OPGI Customer Car Spotlight: 1966 Chevelle SS







In response to the ongoing Customer Car Spotlight series on this blog, Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI), Customer Mark Bernhardt sent in these great photos and a brief history of his own customer car, a stunning 1966 Chevelle SS. As you can see, the car is a clean interpretation of the pro-touring theme applied to a thoroughly restored ’66 Chevelle. The photos show there are many modifications underneath the skin of this numbers-matching SS car that aren’t immediately apparent at a first glance.

Mark modified his Chevelle from top to bottom starting with rebuilding the original-to-the-car 396 big-block and punching it out to 402 cubic inches. The rest of the drivetrain, as well as the suspension, exhaust system, and the wheel/tire selection all reflect the pro-touring approach, while the paint, body and interior were restored in the more traditional factory-stock way. We’d have to say that it looks like the results of Mark’s 10-year restoration project turned out absolutely perfect. The attention to detail and obvious high quality of his one-man, at-home restoration also proves that you don’t need a giant shop and a huge staff to build the car of your dreams.

Here is the story of Mark’s Chevelle in his own words:

My car is a numbers-matching 1966 Chevelle SS. I bought it in January of 2005 from a guy in Georgia and had it shipped out here to California. I am the third owner; the previous two owners lived right by the original dealership that first sold the car, Welborn Chevrolet in Rome, Georgia. The car had been parked since 1986 and was very badly rusted out.  On the plus side, all the parts were there and all the numbers matched.

This was my first build, and it took me around 10 years from start to finish, but I’m proud I did most of it on my own. With the exception of the paint and body work, I did the complete restoration and rebuild at home in my garage. Due to rust issues, the body prep was extensive and I had American Rod and Auto in Los Banos, California do all of the body work. In fact, the only original sheet metal left now is the passenger fender, passenger door skin and the roof from the top of the sail panels up. All the other metal is new from OPGI.

I am still running the original 396 block, but it has been bored out to 402 cubic inches. Dave’s Performance in Fresno, California did all the machining on the engine. Dave’s a great guy, and as this was my first motor build, he let me come down and watch it get bored out and I got to help put one of the heads back together too. The heads were ported and polished and all new internals installed; roller rockers, hydraulic lifters, big Erson roller cam, Speed Pro pistons and a Billet Specialties Tru Trac serpentine pulley set up to finish it off.

Other modifications include:

Drive train – Muncie M20 wide ratio 4-speed transmission, 12-bolt rear-end out of a ’70 Chevelle. I cut the rear-end down 2-inches on each side, refabricated the shock mounts and rotated the caliper mounts down. I also installed Moser axles and Strange gears (4.32).

Suspension – In front in I used McGaughys upper and lower A-arms as well as 2-inch drop spindles along with QA1 adjustable coil-over shocks. In the rear I used McGaughys 1-inch lowering springs. There are no wheel tubs or frame mods.

Exhaust – The exhaust system is Stahl 2-piece, 1-7/8-inch headers stepped up to 2-inches and followed by a Pypes 3-inch polished stainless X-Change System complete with Pypes HVE10 electric cutouts. The system exits through Violator mufflers.

Wheels- The wheels are by Intro, in front -19×8 with 5½ inches of backspacing. In back – 20×10 with 4-1/4 inches of backspacing.

Tires – Nitto Tires 235/35 R19 in front and 285/30 R20 in back.

Interior – I restored the entire interior as close to stock as possible using better materials. The original bucket seat frames were wrapped in new TMI Sport seat covers and new foam was installed.

Other Notable Mods – Spectre Performance Air intake / Be Cool aluminum radiator & fan / American Autowire complete wiring harness / Classic Performance Show Stopper Hydraulic Brake Assist Kit / Dynamat from the firewall to the trunk, including the doors, roof and quarter panels.

Timeline –

January 2005:  I bought the car and started tearing it down
April 2015:  I fired the engine for the first time
August 2015:  I drove her for the first time!

– Mark Bernhardt


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