When Tom Farrington bought this 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle, it was Memorial Day weekend of 2002, and the world was a very different place. It was a time when fuel prices were but a sliver of what they are today, and the fear of accidentally pushing the “internet button” on your cell phone brought with it images of bank account-crippling overage fees.
At the time, Tom’s wife Debbie (or Deb, as many prefer to call her) had just popped by for a visit at the Army communication school he was attending in Sacramento, CA. While discussing the future, the two found themselves returning to the topic of their shared passion for classic GM muscle cars and how, if they were going to own another Chevelle, the Sacramento area would be the place to score one. And faster than you can say “whiplash,” a 1966 Chevelle materialized in a local trader’s paper, and thus the process began once again.
But don’t get your driveshaft twisted. The ride pictured here is by no means this couple’s first rodeo with Chevy’s signature Chevelle. Ever since Tom and Deb first began dating in high school in the early 1980s, ’66 and ’67 Chevelles had been their wheels of choice.
As the tale goes, this adoration of Chevelle’s traces back to Tom’s old man, a lover of all cars, who unfortunately had never been an owner of anything genuinely remarkable. Muscle cars, exotics, street rods, caged race prototypes, pretty much everything had a place in Tom’s dad’s heart, but never in his garage.
Interestingly enough, Tom and Deb’s offspring got the couple into racing. After driving Deb’s ’64 Chevelle wagon down to Chevellabration in Goodlettsville, TN, the father/son duo discovered that Detroit Speed sponsored a small autocross event. Moreover, it was running the wagon on a track that brought with it a rush that bordered on the inexplicable, with one pass being all that was required to get the Farrington fam hooked.
Categorized as a “pro-touring” specific chassis, the old wagon did alright on track, despite never having been considered as something the family thought of as race-worthy. However, a quick call back home to Deb confirmed that the GM enthusiasts were changing directions with their builds from there on out, and just like that, road courses and more were suddenly on the roster.
Before that fateful track day, Tom’s tale had been one that can be summarized as a “rust-to-riches” saga, complete with decrepit Chevy relics, incomplete engine swaps, wrecked Mustang GT’s boasting bald tires and treacherous intentions, and every ounce of 1980s NASCAR nostalgia one can imagine. In short, it was the greatest and most embarrassing era imaginable.
After bringing the shell seen here back to Indiana, where Tom serves as an Indianapolis firefighter and Indiana Army National Guardsman, the act of online parts sourcing kicked into high gear. But when Tom was sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, the task of picking up parts for the build fell squarely on Deb’s shoulders. Throughout Tom’s deployment, his wife traveled all over the country picking up pieces, with nary a complaint on her end to be heard. Just one more reason why marrying a car enthusiast is a solid decision.
When Tom returned safely back to American soil months later, Deb had nearly everything the Chevelle needed, and thus the build began in earnest. Just a few days before Memorial Day 2010, the Chevelle build was nearing completion, as thoughts of seeing the vehicle out on track for the first time circled around everyone’s skull. But these visions went up in smoke the night before the event, when an electric cooling fan decided to crap out, leaving the muscle machine without a form of forced air.
Nevertheless, the Farrington’s decided to trailer the vehicle to Putnam Park, as the road course portion of the venue was little more than an hour from their home. Praying that the engine would run cool at full speed on the track, Tom hit the tarmac and was rewarded with zero overheating issues. But, unfortunately, the build’s non-baffled oil pan and the absence of an Accusump setup proved to be no match for the track’s sharp corners and inevitable oil slosh, which led to a nasty knock, and just like that, track fun was over.
Forcefully removed from the weekend’s race plans, the realization that the nearly decade-long build was slated to make it down to Chevellabration the following week suddenly had left everyone on edge. So that following Monday morning, the engine was out, a baffled road race oil pan was ordered, the crank was turned, new bearings were installed, and the motor was back in and running by Thursday afternoon.
