1966 Chevy Chevelle - Autobahn Conqueror

RS Performance's New Chevelle Chassis And Suspension Proves Itself On Track

Thomas J. Lyman Dec 27, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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A few short years ago, The Roadster Shop realized the potential of a purpose-built musclecar chassis after spending years in the street rod market. The company actually decided to found a separate division (under the same roof) to market the product, and called it RS Performance.

After searching out a musclecar make and model that would hopefully appeal to the masses, RS Performance decided on a chassis for '64-72 Chevelles, a choice made after looking at a few factors in the marketplace:

1) Popularity. Who doesn't want to drive a Chevelle? Just about any of the body styles are timeless, and nothing shouts musclecar at a local drive-in louder than an A-body.

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2) Relative availability. There are tons of them out there, from old, granny-driven '66s, on up to '72 Super Sports.

3) Original frame/suspension shortcomings. Let's face it, A-bodies are absolute slouches in the corners, and on the highways and byways around town for that matter. They handle like a two-year-old on a tricycle, plowing into things, sliding all over the place. This factor left RS Performance plenty of room to improve with its new design.

Says Phil Gerber of RS Performance, "There are three different year ranges for the Chevelle chassis: 1964-65 are the same, 1966-67 are the same, and 1968-72 are the same. The main difference is in the front and rear frame horns where they meet the bumpers. We build a specific chassis for each year. We also do the chassis for every model-hardtop, post, convertible, wagon, and El Camino."

The test mule for the chassis, the car that appears in these pages, was snatched up as a 60,000-mile, numbers-matching 1966 that was, it turns out, a grandma car, probably never taken up to the stratosphere of even 4,500 rpm. The build actually started out harmlessly: Jeremy Gerber, along with dad Neil and brother Phil, and a host of other Roadster Shop employees, originally planned for this to be a direct swap of the RS Performance Chevelle chassis-in with the new, out with the old, and the hulk of the original car would stay the same as it was. However, after further deliberations, the decision was made to turn this car into a true R&D machine, with a fully custom powertrain and killer exterior looks (not to mention the prototype chassis and suspension setup under the skin).

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The build took just seven months, and the Chevelle now packs a Bill Mitchell Hardcore Racing aluminum 540 big-block, with an Eagle rotating assembly, Mahle pistons, and World Products Merlin aluminum heads and solid-lifter camshaft. A single Hardcore 1050-cfm 4-barrel and Merlin X single plane intake cap things off. With a pump gas-friendly 10:1 compression ratio, the lightweight rat makes an advertised 685 horsepower and 685 lb-ft of torque.

Obviously, power is great, but when dealing with G-Machines and Pro Touring circles, it's equally (if not more) important that the car handle and stop. For its Chevelle chassis, RS Performance has spared no expense, while keeping the price tag on the affordable side. The RS Performance chassis, which starts at $15,495, includes just about everything you could want to make a Chevelle handle some of the most aggressive, twisty roads out there. To start, the front end carries a jointly developed Detroit Speed and Engineering/RS Performance-modified C6 Corvette spindle setup, with Afco remote-reservoir double-adjustable coilovers, tuned specifically to the application (in this case, the '66 test mule). There's also a splined sway bar that definitely helps with body roll.

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The rear is a four-link designed by RS Performance, with QA1 adjustable coilovers, and heim-jointed rod ends. The rear also packs a Ford 9-inch with heavy-duty 31-spline axles, designed to withstand massive amounts of loading. The frame itself is narrowed at the rear, in the expectation that customers will go wild with rubber, and can accept up to a 14-inch-wide rear tire.

With all this potential grip and nearly 700 horsepower, brakes and tires are critical. Wilwood 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors reside at all four corners, with 6-piston calipers in front and 4-piston calipers in back. While some would have snuckk in barely DOT-legal road race rubber to improve the track times, RS Performance went with Michelin Pilot Sport SP2 tires-high end sports car tires to be sure, but they are full-depth skins with a street compound. They measure 255/35R19 and 335/30R20 (fore and aft) and encircle 19x9 and 20x12-inch Boze alloy wheels.




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