On the Road With Rust Bros

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Blair Smith (left) and Mike Hall with the finished 1968 Chevelle SS before the trip. Photo Rust Bros

Famed reality TV stars and true gearheads share experiences from their epic adventure from Tappen B.C, to Toronto, Ont., for the Motorama Custom Car Expo. 

If you were able to attend the Motorama Custom Car & Motorsports Expo in Toronto in March, a star attraction was the Rust Brothers team including Mike Hall, son Connor and friends Avery Shoaf and Blair Smith from the popular TV show Rust Valley Restorers. At the eBay Motors display, the team were on hand to answer questions, meet fans and sign autographs. Alongside them was the 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 that Mike and Avery drove more than 4,000 km from Tappen, British Columbia, to attend Motorama. The epic trip, which included driving through just about every kind of road condition and weather imaginable, was documented on the Rust Brothers Official YouTube channel.

Mike and Blair spent 685 hours working on getting the Chevelle ready for the cross-country trip and both the preparation work and the trip itself, weren’t without incident. Autosphere recently caught up with Mike, Avery, and Connor, asking them about the project, why they decided to do it and what it meant for each of them in successfully completing the journey and being able to celebrate and interact with fans at Motorama.

Autosphere: What made you decided to do this cross-country trip in the Chevelle?

Mike: It was originally Blair’s idea. He said that if we were going to be going to Toronto with eBay Motors for the Motorama Custom Car show, we might as well drive across the country in the Chevelle so we could show it off at the show once we arrived. Keep in mind that at the time we felt like winter was kind of over, but boy were we wrong! Nevertheless, we made it through the winter storms and I’m sure glad we took the time to make sure the Chevelle was ready for its 4,000km trip, thanks to parts sourced from eBay Motors.

Connor: I helped build this car with my dad back when I was a kid and I got to drive it at graduation, so it was great to see this project come together. This [Chevelle] is pretty much an extension of my dad and his style. It looks stock but performs even better than when it rolled off the assembly line. It means a lot to me because of what it is and it also what it means to my dad.

When the weather cleared, the views en-route were spectacular. Photo Rust Bros

Autosphere: Can you tell us about the condition of the Chevelle when you first got it?

Mike: When I first saw this ’68 Chevelle, it was in pretty rough shape. Any time I gunned the throttle, the paint would peel off the roof. There was also a little jack acting as a pinion snubber to stop the wheels from bouncing when you hammered on it. Although it is an SS396, the engine was long gone and there was a solid-lifter L78, 375 horsepower 396 cu.in. engine for a replacement block that was pretty nasty. It still had a four-speed, probably the original Muncie M20, and a pretty ratty original-looking upholstery.

Autosphere: What work did the Chevelle require to make it ready for the trip across Canada to Motorama?

Mike: When we decided with eBay Motors to display the car at Motorama, we had to repaint it as the paint on it was 20 years old. At that time, the car was two different colours and had been through a lot. There were 20 years’ worth of parking lot dings, a bunch of rock chips and the major issue was changing the wiring harness and getting the one seat reupholstered. We wanted the car to look respectable when we drove it to the show.

Autosphere: How long did it take to get the car prepared and what were some of the obstacles you encountered along the way?

Mike: One of the biggest issues in getting the car ready was our timeline. Blair had to leave for two weeks so that shortened our timeframe. With Blair not there, there was not much time to do a complete body paint as well as a bunch of welding, plus disassembly and reassembly. eBay Motors came through as we got some key items to put on as the finishing touches. We got replacement headlights, wipers, and an interior dome light, to name a few.

Autosphere: Can you tell us a little bit about the specs on the Chevelle, including the engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, wheels, tires and other features?

Mike: It has a 502 cu.in, Deluxe GM crate motor under the hood that’s rated at 508 horsepower and 580 lb-ft of torque. It has a Tremec TKX five-speed transmission with a .671 overdrive (I doubt we would have been able to drive it across country if it was still a four-gear car). It also has a 12-bolt Chevy rear end with 3.55 gears; a 3-inch Magnaflow stainless steel exhaust from front to back with a cross pipe, as well as halogen headlights and stock parking/marker lights and brake/tailight and turn signals.

Autosphere: In terms of the mechanicals were there any parts that were required to ensure the Chevelle could make the journey to Toronto?

Avery: The engine was perfect, and Mike put a brand new Tremec TKX transmission in it so basically, I just made sure that the safety checklist was covered in terms of wipers, seatbelts, functioning lights, turning signals, and all the stuff was working so we wouldn’t get pulled over.

Autosphere: How did eBay Motors impact the ability to get the parts you need, when you needed them?

Mike: The beauty of eBay Motors is its ‘Fits Your Vehicle’ check. All you do is punch the make, model, and year of your vehicle on the eBay Motors homepage or select your saved vehicle in My Garage to search for parts that fit. Not only are there a lot of people selling parts from all over the planet, but there are also a lot of different options, prices, makes, and different brands that fit your vehicle for any build you have in the works—you just need to look for the ‘Fits Your Vehicle’ green check mark.

The feature is also a great reminder for items you might have forgotten, and it streamlines the shopping process. Plus, the ability to compare prices and shipping times directly on the platform makes it even more user-friendly, so you can make sure you get your build done with the right parts within your timeline.

Almost every kind of weather condition faced Mike and Avery (left) while on route to Toronto but nothing dampened their spirits. Photo Rust Bros

Autosphere: You also put winter tires on the car, can you tell us a little about that?

Mike: Yes, we did, the car has polished 18×8-inch American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels and four Bridgestone Blizzaks to help give us some traction which proved really handy when the weather got bad.

Autosphere: With that in mind, what was it like to drive a classic muscle car like this cross country in March, bearing in mind how unpredicatable the weather can be at this time of year?

Mike: I have never seen such terrible roads and weather conditions for that long of a duration. Once we hit Winnipeg, things got better. The first day was a little icy, but the next day was beautiful, just very snowy. We then had three amazing days in Toronto at Motorama. After Motorama, we hit the road and on the way to Las Vegas while driving through northern Michigan, the weather was absolutely phenomenal.

Avery: I’ll tell you what—the Chevelle was a jewel and she never skipped a beat. She drove perfectly and she drove straight and true. The best part of the trip was undoubtedly making it to Winnipeg alive after the snowstorm, we went through, and having an amazing steak dinner!

Autosphere: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Mike: I’d like to express my utmost gratitude and appreciation for the folks at eBay Canada, who stepped up to sponsor one of my biggest bucket list items of driving across Canada.

Avery: I want to thank everyone over at eBay Motors Canada for giving us the opportunity to attend Motorama. It was an amazing weekend meeting the fans, and it was definitely worth the cross-Canada road trip!

Connor: It was awesome for all us to get together at Motorama and being able to show my own ’66 Chevelle, which is the one I’ve always wanted to build. Being able to build my car and have dad help me was like the universe’s way of keeping things even. I felt so proud being able to have it there, alongside my dad’s ’68. It was really eye opening to see the welcome we got at Motorama, plus, we all like looking at other people’s cars, so it was nice to go over them together and hang out with a bunch of like-minded individuals.

For Mike, driving cross-country in the Chevelle was an unforgettable experience. Photo Rust Bros


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