We sure wish Hot Rod magazine had devoted more than just two pages to Fleet Thompson’s gasser-style 1966 Chevelle in its April 1968 issue. If it had, we could bring you more info on what photographer Eric Rickman called “this super-sano machine.”
Here’s what we do know. Thompson started the project about two years prior to Rickman’s December 1967 photo shoot, which means the SS396 was essentially brand new when the modifications began. The Chevelle went to Ron Scrima’s Exhibition Engineering for chassis work, which included a straight-axle riding a pair of leaf springs. The Chevelle’s rearend was swapped for one out of a station wagon with 4.56 gears. Airheart disc brakes were mounted up front, while the stock rear drums were upgraded with Velvetouch linings. Scrima also fitted the rearend with a set of traction bars mounted at the front to a fabricated crossmember that did double-duty as a driveshaft hoop. Astro mags mount the 6.85/7.35-15 front skinnies, while Cragars and M&H slicks provide the push.
Under the asymmetrically striped hood, the 396 was fed by four double-throated Weber carbs controlled via a Hydra-Link hydraulic throttle system and mounted on a Nordskog intake manifold. Not familiar with the name? Bob Nordskog was a champion offshore powerboat racer from the 1950s until his death in 1992; Rickman mentioned in the story that “he had become a sponsor of this car, getting away from his boating interests in this case.”
The engine was also fitted with a Crower 320 cam, lifters, and spring kit. The stock pistons, mounted on polished and shot-peened stock rods, were fly-cut to produce an 11.5:1 compression ratio.
The story abruptly ends there. We do know from reading sponsor names painted on the car that it was equipped with Cyclone headers, and that Longacre Automotive did some headwork. Other than that and the prominent Mickey Thompson finned valve covers, the engine remains a mystery.
Other mysteries: Rickman mentions a Hurst shifter “connected to a Muncie four-speed box having a 2.20 low gear ratio,” but we don’t know if that means M21 or M22 Rock Crusher. We can also tell that Thompson lavished a lot of attention on the car’s finish, including quite a bit of chrome plating, but Rickman’s truncated (we believe, anyway) story offers no credits. The callouts on the car read, Paint by: Carter; Plating: Van Nuys Plating. (Thompson is listed as living in Van Nuys, California.)
Rickman said Thompson started the project as a “nice clean street machine, but before he knew it, the whole project got completely out of hand. If it goes half as good as it looks, he has a real winner. The price tag stands at $7,200 ready to race, not to mention over two years of tender loving labor.”
We’d love to hear from any readers (out there, Mr. Thompson?) who can fill in some of these blanks.
Photos by Eric Rickman and courtesy of Petersen Publishing Archives