Once when I was in seventh grade, I broke my wrist while skateboarding at a school dance. To boost my morale, my mom took me to Blockbuster to rent some movies, one being what would, in my opinion, turn out to be one of the greatest movies ever-Tommy Boy. It's impossible for me to pinpoint my favorite part of the movie, but one thing that comes to mind is when Tommy (Chris Farley) and Richard (David Spade) are driving along in that beat-up Mopar and singing along to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know it." It also happens to be the only line they know from the song.
When I first spotted Joe Jenkins' '66 Chevelle, that moment in Tommy Boy jumped in my head, not because the movie has anything to do with it, but because once I saw the paint scheme, I started singing that Kenny Wayne Shepard song "Blue on Black." As soon as I started, I realized that "Blue on Black" was the only line I knew, much like Tommy and Richard. But I guess in the end it doesn't matter what draws you to a car, as long as you are drawn to it, and Joe's '66 has no problems sucking people right in.
Musclecars are always cool to have, but when you're 18 and making the miniscule amount of money that most teenagers do, musclecars aren't the most practical. When Joe was 18, he had a '66 Chevelle. Like any teenager, he figured "What else do I need besides a rad car?" As it turns out, cash was what he needed. Since most of his wages went into keeping the Chevelle on the road, it was time to trade in for something that would get him to and from work trouble free. A few years have passed since then, and Joe now has a regular vehicle, which he takes to work. He also had some extra dough, so he thought, "Why not get another '66 Chevelle?"
Through word of mouth, Joe heard that his brother's engine builder had a fairly decent '66 Chevelle. After some haggling on Joe's part, he finally persuaded the engine builder to sell the Chevelle. The car was all there, but looked as if the ugly stick had beaten it. The day the Chevelle arrived at the Jenkins house, the build was in full swing. Joe and his son immediately began thrashing through the car and tearing it apart. There was no preset direction with the car other than getting it back on the road looking good, so Joe just played it by ear. The engine builder who sold the car said he could build him a fairly stout small-block, so Joe took him up on the offer. As for the body and paint, it was sent out to J.V. Enterprises. Nine months later, the Chevelle was up and running. Although it was a nice car, it wasn't stunning, so it was back to the drawing board.
This time Joe planned things out a little more, starting with what he liked about the previous design, and went from there. The previous Chevelle had disc brakes up front and drums out back, which was a no-go in Joe's eyes. He ordered a set of Baer brakes for all corners. The Baer brakes gave him the look he was after, but only when the wheels were off. What he needed was a set of rims that would not only enhance the look of the car, but show off the brakes, as well. A set of Boyd Coddington Magnetos wrapped in Kumho rubber were picked as the new rolling stock. A set of 18x8s up front, and 18x9s in the rear not only give the Chevelle a new look, but also act as windows to see the Baer brakes resting behind them. From there, the rest of the suspension was tackled. Up front, 2-inch dropped spindles from Belltech were put on, along with Hotchkis 3-inch dropped springs, a Hotchkis 1 1/8-inch sway bar, and KYB shocks. The A-arms were blasted and powdercoated black, then outfitted with new polyurethane bushings. In the rear, KYB shocks and a Hotchkis 1-inch sway bar add stability to the '66.
As for the small-block, it was next up on the chopping block. Although Richard, the previous engine builder, did exactly what he said he would with the small-block, Joe was looking for something a bit more potent. The two came up with a '70 454 big-block that was ready to go under the knife. The 454 was machined to a 460 by JMS Racing Engines. Richard then began assembling the fresh block. GM Performance Parts aluminum heads, installed along with Manley 10.25:1 pistons and a COMP Cams hydraulic roller cam. Up top, a factory Corvette manifold was used in conjunction with a Holley carburetor. On the frontline rests a Zoops pulley system and Sanderson shorty headers were installed, along with Dynomax mufflers, which can be heard echoing down the road. When the engine was finished, it was put back on the dyno where it cranked out 525 hp at 5,800 rpm and 550 lb-ft torque at 3,600 rpm-a vast improvement over the small-block. Backing the Rat is a 700-R4 with a TCI 2500 stall speed converter assembled by Mike's Toy Shop in Pomona, California. Along with the tranny is a 12-bolt with Superior 31-spline axles, also assembled by Mike's.
For the last thing on the agenda, it was back to J.V. Enterprises in Azusa, California. Joe told the owner, Vinnie, he wanted to completely redo the paint scheme. He didn't really have a drawn-out plan other than that he wanted a two-tone job. Vinnie came up with a PPG custom-mix blue combined with PPG Black. Breaking up the two-tone is a silver leaf 1/2-inch stripe highlighted in red pinstripe. Joe was sold on everything except for the black top. If Vinnie wanted to spray the top black, then Joe wanted him to mix in some blue pearl for those sunny SoCal days. The plan was set . . . well, almost. Vinnie and Joe also decided that while the engine was out, they would redesign the engine compartment, as well. The firewall and inner fender panels were reworked and smoothed. The two-tone paint scheme found its way under the hood running along the firewall. Under the hood, detailing was taken one step further when the bottom half of the polished aluminum valve covers were sprayed blue and given a red stripe around them. The inner fender panels were also sprayed blue.
If there's one thing to be said about Joe's Chevelle, it's that it most definitely leaves a lasting impression in some way, shape, or form.