Chevelle puzzle solved: Race car comes full circle

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By Angelo Van Bogart

Heinke Trapp was just 7 years old when his father purchased a pair of 1970 Chevrolet LS-6 Chevelles to help promote Quality Chevrolet (now Trapp Chevrolet), his dealership in Houma, La.

“Both of them were very, very unique,” Trapp said. “No air conditioning and radio delete. The white car, that is how they distinguished the cars — white car, blue car — the white car (hardtop) was a bench seat, shift on the column. The blue car was a convertible, bucket seats, radio delete, no air conditioning.”

Although he was young, those Chevelles made an impression on Trapp. In fact, the “white car” was named “Lil Heinke” after him, while the blue convertible was named “Tinker Toy.”

This 1970 Chevrolet LS-6 Chevelle was known to be an old race car, but until it appeared in Old Cars Weekly and its sister publication, that history was not known. The publications led the dealership to find the car, which they had been searching for, and purchase it again.

 

“I did go up and down the track a few times,” Trapp said. “I was in the passenger seat with a Saints football helmet on and I did go down the track. I used to go to the track every Sunday and stand by the car and watch it run, so I have a lot of good memories with the car.”

Trapp’s father bought the Chevelles as advertising for the dealership, and to that end, they were successful marketing tools. After having seen the LS-6 duo race at the local Southlands Raceways in Houma, many local boys brought their cars to the dealership after a day at the track.

“Needless to say on Mondays, my dad’s service shop was full of Chevelles,” Trapp said.

The white Chevelle hardtop was successful itself, having run as low as 11.20-second quarter-miles runs. Its prowess near home and as far away as Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway was the result of the genius of a still-employed dealership employee who helped build the car and raced it in A/Stock, B/Stock and Super Stock/automatic.

“[Marvin Bourg] drove it off the transport when it came home from the factory and pulled it into the service bay to become a race car,” Trapp said. “Most of the racing miles, Marvin Bourg put on the car. Marvin was a pioneer with ’70 Chevelle LS-6 cars. The car, it had a lot of horsepower, but the technology wasn’t there in 1970, nothing like it is now. To make the car run, it took a lot of work. To transfer the weight to the back of the car took a lot of work. The springs were from a station wagon. The car always ran with a full tank of fuel.”

Other components at the front of the car were lightened to help the car’s rear tires hook up.

“They attached an ice bucket and ran the fuel through it to see if they could get more horsepower out of it,” Trapp added. “Not sure if it worked, but it looked good.”

After a few years of racing, Bourg purchased the white Chevelle hardtop for himself. He later sold it and, like the blue LS-6 convertible, it was gone to the wind. Or so Trapp thought.

Little did he know, the white LS-6 Chevelle hardtop had found its way to Minnesota by the 2000s. It had just 700 miles (all one-quarter mile at a time) when Roy and Cindy Mastel of RPM Restorations in Lino Lakes, Minn., added it to their collection of 1970 Chevelles. Roy Mastel made the car’s replacement LS-6 engine run again, and also replaced the cut-open rear quarter panels with NOS units he had stashed long ago. Then he began driving it, all while trying to decide whether to return it to its racing status or restore it to original. In this condition, the car was featured in Old Cars Weekly (July 16, 2009), and was also pictured on the cover of sister publication Old Cars Guide to Auto Restoration (Summer 2009). Before Mastel flipped a coin to determine the Chevelle’s fate, he made a plea to OCW readers who might be able to fill in the gaps in the car’s history. Incredibly, a partial view of the car on the cover of the restoration magazine was enough to connect the car to its past.

“A lot of people know the car, remember the car from racing,” Trapp said. “A fellow from around here saw the car in the magazine and brought it to us. He knew we had been looking for the car for quite a while.”

Trapp called Mastel, hoping to buy back the dealership’s old LS-6 drag car, but Mastel didn’t want to sell the car. He was enamored with its race history and looking forward to making a project out of it since 1970 Chevelle SS models are his specialty. However, the idea the car would be reunited with the owner of the Chevrolet dealership the car originally represented was enough to make him sign the title over.

