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Chevy High Performance’s Best Feature Cars of 2016

Top 10 of the Year: We revisit the best feature cars of 2016

Nov 17, 2016
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After 12 months of photographing and writing about the coolest, quickest, and sometimes the shiniest Chevy muscle cars in the country, it’s become tradition for us to highlight the Top 10 cars featured in the magazine and on chevyhiperformance.com from the previous year. And in today’s world of handing out participation trophies and encouraging “atta boy’s” to everyone just for showing up, a free ride doesn’t fly in the high-performance muscle car world. We here at Chevy High Performance have fairly high standards when it comes to choosing which cars end up in the magazine and online.

With that being said, it’s not so much about which car is the nicest, makes the most horsepower, or sucked up the most coin to build. It’s actually more about giving recognition to the cars with the widest reader appeal and having an influence, no matter how subtle, on the future of muscle car building. Whether it’s a Pro Touring, Pro Street, or low-budget street machine, the fact is that a lot of great ideas come from what we see online or in magazines.

So, after dissecting over 40 feature cars from 2016, we measured each car’s popularity through our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), reader email, and what the editorial staff liked (yes, we still have some say), then painstakingly whittled it down to the final 10.

Some are expensive, some home-built, and some finally hit the streets after decades-long slumber. We are proud to say that the Top 10 cars of 2016 feature a group of cars that exude tons of attitude, personality, and style.

There is no extra prize for making our list—just the opportunity to brag to your friends that your car is one of Chevy High Performance’s 2016 Top 10 Muscle Cars of the Year.

We hope that you agree with the choice of cars on the list, but if you think we missed the mark, feel free to email us at chevyhiperformance@enthusiastnetwork.com.

Car: 1967 Camaro
Owner: Tim Lee
Issue: February 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

1967 Chevrolet Camaro 2/23
1967 Chevrolet Camaro Ls Egnine 3/23

Tim Lee has been building drag-style muscle cars for more years than he can remember, and he just recently joined the Pro Touring crowd with this beautiful Marina Blue 1967 Camaro. The car is powered by a carbureted 416ci LS3 that makes about 500 hp to the tires.

Wanting to hit the autocross scene with the car, Tim went with a TREMEC T-56 to manage gear changes, backed by a Centerforce DYAD twin-disc clutch. A 9-inch rearend stuffed with 3.91 gears moves the car off the line quick-like and gets the TCI Engineering suspension and QA1 shocks working the corners right out of the gate.

Wilwood four-piston calipers and 13-inch plates reside behind a set of Forgeline GA3-6 (18x8 front; 18x10 rear) wheels wrapped in Bridgestone rubber.

On looks alone this car is well worthy of a spot on our Top 10 list, but the fact that Tim used the car as a father/son project made it even better.

Car: 1955 Chevy 210
Owner: Steve Haley
Issue: March 2016
Photographer: Richard Le

1955 Chevrolet 210 4/23
1955 Chevrolet 210 Hilborn Injected Big Block 5/23

Nothing screams “old school” more than a Tri-Five Chevy armed with a big-block topped with Hilborn stack injection; it just sends it over the top in the “cool department.”

Steve Haley got the car in a straight-across trade for his 1934 Ford, drove it a couple of times and realized the car needed help in pretty much all areas. An Art Morrison Max G Chassis with Strange Engineering coilover dampers was incorporated for a much-improved ride quality and overall driving experience. Justification for such an undertaking was influenced by the 454ci beast under the hood. He knew the stock chassis didn’t stand a chance.

Keeping with the old-school theme, 15x8 and 15x12 American Rebel Sprint style wheels set the scene bound by BFG g-Force rubber (215/60 up front; 325/50 out back).

The exterior holds on to some of its original ’50’s panache by way of PPG Viper Red and Graphic Gray two-tone pigment.

Consisting of upgraded driveline and suspension components, Steve’s ’55 rides like a modern car while the exterior theme refuses to let go of its early muscle car heritage—an easy choice for our Top 10.

Car: 1967 Camaro
Owner: Mike Norcia
Issue: May 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

1967 Chevrolet Pro Street Camaro 6/23
1967 Chevrolet Camaro Big Block Engine 7/23

Pro Street Lives! Just ask Mike Norcia, owner of this 1967 Camaro RS he purchased back in 1978 for just $1,200 with only 34,000 miles on the clock.

Since then it’s gone through three transformations, and today it’s proudly waving the Pro Street flag. A naturally aspirated 572ci big-block resides under the hood, giving the F-body a more stealthy approach to the modern Pro Street motif—no huge roots-style blower protrudes through the hood, yet the massive rear tires and skinnies up front tell the story of what this car is all about.

A TREMEC TKO 600 five-speed mates up to a Ram flywheel and Force 10.5 dual-disc clutch and sends 600 angry horsepower to a Strange 9-inch rearend armed with 4.10 gears and 35-spline axles.

Today, cars of this nature have the ability to put down big horsepower and get driven on a daily basis—Mike takes full advantage of the fact. Hey man, it’s Pro Street 2.0 and it’s the real deal.

