In a roundabout way, Steven O’day has his older sister to thank for his deep love of Chevrolet’s mid-sized Chevelle. How did she impart the bow tie love to little bro? She wrecked a car. “My sister got into a fender bender with her ’70 Nova – was unhurt, and ended up moving up to a red 1971 Chevelle,’ recalls Steven. “I don’t know how, maybe that incident, but my mom drove it mostly.”
Steven was just a little guy but remembers his sibling’s muscle-bound classic well. “I was five years old but can still recall it to this day,’ exclaims the enthusiast. “Mom drove me to kindergarten in it. It was the coolest.” The vehicle, painted Cranberry Red and paired to a red interior and white top, didn’t stay in the family long. It was replaced in a year with something different but the memories with it have always stayed with Steven.
Colorado Springs Gets a Second Red Chevelle
Unbeknownst to him, there was another Cranberry Red Chevelle owner cruising through the Colorado area, one by the name of John Bandimere. John was brought up in a family dedicated to performance. In 1958, John’s dad, John Senior, opened Bandimere Speedway, a racetrack located on the west side of Denver. In 2018, the track celebrated its 80th anniversary and it’s still going strong, hosting regular NHRA drag racing events and meets.
In 1971, John, and his wife Lorraine, headed to Daniels Chevrolet, in Colorado Springs, to purchase their first new car: a red Chevelle Malibu. Despite the proclivity to performance, they weren’t looking for something to go fast in. “They just needed a little grocery getter and something to take the kids to school in,’ explains Steven, who frequented the dealership quite often himself. “My parents bought new cars every year from Daniels so I remember walking through the showroom quite often.” The Bandimere’s car closely matched that of Steven’s sister, having a red interior and white top. They did opt for the Mailbu trim, which added items like exterior trim along the beltline and a unique vinyl seat pattern.
The Malibu trim added elements like the chunky beltline trim, which is highlighted by a body-colored element. The white vinyl top is just like the one on Steven’s sister’s car.
Here’s the build sheet, detailing just how John’s Chevelle was optioned out. The vehicle was built at Chevrolet’s Kansas City, MO plant.
John held onto his Chevy until 2012. By then, he and his wife, Lorraine, had developed a close friendship with the O’days. John frequented the Bandimere’s track as a teen, tagging along with his older brother, Johnny, to watch the races. “We always had a blast together,’ recalls Steven. “Those times were such fun.” When Steven heard John was ready to part with the car, he jumped to make an offer. He and Michele went out to the track for a test-drive, but not one at full-throttle. “It had sat for a while and John cautioned us about the brakes, laughs Michele. “Still, with all those memories, we knew we had to have it.”
Interior & Exterior Enhancements
While John simply needed humble transportation with the Chevelle, Steven had other plans for the new acquisition. Not one for the bench seat up front, he swapped it for custom TMI buckets. “They use vinyl upholstery that matches the original grain and color,’ said Michele. “The seats have deep bolsters which make for a comfortable and really cool-looking seat.” To complete the setup, a center console was installed.
The trunk is just as clean as the rest of the car, featuring a super tidy space with the factory-correct floor mat and spare tire.
Performance enhancements to the Chevelle included adding large UMI Performance sway bars, larger than even the factory option F41 offering, a new Yukon rear-end with 3:73 gears and a disc brake conversion. The body-colored painted steel wheels and hubcaps, while charming, were exchanged for one-piece SS-style designs. They’re matched by SS stripes running down the hood and trunk lid.
John swapped out the chrome center Bow Tie logo for one matching the Cranberry red paint. The front fenders received ‘400’ badges, calling out the powerplant underhood.
Upgrading the Engine: Bigger Really Is Better
Perhaps the biggest deviation in the car’s showroom condition happened under the hood. During John’s days of ownership, he motored around with power from the factory-installed 307ci V8. Since then, Steven bumped it up to a 383ci V8 but ‘found it wasn’t fast enough’. He then recruited the team at Rev Motors, in Englewood, CO, to put together a custom-built 400ci V8. He and Michele located a suitable block from a seller ‘up in the mountains’ and took it to them to work their magic.
At the Auction: Crossing the Mecum Denver Block
Other than building the motor, Steven and Michelle completed all of the overhauling to their car themselves, and that includes installing the new engine. “There’s nothing better than working on a car with your spouse,’ gushes Steven. They both enjoyed the process and close times together. So much so, they want to do it all over again.
A scant ten mile break-in period was conducted on the Chevelle’s odometer before the vehicle was brought to the 2019 Mecum Denver Auction. “My mom, even at 90 years old, called me last night and said she’s so excited to see the car cross the block,’ laughs Steven. “She did get a chance to sit behind the wheel before we brought it and reminisce.”
A New Home but onto a New Project
The O’day’s Chevelle crossed the block on Friday of the Mecum event, ending up going home with a new owner from Florida. While the memories with it were fond, the O’days are already on to their next project. Steven hints it’ll get even more modification. Little surprise, it’s a 1971 Chevelle. Expect to see it completed sometime next year.