We recently had a chance to crawl all over a new ride to the Chevy High Performance stable, an LS-powered 1966 Chevelle SS clone, owned by our own associate publisher, John Barkley. The basics include a carbureted 6.0L LQ9 engine out of an 2005 Silverado, a TCI Automotive 4L60E Street Fighter transmission, and a 12-bolt rear with 3.55:1 gears and a Posi unit—a combination that we felt was a great build for an attainable, modern-day muscle car. Even in this initial form, which still sports stock brakes and suspension, the snappy, button-shifted overdrive trans (trans can be fully automatic or manual button shifted at the flip of a switch) combined with the power of the LS makes driving the car a tire-barking fun time. If we didn't know any better, we'd think a carbureted big-block was lurking underhood, but that's only half-right. "The engine throws people off at car shows," Barkley says, about his late-model bullet. "Some stare for a while before asking, ‘Which engine is that?' Or, ‘When did Chevy release a big-block with coil-on-plug ignition?'" The Chevy Orange paint, individual header primaries, combined with the Z28 dual snorkel air cleaner, and separated runners of the intake manifold makes the engine look like some exotic GM secret engine from the 1960s, but in fact, it's a just a common truck engine from this decade with some carefully selected performance parts that makes this piece stray from your typical GM powerplant.
Over the past year, we watched a very simple setup come together, consisting of parts from companies like Holley, TCI Automotive, MSD, Aeromotive, Edelbrock and a handful of others that we felt made up an effective formula for any tire-smoker. While the '66 is not destined for any type of motorsport in particular, it's just a cool old car with an interesting engine and some features that made even a short cruise around the block a fun time. "The goal of the project is to be a comfortable driver that can be drag raced and taken to the autocross, but it will also be a compromise among all three," Barkley says. While we do have plans to take the Chevelle to the next level with some chassis parts from Detroit Speed Engineering, some more aggressive Cragar 18-inch wheels and stickier tires, and a Strange S60 rearend, until then we're enjoying tooling around in a Chevy that feels both nostalgic and modern, simultaneously.
THE ENGINE AND COOLING SYSTEM