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Have a project just starting on a 66 Chevelle for a longtime customer in Wyoming. Its starting out with a very nice stock chevelle body that seems to need nothing, stock black interior, small block with headers and 4 bbl, and a powerglide on the column. This is an exceptionally clean car with a 'blah' drivetrain, and the owner has decided to change a couple things to make the drive a bit more exciting, while focusing on driveability and reliability. We will be posting pictures of this adventure as we pull the body off, rip out the entire drivetrain, exhaust and most of the suspention, and replace it with a bunch of hand picked upgrades. These will include a custom built pump gas friendly 500 horsepower 454, Keisler 5 speed, fresh 12 bolt rear end, Magnaflow exhaust system, CPP front disc brake conversion, and a bunch of Hotchkis suspension pieces, just to mention a few.

Pictures of the process to be posted as it progresses 

66 Chevelle BEFORE Small block an 'glide in a very clean engine bay

Pulling the body off the frame Body on storage dolly
With the front clip removed as one piece, the body is unbolted from the frame, gas tank is removed and straps are attached to the front and rear from overhead hoists. Lift it up and once the body is off, it is stored on a roll-around cart.

Bodyless frame and running gear. Rusted body mount
With the body removed, we begin to see some of the tell-tale signs of a few mishaps and normal decay of a 41 year old car. 8 of the body mounting brackets had rusted, but not as badly as most. Also found a bend or 2 in the rear areas of the frame rails, and the frame was slightly twisted down on one side. May have had a 'bump' or two in the rear at some time. These things are normal, to a degree, and generally much worse. Nothing that cant be fixed. 

Body mount repaired Headed to the powdercoaters

Left picture shows one of the repaired body mounting holes. With the holes repaired, the rest of the frame is stripped--all the front suspension is removed, and bushings and ball joints are removed from the pieces. The repaired frame, control arms and attaching hardware is then taken to the powder coaters, where it will be media blasted, and bake finished in a satin black finish. In about 5 days, the frame and suspension pieces come back better than new.  

Grandmas small block and powerglide: nice but... Bfians new 500 Horsepower Fatdaddy
With the frame off to the powdercoaters, we have some time to prepare the pieces to go back together with. First is the engine: aTuff Dawg Engine from D & J Machine and Performance in Phoenix AZ (602-395-0800 ). This is rated at 500 horsepower on pump gas. We thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and break in the cam on the test stand beforehand. Any leaks or problems can be addressed outside the car easier on this stand. It is run at 2000 RPM for 20 minutes upon initial fire-up. There were no problems. The home made zoomies were for nothing more than sensationalism and looks, as well as to alert the neighborhood we had a new project going. It worked. The zoomies will be replaced with a new set of ceramic coated Hooker competition series headers, when it goes in the car, of course.

Bare powdercoated frame. One of the repaired mounting holes
Frame is back from powdercoaters and sitting on jackstands awating assembly. The rusted body-to-frame holes turned out visually and structurally as nice as they were when new.

Fresh 12 bolt rear end and Hotchkis suspension pieces Front suspension and disc brakes hung in place.

Fresh 12 bolt rear end with 373 posi gears, Hotchkis adjustable links and mongo massive sway bar. Pushed polygraphite bushings into the upper and lower front control arms, new inner and outer tie rod ends, springs, upper and lower ball joints, complete CCP disc brake conversion, and another gorilla sized sway bar for the front. Everything seems to be going together easily due to the quality of the parts involved, combined with clean pieces to work with.

Keisler 5 speed components Engine and trans installed

Picture on the left shows a pile of parts that will be the Keisler 5-speed. They provide all the parts needed to go from an automatic to a manual--everything from the bolts that hold on the new billet flywheel, to the bolts that hold in the new drivshaft. Clutch pedal and correct brake pedal, shifter handle, fresh cast bellhousing, hydraulic throw out bearing, floor hump and all.

Picture on right is the whole engine and trans installed. After its in, you give Keisler a static measurement and they build a driveshaft for your specific application. It shows up in a couple days.

Drivetrain complete and body back on Continued assembly...
With the brake and fuel lines installed, and the drivetrain in place, the body was installed on new urethane insulators. Passenger side inner fender and radiator core support needed replaced due to an exploded battery years ago. With the new core support in place, the rest of the pieces go on the front end. Super killer radiator with fans was a good insurance plan to keep things cool. Once the front end is all in place, underhood wiring and MSD box will be installed. Then the car goes up to install the 3" Magnaflow exhaust.

'Clearanced' tunnel with new metal Now ready for carpet
To provide room for the slightly larger diameter 5 speed transmission, some of the tunnel must be removed. The pieces that are removed look like quite a big hole, but once the overlay metal is in, you cant tell anything was done. Here, we show that the overlay pieces are tacked in place, seam sealed around the edges and then coated with POR15. With the carpet installed, the whole thing looks just like a manual transmission car would have. Note: before going very far into a manual conversion of any kind, inspect the floors carefully for rust. This will give you an idea if there is other repair work to be done in the area around where you will need to weld to. Massive rust in the floors make it difficult to weld to, and that includes fiberglass repairs.

Magnaflow exhaust installed--finally 3 system with stainless mufflers and X pipe

This is what the exhaust looks like, after its installed, and before finish trimming the tailpipes. Magnaflow exhaust uses some of the highest quality pieces that I have ever seen in a complete system. In the box, or laid out on the floor it is quite an impressive kit. Thats as far as it goes. Obviously adapted from a 2-1/2" design and transferred to 3", it totally becomes a nightmare. There are clearance and fittment issues that could have been cleared up at the factory by modifying a few bends here and there. An assembly job that should have taken a few hours turned into a 2 day job that required heating and dimpling pipes to clear the gas tank and upperaxle struts. The X pipe assembly was welded crooked at the factory and needed to be tweaked for the system to sit level. Magnaflow did offer to let us contact the distibutor to get a new one sent to us in a 'few weeks', and we declined due to time constraints. The instruction page was vague and elusive at best, and could have been improved with some pictures of an installed system at least. All the joints, clamps and flares worked and fit well. Its a good thing because it had to come apart and together countless times.

Now that its installed, it looks to be a very clean system that should flow well. Ground clearance could be better but it doesnt look obviously low. Its a nice system that looks good installed. High quality materials and very clean bends for 3". Once the car is operational, we shall see if the hassle of installation is worth the effort.

 Just hope it doesnt sound like Flowmasters. 

Chicks dig it Done deal

After trimming the tailpipes, the exhaust work paid off. Sounds great. Quiet yet very noticeable exhaust note that didnt sound like Flowmasters.

The overall finished product looks just like it did when we started, on the outside, and hardly anything other than the shifter on the inside. Pop the hood or crawl under it and its a whole different animal. Engine was flawless from the first time it was started, transmission and every other piece also was beyond expectations. Through the first 4 gears it actls like a low geared street car should, shredding the tires in any gear at will. In 5th the engine has way more than enough power to send the car beyond the limits of the tires speed ratings and the aerodynamic envelope of the body. I dont know how fast the car will go, but I know that either the tires will fly apart or the car will leave the road before it runs out of gas pedal. It is truly a overpowered brute at any speed, yet very driveable. Starts cold and hot easily, very manageable at low speeds or in traffic, and still has the correct gearing to run down the road at any speed you are brave enough to drive it.

Mission accomplished.