Jeff DiDonato has owned his 1972 Chevelle since April 1992, and just over 30 years later, he is still finding new ways to enjoy the classic muscle car. During this September’s Holley LS Fest East at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, he competed in an autocross competition for the very first time.

“I’m usually a spectator here and I always knew I wanted to do this,” he said as the event wound down on Sunday morning.

“I think I did very well for my first time,” he continued. “I met the Vann family from Louisiana that have been awesome helping me out. But everybody here has been helpful and nice. I love it down here.”

DiDonato hails from Poughkeepsie, New York, and has worked as a maintenance mechanic at nearby Arlington High School for 18 years. He’s also an Army veteran who joined in 1990 and was discharged in 1992, serving in Desert Storm along the way. When he returned home, he found that his mother had sold his 1970 Pontiac LeMans, prompting him and a friend to search for another car.

They eventually found the Chevelle, a perfect fit for DiDonato as he has always been a Chevrolet fan. The car originally came with a 307 cubic-inch Small-Block engine and a Powerglide transmission, which DiDonato eventually swapped out for a 350 backed by a TH350 tranny.

Two years ago, he upgraded again, this time to a Chevrolet Performance LS376/525 crate engine. The 6.2L power plant is based on the standard LS3, but an aggressive ASA camshaft helps it crank out 525 horses and 486 lb.-ft. of torque.

“They’re lightweight and make good horsepower,” DiDonato said simply of LS power plants.

As for the rest of the Chevelle, he ordered a frame kit from a Canadian company and did all the welding himself. The car also features Speed Tech front suspension components, while the rear is from Global West. Other highlights include a Quik Performance nine-inch rear end and a Flowmaster exhaust system. The car rides on powder-coated 18-inch Foose wheels and 18-inch Falken tires. Wilwood disc brakes all the way around bring the car to a stop.

The Chevelle is painted in a bluish-gray, which is an original Chevelle color, but DiDonato believes there now might be slightly more gray in his than in the original version. The bodywork was the only part of the car DiDonato didn’t work on, outsourcing the job to Joe Que’s Auto Body in Poughkeepsie.

The interior features new Corbeau bucket seats, new carpet and door panels, and a tilt steering column. DiDonato says the only thing original is the dash pad.

The interest in LS-powered Chevrolet vehicles runs in the family. DiDonato and his son Bryan, who was on hand at LS Fest as well, are also currently working on a 1968 C10 set to be powered by a 5.3L LS engine.

The father-son project is fitting for DiDonato, who spoke about the camaraderie at LS Fest as his favorite part of the event. It also allowed him to step out of his comfort zone and try something new.

Specs

  • Engine: Chevrolet Performance LS376/525 crate engine
  • Displacement: 6.2 liters
  • Horsepower: 525 hp
  • Torque: 486 lb.-ft.
  • Transmission: TH350
  • Suspension: Speed Tech front suspension, Global West rear suspension
  • Rear End: Quik Performance nine-inch rear end
  • Exhaust: Flowmaster exhaust system
  • Wheels: 18-inch Foose wheels
  • Tires: 18-inch Falken tires
  • Brakes: Wilwood disc brakes

Source: Chevrolet.com/the-block
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