“He was tugging at my heartstrings, because I didn’t want to sell it at first,” Mastel said. “Finally, I said, ‘It should go back to you.’ Karma worked out for me, and my car, ‘The Blunder’ [a ‘Shoebox Ford’ Mastel raced in the ’70s] came back to me.”

The dealership that purchased and raced the 1970 Chevelle SS-454 from new is now undertaking its restoration with a few minor performance and handling upgrades.

Mastel said there were tears in the eyes of some of the veteran dealership employees when they saw the car again, and that he heard it had been placed prominently in the dealership’s showroom where those who remembered seeing it race could pay homage.

According to Trapp, the LS-6 looked much like he and Bourg remembered it when it returned to Houma.

“Marvin spent an enormous amount of time with the car and he knows it better than any man,” Trapp said. “When we got it back, the original glass was in it, it had the second motor, which Marvin put in it. He knew all about that engine. The [original] carb and intake were gone, but the original Hedman headers were on the car. The original key was in the ignition. We found a needle in the haystack.”

After the car was placed on display, it was torn down for a complete restoration, which is currently being undertaken at Trapp Chevrolet. The engine was replaced with a 454-cid Chevrolet crate engine, the car is getting large-profile Boyd Coddington wheels and the suspension is being upgraded.

“The roads in southeast Louisiana aren’t very good,” Trapp said. “We are putting a little bigger tire, Boyd wheels, I guess it would be a resto-mod. What we got back from [Mastel], 90 percent is going back on the car.”

Trapp had Bourg select the new engine for the LS-6 Chevelle, but made sure the replacement LS-6 engine from the car had a good home.

“I gave the motor to Bourg,” Trapp said. “I said, ‘You built it, the heads are yours.’ It was amazing how much he knew that motor. In my heart, the only person who should have had that motor was him.”

Neither Bourg nor Trapp is far from the LS-6 while it undergoes its rebuild. While Bourg now works from the parts department rather than a service bay, he only has to turn his head to see his old quarter-mile ride.

“I am sure he can look out his warehouse door and see the car getting worked on,” Trapp said. For Trapp, the effort put into the car will not only help promote the dealership again, it fills that empty place in the heart shared by  many car enthusiasts who have lost their first car.

“Two years ago, I was at a Chevrolet meeting, and [the speaker] said, ‘Do you remember the first car you ever fell in love with?’ I own it now. It is the car. Not a model, not one out of a commercial, the car. That is what that car meant to me.”

Photos courtesy of RPM Restoration and Trapp Chevrolet.

 

Chevy fans should check out these resources from Old Cars Weekly:

 

7 Responses to Chevelle puzzle solved: Race car comes full circle

  1. Steverinomeiste says:

    Great car and story. But the author and OCW lose credibility by referring to the addition of a crate 454 and Boyd wheels as restoration. Even the owners call it a resto mod.
    Steverino

    • Heinke Trapp says:

      Hi Steve. We swapped motors, wheels. tires and some suspension components because they were in very bad condition. We kept/used as much of the original car as possible, but some things just weren’t usable. The crate 454 was as close to an LS6 454 as is available from GM Performance and fit into the car perfectly. No fuel injection!!!! The car won’t race again and once completed will reside on the showroom of my dealership. It is a resto mod, but it has a LOT of original components. We went safety first. Heinke Trapp

  2. R K Strayer says:

    Good story I have a 73′Chevy Laguna Sport Coupe , that I have had for close to 30 years now. I am the 3rd owner and it’s not going anywhere soon when the time comes I will leave it to my Grandson.

  3. Jospeh Hancock says:

    That is so cool…A guy my age got his old truck back he had when he went to college thirty odd years ago, so this does happen from time to time. The difference here was he sold it to a buddy and his buddy kept it until a deal was made for him to get it back. It always warms the heart when someone can get the car he or she most loved back….

  4. D. Reilly says:

    So,what became of the blue convertible?

    • Heinke Trapp says:

      The blue convertible has been fully restored and is in Florida. It no longer races and looks fantastic. I would love to get the two cars together for some pictures.

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