In 2002, this Chevelle became part of the Johnson family collection. During TJ Johnson college days, his father and brother purchased this car from Dixie Shanahan who lived in Defiance, Iowa for only $700. Dixie had a very abusive husband that escalated into Dixie murdering her husband. Dixie then sold all of her husband’s car. Dixie’s entire story is was made into an actual crime novel titled “Dixie’s Last Stand”. TJ’s father was even called to court for the murder trial. “My in-laws lovingly refer to the Malibu as the Dead Man’s Car, but that’s only one of its few nicknames,” says TJ.
*Check out this classic “Chevrolet Corvette Parking Only” sign.*
The Johnson family has worked with a wide range of Chevy cars, from pre-War models to the latest ones. But out of all the Chevys that passed through, this Chevelle is the one that TJ can’t let go. “In the time I’ve owned it, it’s had four iterations, more or less, each defined by what engine was in it,” he recalled. “I often get told that it’s deceptively quick. I don’t necessarily think the car’s a sleeper. It’s visible. It has a rollbar, slicks, and skinnies, and the license plate says NOS. But the interior and rollbar are very tidy. The nitrous bits underhood are tastefully out of sight and the exhaust note is pretty tame. It feels good to catch people off guard and hear the things they say once they understand what it’s all about.”
When TJ got the car, it was almost complete with the engine and transmission needed some repairs. It was not for TJ to get it up and running as they had a lot of spare parts available. He mounted a four-bolt-main 350 engine and buffered the paint job. The car was good enough to be his daily driver during his college days up and used it through his first job at Holley as a Research Engineer.
While he was in Bowling Gree, TJ refreshed the interior. He restored the back seat, repaired the door panels, and replaced the worn-out carpet. He then brought the car to Jamie Blubaugh located in Augusta, Kansas to have a six-point rollbar installed. It was then sent to Roger Bosley for a repaint. Bruse Philbrook did the boy repairs and replaced most of the sheet metal. It was then covered in high-build primer and was sanded down for a perfectly smooth body. TJ saw a gorgeous Laser Blue Metallic Impala SS which became the color of his ride.
In 2005, TJ transferred to Wichita to work for Boeing as an aerospace engineer. He also moved from the small-blocks and saw the beauty of an LS engine. He took an LQ4 and sold the 383 parts to have money for the 6.0 L junkyard treasure, it had ported heads, Holley motor mounts and oil pan, Lunati camshaft, headers, NOS plate, intake manifold, and Dominator ECU.
Before the winter of 2010-11, TJ was into Pinks. They did not allow any coolant aside from a mixture of water and antifreeze. The extreme cold fractured the lifter valley. To prepare for the 2013-2014 off-season, he searched for components to create a Brian-Tooley 416” LS engine.
TJ also entered the 2014 Drag Week but did not want to bring a trailer. To create enough trunk space, he mounted Rick’s stainless tank with a built-in 450-L/Hr. pump underneath the floor. He wanted to go for full-length tailpipes but it was blocked by the AR Air Locker Links. Using a UMI 1 3/8-inch under-axle bolt-in drag bar, the problem was solved. TJ rebuilt the suspension using TRZ chrome-moly drag racing upper and lower control arms, Viking double adjustable coilovers, TRZ billet steering arms, and Wilwood Dynalite brakes. Normally TJ would use a Powerglide but for the Drag Week SR SB NA (Street Race Small-Block Normally Aspirated) class, he used a reverse-pattern, trans-brake-equipped Turbo 400 setup.
With his setup, TJ placed fourth in his class with a 4-day average of 10.97 seconds at a max speed of 121 mph. His personal best for the NA is 10.71 seconds at 123.6 mph. Although he lost a tail shaft housing bushing on the 2nd day, he also gained some new friends in the community. Before the 2014 season ended, he put the Powerglide back in.
TJs adventures were far from over. In 2015, the newly completed Chevelle had a nitrous record of 9.62 seconds at 140 mph. At the Street Legal Shoutout, TJ installed True Street hard-compound mud and snow ready Futuru Super Sport 275/60 tires and set another True Radial personal record of 10.75 seconds at 138 mph. He was active in both local and regional street car events and won a few Sunday Fundays. His greatest achievement was becoming the champion of the Pure Street class during the 1st Outlaw Armageddon No Prep race in Oklahoma City, he received his greatest trophy and a $1,600 cash prize.
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