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I started a ground-up buildup on a '66 Chevelle that I've owned for 20 years, and I thought that it would be interesting to share my adventure. I probably should have started sharing sooner in the project as I'm sure many of you could have saved me some frustration as I've tried some things that didn't work so well!

In any event, I've owned my car for a long time and really enjoyed it. I built a 400hp 350ci for it about 15 years ago, put an M21 behind it with 3.08 gears and drove it everywhere. It was my daily driver much of the time I lived in LA. When I moved to MI, it was reduced to summer-time driving.

I had a complete Global West suspension and 2nd Gen F-car disc brake. The car was nothing fancy, but it was dependable and fun to drive.

So it was a tough decision to take the car apart, but the body was starting to show its age. Bondo can only hide rust so long, even if it is the more mild Southwest rust. So I completely disassembled the car and had it media blasted. That committed me to the project that I'll share here over the coming months. I intend to do an all-new suspension, LS engine, 6-speed manual trans and turn it into a much-more-fun-to-drive Pro Touring version of its former self. I love the classic lines of the Chevelles and won't do anything to mess that up. My goal for the car is to build a modern high-performance Chevelle that has the style of an old Chevelle.
 

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Good luck with the build! Your story sounds very similar to mine. I'll tell you though, the old tale about the build costing 50% more than expected is definitely true! I've had my car for over 20 years as well and it spent all of that time and at least as far as I know, it's whole life in Arizona. Well, we've been pulling fiber glass, putty, and seam sealer out of places I can't believe.

I had a budget and I'm already into the car for double that budget and it's nowhere near finished! :noway:

You can definitely buy a completed car for much, much less $$ and stress than restoring/building one. But, where's the fun in that? lol
 

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Nice project! Looking forward to seeing progress pics too!

I'm in Arizona and can attest that cars do rust here. Not as bad but Ive seen it.

I also agree about the budget thing. My LS conversion ended up more than twice what I thought it would be. But I also got some nice features that weren't in the original plan. Like A/C! And SC&C Stage 2+!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I've enjoyed cars both ways: buying them done and making some changes, and also tearing them down to nothing and doing everything. The ones I do everything to I get more attached to!
 

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Looking forward to seeing how this comes out - Cool project.... Let's see the progress pictures.
 

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So the first step of any frame-off build is total disassembly. This is actually the second time during my ownership of the car that it has come completely apart. It came to me as a frame and empty body shell. I was just out of high school and I put the thing together for about $1,000 including buying two parts cars for $300! Wish you could still find those kind of deals.

This time around, I spent 3 long days and worked the air tools hard taking the car apart. I'm sure this will look all too familiar to most of you.
 

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Looking good so far! Also looks very familiar, since I'm at a similar stage:



I guess I'm going to have to start my build thread pretty soon too. I just haven't come up with a catchy project name yet.
 

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Boy, does that look familiar! That's the right way to do it, though.

It's funny, there about six of us trying to think of a name for my project. It took longer to come up with a name than to do anything else on the car! And I don't really want the car to be called Blue Thunder when it's done...it's just my Chevelle. But it's nice to have a name on it for these threads.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A friend of mine suggested using photobucket or Flickr to post photos, so I'm trying that on this post.

The next stage in the project was media blasting. I took the car to Strip It All in Clinton Township, Michigan. They use a variety of media depending on what material they are blasting and what you want removed. All of my car was blasted with a mix of walnut shells and plastic media and then the rusty parts were blasted with aluminum oxide. The fragile parts, like the pot-metal taillight extensions, were glass beaded.

Most people cry when they get their car back from the blaster. Since I've had this car for so long and did most of the body work on it when I was a teenager, I knew what was hiding underneath. The car spent most of its life in New Mexico, followed by 12 years in LA and now 10 years in MI. In MI, it was barely driven and never in the winter. So the rust was the typical Southwest areas: fender pockets, quarter panels, door corners and floors. No roof replacement needed here!

From here, the car went to Advanced Body & Color in Imlay City, Michigan, for paint and body work.

I should also let everyone know that the car is pretty far along in the buildup at this point. I had a few people ask me to create a build thread on Team Chevelle for the car because I've learned so much. A lot of what was done on the car has worked out really well, and I hope to save some people trouble and money on the things that didn't work so well. When the car is completely done, I'll also share what performs well and some tuning info too. Over the next few weeks, I'll try to post a bunch to get everyone caught up to where the car is now.



