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The Kind Of Chicago Muscle You WANT To Meet

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On: Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 11:02AM | By: Andrew W Davis

The Kind Of Chicago Muscle You WANT To Meet

You may not know an L78 from an SR-71, but if you know anything about classic American muscle cars you know the Nickey name. [Oh. No? It's the one with the big red backwards "K" in its logo. Yep, them. Let's continue...]

Though perhaps not as big a name-brand as Yenko, those Chicago boys at Nickey Chevrolet (the dealer) knew as much as anyone about how to transform the classic ill-handling, poor-stopping, overpowered muscle cars into something positively lethal. Not surprisingly, very few authentic Nickey Chevrolets (the cars this time) have survived, so to find one in even passable shape is something in the muscle car world akin to a miracle.

Well, move over Lourdes—the holy water place, not the spawn of Madonna—for Mecum Auctions is set to, well, auction seven Nickey-enhanced Chevrolets from the collection of noted muscle car guru Mike Guarise as part of its Original Spring Classic Auction extravaganza happening May 17-22 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in—you guessed it—Indianapolis, IN.

Billed (by them) as "The World's Largest Collector Car Auction," the event always has a long list of tasty creations aimed to fill your garage and empty your bank account. But after years of finding only a few true muscle car jewels among an ocean of "clones" and "phantoms" and fakes *ahem* I mean "tributes", for seven cars of this caliber to show up all at once is a shock to the system.

Here's how Mecum's PR department puts it:

"As a teenager in the muscle car era, Mike Guarise lived within cruising distance of Chicago’s Nickey Chevrolet, then the largest Chevy dealer in the world and the source of what are now some of the rarest and raciest Chevrolets ever built. Back then driving his own Nickey supercar was just a dream, but the dream became a passion and, in the last thirteen years, Mike has found and restored ten Nickey originals, an experience he views with great pride and satisfaction.

'I consider it an honor to have been their caretaker,' says Mike. 'Having had that pleasure, it is time to share them with collectors who have found it nearly impossible to acquire one of these great cars.'

Mecum Auction proudly presents Mike Guarise's Nickey Collection, comprising seven of the finest and rarest Nickey creations, each one certified authentic by legendary Nickey Performance Manager Don Swiatek and listed in the Nickey Registry, Inc."

So there’s that. But, here's the real skinny: The roster of cars on offer includes three Camaros, two Corvettes, a Chevelle, and a Malibu, with most having been manufactured during the muscle car’s "sweet-spot" years between 1967 and 1970. All are very rare, very powerful, and very capable of making you wee when someone gets on the loud pedal.

[So here they are, with a little something about each. I’ve listed the lot numbers but ignored them here because they make no sense in regards to each car v. the others.]

Lot S193: 1967 Chevrolet Nickey/Bill Thomas 427 Stage III Camaro 427 CI, 4-Spd.

Nickey has laid claim to being the first to cram a Corvette’s 427 into the nose of a Camaro, though that’s like saying you were the first to give babies hand grenades. With the help of racer and engine wizard Bill Thomas, Nickey engineered the Camaro Satan would have ordered if he had the stones. As the “only Nickey/BT Camaro certified by Bill Thomas himself” this first-year Camaro—in top-level “Stage III” guise—is sure to achieve an eye-watering price.


Lot S192: 2002 Chevrolet Nickey/Bill Thomas 427 Stage III Camaro 427 CI

If you ever wanted to know what Nickey and Bill Thomas could do with a fourth generation Camaro, this is it. In fact, Bill Thomas must have wondered because he built this—the last car he created before his passing—for himself. And yes, there’s a “real” 427 in this car, only this one will beat any that came before it like a cheap drum, thanks the 1,000 rear-wheel horsepower its twin-turbos produce. Buyers are cautioned to update their wills before using this beast in anger.


Lot S188: 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle L78 2-Door Hardtop 396/375 HP, 4-Speed

This car had me scratching my head a bit. They say it may have been a Nickey 427 car, but was restored to reflect its having been an original L78 (396 cu.-in. V8/375 hp) car. Fine. But why does it actually have a “500 hp 396 engine” then? I suppose it’s having been “raced at the Supercar Reunion” might be involved. Regardless, it’s Nickey-enhanced and -certified, right down to the “liquid tire squirters.” [Don’t ask.]


Lot S191: 1968 Chevrolet Malibu L79 2-Door Hardtop 327/325 HP, 4-Speed

Though “79” is one more than “78,” when you’re talking “L-codes” it’s quite a bit less. Not “bad” less, necessarily, as the “Top Gun Award at Chevy Vettefest” Mecum says this Malibu earned might attest. Like its model-year sister Chevelle, this isn’t a 427 car, either now or “back then.” Instead, it’s more indicative of what the average in-period Nickey customer was looking for, i.e. a machine that can convert its Firestones into shrieks and smoke at will yet can actually be driven for more than a quarter of a mile. It won’t be the most expensive or powerful car at the sale, but it’s probably the better for it.


Lots S190 & S189: 1968 & 1969 Chevrolet Corvette 427/435 HP, 4-Speed Coupes

Now here’s where all those 427s were supposed to go. In fact, Chevy itself actually put them there (and here). Though not the most terrifying engine you could kill yourself with whenever you got the urge—that was the L88—the “Tri-Power” L71 427 big block was right there with it. [Remember: we’re talking about north of 400 horsepower in a FIBERGLASS-bodied car, not a steel tank like a Chevelle or Malibu.] So take your pick: Would you rather wrap the blue ’68 or the orange ’69 around the nearest lamp post the first time you nail the throttle? Oh, you’re just adding it to your collection? Might as well get both then….



Lot S194: 1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Coupe LT1/360 HP, 4-Speed

Don’t let its small-block fool you: this is a real-deal “Nickey Supertuned” Camaro, and one that Mecum says is “likely the most highly documented Nickey modified car known to exist.” They also say things like, “Many of its 21,000 original miles had been spent prowling the street racing haunts of the Chicago area.” and “For typically shorter street drags, many preferred the high winding, modified small block to the heavier big blocks.” Look, just because it doesn’t have a 427 in it doesn’t mean you have to overcompensate with this puffery, guys. This is one Z28 that can stand on its own.


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