Back in 1989, at 17 years old, he bought the Burgundy Pontiac from a family friend for $600. He made it his street/strip car through high school, and later it became a dedicated race car. Unlike so many of us, when Chad married, he kept his LeMans; when he started his business, C-Ely Signs and Graphics, he kept his LeMans; and when he and his wife, Sandy, had their three children, he kept his LeMans.
Unlike so many of us, when Chad married, he kept his LeMans; when he started his business ... and when he and his wife, Sandy, ...
By 2007, Chad had made it through many of the real-life scenarios that usually cause a young Pontiac owner to part with his ride. Though the Elys had become a racing family, spending many a weekend in the pits at Norwalk, Mason Dixon, and other tracks, the increasing costs of the sport and the desire for more family-oriented activities earned the 1965 LeMans a two-year hiatus while Chad planned his next move.
In 2009, he set out to slightly detune his 10.97-e.t., 126-mph, 455, Turbo 350, 12-bolt, spooled, 4.11-geared race car into a hot street machine that he, his wife, and his children could enjoy cruising on the weekends. The spool and 4.11s gave way to a Moroso posi unit and 3.73s in the Strange 31-spline, axle-equipped 12-bolt.
Though the bodywork on the rear quarters and Hawaii Orchid paint job performed in 1992 (when the GTO hood and trim were added) by friend Greg Gumby had held up very well, a race car patina wasn’t what Chad envisioned for his street car, so the LeMans was delivered to Beaver’s Auto Body in Waynesboro.
The shell was sanded to bare metal; minor imperfections were repaired; and it was primed, blocked, and repainted using PPG products. To modernize the Pontiac’s look, Chad stipulated a two-tone treatment with four coats of Deltron Base Coat (DBC) Silver on the top and four coats of DBC Hawaii Orchid on the sides, followed by multiple coats of Global clear over the whole shell, and wet-sanding, and polishing. The body-colored fiberglass bumpers from the race days were swapped for chromed steel ones.
As part of the makeover, Chad updated the suspension with a host of handling components from The Right Stuff Detailing. Front tubular upper and lower control arms revise the suspension geometry for improved handing, and urethane bushings reduce deflection. The springs are a higher rate than stock, and also lower the Pontiac 1-inch front and rear. Out back are Metco upper (adjustable) and lower control arms with urethane bushings, and Summit adjustable shocks are at the four corners. The stabilizer bars are 0.937-inch GTO in front and 0.875-inch in the rear.
Chad Ely has owned his 1965 LeMans since 1989. A recent transformation from racecar to siz
Chad recalls, “I also raced in the Outlaw Pontiac Drag Series and I carry with me today ma
“After high school, I could finally afford to have the car painted and new interior instal
Though an upgrade is planned for the near future, manual steering from the race days remains. To both update the appearance and handling, a set of Billet Specialties Apex G 17x8 front and 17x9 rear wheels were paired with Nitto NT 450 225/50R17 and 275/50R17 rear tires.
The Right Stuff also provided its Signature Series brake kit, which features 13-inch front and 12-inch rear slotted and cross-drilled rotors with powdercoated calipers. Though Chad felt that the exterior, rear, and the chassis needed updates for street duty, under the hood, the existing powerplant would be just fine.
In 2005 when he was still racing, his friend Willie Stull of Waynesboro rebuilt the 1971 455. The block was bored 0.030 over to 462 ci and fitted with the stock refurbished crank, Eagle forged rods, and Ross flat-top forged pistons with Total Seal rings. A Melling oil pump, Butler Performance crank scraper, and a Canton oil pan comprise the oiling system.
The Comp Cams solid flat-tappet cam sports 260/260-degrees duration at 0.050, 0.610/0.610 lift with 1.65-ratio rockers, and a 110-degree LSA. Ported round-port 87cc E-heads retain SS 2.11/1.66 valves, and use Comp Cams valvesprings and pushrods. Compression is 11:1.
The 462 still has its rumpity-rump Comp solid cam, ported E-heads, Doug’s headers, Nash in
Though the rollbar was added back in 2001 for safety on the track, Hunters Hod Rod in Wayn
These factory Rally gauges are augmented by Auto Meter water temp and oil pressure gauges
An 850-cfm Quick Fuel carb is bolted to a Doug Nash intake; it’s fed by a Holley Black fuel pump via ½-inch lines and an Aeromotive regulator. Doug’s 1.875-inch headers evacuate the chambers and deliver spent gasses to a 3-inch Pypes system with an X-type crossover. A GM HEI distributor was set up by Larry Rowe and works in conjunction with an MSD 6AL box (mounted under the dash), an MSD coil, ACCEL 8.8mm wires, and NGK plugs.
“I never wanted to be the guy who says, ‘I used to own one of those, but I sold it because…,”’ Chad Ely of Mont Alto, ...
The Turbo 350 trans had also been rebuilt and upgraded in 2005 by Leroy Wolf of Waynesboro. It uses a 3,500-rpm stall TCI converter and flexplate and is directed by a 1967 Hurst His-and-Hers shifter.
Now with 142,000 miles on the odometer, Chad says, “The LeMans has since become our family weekend cruiser, and I enjoy driving around in it with the wife and kids. Pontiacs are still a vital part of my family. My oldest daughter Shelbi’s first car is a 2000 Grand Prix, and we have a 1971 LeMans convertible for my 11-year-old son Ryan that he and I will work on as his first restoration project.”
On the road is where Chad gets the most enjoyment from his LeMans now.
He also relates, “Three years ago Ryan became interested in Junior Drag Racing, and since it is a great family sport, we all participate in some way and enjoy the events. Now my youngest daughter, Harley, wants to get into a junior dragster when she gets older.”
Chad may not be racing his 1965 LeMans anymore, but the Elys are once again a racing family. The LeMans doesn’t mind though—it now likes to take corners at brisk speeds on the street.
After 24 years of ownership, Chad has plenty of people say to him when they see his Pontiac, “I used to own one of those, but I sold it because....”
Blazin Auto in Greencastle installed the stereo system. It consists of a Pioneer Premier 9
…and a Blazin Auto-built custom enclosure made of wood and molded fiberglass to house the