Living in the shadow of all the big-block-powered street crushers GM produced in the '60s, the high-performance small-block cars of the day had good reputations for taking on Brand X and coming out winners.
One of the top performers was the '66-67 L-79 equipped Nova. With high-revving 327s and lightweight bodies, the mouse-motored Chevy IIs caught more than a few big-block owners by surprise, especially when in the hands of racers like Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins.
Jerry Montgomery's favorite Bow Tie has always been the '66-67 Chevy II/Nova. In his eyes, the lines are perfection, the proportions beautiful, and overall a fantastic looking piece of Detroit iron. After building and later selling a Pro Street-style shoebox Nova, Jerry wanted another Chevy II project with a more street-oriented theme. On the outside the car needed to look stock except for wheels and tires, but underneath pack a modern punch equivalent of the L-79 cars from the '60s.
The foundation for the project was an all-original, rust-free '66 Chevy II sedan that Jerry found in Bedford, Ohio, in 1998. He liked the sedan because so many cars were hardtops that it stood out more. The previous owner had only been in possession of the car a few months after driving it back from Missouri, where the car had spent all its life. With too many projects already going on, the '66 with straight six power and three-on-the-tree gearbox was sold to Jerry, who drove it home, and over four summers enjoyed it as it was. Then the time came to treat the deuce to a complete rebuild with some modern flavor.
The entire car was stripped down, the body mounted on a rotisserie and the original paint removed, exposing virtually rust-free factory sheetmetal. The usual dents and dings were massaged out, the original chrome and stainless re-plated/reconditioned, and polished, and the body prepped for being coated in GM Torch Red paint from PPG. There would be no modifications, as in Jerry's eyes, GM did it right and it was hard to improve upon perfection.
While this was going on, a Martz Chassis front clip was assembled to take care of steering and suspension duties up front.
Out back, the factory monoleaf springs were scrapped in favor of multileaf units attached to a 12-bolt rear stuffed with Moser parts, 4.10 gears and a Posi unit. Putting the car back together, Jerry hand-fabricated a set of subframe connectors to give the Chevy II some extra structural rigidity. Wilwood brakes handle stopping duties at all four corners.
For power, Jerry wanted something modern, but paid homage to its L-79 predecessor. His choice was a GM Performance Parts Ramjet 350 mated to 700R4 transmission built by Stratton Transmission in Shelby, Ohio. With 350 hp at 5,200 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 3,500, the Ramjet mouse packed the same hp rating as the old L-79-more than enough to give the lightweight compact neck-snapping acceleration.
Inside, the Chevy II stock bench seat was recovered in tan leather by Huy Doan at Doan Upholstery in Mansfield, Ohio. Huy also took care of refurbishing the rest of the interior, including the custom-made door panels. Chevy II Only out of Mt. Washington, Kentucky, supplied replacement glass so vision was crystal clear inside the car.
To keep tabs on the crate engine, Jerry installed a Dakota Digital dash unit along with an ididit Inc. steering column and billet steering wheel. A Pioneer stereo supplies cruising tunes to complement the rumble of the small-block, while a Vintage Air Sure-Fit A/C unit keeps everyone comfortable. Finishing things off are a set of Budnik aluminum wheels with BFGoodrich G-force T/A rubber.
It took four years for Jerry to completely refurbish, modernize, and do his best to improve upon the perfection GM came out with in the fall of 1965, and from the looks his '66 manages to do just that.