After that, things went fairly well for the fam, with events like “Run Through the Hills” in Pigeon Forge earning their Chevelle the prestigious “Spirit of the Event” award. This subsequently led to an invitation to attend SEMA and participate in Optima Batteries’ Ultimate Street Car Invitational. But unfortunately, the grossly underpowered big-block and Tom’s lack of skills behind the wheel led to a humbling end to the year’s shenanigans.
Humiliation gave just cause for correction, and during the winter of 2010-2011, an overbored 6.2-liter L92, complete with a VVT cam and control package from Mast Motorsports, made it on board. Naturally, toying around with various engine mounts, headers, and transmission crossmember was also required, which led to an interesting discovery. Tom’s son developed an acute interest in the build and quickly became a key player during the swap process and mandatory post-swap platform.
Over the next few years, the Farrington family would modify, drive, race, and show their Chevelle in Nevada, Nebraska, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois, and several other states. Forever the type to make fresh friends along the way, the Farrington family was having more fun than a barrel of monkeys on a tilt-a-whirl, and it was all about to come to a crushing climax.
It was 2015, and the Farrington’s and their Chevelle were hitting every event imaginable, with the Northeast Muscle Car Challenge at Pitt Race slated as the last road course to complete that season. But unfortunately, on the first road course session of the day, Tom overstepped his bounds, dropped a tire into the grass, and away he went into a guardrail before planting the nose of the Chevelle straight into a tire barrier.
Although the car riding up on top of the tires kept the core support from completely crumpling, there was still a significant amount of damage to the vehicle. However, much of the shell and the engine, transmission, radiator, rearend, and suspension survived without issue. A fresh driver’s door, a new hood, some core support mods, and a couple of aftermarket fenders later, and the Chevelle was back in business, complete with a new frame that had been outfitted with the same ABC Performance kit Tom had used on the first build.
Looking to keep things manageable and reliable in the power department, Tom opted to keep his Chevelle’s Gen IV engine a straightforward affair. Now equipped with 416 cubic-inch proportions, a bore/stroke of 4.065 x 4.00 inches with a Callies forged crankshaft pumping Mahle 2618-alloy pistons with Callies H-beam connecting rods, the V8’s compression ratio sat safely at 11.2:1.
Intake and fueling components may appear stock on paper, but a Holley Terminator-X Max EFI controller that’s been tuned by Norris Motorsports of Plainfield, Indiana, keeps internals under control and dialed up for maximum performance. Meanwhile, a duo of Hooker Blackheart LS swap mid-length 1 7/8-inch headers channel smoke downward toward a Magnaflow 3-inch Street Series stainless exhaust setup before exiting outback.
On the transmission side of the situation, you’ll find a Tremec Viper T56 that’s been fortified by a GM LS7 clutch and a Fidanza aluminum flywheel. Subsequent spins rearward are pushed out via a 3.5-inch aluminum Dynotech Engineering driveshaft backed by LS mid-plate for quality assurance, all courtesy of Bowler Transmissions in Lawrenceville, IL.
As for the rearend of this monster, you’ll find a Chevrolet 12-bolt unit, complemented by Richmond 3.73:1 gears and Moser Engineering floater axles that match up with the floater ends from Baer Brakes. One interesting note here is that an Eaton limited-slip carrier is all that Tom has ever felt is necessary outback, a unit that, to date, still works like a charm both on and off track.
Being that this Chevelle is a routinely thrashed track machine, the suspension and handling end of the build is a far more substantial affair. Both front upper and lower control arms are of UMI Performance Corner Max status, as Viking Performance Crusader triple adjustable shocks and stiffer springs offer a true front coilover configuration.
The UMI Performance lovefest continues with a splined sway bar and rear upper/lower control arms from the brand. The rear shocks are a Viking Performance Crusader triple-adjustable affair that has been surrounded by springs bearing the same Nordic brand name.
