RK Nation: Chad Sanborn’s Then-And-Now Chevelle Story

We were intrigued when Chad Sanborn posted these then-and-now Chevelle photos on his RK Nation page. Of course, the killer Rush shirt and big glasses are plenty awesome on their own merits, but the sweet machinery piqued our interest so we asked Chad about them. There’s no point trying to retell the story ourselves because Chad wrote about his history with Chevelles (and more) better than we ever could. Maybe we should hire Chad.

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Chad says:

“My first car was the mist green 69 Chevelle in the photo. By chance a farmer friend of my Dad had it in his back yard sinking into the ground. I don’t really know the history of the car or how it got there, but for $500, it was mine and I was hooked! I do know the transmission was stuck in gear so we had to trailer it back home. Dad rebuilt the transmission with me watching, then I spent my time installing it with his help. It had a 4-speed, 4-barrel with a bench seat, air shocks, 4.10 posi, and factory tach in the dash (which was really odd for a 283 small block Malibu with 307 badges). It was 1979 in Waterloo, Iowa, and I was 16 at the time but had been around wrenching and racing all my life. Dad raced a multitude of British and American Muscle cars in the SCCA Production series, then the Trans Am series later when I was older. We didn’t have much money but Dad did the best he could racing, with friends always helping out.

“Since it was my first car I didn’t treat it very well, and looking back, I didn’t appreciate what I had. The old 283 ran really well for a month or so until it burned enough oil to foul the plugs. I’d throw in a new set and off I’d go again. There were many warm summer nights drinking cheap beer and racing friends in the streets, luckily only receiving a few speeding tickets in the process. This became my routine till the car broke a rear spring (from piling in too many friends) and the motor was just too tired to go on. My Dad and I pulled the 283 and 4-speed, then off to the junk yard it went.

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“Later after I graduated high school, still thinking about how much fun I had with the Chevelle, I picked up another $500 beauty. This time a 68 with a 4.56 posi, but no engine or transmission. Again with Dad’s help he rebuilt a bored 327 block and we used the old 4-speed we pulled. The rear quarters were in bad shape so it was time to learn bodywork. This was my first time using Bondo and I found the stuff to be magic! I had a relative with knowledge of a spray gun help paint the car and off I went. The ‘68 was a fun, fast car but I was getting older and times were tough in the early 80s. The economy was bad and I needed a full-time job. Again, not learning lessons from before, I sold the car and joined the Air Force.,

“Later in the service, I had a Challenger, Impala, 54 Olds… The funny thing was you always had to sell the cool car [and then] you had to get another. There was no keeping anything, we just couldn’t afford it.

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“Life went on and the hot rods went away but a number of years ago my parents were going through a box of old photos. They found the pic of me with my first car and sent it to me. After that I couldn’t get rid of that feeling when I was younger. The feeling of freedom. Being young and driving an old hot rod. The smell of gas, oil and burning rubber. I wanted to give my son some of what I had while growing up. I was able to find an old black ‘69 350 in rough shape, just a couple of hours away we could drive home. My son was 11 at the time and he thought the old Chevelle was the coolest thing in the world!

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“We spent the last few years removing the bench seat, adding original ‘69 seats, console, horseshoe shifter and dash, replacing u-joints, wheel bearings, ball joints, tie-rods, even found an old 12-bolt posi to rebuild and install. While the body still isn’t in the best of shape, we’ve been hitting all the local car shows, having the time of our life and creating memories together we’ll never forget. We even have the obligatory burnout box on our street the neighbors put up with… for now 🙂

“My son turns 14 this December and will get his driving permit. We’ve already been on the lookout for an old hot rod he can drive as his first car.”

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Chad’s dad, Jim, was also quite the wheelman. Here’s a photo of Chad riding shotgun in his dad’s Corvette with the checkered flag after an SCCA race win. Jim also finished in the Top 10 in Trans-Am races several times, which was no small feat for a privateer entry making a go of it with only a friend or two for help. He also raced a few GTO-class IMSA races in the early 1980s, including rides at the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona.

That’s a lot of cool father-son stories wrapped up in one family and we can’t thank Chad enough for sharing. You can tell your stories about your cars, your projects, your family, and yourself on your own Roadkill Nation page like Chad. We love seeing what you’re up to and we just might share it on the website or in the magazine. If you don’t have a RK Nation page, you can get your own right here.

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