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Super Clean Big-block 1966 Chevelle Street Machine

Smarter, Not Harder: Wanna build a big-block Chevelle in no time flat? Sometimes it pays to work smarter, not harder

Stephen Kim Oct 11, 2016 0 Comment(s)
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To build or not to build? That is the question. At the risk of hacking up the sheetmetal, paint, driveline components, and wiring, hot rodders pride themselves on building a jalopy from the ground up. As any down-and-dirty enthusiast will attest, few things in life can match the gratification of restoring a muscle car to a level beyond its former glory. Even so, there’s more than one way to enjoy a hobby. While some hot rodders live for the thrill of the build, jumping from one project car to the next to satisfy their fix, others prefer enjoying the fruits of their labor over the labor itself. By fine-tuning a car that was already pretty darn nice instead of rescuing a hulk of rust from a field, Glen Barnum Jr. spent less time dealing with headaches and more time cruising the streets in his big-block 1966 Chevelle.

Although Glen credits his dad, Glen Sr., for steering him down the path of Rat engines and burnouts, his mom got in on the action, too. “My dad was a bodyman back in the day, so I grew up around hot rods when I was a kid. I remember seeing all kinds of cool Camaros and Chevelles that came into his shop back in the ’60s,” Glen fondly recalls. “I rode around in my dad’s straight-axle ’55 Chevy as a youngster, and he bought my mom a ’69 GTO. She used to bang gears with me sitting in the back seat. From that moment on I was hooked.”

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Side 2/29
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Rear 3/29

Once Glen reached driving age, a long series of sweet Bow Ties filled his garage over the years. “My first car in high school was a ’69 Camaro SS, which I later sold to get a ’69 SS396 Chevelle. I then built a ’66 Chevy II as a gasser before moving on to a ’68 Camaro,” Glen recounts. “That ’68 Camaro is the car I should have kept, and I really regret selling it. The fit, finish, and paint on it was perfect because I bought it off of a professional bodyman. I met so many good friends taking that car to shows, and I still have those friends to this day.”

To fill the void left by his Camaro, Glen picked up a ’65 Chevy II project car. Built as a cross between Pro Street and Pro Touring, it packed an LS1, six-speed stick, tubs, and a ’cage. Although Glen thoroughly enjoyed cruising the Chevy II, he felt the need to upsize. “It was a fun car, but with the tubs, a ’cage, and no back seat it lacked the space for all my car-show necessities. I wanted something roomier with a full trunk and back seats so I could put my friends back there and bring all my show supplies,” says Glen.

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Engine Bay 4/29

It just so happened that Glen needed a bigger car, and he had at some point owned every cool Chevy there is to own except a first-gen Chevelle. Shortly after setting his sights on an A-body, he spotted the perfect candidate to foist his plans upon. “I realized that I never had a first-gen Chevelle before, so I figured I might as well give one a go. Since the Chevy II took several years to build from the ground up, I thought it might be better to buy a car that was already pretty nice and finish it up with my own touches,” Glen explains. “I liked that idea better than having to endure years of downtime to build a car from scratch. Some guys like taking a decent car and driving it around, but I’m very picky about the way a car looks. In 2014, I found an ad for a nice ’66 Chevelle with a straight body and nice paint that already had a Chevrolet Performance 502 big-block, a TH400 trans, upgraded suspension, and Baer brakes. A year later, it was back on the road.”

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Side 5/29
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Wheel 6/29

During that year, Glen took the necessary steps to transform a decent ride into a true head-turner. “The car was in decent shape and it had good paint, but it just needed to be color-sanded and buffed. It had some electrical issues, so I ripped out the interior and rewired everything. I ended up replacing the gauges, steering wheel, bezels, carpet, headliner, door panels, heater controls, and the seat frame,” says Glen. “The car sat higher than I wanted so I lowered it down a few inches with some drop spindles up front and lowering springs in the rear. I didn’t like the low-profile tires, either, so I swapped them out with wider and taller tires that had a bit more sidewall. To tidy things up a little, I pulled the motor and trans to clean the engine compartment, and I polished all the stainless trim.”

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Interior 7/29
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Interior 8/29

Just as Glen had planned, he was back on the road in a roomier, comfier, better-handling car in no time. “Compared to my Chevy II, this car has much more power, and it rides and handles much better, too. It has plenty of trunk space, and room for my friends in the back,” Glen reports. “Hanging out with good friends and meeting new people is what makes this hobby fun. That’s probably what I like the most about this car.”

Less time dealing with headaches, more time cruising the streets with your buddies. Any way you slice it, there’s nothing wrong with that. It sure beats telling those same buddies how great your car is going to be when it’s finally finished someday.

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Rear Side 9/29

Tech Check
Owner: Glen Barnum Jr., Augusta, Kansas
Vehicle: 1966 Chevelle Malibu
Engine
Type: Chevrolet big-block
Displacement: 502 ci
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Bore: 4.470 inches
Stroke: 4.000 inches
Cylinder Heads: GM 290cc aluminum castings, 2.25/1.88-inch valves
Rotating Assembly: GM forged crank, rods, and pistons
Valvetrain: GM lifters, valvesprings, and rockers
Camshaft: GM hydraulic roller 224/234-deg. duration at 0.050, 0.527/0.544-inch lift; 112-degree LSA
Induction: GM dual-plane intake manifold, FAST EZ-EFI fuel injection
Ignition: MSD billet distributor, coil, and plug wires
Exhaust: Hooker long-tube headers with 3.5-inch collectors; dual 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers
Output: 508 hp, 580 lb-ft
Drivetrain
Transmission: Monster TH400 automatic and 2,800-stall converter
Rear Axle: Moser 12-bolt rearend with 35-spline axles, 3.55:1 gears, and limited-slip differential
Chassis
Steering: Saginaw 800 box, Flaming River column
Front Suspension: Hotchkis TVS control arms, springs, shocks, sway bar, and spindles
Rear Suspension: Hotchkis TVS control arms, springs, shocks, and sway bar
Brakes: Baer 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers front; Baer 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Coys C57 18x8 front, 20x10 rear
Tires: Continental 245/40 front, 295/40 rear
Interior
Seats: Stock bench
Upholstery: Custom vinyl
Instrumentation: Stock GM
Steering Wheel: Billet Specialties
Carpet: GM red
Shifter: Flaming River
Exterior
Paint: PPG Garnet Red
Hood: Goodmark 2-inch cowl induction
Grille: Stock

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