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Published on 02/26/2019

Time to Drive: Three Chevrolet Performance Crate Engine Stories for Cruising Season

WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

MATT BEST

Spring is finally in sight, and that gets us thinking about putting the finishing touches on our favorite cruisers. All over the country, like-minded Chevrolet Performance enthusiasts are getting their vehicles ready to roll, too.

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Published on 02/26/2019
vehicles, parts, events
WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

MATT BEST

Time to Drive: Three Chevrolet Performance Crate Engine Stories for Cruising Season

Spring is finally in sight, and that gets us thinking about putting the finishing touches on our favorite cruisers. All over the country, like-minded Chevrolet Performance enthusiasts are getting their vehicles ready to roll, too.

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In the spirit of show and cruising season fast approaching, we’ve decided to re-visit three of our favorite feature vehicles from last year. It’s a diverse group with one common theme: they all have Chevrolet Performance crate engines under the hood.

We’ll start deep in the heart of Texas, where the inaugural C10 Nationals took place at Texas Motor Speedway in May 2018. There was a truly stunning variety of classic and late-model Bowtie trucks on display. Really, what better place is there to hold a truck show than the Lonestar State?

Jeremy Bumpus’ 1971 Chevrolet C10 was particularly memorable. Bumpus owns a shop called The Hot Rod Shop in Corinth, Mississippi, and is also a host of Truck Tech on PowerNation TV. Clearly, he knows his stuff.

The red patina truck was built over the course of Season Three on the show after it was taken down to the bare frame. 

“If it got dinged or chipped or whatever, it didn’t matter,” he said. “So we decided to go the patina route.”

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The LT1 that powers the truck was provided by Pace Performance (a Chevrolet Performance authorized dealer). The wet-sump engine replaced the small-block originally in the truck and is capable of 460 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. It is the same engine that powers the seventh-generation Corvette Stingray. Bumpus explained that the swap was simple using small-block 350c.i. motor mounts and adapters. The only modifications were to the shorty headers to make the exhaust system work, and the use of a prototype front drive system since the LT1 was so new during the 2016 season. The engine is backed up by a six-speed transmission.

“We were trying our best to be the first ones to put an LT1 in the truck. I think we were right there at it, but I don’t know if we were exactly the first or not,” Bumpus said.

Bumpus has a lot in common with Mike and Angela McKee -- a couple we met on HOT ROD Power Tour.

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The two own a red 1967 Chevrolet Nova SS with a black vinyl roof and celebrate their anniversary during Power Tour each year. The car is powered by a Chevrolet Performance LT4 crate engine. When we spoke with the couple from Tuttle, Oklahoma, at Atlanta Motor Speedway they had clocked over 11,000 miles in just about a year. The engine is the heart of the supercharged Corvette Z06 and is rated at 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. This particular one is mated to an 8L90-E eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine/transmission combination is one of the popular Connect & Cruise crate powertrain options from Chevrolet Performance.

“I just figured if GM’s going to release something like that with that kind of power, and then offer a warranty* with it, there wasn’t a need to go with anybody else,” Mike McKee, who owns McKee Auto, said of the engine.

For the couple, any trip with the reliable LT4 is just as enjoyable as the destination.

Mike LaBaere is also a Bowtie enthusiast who likes nothing better than driving his black-cherry 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS. LaBaere has a deep connection to the brand, as the resident of Shelby Township, Michigan, is an almost 30-year veteran of General Motors. His title is Senior Manager/Global Math Leader - Electrical Design. That means he oversees a team responsible for all of the electrical content in the vehicles including wiring components, brackets, modules and more.

“If GM’s going to release something like that ... there wasn’t a need to go with anybody else.” - Mike McKee 

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We spoke with LaBaere during the yearly cruise on Woodward Avenue in the greater Detroit area, where he told us about the Chevrolet Performance ZZ502 Big Block powering his Chevelle.

“It looked like an easy selection for durability, ease of maintenance and the expectation of just dropping it in and [it] running,” he said.

The engine makes 508 horsepower and 580 lb-ft of torque, and on LaBaere’s Chevelle it is backed up by a TH400 transmission.

 

“It looked like an easy selection for durability and ease of maintenance."    - Mike LaBaere

He explained he’s owned the car since 1985, and as a Michigan native, has spent much of his life cruising on Woodward. Now, he loves checking out what’s happening during the sanctioned event in August.

“Really the great thing is seeing what people are doing and the creativity of people,” he said. “It is just amazing. You think that everything possible has been done but there are always two or three things that stand out.”

LaBaere’s Chevelle, along with Bumpus’ C10 and the McKees’ 1967 Nova are certainly three vehicles that stand out to us.

Be sure to keep watching The BLOCK and @theblockdotcom on Instagram as we cover the driving and show season throughout the coming months.



 

*Chevrolet Performance Crate Engines include a 24-month or 50,000-mile/80,000-kilometer limited warranty.

**Because of their effect on a vehicle’s emissions performance, these engines are intended exclusively for use in competition vehicles.  These engines are designed and intended for use in vehicles operated exclusively for competition: in racing or organized competition on courses separate from public streets or highways.  Installation or use of this part on a vehicle operated on public streets or highways is likely to violate U.S., Canadian, and state and provincial laws and regulations related to motor vehicle emissions.  

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