This country is obsessed with rating things. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Good, better, best. Four out of five stars. From movies to soda pop, actresses’ Oscar dresses and yes, cars, we Americans love to rate our stuff.

But we had a tough time figuring out a way to rate Mike Zayas’ 1969 Chevelle SS396. With a classic Pro Street stance, a breathed-on 502 crate motor, and subtly altered body lines, the car kind of defies categorization.

Not that it matters much to Mike. He just wanted a way-cool Chevelle.

“I built this car because I always wanted a Pro Street ’69,” he said, ”I had a ’69 Malibu, which I sold to build this one. I guess I love working on old cars.”

The Chevelle’s chassis is a mixture of stock and aftermarket. The stock frame was backhalfed and fitted with an Art Morrison four-link suspension and a narrowed Ford nine-inch rear axle with Strange 31-spline axles, center section, and 4.11 gears. The stock front suspension was treated to a rebuild and lowered two inches to boot. A Funny Car-style mild steel roll cage ties everything together.

Under the hood is a GM Performance 502 big block. The bottom end was left alone, but Mike replaced the hydraulic cam with a Comp Cams .584-inch lift roller cam. The 502’s aluminum heads were given a set of Harland Sharp aluminum roller rocker arms, and are covered with a set of shiny Billet Specialties valve covers. The engine came with an aluminum dual plane intake, which is topped by a 750 cfm carburetor. An Accel HEI distributor, Super Coil, and an MSD 6AL box make up the ignition system. A pair of Hedman ceramic coated headers dump exhaust gasses into a pair of three inch stainless pipes, the sound of the 502 barely subdued by two-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. A Rossler-built Turbo 400 directs 525 horsepower and 567 foot-pounds of torque back to the 33-inch Mickey Thompsons.

Mike wisely kept the alterations to the Chevelle‘s body to a minimum. He had bodyman Mike Ascrone stretch the rear quarters two inches on each side, then prep the rest of the body for the PPG Torch Red paint. The stock trim was bolted back on, right down to the SS396 badging. A set of polished Billet Specialties Eagle rims set everything off rather nicely.

The interior is probably the most radically altered aspect of the Chevelle. The stock dash was replaced with a sheetmetal panel filled with Auto Meter Phantom gauges and a Painless Performance switch panel. The rear seat was yanked to make room for the wheel tubs, and the front buckets were swapped for a pair of Corbeau racing seats. Johnson Upholstery covered everything with beige tweed and off-white leather.

We might have had a problem trying to rate Mike’s creation, but the judges at a recent Super Chevy Show, the 2002 Hot Rod Supernationals, and a bunch of local Ohio shows didn’t, honoring the Chevelle awards and trophies galore.

As for us, we decided to rate Mike Zayas’ hot rod a Z—as in zensational.

Chassis and Suspension

Frame: Stock, narrowed at the rear, Funny Car style roll cage
Front Suspension: Rebuilt stock, lowered 2 inches
Rear Suspension: Art Morrison 4-link with QA1 shocks
Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch with Strange center section, Strange 31-spline axles, 4.11 gears and posi
Brakes: Stock front disc/rear drum
Wheels and Tires: Billet Specialties Eagle wheels (15 x 7 front, 15 x 14 rear), Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires (26 x 6.5 front, 33 x 21.5 rear)
Chassis Work: Owner

Engine and Transmission
Type: GM Performance Parts 502 crate engine, 9.6:1 compression
Block: GM cast iron
Reciprocating Assembly: GM steel crank and rods, hypereutectic pistons
Camshaft: Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam, 310-degree advertised duration, .584-inch lift
Cylinder Heads: GM aluminum
Valvetrain: GM valves and valve springs, Harland Sharp roller rocker arms
Induction: GM chrome intake manifold, 750 cfm carburetor
Ignition: Accel HEI distributor, Accel Super Coil, MSD 6AL ignition, Taylor ignition wires
Exhaust: 1 3/4-inch primary Hedman ceramic-coated headers, 3-inch stainless dual exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers
Transmission: Rossler Turbo 400, B&M Holeshot converter (3,500 rpm stall)
Other Items: Billet Specialties valve covers, Billet Specialties air cleaner, Summit fuel cell, Summit water pump, Summit mini-starter, Summit chrome alternator
Engine Work: Owner

Paint and Body
Body Modifications: Rear quarters stretched 2 inches and tubbed
Paint: PPG Torch Red
Bodywork and Paint: Mike Ascrone

Seats: Corbeau race seats
Upholstery: Beige tweed and off-white leather
Dash: Custom sheetmetal
Gauges: Auto Meter Phantom Series gauges
Upholstery: Johnson Upholstery

1969 Chevy Chevelle ss396 drag car, rear
1969 Chevy Chevelle ss396 engine bay
custom rollcage and interior of a 1969 Chevy Chevelle ss396
1969 Chevy Chevelle ss396 marquee shot
1969 Chevy Chevelle ss396, front corner

Musclecar? Pro Street? Trailer queen? It's hard to pin a label on Mike Zayas' 1969 Chevelle SS396. From the big Mickey Thompsons and roll cage to the warmed-over 502 crate big block and beautiful Torch Red paint, the Chevelle combines elements of all three into one striking ride.

Underneath the shiny stuff is a GM Performance Parts 502 cubic inch crate engine. Mike couldn't resist modifying the Gen V motor, adding a .584 inch lift Comp Cams roller cam, Harland Sharp roller rockers, a 750 cfm carburetor, Accel HEI distributor and MSD 6AL ignition box, and a pair of thermal coated, 1 3/4 inch primary Hedman headers. The breathed-on big block makes 525 horsepower and 567 foot-pounds of torque.

The interior is pure Pro Street. The stock dash was tossed for a sheetmetal dash filled with Auto Meter Phantom gauges and a Painless Performance switch panel. The bucket seats are covered with beige tweed and off-white leather, and a billet steering wheel and window cranks add a bit of high tech class. The Hurst Promatic shifter is connected to a Turbo 400 automatic with a 3,500 rpm stall B&M torque converter.

Under the classic sheetmetal is a backhalved stock frame with an Art Morrison four-link holding up a 4.11-geared Ford 9 inch rear axle. Up front is a rebuilt stock A-arm suspension, modified to lower the car two inches. GM-issue front disc and rear drum brakes handle the whoa duties. The Chevelle rides on Mickey Thompson Sportsman rubber and Billet Specialties Eagle wheels.

The Chevelle's body was kept pretty much stock. We say pretty much because bodyman Mike Ascrone stretched the rear quarters two inches on each side of the wheelwell to fit the big 33 inch Mickeys. After performing the surgery and massaging the sheetmetal, Mike sprayed the PPG Torch Red paint. We like all the stock brightwork, too.