To varying degrees, the cars we drive are extensions of our personalities. You may not think that's the case, but it's true. Know how to prove it? Drive a car you'd be embarrassed to be seen in. This happens at the Hertz counter on every trip I take. "Here's the key to your four-door Versa, sir." Great. Then I drive to the photoshoot, racetrack, or car show wishing I had a bag on my head. Friendly jabs of "nice rental" often greet me on these trips. Rightly or wrongly, we constantly evaluate peoples' appearances in social situations to gain insight into their personalities, and for us enthusiasts, the car factors in as much as anything else.
Lucky Costa is, of course, one of the hosts of Hot Rod Garage, our company's how-to series running on Motor Trend OnDemand. His ebullient and wisecracking personality is genuine, and his 1966 Chevelle is just as hilariously irreverent as he is. Working alongside HRG host Tony Angelo, the duo has built some pretty cool cars in the last three years, but Lucky has been building cars for a lot longer than that.
A self-taught mechanic, he got into the biz installing in-car audio and cellular phones in the 1990s. Younger folks may have a hard time comprehending this, but there was a time when telephones were physically connected to things: mounted on a wall in your house, say, or installed in a person-sized box on street corners called a phone booth. It was a revolutionary thing when people began installing them in cars, and Lucky rode that wave, becoming an electronics whiz in the process. Later, he was called on by area body shops to rebuild instrument panels damaged after the car's airbags deployed, solving the various electronic gremlins that resulted. That's the origin of his business, Mobile Tech Lucky, and he was soon working for more than a dozen dealerships and collision shops in Los Angeles, diagnosing and repairing electrical problems.
Those skills have served him well, and he's always been able to find work no matter where he found himself, even spending a few years in Frankfurt, Germany, where he immediately found work restoring and maintaining "exotic" cars brought to Germany by soldiers at the nearby U.S. Army base. The exotic cars were, of course, Mustangs, Camaros, and even mundane passenger cars like Chrylser Pacificas that had a check-engine light illuminated. Lucky had the tools to diagnose those American cars and made a decent living while there.
Back in the States, Lucky got some TV time on Overhaulin', first hired as one of the crew to finish up the builds and later as part of the on-camera talent. He ended up on Hot Rod Garage the same way, originally hired to help finish some of the Roadkill builds. His 1966 Chevelle was actually a Super Chevy project car. Lucky was friends with Sam Head, father of then-staffer Calin, who purchased the car to work on for the magazine. Lucky bought it as a roller from Calin for $5,500 in 2012 and got to work assembling a budget drivetrain for it. Scrounging eBay and Craigslist, he built a wickedly fun car for not a lot of money. It's loud and fast and stripped of most amenities, so it's very tactile and engaging. The lack of carpet or sound-deadening means you can hear the car working. The 6.0 makes plenty of torque, so burnouts are just a mere flick of the ankle away, and like the Primus song, Lucky lights 'em up just for fun. This Chevelle is in every way a mechanical extension of his personality—brash, fun, and just a bit rough around the edges.
Who: Raymond Lucky Costa (Lucky is his real middle name)
What: 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle, the "ChevHell"
Where: Torrance, CA
Engine: It's a low-mileage 6.0 truck engine Lucky bought for $1,000. He eliminated the displacement-on-demand parts, changed the cam, and added a set of MLS head gaskets and ARP head bolts. The engine is otherwise stock. Lucky built the bracket to relocate the ignition coils to the firewall, and the engine is cooled by a BeCool radiator and a pair of Spal fans. That's a road-constriction sign at the base of the air cleaner, which seals it to the functional cowl-induction hood from Original Parts Group. Holley's HP EFI runs the show, and Lucky can alter the tuneup through the 7-inch touchscreen dash-mounted next to his gauge cluster.
Transmission: Lucky bought a used T56 out of a Pontiac GTO from a friend who specializes in manual-transmission rebuilds.
Exhaust: Long-tube headers from eBay lead to a 2-1/2-inch Magna Flow dual-exhaust system Lucky built with an X-pipe.
Suspension: A full Chris Allston Chassisworks suspension gives the Chevelle its killer stance. Components include their drop spindles, A-arms, trailing arms, and springs and shocks.
Brakes: The front brakes consist of CPP's 13-inch rotors and two-piston calipers. Baer's rear disc conversion assist out back. Lucky has an adjustable proportioning valve mounted inside the passenger compartment next to the driver seat so he can adjust the brake bias while driving. He also installed a line lock to aid in the smoky burnouts seen in these pictures.
Rearend: It's a fabricated 9-inch from Chris Allston with 4.11:1 gears on an Eaton Detroit Truetrac differential. When former owner Calin purchased the car, it had a 12-bolt with welded-up spider gears.
Wheels/Tires: Nitto NT555 rubber is mounted on 17-inch American Racing Torque Thrust wheels: 245/45 ZR17 and 315/35 ZR17, front to back. Lucky and Tony installed mini-tubs on the Chevelle for an episode of Hot Rod Garage.
Interior: The rollcage is from Chassisworks and was modified and installed by Bare Metal Fabrication in Carson, CA. Amadeus Upholstery made the rear seat pad, and the front seats are from a Hyundai Tiburon that Lucky found on eBay for $300 delivered. They are extra comfy for long road trips. Lucky did all the wiring and installed a Vintage Air underdash HVAC system.