Cast your minds back to a time when SUVs were a new concept – the good old days when a family-oriented vehicle didn’t necessarily need to be high-riding monstrosity with a somewhat false promise of ‘utility’. Especially in the US, this was an era when station wagons ruled the streets, trucks were trucks, cars were cars, and if you actually came across an SUV it would most likely be being used for its intended purpose.
While Europe, and to a lesser extent Japan, continue to give a lot of love to the wagon, US automakers have pretty much abandoned the concept altogether. It’s a pity, because in the ’60s and ’70s they came up with some very cool models – wagons that to this day continue to captivate the minds of car guys looking for a unique way to enjoy and express their passion.
That’s what led me to meet Nakamura-san of Worx Auto Alarm. I first saw his Chevelle wagon at the 2014 Mooneyes Razzle Dazzle show, and I remember my surprise when he popped the bonnet to show me just how detailed it was. Nakamura seemed keen on the idea of getting his car featured, and right away invited me to visit him at his home on the Pacific cost of Chiba – which he said “looks like the US”. That’s how I came to be in front of his garage – and an American pay phone – patiently waiting as Nakamura went around the back to open the door from the inside.
There, next to his R35 GT-R, was the huge Chevelle – its spotless paint shining and reflecting everything that was around it. Only a month prior I had been at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway shooting the Ringbrothers’ Recoil – another awesome Chevelle build. Oh my, how small the world is…
Nakamura-san runs his business – Worx Auto Alarm – out of these premises, specialising in high-end alarm and A/V installs for all manner of vehicles. His main work, however, is centred around GT-Rs of all generations, and he just happens to have the complete set spread around various spots on his property. His R33 GT-R was sitting in the same garage as the Chevelle, right next to his Sunny truck. I was curious so I had to ask – what on earth gets a die-hard GT-R and Nissan fan so interested in an old American station wagon?
His answer was pretty simple, as it usually is from car guys – “It’s cool”. I certainly can’t argue with logic like that, because I too have an affection for wagons and have always lusted over the cool custom examples that’ve shown up at Mooneyes events throughout the years. Attractions like this are hard to explain, and Nakamura-san simply acted on his by picking up this Chevelle 16 years ago. The aim was to slowly build it up into a cruiser that he could pull out of the garage every couple of weeks for shows, meet-ups, or just leisurely cruises with his wife.
It would transpire that 16 years was the time required for him to completely rebuild the classic Chevelle from the ground up; doing what he could himself in the garage, and for the bigger stuff calling in the help of the real pros in the Japanese hot rod scene. The first few years were dedicated to the body and chassis – the iron fixed up and prepped for a custom paint job that would see the frame sprayed a contrasting shade of metallic orange to the beige exterior.
Everything was taken apart, looked at and replaced if worn out, and all of the brightwork was re-chromed. The goal was to create something close to perfection, or at least as close to the vision Nakamura-san had in mind for the wagon. The exterior was kept all stock, but the ride definitely wasn’t.
The car had to look its best when parked up, so Nakamura went with a set of RideTech airbags on each corner. They allow the big Chevelle to be slammed as low as it will go, which only serves to emphasise the choice of rims: a staggered set of Schott Wheels Venoms measuring 19×8-inch up front and 20×8.5-inch at the rear.
And when I say low, I mean really low. An unexpected air leak forced the Chevelle to slowly drop down to its lowest setting every time it was parked up, so one of the fittings will need to be replaced. But for the purpose of the shoot it really didn’t cause any problems. Except when the time came to do some tracking shots!
In an effort to modernise the Chevelle, improving on some of its original shortcomings was high on the priority. That most definitely included the braking system, and where modern aftermarket gear came to the rescue. Wilwood cater to pretty much any type of vintage car or custom application, which is why you’ll find their product at each corner – the fronts getting big 6-pot Superlite callipers and the rears a more compact 4-pot Superlite design. The upgrade really has transformed how the car stops; now reliable and powerful and most of all safe and dependable.The Ingenious ’70s
This big Chevy sports one of the most recognisable silhouettes of all the American station wagons built during the ’70s, but it isn’t just the design that makes it so special.
There is something else that will still wow you today when you open up the back – the rear door’s glass able to wind all the way down, which I guess made dropping shopping bags in much easier. As a photographer, however, this would come in super-handy when taking car-to-car shots. In fact, it makes me want one of these bad boys for myself! The most interesting feature of all is the way the trunk door actually swings open, or tilts – the choice is up to you. It’s all possible due to a couple of very trick hinges.
Nakamura has fitted a big subwoofer back there, as well as a separately-controllable air conditioning system, which is perfect for keeping the beers cool on a hot day.
Underneath, where the spare tyre once used to be housed, the air tank, compressor and the brains of the RideTech air suspension setup are neatly hidden away from view.
So you’ve got the cool station wagon lines and the rarity of driving something so different on the streets of Japan, but nothing matters more than creating a comfortable and features-packed interior to enjoy the experience from.
Being regarded as one of the best car audio and electronics installers in the country means that you will probably outdo yourself when it comes to outfitting your own car. But the beauty of Nakamura-san’s work here is the way in which it was all done.
So after making sure that the leather seats and various trim pieces were nothing less than perfect, the toys started coming.
Take a glance at the dashboard and instrumentation and it might not seem like much has been changed – and that was the whole point. Hiding behind the Budnick steering wheel is a full set of Dakota Digital gauges to replace all of the stock analog ones. Nakamura matched the simple blue digital display and chrome bezel look across to the Vintage Air controller and onto the conversion for the head unit, which with Bluetooth connectivity allows him to stream music from his phone.
The contrast between these modern additions and the Chevelle’s original details is what makes this cabin such a nice place to spend time in.
The front bench seat and the sheer width of the Chevy means you can carry six people in total comfort.
Nakamura also fitted an Audison digital sound processor along with the various speakers which are dotted through the cabin. Being a total audiophile he needs to be able to tweak his music just how he likes it. The final little module is the RideTech RidePRO controller for the suspension.V8 Cruiser
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is one pretty cool ride so far, but I still need to touch on the one aspect that initially blew me away when I first laid eyes on it: the engine bay.
This is where Nakamura-san called in the help of Andy’s Rod Works in Chiba, as he wanted to do things properly when it came to the heart of the wagon. That’s why the 350ci Chevy small block sits almost isolated in the custom shaved engine bay.
Boosting performance are a few simple additions including an Edelbrock intake and carb, and of course the filter housing that matches the head covers of the same design. Ceramic-coated Competition headers from Hooker and a custom exhaust system make the best of the upgrades and give the wagon a nice V8 rumble as it sleepily shifts through its TH350 3-speed transmission.
Like I mentioned before, the chassis and suspension arms underneath the Chevelle’s body were painted in metallic orange. It’s a nice touch that really makes you take notice of all the small details that are prevalent throughout this build.
Along with the brakes a Wilwood tandem master cylinder is there to complete the modern day braking upgrades.
Nakamura-san is pretty much content with the Chevelle, and is at the point where he can simply enjoy driving it.
It took an extremely long time to complete, but the end result is a wagon that he can truly call his own. It’s also unlike anything you might find cruising around the streets of his coastal town on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Dino Dalle Carbonare