros Damo, Luke and Pat