Growing up Justin Nall watched dozens of cars come into his father George's garage. They would be covered in dirt and in need of repair, and leave shiny, roadworthy, and ready to find a new owner. George was a mechanic and the owner of a used car lot; flipping cars was a constant in the Nall household. The whole family would drive all the way out to Texas to purchase clean, rust-free cars and trucks for resale. This was their kind of family vacation. Justin knew that no matter how much he loved the new car Dad brought home, not to get attached. It wasn't until this '66 Chevelle Malibu, acquired in 1989, that a car had any longevity. "My dad liked the rare color and clean body of this Chevelle over others. With it being a solid runner, the Chevelle's upgrades took the back burner to other projects over the years. He was quick to build a 355ci small-block for it but, just as quickly, got sidetracked," Justin remembers. There was a hiccup in the '66's hibernation in 2003 when that 355 was adopted by their '67 Camaro convertible; it fell back into deep sleep for another half-decade.
Justin was always there to wrench alongside George through his teen years, but inevitably had to leave for college. Then, he moved on to buy a house. The two years after graduation were spent wiring, insulating, and finishing his new home's garage to accommodate the Chevelle's upcoming revival. In 2007, father and son sat down to discuss the direction of the biggest project they had taken on. Since George purchased the car back in 1989, he pictured a blower sticking out of the hood, a steep rake, and a tubbed rear. George is an old-school kind of guy. Justin on the other hand, being of a different generation, wanted to try something new. He wanted to bring some technology into the car.
In high school Justin drove a Typhoon. Remember those? They were a 3/4 small-block Chevy 4.3L GMC Jimmy with a turbocharger. Over the last 10 years he has improved and maintained the mini SUV, which taught him how turbo cars work and the luxury of fuel injection. Minnesota gets pretty cold so the no-fail morning startups and rock-solid idle spoiled the kid. When it came time to plan the build on the '66, Justin knew it had to be at least fuel injected but probably turbocharged like the Typhoon. Dad wasn't too hard to turn, since he drove that first Typhoon home for Justin and has since bought three for himself. He understood why the incorporation of technology rather than a throwback to the '80s would be more fun.
Friends of Justin's had performed LS transplants but until this project, Justin hadn't. He looked forward to seeing what all the fuss was about. He scored a 6.0L/4L80E combo from a wrecked truck. There was no need to completely rebuild the engine so Justin tossed some upgraded rod bolts, a cam, timing set, and a fresh pair of head gaskets on it to keep up with the planned turbo. The rotating assembly and other seals were left alone. "I'm the last person of the family to want an automatic in a muscle car, but considering we would be going drag racing with a turbo it made sense. Also, my mom wanted to be able to drive occasionally," Justin says.
The Midwest is definitely the epicenter for E85. Though costs used to be dramatically less, it's inching its way up to the price of standard gasoline. This didn't stop Justin from making the swap. "It's still a heck-of-a-lot cheaper than race fuel," he says. Without it the 16-plus pounds of boost pushing through an already healthy 9.4:1 compression engine would destroy it. This combination would award them with mid 10-second quarter-mile times in the 133-mph range in initial shakedown passes. Despite a 15-inch wheel and Drag Radial tire, the 767 rear-wheel horsepower was too much and Justin struggled to peddle the car through the eighth-mile mark where he finally hooked up. Justin knows, "A drag-only car is doomed to live on a trailer as most race cars do, but this car was not built for one purpose. We wanted a drag/autocross/street car that only traveled under its own power."
The part-time build took the duo two years to complete. Each having a job and family of their own meant finding balance in the amount of time they spent on it. Their efforts produced a ride that will surely become a family heirloom. Others have come and gone, but this one will stay.
This perimeter frame got some massaging to fit the late-model engine and transmission swap. The front crossmember was notched to clear the CTS-V LS oil pan, and the transmission crossmember was moved back and redrilled to accommodate the 4L80E. The team also boxed the rear frame section behind the axle and the control arm mounting points. The front got QA1 coilovers with 450-pound spings, a Hellwig 1.25-inch sway bar, and Jeep Grand Cherokee steering box with an ididit column. The rear suspension uses QA1 adjustable shocks, and a matching 1.125-inch Hellwig sway bar.
Wheels & Brakes
The high-tech replacements didn't stop at the engine and transmission. The front and rear brakes came from an '02 Camaro. The four-wheel disc conversion called for '70 Chevelle spindles and modification to a set of drum hubs. Rather than spending half the value of the vehicle on fancy custom billet wheels, they found a set of forged BMW M-Series 18x8 and 18x9.5 wheels that fit just right. Their do-everything tires are Michelin Pilot Sport AS Plus in 245/45R18 and 275/40R18 front to back. They work great but may need to be swapped for the dragstrip passes if they hope to get into the 9s.
There's nothing quite like factory paint; they just don't make it like they used to. This Lemonwood Yellow body is as it was out of the factory in the '60s. The engine bay however, was not. They stripped the firewall down, smoothed it, and replaced the factory heater box with one from a Nova for a better fit. They also modified the core support and inner fender for turbo accessory clearance, and fitted a 17-pound Braille battery into the fender.
Engine & Drivetrain
The totaled pickup on the donor list gave up its 6.0L LQ4 iron-blocked Gen III and 4L80E overdrive automatic. Other than crunched-up sheetmetal, this truck didn't have engine problems so an ultrabasic rebuild was performed. The factory rod bolts were swapped for ARP units, a suggestion made by one of his LS buddies. The rest of the rotating assembly was left alone. They junked the factory cam for a COMP hydraulic roller with 0.598/0.591-inch lift and 234/230 degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift on a 116 LSA. The rest of the valvetrain was upgraded to match with a COMP timing set, Lunati dual valvesprings, and Trick Flow pushrods. They popped the cylinder heads off to inspect the pistons and for a fresh set of LS9 multilayer gaskets and ARP head studs. The extra air provided by the turbo would need more room so they chose an Edelbrock ProFlo intake manifold with ProFlo fuel rails and a factory throttle body welded and ported by Justin. The Precision GT4276 turbo would need extra attention, especially with the use of E85. The big deal would be fuel delivery. A combination of AN-10 and -8 feed and return fuel lines with a MagnaFuel 4303 fuel pump and Aeromotive boost referenced regulator would supply the rich mix through 80-pound injectors. HP Tuners Pro 3 bar OS tuned by CJ Tunes of St. Paul, Minnesota, make the stock truck PCM control the engine and transmission. The extra deep truck oil pan was swapped for a slimmer CTS-V model and plumbed to feed the turbo. Factory truck iron manifolds were flipped for a forward and upward exit, making the turbo hookup possible. From the turbo is a 4-inch stainless downpipe, QTP electric cutouts, and 4- to 3-inch stepped stainless Pypes A-body kit with Race-Pro mufflers. The transmission just got a simple rebuild, Transgo HD2 shift kit and PTC 3,400-stall lockup converter. Out back is a factory 12-bolt from a '68 Chevelle equipped with 3.73:1 gears and the factory clutch-type Positraction unit.
Despite all the techy stuff throughout the car, they aimed to keep the interior as close to stock as possible. They both didn't want to turn it into a race car and put in a rollcage, which would surely do that. The only hints that it's a 750-plus wheel horsepower car on the inside are the Auto Meter 5-inch tach plus water, volt, and oil pressure gauges and the AEM O2 readout next to the Turbosmart Eboost2 controller on the dash. Other than that, it looks like a factory A-body. All of these items were wired into the engine bay by Justin to accomplish the cleanest installation possible