Also for real are all the positive social media comments we got on how cool people think this car is. If it’s good enough for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s good enough for our Top 10.

Car: 1966 Nova SS
Owner: Nathan Powell
Issue: July 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

1966 Chevrolet Chevy Nova 8/23
1966 Nova Small Block Chevy Engine 9/23

We’ve all heard hot rodders speak about how “stance is everything,” and nobody knows that more than Nathan Powell. When he acquired this 1966 Nova SS, it was nice but his quest for the perfect look required the absolute perfect stance, and he knew Alan Johnson at Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop (JHRS) in Gadsden, Alabama, shared his view on the subject so the two conspired together to make it happen. They tweaked the Detroit Speed front and rear suspension, stretched the rear wheelwells, and then went at the transmission and driveshaft tunnels.

Nathan slid a 383 small-block under the hood for a somewhat period-correct scene, but the 550 horsepower it kicks out brings it up to modern-day power standards.

Evod Industries built the one-off rollers (18x9.5 front; 18x11 rear) and Wilwood stoppers scrub off speed quick-like.

Greg Chalcraft at JHRS meticulously applied the PPG Black pigment resulting in a deep gloss finish that is second to none.

Great stance, amazing appearance, and a powerful small-block set the tone of this top-tier 1966 Chevy—another easy choice to make our Top 10 of the year.

Car: 1972 Vega
Owner: Evan Mathieson
Issue: July 2016
Photographer: Chris Shelton

1972 Chevrolet Vega 10/23
1972 Chevy Vega Big Block Engine 11/23

Typically, when a V-8 swap gets done in a Vega it tends to be a small-block. Evan Mathieson from Spokane, Washington, went big—big, like in 468 cubic inches big. The 1972 model belts out an estimated 640 hp and Mike isn’t shy when he says it’s quite a ride.

If you can’t quite place that color, that’s understandable—it’s Nason Ful-Base Jeep Rescue Green, far from the factory Oasis Green Poly. Bill Spurgin laid down the paint after he and Evan bodyworked the sheetmetal to death.

The Vega rolls on American Racing Hopster 15x4 wheels up front and 15x10 out back—all wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force rubber.

When it comes to building a Vega like this, the aftermarket doesn’t cater to your needs so it takes some creativity to make things work. It’s a different set of hurdles so we applaud Evan for sticking to his guns and coming up with a car that is unlike one you’ll come across anytime soon.

Thanks to our social media followers for getting this one on the Top 10 list.

Car: 2001 Camaro
Owner: Nick Licata
Issue: August 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

2001 Chevrolet Camaro Black Betty 12/23
2001 Chevrolet Camaro Ls3 Engine 13/23

Yes, we did it. We chose our own project car to be in the Top 10 of 2016, and not just because we make the rules, but because so many fourth-gen Camaro owners gave the car we affectionately named Black Betty props via email, social media, and in person. The 2001 Z28 (SS hood and rear wing) began its upgraded life a few years ago in the now-defunct Camaro Performers magazine and shortly after its demise we moved it over to Chevy High Performance. The sinister F-body relies on a stroked LS3 (416ci) in place of the LS1 that it came with because, well, because horsepower! It now makes 496 hp to the wheels.

The suspension features a full system from Global West and includes QA1 double-adjustable shocks. It handles like a beast.

Weld Racing RT-S S71 wheels (18x9 front; 18x10 rear) accent the car’s black exterior scene perfectly.

Tavis Highlander designed the subtle gray graphic and Seth Boldman at Aggressive Designs (City of Industry, California) applied the pigment and pinstripe accent.

Thanks to our readers for validating the fact that the Chevy High Performance fourth-gen Camaro project made the Top 10.

Car: 1966 Chevelle
Owner: Kent Matranga
Issue: September 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

1966 Blown Pro Street Chevelle 14/23
1966 Chevelle Supercharged Big Block Engine 15/23

It’s difficult to deny the fact that there’s something sexy about a classic muscle car with a big-ass blower poking out of the hood. It not only looks cool—it says, “this car doesn’t put up with any crap.”

That’s exactly the case with Kent Matranga’s 1966 Chevelle. And it’s hard to look away with that Blower Shop 8-71 supercharger staring you in the face as it sits atop a 572ci big-block. Its intimidating appearance coincides with the ominous look of the PPG Sapphire Blue hue. The attraction continues when you realize the car puts out 793 horsepower.

Underneath, the car sports an Art Morrison chassis with Kugel Komponents IFS and IRS damped by Romic single-adjustable shock absorbers. Wilwood brakes bring it all to a halt while resting behind a set of Billet Specialties Magnitude wheels (18x7 front; 20x18 rear).

Kent’s blown ’66 Chevelle is everything you’d find in a modern Pro Street build, and the fact that it gets street driven on a whim makes it that much cooler.

This one is all about our Top 10 of 2016.

