Jean-Francois considers himself a magician on sheet metal, but restoring classic cars is a whole different story to him. He started his own body shop in 1994 with his sons Michael and Guillaume and his wife as an assistant.
In April of 2016, the passion for the automobile took Jean-Francois to a Chevrolet Chevelle he found on the website, E&R Classics, located in the Netherlands. In their showroom sat the 1969 Chevelle which was straight from Riverside County of California. Here is where he saw the dream, the rarity of the model, the desire to re-live the technology and culture of the once great American era, he found his 1969 Chevelle.
A few weeks later, the car arrived on an open truck to his body shop on April 26th, 2016. The Chevelle was worn and stuck in the past, but Jean-Francois had not only hoped it would shine brightly once again but also had a strong desire to make it happen. Equipped with a 400 CID 6.6L Small Block engine and TH350 transmission, their goal was to restore the Chevelle back to its original 1969 form and reclaim its performance, while still being able to drive it with ease.
Like all good restorations, this one started with the total disassembly of the body, then the separation of the chassis and this one had its fair share of surprises and problems as the car was mostly incomplete. Jean-Francois likes to compare building this car to building a room. When you disassemble a room, you know where to put things back, but when there’s nothing there from the start things get a little complicated. This is how most of the build went for Jean-Francois and his team, as even the parts that did last the test of time were often rust welded and impossible to remove and/or unrecognizable. Jean-Francois says,
“The moments of doubt appear abundantly when taking on a project like this, and it will intensify over time. But fortunately, the motivation is still there and does not let us go until the Chevelle is rolling once again.”
Sandblasting was a very complex moment for Jean-Francois and his team. Most of the parts had been perforated due to rust and required some extensive fabrication to bring them back. They had to weld them with sheet metal to repair the rusted and dated parts and then pass everything through a rustproof phosphate coating so that this problem does not occur again in the future.
After all this preparation time, the stripped body finally went into the paint. Once the paint was completed, Jean-Francois’s team felt great satisfaction at the fruits of their labor, their motivation was finally rewarded without fail. However, the team is now at the reassembly stage of all the new and repaired parts, which they are treating as a giant puzzle.
When Jean-Francois needed more information about the Chevelle, he utilized specialized books like the Fisher Body Manual and Chassis Service Manual purchased from Ground Up SS396.com. They’ve searched, scratched their heads, read blogs and articles on the Internet, and especially utilized Ground Up’s Ryan, who has helped them out to this day. While they continue to order (the list goes on and on), they learned something new every day while reviving this American beauty.
While this Chevelle has come a long way from its original state when it rolled off the open trailer it still has a ways to go. It still occupies Jean-Francois and his team every day, as the American dream is still very far from being finished.
Great story Jean-Francois we love to see the culture and history of American Muscle cars make it all the way to France and be welcomed with opened arms. We can’t wait to see the final product of this beautiful 1969 restoration! Please keep us updated on the build!! -Team Ground Up