Ray Zielinski, a facilities manager from Missouri, has been a Chevrolet fan since he was a teen, and the list of killer Bow Ties he has owned is pretty extensive. At one point or another, Ray has owned a '70 L78 Camaro, '55 post, '57 Bel Air, '66 Chevelle, Yenko Nova, '71 Baldwin Motion Camaro, '70 L78 Nova, '70 RS Z28 Camaro, '32 Ford Roadster (Chevy powered of course), and more in between. There was one car in that lineup that held a special spot in Ray's heart, and resulted in the feature you see before you. We asked Ray to tell us the story behind the car, and here it is in his words.
"As many people do, they look back on their youth to a car that left an impression. I came full circle to a car, the first good car I made payments on back in 1970. I was still in high school and working in a service station when I convinced my mom to co-sign for a loan on a black 1966 Malibu. It had a six-cylinder under the hood, so the insurance was cheap. I already had a plan. I think I owned the car for less than a month before removing the Six and Powerglide and replacing them with a 365 hp 327 and M22 trans I got from a wrecked Vette. This was the first M22 I had owned or used, so I had no idea why the trans whined so much. I later found out that was normal.
"I think I owned the car in that basic configuration for five years, which for me was a long time since my typical M.O. was to change cars often. But I never got tired of the Chevelle. In '70 GM came out with a new color for the Camaro line called Shadow Grey. Once I saw it on the lot I knew that was going to be the new color for my '66," Ray continued. "I sent the car off for paint, but when I went to pick it up a Shadow Grey car was not waiting for me. Instead, the paint was more of a silver-grey tone with an emphasis on silver. Even though it was a paint-mixing mistake, it looked even better than the color I initially wanted. I enjoyed the car for a few years, but finally sold it to build something else.
"That '66 stuck with me throughout my entire life. None of the Novas, Tri-Fives or Camaros I owned could fill the empty spot left by it. I decided to go back and build another one, only this time build it the way I could not afford to in my younger years.
"I went on the hunt and eventually found a buildable shell that was listed on a simple board at a swap meet. Reading the listing, it had a few numbers I was desperately seeking, 138 on the cowl tag. This was a true SS, so it took some haggling with the current owner to make it mine. When it was all over I had a bare body shell and frame, no interior, no dash, no front clip, nothing else. I couldn't care less how incomplete the car was; what I needed was intact the cowl tag. This was the start of my Chevelle build, and I had a clear vision of what the car would be. A '66 SS big-block with bright red interior, and that mistaken silver/grey color from the first one."
That is the car you see here after Ray completed all the work. The outside is covered in a specially mixed DuPont Silver/Grey, applied by the crew at John's Auto Body in Imperial, Missouri. The body is basically stock except for the fiberglass Corvette stinger-style hood, made by VFN Fiberglass. We think this hood looks right at home on the '66.
Lurking under that hood is a stout 496 big block. The Rat was spec'd out by Super Chevy alumnus Mike Petralia and his Hardcore Horsepower shop, with help from Tony Mamo of Airflow Research. The 496 has 10.5:1 JE pistons, Scat forged rotating assembly with H-beam rods, Comp .588 lift/294 duration cam, fully CNC'd AFR 265cc oval port heads, Edelbrock Air Gap intake all topped with a Holley 850 Double Pumper. Rod's Muffler Center in Union, Missouri, was called upon to build the custom 3-inch exhaust off the 1-7/8 Sanderson headers. This combo makes 630 hp and 600lb-ft of torque. That is much more than Ray's high school 327 put out.
Lurking under that hood is a stout 496 big block.
Instead of a four-speed, Ray decided this incarnation would have an automatic, so he grabbed a TH400 and 2800 stall from Transmissions To Go in Imperial. The power exits the trans and runs down a new driveshaft to a Moser 9-inch stuffed with a 3.55 gearset.
All that power could not be stopped very well by four-wheel drums, so Ray strapped 11-inch disc brakes from Right Stuff Detailing to all four corners. To get the stance and handling on par with everything, else Ray used CPP tubular upper and and lower control arms supported by QA1 coilovers, front and back. Lean is kept to a minimum thanks to the CPP 1-1/4 front and 1-inch rear sway bars. To make sure all of these components work their best, Ray even boxed the factory frame.
Rolling attire is a set of gorgeous Torq Thrusts from American Racing, 17x8 with 4-1/2 inches of backspacing in front, and 17x9 with 5 inches of 'spacing out back. The rims are wrapped in Nitto NT-555 rubber 235/45 in front and 275/40 out back.
Inside the car you will find a sea of custom red vinyl from Legendary Auto Interiors. Everything was created in a custom bright red (code 510) by Legendary, including the seats, door panels, headliner and carpet. Ray had the Top Shop in St Louis install all the soft trim. Ray took it upon himself to install the Retro Sound head unit and build the hidden speaker boxes under the seats.
When we first laid eye on the car, Ray said, "I wanted to recreate my high school car, but do it much better than I could have back then. Also, I couldn't have done it without the support of my awesome wife Judy"
Looking at these pictures, I think we can all agree Ray did an excellent job, and this car stands all on its own, even if it is sort of a redo.