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Heavy Metal Affliction 1973 Buick Apollo

John Schommer
Thursday, April 18, 2013


General Motors has built millions upon millions of cars; many of them shared the same body with a few aesthetic changes. Chassis such as the X body were shared across the platforms of Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick. Even though Pontiac and Oldsmobile are now defunct, GM still shares production architecture with Buick.


Buick is the oldest active car maker in America, the forefather of General Motors. The company began producing internal combustion engines in 1899 and later built motor-cars with tiller steering. After proving their reliability in a 1904 endurance event, production began in earnest. Originally, Buicks were modeled after the living room of a home and were nicknamed the “moving couch of America.” This, as well as the overall build quality, led to Buick being a prestigious and successful brand which later built parent corporation General Motors. Under GM, smaller manufacturers were acquired and assimilated to cater to particular classes of buyer. Within the GM family of brands, only Cadillac was more esteemed than Buick.


Since Cadillac never offered a version of the X body, the Buick Apollo is the cream of the crop among these mid-size rides. The X body following is a loyal one. It seems to fit a niche between the much larger muscle cars such as a Pontiac GTO and sportier models such as the Camaro or Firebird.


Forza Community member Sun God 1973—who outside the world of Forza answers to the name Aaron Shenefield, is one such X body aficionado. Shenefield is a 40-year-old married father of three boys from Snow Camp, North Carolina. He has been an auto technician for most of his adult life, spending many years at a Chevy dealer, before moving to a Honda dealer where he is now shop foreman. Needless to say, Shenefield know his way around a torque wrench.



Shenefield is an avid Forza player and had to have an Xbox and Forza Motorsport 4 after seeing a demo running on a 50-inch flat screen. What’s the first thing he did? He picked up the March Pirelli Car Pack for Forza Motorsport 4 and built his beloved X body using the 1969 Chevy Nova SS 396 as a model. He is also a Forza Horizon player and loves every bit of American Muscle that he can enjoy on the roads of Colorado.


His loyalty to the GM brand and the X body is also inspiring. In his own words, “My love for the X body started at age 15. It was 1987 and I just received my learner’s permit. My brothers high school friend had a Green 1973 Nova coupe. I convinced him to let me drive it with my Mom. At the time I thought it was fast, so I was sold. My car of choice had to be an X body.” The “Sun God” is his third X Body; his two previous Nova’s were “victims of my teenage and early 20’s life” Shenefield said. He has also owned a Chevelle, a Z28, and a V8- powered, 4WD Chevy S10. A year or so ago, he sold the off-roader to get back into muscle cars so he could experience drag racing with his sons.


When Shenefield picked up the Apollo --deemed the “Sun God”-- it felt like he had found his way back to his roots. Overall, the car was in good shape, the paint and body were showable, and it had been repowered with a beastly Pontiac 469 big block. According to Shenefield, the interior needed work, the motor was done poorly; after six months of driving it started to smoke, and the transmission began to slip. Shenefield could not truly admit disappointment though, because this gave way to rebuilding and upgrading the engine and tranny.

On the inside he got rid of the racerboy bucket seats and installed a true X body form bench seat. Funny, most people would do just the opposite, but Shenefield’s intent was to build something to enjoy with his wife and family, not something to cruise stoplights in while looking for trouble. While the seats were out he cleaned up the floors and treated them with POR 15 – a rust preventer. Then he picked up a set of Buick Rally wheels and sold off the custom Weld rims. Essentially he wanted to bring the car back to a more factory look, but with a surprise under the hood--and under his right foot.


On to the engine rebuild. Working with a local machine shop, Shenefield rebuilt the short block from the bottom up. It was balanced with new forged connecting rods and a high-lift hydraulic camshaft with roller-tip rocker arms. The heads were ported by hand and larger intake and exhaust valves were installed. A few bolt on goodies, like the polished headers, were added to sweeten the sound of the massaged big-block power.



In the tranny department Shenefield had a TH200-4r overdrive transmission built by a local Buick Grand National specialist. To aid launch on drag days, he installed a 2,200 RPM stall converter. This tranny is built to handle up to 700 horsepower. The motor is pumping out between 450 and 500 horsepower. So it should be a durable match and a tire-smoking rocket off the line.

Here is a start up video, an engine while running video, and an exhaust video. Man that thing sounds beastly!

Take a look at the Heavy Metal Affliction spec sheet to see all the build components.



Aaron sent me these pictures that capture the appeal of his subtle but fast, X body, “Sun God”.



This Heavy Metal Affliction was brought to you by Johniwanna. If you care to comment on Shenefield’s sweet piece of classy American muscle, do so in the HMA thread.