The Perfect Chevelle

Mike Merlo’s ’69 SS396 scored a 1000 points at Chevy Classics’ 2015 Winter National

I remember the first time I sat behind the wooden steering wheel of an A-body like it was yesterday. It was my senior year of high school and I was looking for my first real car. This wasn’t so many years ago, but I had my heart set on vintage iron. I had just barely missed out on buying a ’71 Firebird Formula 350 a couple days before and was starting to get a little impatient, edgy even. With a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket I came around a bend on a quiet suburban street, a street I’d driven hundreds of times, and was surprised by the sight of a bright orange 1972 GTO. When I saw the For Sale sign in the side window, I stopped to look at it and within seconds of sliding behind the wheel I knew this car had to be mine. After a little back-and-forth with the owner, I plunked down the cash and called a buddy to come get my truck. My experience with that car was short lived, but it was definitely unforgettable. I did burnouts, broke parts, got sideways more than necessary, broke more parts, fixed them, and vaporized nearly as much rubber as gasoline. Eventually life intervened and I parked that tired old Pontiac, let it sit a while, and then sold it for way too cheap. Looking back, that car was a basket case, but I loved it the same and now that it’s gone I’ll never forget it.

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