When you see a ride that looks “right” but you can’t really put your finger on exactly why, this means the builder has nailed it. That big green ogre Shrek said it best when he rambled on about layers. The best cars aren’t all in your face, they are built upon subtle layers of details that suck you in and keep you looking for the next cool facet of the build. Like that ogre’s onion, pulling back one layer reveals something new and intriguing. Mike Hammond’s 1966 Chevelle is one of these cars. At first glance it’s a lot like that unassuming onion, but dig deeper and you’ll find more layers of unexpected coolness.
But this Chevelle hasn’t always been so tasty. Like most rides out there, it started out in a less-than-stellar state. As Mike told us, “When we found the Chevelle, it had two doors, a decklid, and a roof. The rest was pretty much rusted away. It was a perfect candidate for a project!” Mike knew what he wanted: big-block power, an overdrive transmission, and performance suspension. He also knew the perfect shop that could turn his rusted heap of a Chevy into a killer ride: Dakota Muscle Cars (DMC) in Sioux City, Iowa. Once shop owner Brent Elsen came up with a plan of attack, the project moved into high gear. Brent worked with Mike and the pair decided the Chevelle would ride on a custom tubular chassis built by DMC. It would feature C6 Vette front suspension along with rear ladder bar arrangement. To nail the wicked stance at the touch of a button, DMC would install Ridetech Shockwaves on each corner. “We welded the car to our frame table at the desired ride height then began fabricating the tube chassis,” recalled Brent.
The one-off chassis required custom floors, but the metalwork didn’t stop there. DMC also crafted a new firewall and replaced all the rusted panels with fresh steel. Brent explained, “The front wheel lips were moved up for clearance at ride height, and we smoothed the inner wheelhouses in the engine compartment. The wheelhouse edges were also reworked to fit the new custom chassis. It was important that it looked like a cohesive package.” Exterior modifications were kept to a minimum, with DMC shaving the door handles and emblems. After all, when you have a ride with stellar lines like the ’66 Chevelle, you don’t want to screw with it too much.
Once all the metalwork was done, the chassis was sent off to Trial Performance for powdercoating and the DMC crew got busy blocking the body and perfecting the gaps. Once that layer was complete, the panels were shot in Glasurit Graystone Metallic. To add contrast, some areas, including the engine bay, were done in a matte finish. The result is a combination that looks well done, but not overdone.
Another big item on Mike’s wish list for the Chevelle was big-block power. With this in mind, Brent sent a 454 core over to Harry Heads and Auto Machine for some millwork. Once back in the shop, the DMC crew filled the bored block with a SCAT crank and rods along with SRP pistons and a Comp hydraulic roller camshaft. The factory iron heads were massaged and the resulting 9.0:1 compression means the now 499ci big-block runs on just about any pump gas available. Topping off the engine is an Edelbrock intake with a Proform 750 carb. A Quick Fuel pump keeps the engine fed, while a Stef’s 8-quart oil pan keeps the big-inch mill’s internal parts slippin’ and slidin’. Heat is dissipated through a Be Cool radiator, and Hooker 2-inch thermal-coated headers route spent gasses out through the Flowmaster Series 40 mufflers. Backing up the 600hp engine is a TREMEC TKO-600 five-speed with a Centerforce clutch and Lakewood bellhousing—all built by Driveline Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The requisite C6 suspension was hung up front and a ladder bar setup found its way into the hindquarters. To slow down the big Chevy, DMC installed a C6 Vette brake system up front and Wilwood binders in the rear. All was going according to plan. The rear of the ride was mini-tubbed 3 inches to allow for the massive 20x10 Intro Vista 5 wheels. Up front are matching 19x8.5 rollers. All four wheels are shod in Toyo Proxes T1R rubber.
Raspberry Red leather front seats conspire with gray Daytona Weave carpet to create an interior that is both modern and retro cool. DMC fabricated the custom aluminum dash inserts and filled them with Auto Meter gauges. In addition to the bucket seats, Brian Powell of Little Slims Trim Shop also crafted and covered the door panels and trick center console. Besides the requisite cup holders, the console also houses the controls for the power windows and Sony audio system.
Again, the closer you look the more you see; like the trick Vintage Air vents that look like throttle bodies or finishing touches like the billet knobs from Precision Coachworks and the custom door pulls.
We spied the Chevelle at the Columbus Goodguys show where it was vying for Street Machine of the Year. Tough competition for sure, but we wonder if its subtleness didn’t cause it be overlooked. After all, this is one ride where you have to dig down in order to get to the tastier bits.