Car: 1971 Camaro
Owner: Paul VanNus
Issue: November 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

1971 Chevrolet Pro Touring Camaro 16/23
1971 Chevrolet Camaro Ls7 Engine 17/23

Paul VanNus and his dad, Joe, own Dutchboys Hotrods in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and are responsible for some of the coolest rides in the country. With a growing, high-profile hot rod building business, Paul wanted to construct a car that would represent the shop and give it some additional attention. He noticed quite a few guys having success in the Pro Touring world with early second-gen Camaros, which was enough to get Paul’s wheels turning.

What started out as a complete basket case, Dutchboys turned into one of the baddest Pro Touring second-gen Camaros on the planet. Flared fenders and a multitude of other custom features accentuate the PPG Vibrance Checkered Past (burgundy) exterior.

Power comes by way of a 427ci LSX LS7 that churns out 600 hp to the tires. Suspension consists of a Detroit Speed Inc. front subframe and rear QUADRALink system. JRi coilovers tame the situation and Baer 6S calipers grip on 14-inch rotors on all four corners.

This is one car that you don’t necessarily need to see in person to understand how cool it really is, but if you get a chance to view it up close, you’ll have a new appreciation for what went into this killer Camaro. An easy pick for our Top 10 of 2016.

Car: 1959 Impala
Owner: Dan Zinke
Issue: November 2016
Photographer: Robert McGaffin

1959 Chevrolet Impala 18/23
1959 Chevrolet Impala Ls3 Engine 19/23

Dan Zinke is a fan of the big cars and especially the “bat wings” of the 1959 Chevy. In fact, in his eyes, the more wing the better. Although not alone, he’s one of the few willing to tackle the extra work that goes into restoring a 1959 Impala. And to make things even trickier, he went with the least-forgiving color in existence: Black!

The crew at Ken’s Klassics in Muscoda, Wisconsin, is responsible for the bodywork process, and T.J. Krueger gets props for laying down the PPG Black pigment in all its deep glossy glory. But this amazing ride is far from just another big boulevard cruiser; it’s powered by a 520hp LS3 massaged by Schwartz Performance in Woodstock, Illinois.

Schwartz dropped in a TREMEC T-56 six-speed transmission and American Powertrain hydraulic clutch assembly—an unlikely combination in a car this size, but this ’59 is anything but routine.

Baer 6S calipers and 14-inch vented rotors bring the portly Pro Tourer to a stop and work right in stride with the Schwartz Performance G-Machine chassis and four-link suspension system.

This unique piece gets our nod for being one of the most influential features of 2016, and we are happy to have it as one of our Top 10.

Car: 1955 Chevy 210
Owner: Craig Crawford
Issue: December 2016
Photographer: Grant Cox

1955 Chevy 210 Restomod 20/23
1955 Chevy 210 Ramjet Engine 21/23

There are some in our muscle car world who are convinced that Tri-Five Chevys have been done to death, with less meat on the creative bone than ever. But today, Tri-Fives are as hot as ever and have no problem adapting to just about every build style there is. With that said, Craig Crawford went a bit old school with his ’55 and took on the restomod approach. His intention was to keep the car’s original aura yet make a statement with big-block power. Done deal. A 502ci Ram Jet crate engine belts out a reliable 502 horsepower, enforcing its status as a stout daily ride.

A “California one-piece” frame was treated to Heidts 2-inch drop spindles and tubular control arms with the OE springs cut 1-inch for a raked “hot rod” stance. Out back, the stock springs were de-arched 2 inches and pocketed for proper continuity. The theme continues on with 15x6 and 15x10 American Racing Torq-Thrust II wheels surrounded by BFG T/A Radials (215/70 front; 325/50 rear).

Mark Bauer smoothed the surface then sprayed the shell in two-tone retro-style PPG White and Silver pigment.

Yeah, we dig it enough to put it on our 2016 Top 10 list.

11 is Greater Than 10

Car: 1970 Camaro
Owner: David & Pam Kountz
Issue: December 2016
Photographer: Tommy Lee Byrd

1970 Chevrolet Pro Touring Camaro 22/23
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Ls7 Engine 23/23

Because it’s our list we have the right to add one more car to our Top 10 feature cars of 2016 (Yes, we know, that makes 11) if we so choose—so we did.

David and Pam Kountz own Metal Brothers Hot Rods in Theodore, Alabama, and are responsible for this gorgeous 1970 Camaro. Yes, it’s slightly understated on the exterior due to its somewhat restrained hue, but this one still deserves a mention on our Top 10 list. It doesn’t scream for attention, yet once you look under the hood and discover the pissed-off 673hp LS7, you realize it carries enough attitude for just about every other car on the list. It’s understood that PPG Autumn Gold is not considered the most aggressive color, but what this car lacks on the outside is made up for elsewhere.

The second-gen rides on a full Detroit Speed suspension system accompanied by Wilwood brakes on all four corners. BFG 335/30-18 rubber resides on the business end while 295/35-18s ensure strict course navigation up front. Fikse Profil 5S wheels contribute to the Pro Touring device and emit the right amount of sporty flair.

Early second-gen Camaros are the hot ticket in the Pro Touring scene these days and this 1970 is concocted with a recipe for excellent street manners and plenty of attitude to be competitive on any given autocross or road course.

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