496ci Big-Block Chevy Packs 849hp for this Street Chevy

When you grow up in a hot rod family finding your performance path is as easy as walking into the garage. For Mike Gaunt Sr. of Byron Center, Michigan, and brothers Mark and Jeff, the weekend ritual started as soon as they could walk by being officially designated as the trouble-light holders when their dad Frank was elbows-deep working on his candy blue 1937 Chevy coupe. Being surrounded by cool cars lured them deep into the high performance web, eventually learning to turn wrenches and help out on an endless stream of projects.

There’s nothing like living at the house where all the racers and rodders would meet to wrench, bench race and talk about the latest neat bits being showcased at the local speed shop. As the years passed Mike took on a number of projects as well as frequenting US 131 Dragway and Berlin Raceway on Saturday nights with the family to see all the hottest cars run. The heavy scent of burnt rubber and nitro was the icing on the cake leading him to building a Pro-Street 1969 Chevelle and 1975 Pro-Street Vega for starters by the time he was in his early ‘20s. Working as a machinist specializing in racing engines it was a perfect opportunity to pack his own cars with plenty of wicked power.

Mike always dreamed of owning a 1937 Chevy coupe like his dad’s with the added capabilities of being a serious street and drag car. One day as fate would have it, his dad called to tell him about a local coupe project available for $500.00. Tattered, rusty and with a tree having fallen on it the car was close to being scrapped. Somehow the old coupe called out to Mike for a final chance. The body literally separated from the frame when it was lifted to bring it home but he preserved.

To create a perfect base to start with Mike fabricated a custom mild steel tube chassis including all crossmembers. To channel the power out back a Ford 9-inch rear was packed with 4.11 gears spinning Moser Engineering 35-spline axles and suspended in place with a custom four-link, diagonal link, antiroll bar and QA1 coilover shocks. Up front an owner-designed IFS meets 1980 GM spindles, antiroll bar and QA1 coilover shocks with steering moving through a Flaming River Mustang II rack-and-pinion. For plenty of stopping power a Wilwood Engineering dual master pumps fluid through stainless lines to Allstar Performance 11-inch discs and calipers mounted at each corner. Linking it all to the street are a set of 15-inch Weld Pro Star wheels sized 15×3 ½ inch front and 15×14-inch rear all wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman SR rubber.

When you make you living building high-horsepower V-8’s its time to pack the ‘rails with plenty of power. Mike built a nasty 496ci big-block Chevy and filled it with all the right goods starting with an Eagle crank linked to matching H-beam rods wearing JE forged aluminum pistons with a healthy bump from a COMP Cams stick. Up top plenty of power starts with a set of Dart Iron Eagle heads deftly matched to a BDS 6-71 huffer perched on a matching intake sucking air and fuel through a pair of Holley 750cfm carbs. An MSD ignition lights the fire while spent gasses move through Speedway Motors fenderwell headers to a custom 4-inch steel exhaust. To move the goods a custom-built GM TH400 trans pushes the power rearward through a steel driveshaft. It’s all good for 849hp @ 6500rpm on the dyno.

To bring the battered body back to life Mike embarked on a journey not for the faint of heart. He reworked the original steel shell to bring it back to life and then contacted Superior Glass Works for a fresh grille, fenders and running boards. He then set the gaps massaged everything to perfection and laid down a dramatic coating of Axalta emerald green pearl to give it the perfect vibe. Inside its all business with a custom dash packed with Auto Meter dials to monitor the vitals while steering moves through a classic three-spoke steering wheel from Summit Racing linked to a custom column while shifts fly through a shifter from B&M. A set of Kirkey Racing seats and Simpson Racing five-point harnesses keep it safe combined with a 10-point rollcage to complete the package. This is one wild Street Shaker that makes an impression wherever it goes and we dig it.  SRM

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