At this year’s 2018 SEMA Show, Jeff Allen, automotive celebrity and owner of Flat 12 Gallery, will truly take the concept of “something special” to a new level. That might sound like a tall order at a trade show that has “specialty” in the name (as in Specialty Equipment Market Association), but Allen clearly was up to the challenge.
Allen, who is a true “car guy” from a long line of car guys, announced plans to unveil what can only be described as a “shock-and-awe” vehicle — a build that includes a 1963 Volvo 122S Amazon, which offers 85 horsepower, and morphing it with a 2013 Grand Sport Corvette. Truly a one-of-a-kind vehicle unlike any other, it will be on display at the Shell “Pioneering Performance” booth at the upcoming SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
After almost a year, what began as yet another “mad experiment” has shaped up into something truly special, transforming the Volvo 122’s 85 horsepower performance level into a 600 horsepower beast that utilizes Pennzoil synthetics under the hood, along with a Lingenfelter Built LS7, Forgeline wheels and Baer brakes.
“It has been pretty exciting,” Allen told NOLN. “This one started with one of those crazy ideas that went from bar napkin to a rendering to acquiring the vehicles; then taking them apart and building them up into a really unique car.”
A Modern Take on Hotrods
Combining a Volvo and a Corvette might not seem like two things that would go together, but without big risks there aren’t rewards.
“I know already some people are going to love it and some will hate it, but I know too that everyone will talk about it,” Allen added.
Whether it is loved or loathed, it probably wouldn’t have happened had Allen not spent some time behind the wheel of an old Volvo.
“I had this Volvo, which was fun to drive and really cool, but it was also a bit under powered,” he noted. “It certainly isn’t as iconic as other cars from that era, but it was special to me. I was thinking how could we give it a modern drive train and modern power train, and basically give it that ‘shock and awe’ appeal.”
One day he just happened to park a Corvette Z06 next to the Volvo, and Allen saw the potential.
“I looked at the wheel base and didn’t realize they’d be so close,” Allen explained. “Almost immediately I thought, we could do this! I think of the chassis builders from the old days and all those old ideas of using a chassis with a different body from back-then suddenly popped into my head.”
Allen, who has become a noted custom builder and has done work for Tim Allen and Charlie Sheen among other celebrities, also knew that he had to up the ante after last year’s build, which resulted in “Ronin,” a 1963 Ford Falcon that was powered by a Roush-supercharged 5.0L Coyote and featured Baer brakes, 305/35ZR18 Nitto NT01 tires and 18×9 Forgeline GT3C Concave wheels finished with matte graphite centers and black pearl outers.
“That car was a huge hit, but we want to take it to the next level,” Allen said. “We want to show the world, and especially the younger generation, that you don’t need a million dollars to build a really special car.”
The Build Process
One of the first things that became apparent with this new build was that while the Z06 seemed like a perfect mate for the 1963 Volvo 122S Amazon, that wasn’t to be. The first problem was the Z06 alloy chassis was, for lack of a better word, “vacuum molded,” and that meant it couldn’t be easily modified.
As Allen and the team didn’t want to just drop a body on top of a frame, this led to the decision to go with a Grand Sport Corvette instead. That decision allowed for the necessary modifications, so everything fit like a glove.
“We took an inch off of each side, trimmed back the rockers a bit, but we didn’t lose any of the inner structure,” Allen explained.
In fact, the Corvette that had donated its frame had been in a minor accident, one that damaged its body but left the drivetrain intact. Allen stripped the car of its body panels and actually drove it around just to highlight how the chassis of the Corvette was otherwise perfect.
“We had to ‘graft’ the body of the Volvo onto the frame. This did present some interesting challenges, but the result was great,” he explained. “It is just one of those really cool things. The Corvette is essentially glued together, but it came together almost seamlessly with the Amazon body. Internally, this meant everything was still pretty much a Corvette.”
For those who want luxury, this merging of an old shell onto a modern chassis means there are the power brakes, power steering and traction control. To ensure this build still has that retro look, the interior includes plaid upholstery that Allen said will pay homage to the great cars of the 1960s and 1970s.
“We want this to be a modern hotrod with old-world style,” he said.
Team Work and Giving Back
Jeff Allen was also quick to say that this “Franken-Car” couldn’t have come together without the help of his team, which includes the “mad scientist” Eric Ables and life-long car aficionado Meg Baily.
“As a team, we’re tight and have the rule that no one says ‘no’ about our different ideas, but maybe sometimes we should,” Allen joked. “So far, I’m really impressed that our crazy ideas actually come together so well. This wouldn’t happen without a team and a whole lot of enthusiasm. You’re only a guy with an idea, unless you have a strong team behind you.
“I also have to say the efforts started with Pennzoil and Shell for having confidence in us and knowing that we’ll deliver,” Allen added. “They really stood by us and worked with SEMA so that this car can help give back.”
While the car will be officially unveiled at the 2018 SEMA Show at the Shell “Pioneering Performance” booth, the “V06” will then go on a cross-country tour and ultimately be auctioned with all proceeds benefiting the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund, which offers financial assistance to students pursuing an automotive career.
“I’m excited to give this car away to SEMA, as it can show today’s kids there are opportunities out there,” Allen said. “You can make your own destiny; you can make a good living working on cars and have fun.”
As a car guy, it was also important to Allen that young and old alike could see what a small team can do with some tools and a lot of determination.
“There are lot of people out there who don’t want to build it; they want to buy it. But this should serve as an example that you can build something cool and have a lot of fun doing it,” Allen said. “We made a car that is versatile, and you can drive it all day long. We didn’t just build a pretty car; this one runs as good as it looks.”