Restoring Chevoom: This ex-Car Craft Chevelle funny car only speaks Mopar

To know where you’re going, you need to know where you came from, and at Car Craft that is sometimes taking a step back and visiting the past, and with 66 years of content to draw from, all it takes is a gentle prod in the right direction. That’s what happened when we stumbled across a mid ’60s fiberglass-bodied, rear-engined Chevelle powered by an early Chrysler Hemi with “Car Craft Project Car” painted on the decklid on display at the US30 Indoor Dragfest show.

This is the from the 1967 January issue of Car Craft where Chevoom was recognized as one of the “10 Best Rods” of 1966.

That hand-painted lettering hooked us in, so we went digging into the archives for some answers and came up with the following: built in late 1965 by Maynard Rupp and Gratiot Auto Supply for the 1966 funny car season, it was their vision of where the class was heading. We were also surprised to discover that it was a Ridler Award winner in 1966, and noted as one of the 10 Best Rods of 1966 in the January 1967 issue of Car Craft Magazine.

In early January of 2017, the unrestored body was separated from the frame in preparation for its transport to Cooks Restorations. This was done at Ken Bigham’s barn, where the car had been stored since 1985.

Chevoom was only around for one season and it was sold off after that and abruptly faded into obscurity. Ken Bigham, the current owner, purchased the car in 1985 and parked it for many years in his barn until it was given a full restoration in 2017. Greg Cook and Bob Foote at Cooks Restorations in Gettysburg, PA performed that restoration in six months for its unveiling at the Concours d’Elegance of America held annually in Plymouth, MI. Greg documented the restoration of the Chevelle and has shared with us the photos that you see here. We also did a full feature shoot and story on the car, and will be sharing that with you in the month ahead.

The second part to be shipped out for restoration was the complete rolling chassis. When purchased by Ken, everything shown was still in place except the Hemi and Torqueflite transmission.
Unlike the body that had been left outside, the rest of the fiberglass panels were never exposed to the elements and the paint was still in very good condition. The hood, doors, and fenders were still wearing all their yellow paint when Ken purchased it.
Chevoom’s bare frame was in excellent condition when Greg started working on it. It was never damaged, so it required minor cosmetic work before the gloss black paint was applied.
The fiberglass body wasn’t in the best condition when Greg took delivery of it. There was some delamination starting to take place on the roof, and much of the paint had faded away. Due to its very thin construction, he notes that, “on a sunny day you could see light coming through the roof of the car.” There was also some damage on the C-pillar from what he believes to have been caused by something breaking as a result of an engine failure.
When Rupp designed the car, the plan was to have the drivetrain on a separate subframe held in place by a set of pins for easy removal. It was a sound idea, but it didn’t work well because it was initially designed to support a 396 Chevy mill, and when he switched over to the 354 Hemi, that advantage was lost as a result of the wider Mopar block and heads. The engine that you see mounted in the frame is actually a 392 block that Ken installed to show the car when it was in its unrestored state.
One of the items that didn’t come on the car were the unique headers Maynard built in 1966. Using vintage photos, Greg was able to recreate a new set made from stainless steel.
This photo shows the finished headers after a bath of chrome. One of the goals when Maynard built the Chevelle was to have it appear as stock as possible, and zoomies exiting from the side would have killed that look. These rather long tubes were the answer to that visual problem.
Many of the components on Chevoom were originally chrome-plated. Since all were still in place when the restoration started, it was easy to figure out what would need replating, like the standard 8 ¾ rear Chrysler housing assembly.
The rear suspension was designed as an integral part of the subframe that supported the drivetrain. It was a key element that was supposed to give easy access to the engine and transmission.
When the restoration started, Ken went on a search for a correct 354 Hemi to duplicate the original one installed in the car. He was fortunate to find one locally that was reasonably priced and in excellent condition. It was given a full rebuild that matched the specs on the mill Maynard ran in 1966.
When Bob Foote started doing the bodywork on the Chevelle, he assembled all the fiberglass panels on the frame to line them up. While the bulk of the body is fiberglass, Maynard did install factory windshield pillars, a steel cowl panel, radiator support, and rear taillight assemblies, along with all the trim found on a road-going car.
After the fiberglass panels were restored, Bob laid down the Moon Eyes Yellow base coat in preparation for the graphics.
After the base coat was applied, and before any new paintwork was done, a new floor was fabricated.
The graphics applied by Bob are a faithful reproduction of the originals. When Ken purchased Chevoom, one of the things they did very early on was to get tracings of all the artwork on the car.
A few months after restoration began, the finished body was again mated to the completed frame.
In 1966, Chevoom was awarded the “Best Engineered Car” by the NHRA at the Winternationals held in Pomona, CA.
After 51 years, Chevoom was once again reunited with its creator, Maynard Rupp, at the 2017 Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, MI.