When you are fortunate enough to be born into a home where the enthusiast gene thrives, the excitement of customized rides starts young and gets better with age. It's only natural that some amazing cars will eventually wind up in your garage. Sometimes the good fortune continues when your passion for cars and the need to make a living collide, creating the best of both worlds. That sums up the situation for Jamie Hurst in a nutshell. Based out of Thomasville, Georgia, he's been intrigued with vehicles as far back as he can remember, although he officially got started at age 16, thanks to a gift from his grandfather. That tired, old '73 Ford pickup was in bad shape but a donor truck helped with the rebuild. The motor was sent to a machine shop and the seats to the upholstery shop while Jamie worked on the rest. It was the beginning of an involvement that so far has lasted more than two decades. For the last nine years, Jamie has owned Hurst Custom Classics in Thomasville, beginning with selling restoration parts on the Internet, transitioning to hands-on factory and custom restorations of older cars, and currently expanding to modern performance upgrades on late-model vehicles as well.
Part of the joy of being in the business is the opportunity to pick up some amazing examples of automotive art. After having owned more than half a dozen high-performance Bow Ties in the past, Jamie came upon a car that he had been admiring since childhood. The '66 Chevelle was in pieces when he first saw it, but the plan was to breathe new life into the old classic, drive and enjoy it for a while, then make a quick profit. However, the rejuvenation process revealed a few more flaws that could be corrected with a simple scuff and reshoot. As every enthusiast knows, something strange happens when the car begins to direct its own rebuild.
After Jamie pulled the frame and sent it to Southern Powder Coating in Moultrie, Georgia, he put the body on a rotisserie and smiles when he recalls how the connection with the car suddenly got stronger. Before long, a Pro Touring theme developed and that original "scuff and shoot" flip car was already well on its way to becoming a family favorite! Jamie began the rebuild by replacing time-ravaged metalwork, adding new floorpans, trunk pan, and a patched rear quarter. New inner fender panels and hood made the car solid once again.
When Jamie purchased the car, the owner wanted to keep the original motor but had another, same-year block that came with the car. The 396cid V-8 was bored 0.020 over and fitted with Speed-Pro pistons on factory rods and crank. Ensuring a healthy mix of fuel and air is the 750-cfm Road Demon double-pumper carb on an Edelbrock Performer manifold. A COMP hydraulic camshaft activates the valvetrain with Harland Sharp 1.7:1 roller rockers directing the charge to factory iron heads. A PerTronix Second Strike box with a 6,500-rpm rev limiter and coil combine to trigger precisely timed internal explosions, while ceramic-coated Hooker Super Comp headers use a 2.5-inch exhaust system to feed a pair of mellow-sounding, Flowmaster 40-Series mufflers. Power from the healthy V-8 is multiplied by the Tremec TKO-600 five-speed transmission and fitted with a Hurst shifter. The new trans blended perfectly with the Pro Touring theme established for the car, especially since the Chevelle runs a 4.11:1 rear gearset. The overdrive top gear allows comfortable 70-mph cruising at about 2,000 rpm. Accents under the hood include a K&N filter, billet valve covers and air cleaner, along with a March billet serpentine pulley set. The AutoRad aluminum radiator and core support was powdercoated in clear to showcase the craftsmanship of this custom piece, augmented with a pair of Maradyne high-performance electric fans to ensure optimum cooling.
Jamie decided that the original lines of the car were too pretty to change and the paint is a respray of the original color, done in-house at Hurst Custom Classics. The shade is a PPG basecoat/clearcoat Maroon Metallic.
Rollers & Binders
While the car was still apart, the suspension was upgraded with a new Hotchkis TVS system incorporating tubular A-arms and 2-inch drop springs up front, along with a larger rear sway bar. Bilstein gas shocks on all four wheels stabilized the car and the four-wheel, 12-inch disc brakes are a combination of Hotchkis units up front and MBM versions in the rear. An AGR Performance close-ratio power steering box completed the upgrades. The changes created the just-right stance and significantly improved the car's handling. Giving a modern spin to a classic look, the Foose Monterey wheels use a split five-spoke design and Jamie chose 18x7s up front with 18x10s in the rear. The 225/45 (front) and 285/40 (rear) BFGoodrich g-Force radials added to the look and guaranteed a strong contact patch.
The interior makeover began with Second Skin sound-deadening material applied from the firewall to the rear panel. The factory seats were reupholstered in bone leather that Jamie sourced from Original Parts Group and installed himself. Black carpeting and a bone headliner completed the look. The South Georgia car is equipped with Hot Rod Air A/C and a Billet Specialties Fast Lane steering wheel that adds to the luxury feel. That namesake shifter resides in the center console that also holds a pair of auxiliary gauges and an oversize tach.
When the motor's quiet, the JVC stereo system accomplishes its share of entertainment with a KS-RF150 wired remote up front that controls the CH-X1500 12-CD changer mounted in the trunk. The Pioneer speaker mix includes a pair of 2-inch tweets in the dash, 6.5-inch component sets in the kick panels, a second pair of 6x9s in the rear package tray, and a pair of 8-inch subs in the custom trunk enclosure. Twin Rockford Fosgate amps will soon share that space and are on the short list of future updates.
The rejuvenation took 18 months of part-time work and, looking back on his original plan to move the car quickly, Jamie now says, "I really like having the car around, driving it to shows, or just taking it out for a cruise around town." His wife, Krissy, and their children, Ethan and Avery, are regular passengers. What does the future hold? After six years it might be time to implement that original plan and finally "flip" the Chevelle to a new home. Jamie is already starting his next personal car, a '70 Chevelle convertible. Special thanks go to his brother-in-law, Jeff Camp, for his help during the build.