To most, the '66 SS 396 Chevelle ruled by virtue of numbers. It was the ultimate, affordable wise-guy ride, and held much the same attraction for the adolescent masses as would the inevitable Camaro. A big-block engine, all the bling and visual trappings, and those SS runes pole-vaulted it miles beyond anything else on the Chevrolet A-body wish list.
We wanted a subterfuge, a cleaner, less-obvious assassin powered by an engine with millions of reliability miles behind it and no small reputation for ripping and tearing. With a free-flowing exhaust and some Holley and ignition tweaks, the 300lb-lighter small-block Malibu would eat unsuspecting 325 and 350hp 396s alive and shed nary a drop of oil.
In a hot minute, we forsook the poster boy and went for a seriously dark green Malibu hardtop carrying an RPO L79 325hp (actually 350hp) 327 and sheepish dog dish hubcaps.
At 43, Herb Lumpp is too young to remember those mad days; too far removed from the Horsepower Wars of the '60s. But now, you can bolt in a 500-1,000hp motor and move on down the road in confidence-never mind that the engine cost five times as much as the entire car in 1966. Herb's had a hot rod or two, though, and that's where he learned to take matters into his own hands and work the car himself. A bunch of Corvettes and Camaros later, he captured a '66 A-body of another stripe.
"The reason I built this car [the Chevelle] was so I didn't have to beat on my El Camino ("El Camino Real," Jan. '05). The paint was OK so I wasn't worried about messing it up," said Herb. "It was half-restored but not even close to being done. With that in mind, I set out to make it able to hold its own in various types of competition and events, such as the Maxton Mile, Run Through the Hills, and the Optima Street Car Challenge. I haven't had a chance to try the quarter-mile, but I plan to!"
While Herb subscribes to the Pro Touring notion and adheres to driving techniques and skills to navigate a road course quicker than the next driver and just as much as to thread cleanly through a line of cones. His car is strikingly refreshing because it isn't formulaic.
With his Chevelle, Herb has brought a fresh approach and the challenge of making a much heavier car frolic with the best of what's out there.
As a member of the US Coast Guard, Herb is very familiar with protocol and how an order must be executed. He drew his plan and stuck to it. Three years later, his ride was thumping and busting heads. Quite different than the rest, he eschewed the common LS engine for a back-in-the-day big-block. Considering the mission, he couldn't justify the expense of a double-overdrive transmission when a five-speed would suffice. With his safety being paramount, he built the rest of the car accordingly and didn't fall for a full-on chassis re-bop, either. Rather than construct an absolute standout of a car, but one that would suffer numerous minor gaffs in the commission of its duty, he played it cool, saved shekels, and drove the wheels off his new beater.
Herb used what appealed to him, not the packaged hardware most PT suppliants adhere to. Maybe he wanted to find his own way, choosing components that spoke good sense to him. He had a shop rig the eight-point rollbar and then took the project on his own. He replaced some body panels and put a lighter hood on it. He revamped the entire drivetrain, molding it for competition but maintaining its role and its purpose as a street-driven animal that eats asphalt and scatters the bones of the less wary in its wake. Yeah. And nobody helped.