How To Turn Chevelle Tires Into Dust, And A Big-Block Into Shrapnel

The candles on Dave Gibson’s 30th birthday cake have long-since been blown out, but his birthday present to himself is still smokin’! When he turned 30 years old, he drove to Tennessee, and picked up this ’66 Chevelle. At the time, the Chevy had a bench seat, three-on-the-tree, and a small-block. But, it was his dream car. In Dave’s words, “I thought I got a solid car.”

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Dave felt he had a “pretty solid car” when he purchased it. Of course, no one knew what might be hiding under paint and polish.

Soon after getting the car home, he nestled a 454ci big-block under the hood, and if you saw the video, you know that Dave uses the full range of the tall, skinny pedal, and he reports that the engine’s high-compression and pump-gas diet didn’t care for his “beatin’ it pretty good” driving style. That necessitated a new engine, which is a 498-cubed, aluminum-headed version of the 454.

The small-block and bench seat soon parted ways with Dave's ride. He installed more seats and more engine to make the car more to his liking.

While he was building the new engine he figured that it wouldn’t hurt to squirt a little paint on the Chevelle. But as snowballs often do, the project blew up quicker than the smoke clouds that regularly plume from the rear of this tire-shredding Chevelle. Dave says that once the blasting was done, it became evident he was up to his plumber’s cleavage in repairs, and he would have to go much deeper to do the project justice.

Andy

Photo credit: Brian Jones

This included a frame-off restification of the rolling chassis, while the body went to Blessing & Son Auto Restoration in Churubusco, Indiana. Dave reports, “They did great work! It took almost two years of work to get the body and paint done. They did it old school, they used lead instead of Bondo.”

Meanwhile, the drivetrain was being updated with the bored and stroked big-block that now pushes 481 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. Behind that hefty engine sits a Tremec five-speed transmission.

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When the originally transplanted big-block gave up the ghost, Dave went for durability. A pump-friendly 10.3:1 compression and aluminum heads help keep the ponies teetering at the 500 mark for the long run. Dave credits Mick Bodigon with building the engine.

Dave reports that the overdrive, coupled with the car’s 3.73 rear gear ratio, is great for highway driving. At 85 to 90 mph, the tach is only around 2,200 rpm. From a standstill, the effect of first gear is evident from the video. In the end, Dave reports, “It was a total nightmare. I spent too much money, but man am I glad I did!”

The chassis was thoroughly gone-over and rebuilt to handle the additional torque.

His family is glad he did as well. His wife and two kids enjoy the car as much as he does, which is saying a lot. Although he does keep his rambunctious right foot in check while the fam’ rides with him — most of the time.

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The entire Gibson family enjoys riding in the Chevelle. Any reason is a great reason to go for a spin!

When Dave isn’t scribbling his name in tire dust, he does actually put a few miles on the car going in a straight line. Since the car was completed in 2007, he’s racked up over 47,000 miles on the odometer. He’ll drive it to work, to get groceries, to take the family on a several-hour tours of the countryside, or simply to get gas. If it doesn’t need gas, that’s a good reason to go driving, so you can fill it with gas!

Dave's Chevelle looks great after all the work was completed. He tries to get some seat time in his Chevelle every chance he gets. He even tried to keep the feeling going while the car was under restoration!

We asked Dave what his favorite brand of asphalt crayons might be and he specifically stated, “BFGoodrich G-Force is what I have been running for years. The fronts last me quite a while, those rears though – not so much. I replace the rears about every summer and a half or so, maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get two seasons.” Dave says he can’t get enough of driving his Chevelle, it’s part of the family. Check out Dave’s video for all the details on the only Gibson family member that smokes!

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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