Growing up Justin Nall watched dozens of cars come into his father George's garage. They would be covered in dirt and in need of repair, and leave shiny, roadworthy, and ready to find a new owner. George was a mechanic and the owner of a used car lot; flipping cars was a constant in the Nall household. The whole family would drive all the way out to Texas to purchase clean, rust-free cars and trucks for resale. This was their kind of family vacation. Justin knew that no matter how much he loved the new car Dad brought home, not to get attached. It wasn't until this '66 Chevelle Malibu, acquired in 1989, that a car had any longevity. "My dad liked the rare color and clean body of this Chevelle over others. With it being a solid runner, the Chevelle's upgrades took the back burner to other projects over the years. He was quick to build a 355ci small-block for it but, just as quickly, got sidetracked," Justin remembers. There was a hiccup in the '66's hibernation in 2003 when that 355 was adopted by their '67 Camaro convertible; it fell back into deep sleep for another half-decade.
Justin was always there to wrench alongside George through his teen years, but inevitably had to leave for college. Then, he moved on to buy a house. The two years after graduation were spent wiring, insulating, and finishing his new home's garage to accommodate the Chevelle's upcoming revival. In 2007, father and son sat down to discuss the direction of the biggest project they had taken on. Since George purchased the car back in 1989, he pictured a blower sticking out of the hood, a steep rake, and a tubbed rear. George is an old-school kind of guy. Justin on the other hand, being of a different generation, wanted to try something new. He wanted to bring some technology into the car.
In high school Justin drove a Typhoon. Remember those? They were a 3/4 small-block Chevy 4.3L GMC Jimmy with a turbocharger. Over the last 10 years he has improved and maintained the mini SUV, which taught him how turbo cars work and the luxury of fuel injection. Minnesota gets pretty cold so the no-fail morning startups and rock-solid idle spoiled the kid. When it came time to plan the build on the '66, Justin knew it had to be at least fuel injected but probably turbocharged like the Typhoon. Dad wasn't too hard to turn, since he drove that first Typhoon home for Justin and has since bought three for himself. He understood why the incorporation of technology rather than a throwback to the '80s would be more fun.
Friends of Justin's had performed LS transplants but until this project, Justin hadn't. He looked forward to seeing what all the fuss was about. He scored a 6.0L/4L80E combo from a wrecked truck. There was no need to completely rebuild the engine so Justin tossed some upgraded rod bolts, a cam, timing set, and a fresh pair of head gaskets on it to keep up with the planned turbo. The rotating assembly and other seals were left alone. "I'm the last person of the family to want an automatic in a muscle car, but considering we would be going drag racing with a turbo it made sense. Also, my mom wanted to be able to drive occasionally," Justin says.
The Midwest is definitely the epicenter for E85. Though costs used to be dramatically less, it's inching its way up to the price of standard gasoline. This didn't stop Justin from making the swap. "It's still a heck-of-a-lot cheaper than race fuel," he says. Without it the 16-plus pounds of boost pushing through an already healthy 9.4:1 compression engine would destroy it. This combination would award them with mid 10-second quarter-mile times in the 133-mph range in initial shakedown passes. Despite a 15-inch wheel and Drag Radial tire, the 767 rear-wheel horsepower was too much and Justin struggled to peddle the car through the eighth-mile mark where he finally hooked up. Justin knows, "A drag-only car is doomed to live on a trailer as most race cars do, but this car was not built for one purpose. We wanted a drag/autocross/street car that only traveled under its own power."
The part-time build took the duo two years to complete. Each having a job and family of their own meant finding balance in the amount of time they spent on it. Their efforts produced a ride that will surely become a family heirloom. Others have come and gone, but this one will stay.