Liam Bennett’s stock-car-inspired 1964 Chevelle

We met Kiwi Liam at the Hardass 1000 and had to find out more about his ’64 LS-powered Chevelle

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

Liam Bennett’s stock-car-inspired 1964 Chevelle was one of our favourite spottos at the Hardass 1000, so much so we bailed the Kiwi up for a chat after the event to find out more.

First published in the May 2024 issue of Street Machine

This is a bloody cool Chevelle! What made you go with the stock-car styling?

I got inspired by all the original ones from the 70s, like the early Chevelles Dale Earnhardt raced, and the cars in The Last American Hero – the movie about Junior Johnson.

During the COVID lockdowns I got bored and decided I wanted to do that to mine. I radiused the guards myself, and then had Dean at Indy Kustoms feather in the paint so it looked original. I found some rust in the rear when I started, so it was the perfect excuse to fix it!

What’s it running for power?

Now it has an LM7 5.3 LS from a Silverado, which I swapped-in just a week or so before the Hardass 1000. It just has a Texas Speed cam, MSD ignition and a 750 Holley carb I took straight off the old small-block it had before.

I partly did the carby for looks but also to save time; there wasn’t much spare to get the car done. I was swinging the engine into the bay just nine days before the start of Hardass!

Why the last-minute engine swap?

The small-block was cactus. I found a bunch of coolant in the oil right before I limped it to Indy Kustoms to have the paint blended. Swapping the LS had its challenges; I had to massage the crossmember a bit but we got it done.

What’s the rest of the driveline?

It has an AutoGear Muncie M22 four-speed manual ’box, which is basically a racing gearbox that’s rated to 500hp. The rear end is a nine-inch with a Truetrac, and with the 4.11 diff gears it made some of the road legs of the Hardass a bit interesting.

How was the event for you?

It was great! I’d never drag-raced before, but when Harry [Haig] and Ryan [Ford] announced it, it sounded like heaps of fun. My wife was racing a ’68 Caprice for the week as well, which did have a few gremlins.

But even so, meeting everyone, seeing parts of the country we’ve never been to and enjoying the passion for cars was loads of fun. The Chevelle ran a best of 13.6, even with issues with grip off the line.

Tell us a bit about your history with the Chevelle.

I got it in 2018 from Queensland. I wasn’t necessarily looking for one, but it popped up and suited what I wanted. It was small-block and auto when we got it, and I did a few shows and Summernats 2020 with it before changing it to what it is now. It’s an original SS Malibu that would’ve had a 327 [from new].

Have you owned many other cars?

Too many! I’ve had a lot of S13s, Skylines, KE70 Corollas and that stuff back in the day. I got an S13 Silvia when I first moved here, as a daily 18-odd years ago.

Back in New Zealand I had a few Aussie cars like a 360-powered Valiant, XP and XM Falcons, an XB GT mock-up and plenty of others. I’ve also had a few Euros in my time – I’m not biased towards anything.

What do you do for a crust?

I’m actually in-between work right now, because I just finished working at a Porsche dealership that I’d been at since I moved to Aus. It was great, but now I’m ready for something different. I’m not quite sure what that’ll be just yet!