This is a photo we set up with them blasting half the car. Pretty cool!


Here's some Bondo and screen magic that I crafted 20 years go. Pretty amazing it stayed in place for that long. Time to do this the right way now.


I suspect that this lead work was done at the factory. If not, it had to be a fix pretty early in the car's life.





A clean slate. Since I've owned the car for so long, I wasn't too surprised by what I found when everything except the metal was removed.



 

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Awesome! yes, photobucket is much better.

I think you should leave those big extensions between the body and frame, add some 35" tires and go off roading! :D Kidding of course. I do like that idea though, then you have access to the body and frame, without having to have room for both.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Lifting the body up like this let the guys at Strip It All media blast as much of the body and frame as possible. They can also lift the body off the frame once it's there, but I like the idea of having it bolted together. Especially if you don't know how much metal is left in your body.
 

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Awesome! yes, photobucket is much better.

I think you should leave those big extensions between the body and frame, add some 35" tires and go off roading! :D Kidding of course. I do like that idea though, then you have access to the body and frame, without having to have room for both.
I've actually got a buddy with a 67 sedan on 35's. Up high or down low they still look awesome.

This is gonna be really sweet build, I know that I'll be following alone for the duration.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The big one. I knew before we started that the passenger quarter panel was junk. Rust, a massive dent in the rear and some drilled holes from an old slide hammer a long time ago left only about 2 square feet of decent sheetmetal on the original.

Advanced Body & Color did all of the paint and body work. The owner, Tony Grzekalkowski, and his son TJ tackled this project first. This is a huge job and naturally things didn't fit right. Blame it on the new parts or the old body or whatever, but this is the challenge that everyone has to face when replacing sheetmetal on their Chevelle.

I used a full quarter panel from NPD. After looking at some of the patch panels, I'm convinced that a full quarter is the only way to go. It may not fit perfectly, but at least it has the right basic shape! It's made in Taiwan, as was all of the sheetmetal I got from NPD. My American muscle car is now 20% made in Taiwan!



Cutting the old panel off takes quite a bit of time. TJ carefully worked his way around the quarter, finding and cutting spot welds. In the trunk area, he used a cut off wheel to leave the weatherstripping lip in place. At the roof, you have to remove the factory lead before you can cut through the spot welds. Lots of patience required here to find everything that holds the quarter panel in place.


With every attaching point cut through, Tony and TJ could remove the quarter. It is now a nice wall decoration in my shop!



The trunk extension was also wrinkled in the accident that smashed the quarter panel. Tony marked the section that we would cut out. We found some rust in other parts of the floor. Ultimately, we should have got the one-piece trunk floor replacement. It would have been less man hours than replacing the multiple sections.

Our wheel tubs were in pretty good shape, with only the lower corner needing replacement for rust. Tony hand fabbed new pieces and TIG welded them in place.


This where the real fun starts. The flanges on the new panel are wider than the old. This lets you trim it fit your car, which means you'll be putting it on the car a lot of times before you're done. Tony and TJ worked their way around the quarter, marking and trimming until the fit was extremely good.


One of the biggest problem spots was getting the quarter panel to match the shape of the taillight extension. Tony really worked the panel and even worked the extension a bit to get them to look like they belonged together. He even split open the top of the quarter panel and welded it to move the top feature line so it would line up perfectly!


Once everything fit well, the welding could begin. Tony TIG welded most of it in place.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
I had Darrell Mayabb do an illustration for me to help visualize my concept for the car.


I'm hoping the car will look like a '60s SCCA Trans Am racer with a bit of modern flair. All of the trim will be removed from the outside, including all of the trim on the except the small bezels that old the taillight lenses in place. And it will be built to perform well on road courses, auto crosses, drag strip and the open road.

The color is a custom mix that Tony calls Brilliant Blue. It is a light metallic with a hint of pearl. The bumpers and grille will be coated in Cobalt Nickel by Advanced Plating. This is a bit different than black chrome.

So a bit of modern, a bit of Trans Am racing series, a bit of Smokey Yunick and a whole lot of my personal style.
 
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