This 1966 Pro Street Chevelle is One Mean Machine


Well, Kent Matranga never had a Pro Street car. While he was still an undergraduate, his father helped him buy a 1934 Ford truck “that we rebuilt in our garage and I drove [it] through my high school years.” But in his heart, he harbored a desire for something nowhere near as old. “I have always liked the body style of the 1966 Chevelle and have wanted one since my high school days.” He waited for his cherub, kicked a tin can down the road, maybe whistled a tune, bided his time.

More than four years ago, he began to look. On eBay, the Southern Californian found a Chevelle way up north on the East Coast, certainly not the best locale to source a rust-free baby. “I bought the body without engine and transmission from New York and when it showed up it looked a lot worse than the pictures had shown. Pretty much every body panel except for the roof needed work.”

That was all right with Matranga. He was about to enter what was to him the coolest part of the project. “I love the build process, taking a car from concept design through the fabrication period is most satisfying to me.” The most challenging part was “keeping the low-profile stance of the car without sacrificing the ride.” To accomplish this, the Chevelle underwent one of the earliest hot rodding tricks in the book: the body was channeled over its aftermarket chassis.

Before we get to the good part, we’ll tell you that Matranga grand-slammed this thing to death. It would be hard to top. He enlisted a cadre of experienced hands and split the process into three parts: Chris Brown Auto Design made the sketches and got the big ball of string rolling. Matranga chose his favorite and then the program moved to Barry’s Speed Shop for the fabrication work. Lastly, local speedster Paul Hattrup undertook the assembly and mechanical phases.

Through the influence of this cabal, Matranga employed processes and parts rarely adapted to cars of this genre. Very refreshing … if not very expensive. Barry’s Speed Shop began with a nude Art Morrison GT Sport frame (no brakes or suspension). To this rigid platform they linked independent front and independent rear suspension systems from Kugel Komponents. The IRS unit includes a 9-inch Currie center spinning a limited-slip differential, 3.73:1 gears, and inboard brakes. It employs fore/aft links to locate it within the frame, and as an independent member it employs halfshafts rather than axleshafts, as well as a top-mounted antisway bar. The shock absorbers are adjustable coilovers. Barry’s channeled the body 4 inches and inserted custom 2-inch-drop tall spindles, thus enabling complete and fluid suspension travel.

For that all-important icon, Paul Hattrup built a blower-strong 572-cubic-inch thumper from a Mark IV block. It cranks out nearly 800 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 800 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The trick was coercing the mechanically operated bug-catcher to be completely driveable—no farting, popping, or surging at idle or on cruise mode. Though originally rated at 4,500 cfm, Hattrup removed about 1 inch off the mounting surface of the casting to eliminate the injector holes and blocked off the two outside throttle blades to pare the flow down to 1,500 cfm.

Back at Barry’s, the crew stretched the original hood 4 inches to eliminate the cowl grille completely. Then the car went to Speed Shop Custom Paint and into the loving arms of Tony Correia. He un-rippled the panels and smoothed them like glass, indexed the body seams, and applied the PPG Sapphire Blue.

And there’s no less going on inside Kent’s atypical A-body. Barry’s built an eight-point rollcage and they also fabricated the dashboard (moving it 6 inches back) and the instrument panel to go with it. Out in San Berdoo, Gabe Lopez took over, leather in his eye, sussing out the door panels, headliner, and finishing off the Corbeau seats that he had completely rebuilt. Rather than the usual five-point harness, Matranga clicks on some cool, modern Juliano’s three-point belts.

Though the Heavyweight looks black, it’s really a very deep blue, which has sluiced over into the smooth, completely unadorned engine compartment. There are no distractions; all you see is motor. And that is the object of this entire exercise.