Pro Touring has been around for quite a few years, and it is quickly becoming the standard to build your Chevy to. While the name of the game with Pro Touring is an emphasis on turning and braking, in addition to the acceleration you expect from a muscle car, form is often compromised in the process. After all, blending a 40-year-old car with the performance of a modern-day sports sedan is quite a mechanical challenge. In this instance, Tony Grzelakowski built one of the best executed Pro Touring '66 Chevelles that we've seen, with immaculate bodywork, loads of thoughtful details, and inspiring performance on the road course.
There are hundreds of subtle, ultra-cool details in this Chevelle, and we'll point out as many as we can as we unravel the tale of the car's creation. When Tony started working on the Chevelle, he thought that this car could be more than a typical SS clone. He also thought that as the owner of Advanced Body & Color in Imlay City, Michigan, he could flex his combined skills in impeccable sheetmetal fabrication and paint with his knowledge of suspension and brakes. He wanted to update sections of the muscle car, such as the interior, which are often hard to do without creating a design disaster. Bolting in a set of Grand Prix bucket seats and clamping a tachometer to the steering column definitely were not options.
The paint and bodywork started like most Midwest projects. The car was completely disassembled, and the body and frame were mediablasted. This let Tony assess exactly what condition the sheetmetal was in, and let him work directly on the metal instead of on decades of body filler, layers of paint, and rust. He and his son T.J. went to work on the body, TIG welding in new trunk-floor sections and one lower quarter-panel. Not bad for an original Midwest ride. The rest of the sheetmetal was smoothed. To take the body to the next level, Tony and T.J. TIG welded the edges of the doors, hood, fenders, and trunk, hammer forming them for crisp gaps and flushness. They block-sanded the whole thing laser straight before laying on the Brilliant Blue Pearl PPG paint. The specific color was created by Tony and Don Fremd of Painter's Supply in Flint, Michigan. Most people mistake the color for the original '66 Chevelle Marina Blue. But park this car next to that color and the Marina Blue suddenly looks washed out. Brilliant Blue Pearl is bright and deep under just about any kind of light-not an easy trick.
Remember we said there are hundreds of details in this car? The bumper bolts were replaced with studs, welded in, and ground flush so no bolt heads show. The chrome wheel lip moldings, as well as the rocker-panel bright pieces, were painted and clear powdercoated to provide a finished look that tones down the use of chrome.
The drivetrain is pretty straightforward, and is bulletproof simple. Tony claims that big-block between the fenders is a 0.030-over 427. From the throaty and crisp exhaust pumping through the Hooker Super Comp headers and dual 3-inch exhaust, we're not convinced that it isn't just a tad larger. The engine spins a 4L80E trans with a Compushift controller and a 3,000-stall converter.
The project ended up giving Tony and T.J. a ton of father-son time together. About 10 times as many hours as Tony originally thought. But it's paying off now with a little different family time. We caught up with the Grzelakowskis at the Frankenmuth AutoFest, rubbing shoulders with about 2,500 other high-performance car enthusiasts. Just one weekend later, they won Goodguys Muscle Machine of the Year Finalist at the Chicagoland Nationals. This award goes to the muscle car that reaches the highest level of handling, stance, body/paint, and engineering. We have to say that we think they got it right.
Under the hood is just as clean and functional as the rest of the Chevelle. The engine is a 427ci big-block, as far as you know. It uses 990 rectangular-port heads with a full roller valvetrain. The attention to detail here is incredible. Everything is either body color, plated, or matte black. The smooth firewall panel came from ABC Performance.
Tony used about 25 pounds of chromed button-head bolts on this car to keep the look smooth and clean. The Superior aluminum radiator bolts in the factory location while a Vintage Air condenser and an automatic transmission cooler are nested in front of the core support.
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Baer 13-inch rotors up front wear Foose Nitrous 18x8.5 wheels with 5.75 inches of backspacing. While some people are going for 20s and even 22s, Tony felt the 18s were ideal for street driving with the factory fenderwells and without air suspension. The front rollers are Toyo Proxes P245/45ZR18s.
In the rear, a DTS Ford 9-inch spins a combination of 13-inch brakes, 18x10 wheels with 5.25 inches of backspacing and P285/40ZR18 tires tucked nicely within the factory sheetmetal. Tony says that he'd like to mini-tub the car to make room for P335/40ZR18s, but wants to retain a factory look in the trunk if he does that.
Take a close look at that frame. Tony boxed it, and he did it so well that it looks like GM made it that way. The ABC Performance rear suspension provides QA1 coilover shocks that bolt right in, giving the car its great stance and control, with adjustable height. The ABC Performance kit also includes adjustable tubular upper control arms, chassis braces, tubular lower control arms, and a 1-inch sway bar. The front suspension is a combination of Global West control arms, B-body spindles, and QA1 adjustable coilovers. One of the key elements of Pro Touring is getting the stance and proportions perfect. Tony Grzelakowski spent a lot of time determining the exact combination to get this '66 Chevelle to look right, and to perform right.
Making a muscle car interior modern is tricky business, and it usually doesn't work out so well. The dash top and passenger-side insert are covered in leather to match the seats, door panels, and console, and add significant class to a family-car interior. The clever A/C vents are from a Pontiac Solstice.
Tony used an ABC Performance dash and gauge panel that bolts to the factory dash top, and is filled with Auto Meter Pro Comp Ultra-Lite gauges. Vintage Air HVAC controls are center stage, with vital control switches and the "start" button just to the right of the Flaming River tilt steering column. The center console that Tony modified to fit and function properly was transplanted from a Cadillac DTS.
The front, reclining bucket seats are from Corbeau. To create a matching look, Tony and his son T.J. started with the original rear bench frame and fabricated two rear bucket seatbacks to match the fronts. Sparco belts were used throughout the cabin. You look have to look close, but there's a 12-point, 15/8-inch rollcage in the car, however the clean installation and satin-black paint make it nearly invisible.