However, all these handling enhancements wouldn’t amount to a heap of lug nuts without some steering assistance, and so a Turn One Steering SB2 box with an 8:1 ratio calibration setting was sourced for snappy turn-ins and apex exit strategies.
Adding further agility to the already impressive modification line-up, matching front and rear Baer Extreme+ XTR monoblock calipers that snag hold of 14-inch slotted rotors. These discs, in turn, snap a super slick set of Forgeline GA3R 18×9-inch forged front rollers and identically designed, but much more profound, 18×11.5-inch rears to a stop atop BFGoodrich Rival S tires.
Despite the original color of the car remaining a bit of a mystery due to it being coated in primer when Tom first bought it, the current paint scheme does have a story. The car sports an Audi Dolphin Grey pigment purely by accident, resulting from a silver paint choice mix-up at the body shop after Tom’s big wreck in 2015. Needless to say, the Farrington family has learned to love the understated yet super slick accidental paint choice.
Super solid shell secured straight out the gate, Tom opted to turn his attention toward ABC Performance mini-tubs, along with some transmission and driveshaft tunnel mods for good measure. At the same time, a stock Malibu hood sports a set of custom billet vents from Michigan Machine Worx, while a modified front splitter mirrors the fiberglass offering created by VFN. The rear spoiler on the other rear is a one-off affair that has been crafted entirely out of aluminum courtesy of Hot Rod Specialties of Indianapolis.
Interior-wise, this ride rocks a combination of stock and custom accouterments, with black Daytona weave carpet, Momo seats, a Momo steering wheel, Dakota Digital VHX instruments, and a serpentine drive Front Runner AC system from Vintage Air kicking things off. The Chevelle also sports a custom six-point cage for stiffness and meets all sanctioning body requirements, with a fire extinguisher and a rear seat delete topped with matching black carpet and paint to finish things out.
All told, the Farrington’s Chevelle was down for the count for almost two years during that period, but the wait proved well worth it. The year 2019 brought a rumor of a car auction and auto-cross event in Saudi Arabia. For as tempting as this invitation appeared on paper, it also came with one hell of a heavy conundrum: was Tom Farrington willing to let his beloved Chevelle go to the highest bidder?
Ultimately, the decision was made that if the car sold, the family would return home with cash in hand and a determination to build a more fantastic reincarnation. But as travel plans began to materialize, Deb mentioned that since she was on the title, she would need to go too, which produced unexpected issues.
Saudi customs required that Deb dress conservatively, stand back to not engage with the Saudi men out of respect, and essentially act as moral support. However, a couple of days into the event, it became apparent that all car guys are the same no matter where you go in the world. The men in attendance were thrilled by how knowledgeable Deb was about the Chevelle and automobiles in general, and the Saudi Arabian event quickly turned into an unforgettable affair.
Needless to say, the Farrington’s Chevelle did not sell at the auction block that week, and the couple returned home with their beloved build safely in tow. In retrospect, this would prove to be a blessing, for having the time to undertake another build of this caliber would have been extremely daunting.
So while the eight years invested in getting this 470 horsepower ride running may have brought with it its fair share of frustrations, all of the “body shop prison sentences” and engine teardowns were ultimately worth it. Like most classic builds, the improvements and maintenance required for this Chevelle are never-ending, especially since Tom runs the car at a ton of track events every year, with qualifying points for SEMA 2022 being the primary objective.
Tom has long decreed that the 115-inch wheelbase of ’64-’67 Chevelles make them predictable and comfortable on the track, which gives him hope that he can go all the way this year, even though they can be a bit of a handful on tighter auto-cross courses. While Tom’s driving style may be a far cry from being something we’d label as “aggressive,” he still tends to occasionally goose the throttle when some restraint is required, as the signals emanating from his brain fail to make contact with his feet. We get the feeling we’d suffer from the same affliction if we had a ’66 Chevelle like this in our garage.