How often is a father’s choice of a classic Chevy project inspired by the car his daughter owns? Our guess is that it doesn’t happen much. But the Gibbs family obviously has a thing for Bow Tie–wearing A-bodies.
“My wife and I belong to a Chevelle and El Camino car club with my recently restored ’72 El Camino,” according to Richard Gibbs, the family patriarch. “My 15-year-old daughter Candace had fallen in love with a fellow club member’s ’67 Chevelle and wanted a car like it of her own. We located a ’66 that needed a complete rebuild from the ground up. It took all three of us two years to restore her car, with me doing most of the work. I enjoyed the car so much that I had to have one of my own.”
See what we mean?
The ’66 you see before you was purchased about six years ago when Candace was 18 and the A-body was a basket case. But Richard, wife Debbie, and Candace, started tearing into it in the family garage. At first, the goal was just to make it a running vehicle, but the next thing you knew, “the passion grew as we continued the build. We must have changed our minds a dozen times or more on paint, interior, and features the car would have,” according to Richard. Richard reassembled the car, which came with the nose off, to assess what he’d bought. As Debbie says, “It wasn’t much. It was terrible.” She and Richard have been building hot rods for the entire 35 years of their marriage, but this one presented a particularly huge challenge. The car was taken to a body shop, the body separated from the frame, and the chassis dragged back home. Richard, Debbie, and Candace stripped it down for media blasting, ground all the welds smooth, and repaired what was needed.
“It’s very enjoyable to see my wife and daughter with dirty faces and using power tools,” Richard says, and we can only imagine how right he is.
It was Debbie who did the lion’s share of the work on the chassis prep. “I spent three weeks, eight hours a day, under there with a die grinder and Scotch-Brite pads to get it ready for paint,” she told us. There are 18 coats of paint on the car and the undercarriage, ergo it had to be as perfect as the body before color was applied. There are 18 coats of Almond Beige under there (plus clear).
As good as the undercarriage looks, the top is what steals the show. Custom World Auto Body in Irwindale, California, shaved the door handles and trunk lock, flatted the firewall, and filled the cowl panel and wiper holes. It also smoothed the door jambs and inner fenders. Custom also handled the paint, which is a mix of House of Kolor Red Pearl, PPG Almost Beige Pearl, and tribal graphics.
Except for the chrome, there’s nothing too out of the ordinary in the engine compartment. The mill is a Tuned Port 350 with a mild cam and Sanderson’s headers with CGS Motor Sports 2-1/2-inch exhaust. The valve covers are CNC-engraved with “R&D Designs” spelled out on the top. It is mated to a Turbo 350 that’s operated by a shifter out of a Chrysler 300. The stock rear has 3.35:1 gears.
The suspension is mildly tweaked as well. Classic Performance Products 2-inch drop spindles, Monroe shocks, and a 1-1/4-inch front sway bar were added. There are 13-inch front and 12-inch rear discs with chromed calipers, also from CPP. Wheels are Foose Legends (18x8 and 17x7) surrounded by Goodyear Eagle tires (255/45R18 and 225/45R17). Danny Romo of A&C Upholstery in Azusa, California, did some pretty slick work covering the seats in “Sand” and “Light Sand” leather. The floor is covered in matching wool carpeting. Instrumentation is from Dakota Digital, and a Sniper wheel from Newstalgia allows Richard to steer the A-body.
Of all the cars they’ve built over nearly four decades, the “Red Pearl” is Richard and Debbie’s favorite and we can see why.