FLEXFUEL CHEVY HOT ROD DEMONSTRATES VINTAGE STYLE
AND MODERN ALTERNATIVE-FUEL PERFORMANCE
With a 500-horsepower engine, a channeled body and a
chopped top, GM's custom street rod looks right at home on
the salt flats of Bonneville. But instead of a traditional
gasoline V-8, this '34 Chevy replica rod sports a
turbocharged 2.0L Ecotec engine that runs on E85 ethanol.
Appropriately, it has been dubbed the FlexFuel Chevy Hot Rod.
"Since the 1930's, hot rods have embodied American
ingenuity, aesthetic flair and the quest for performance,"
said Bryan Nesbitt, vice-president of General Motors North
American Design. "The ethanol Hot Rod is a modern statement
that today's hot rodder can address energy concerns about
the consumption of petroleum without sacrificing performance
The car's low-slung stance and stripped-down essence
suggests track cars and speed racers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Open hood sides reveal the high-powered Ecotec
engine, which has been pumped up with the help of GM
Performance Parts' Stage III performance kit and a larger
turbo. The higher octane of E85 enabled engineers to tune
the engine for more power. It is backed by a GM Powertrain
5L40 five-speed automatic transmission.
"The engine was built using the basic recipe that is
available in the Ecotec performance book available from GM
Performance Parts," said Al Oppenheiser, GM Performance
Division director of concept and vehicle integration. "Also,
the E85 conversion is based on a kit that GM is exploring
for regular production engines."
True hot rod aesthetic
Like hot rods built for the last 60 years, the FlexFuel
Hot Rod is built from an assemblage of factory and
aftermarket parts. The frame and body are based on the 1934
Chevy, but both were fabricated by the craftsmen at the GM
Performance Division (GMPD). The body has been sectioned and
channeled to give the car its true hot rod aesthetic, while
the frame is a one-off piece designed, engineered and built
by GMPD. The slanted grille - with a unique chrome mesh
pattern - and hood are integrated for a smoother look, which
includes a sun visor characteristic of period hot rod
Like any good rod worth its salt, there are no fenders or
running boards; the 10-inch headlamps are mounted to the
core support. The front suspension is all custom-built,
complete with period-perfect lightening holes drilled in it.
A sturdy 8-3/8-inch Winters Quick-change rearend is
suspended by a parallel four-link suspension. It is filled
with 5.20 gears, which are used to generate brisk
acceleration with 35-inch-tall, racing-type Excelsior rear
tires and 29-inch-tall front tires. The tires are mounted on
custom 18-inch front and 20-inch rear "kidney bean"-style
wheels from Budnik.
Steering comes from a custom-fabricated linkage that is
connected to a reversed Corvair steering box. The linkage is
mounted to the outside of the frame rail.
Inside, the FlexFuel Hot Rod maintains its
racing-inspired minimalist theme, but with contemporary feel.
Hand-formed sheet metal and earth-friendly materials were
used to trim the cabin, as well as the racing-style aluminum
seats. The dashboard was hand-finished, too, and filled with
traditional-looking Stewart-Warner gauges.
One of the interior's central points of interest is the
racing-style driveshaft tube, which covers the custom
driveshaft. It is a prominent fixture in the cabin because
the body has been lowered around the chassis to achieve the streamlined appearance that was characteristic of old-school
More than just a conceptualized vision of an
alternative-fuel street rod, the FlexFuel Hot Rod is a
driver that GM Performance Division will press into service
for a number of road events and tests.
"This thing is going to rack up a lot of miles," said
Oppenheiser. "With the FlexFuel conversion, it can run
purely on E85, gasoline or any combination of the two. That
means it can be refueled anywhere the road takes it."
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