Car Feature: Mike Cavanah’s 1966 Chevelle “Grand Sport”

The 1960’s brought in the era of the muscle car, with General Motors stepping into the game with the 1964 Pontiac GTO. These cars were all about installing the biggest motor possible and were wildly popular in drag racing and NASCAR. For the the GTO’s cousin, the Chevelle, we saw the introduction of the 396 cubic inch in the special 1965 SS Z16. But in 1966, the Super Sport package came standard with 396 cubic inch motor and people have loved them ever since.

Since the 1966 Chevelle hit the streets over 45 years ago, they have been a favorite of gear heads young and old. A-bodies excelled at racing on the strip, even gaining popularity with Smokey Yunick in NASCAR for a short period. When the latest trend in muscle cars emerged, Pro-Touring, we saw these Chevelles being built with the best of them. At the Street Machine and Muscle Car Nationals in Pomona, this ’66 Chevelle demanded our attention on many levels.

Introducing Mike Cavanah and his 1966 Chevelle “Grand Sport.” You’re probably telling yourself, they only made Super Sports, not Grand Sport Chevelles. You’re correct on that one, but if they did, this is how it would look and be outfitted. Just as if a 1966 Chevelle and a modern day Corvette had a baby, this wicked Chevelle was born. A combined effort between Mike Cavanah and Jason Pecikonis, owner of Timeless Kustoms, are the men responsible for the Chevelle Grand Sport.

Mike, a Southern California native, grew up around muscle cars. We tuned into The Muscle Car Place’s interview of Mike for the full story on him. “Growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I saw a lot of neat cars.” Mike’s Dad had numerous classic Corvettes, along with a 1957 Bel Air. “In fact, I learned to drive in a 1968 427 rat engine, Corvette convertible.” His Dad was also kind enough to let him borrow all the cars, which netted Mike quite a few dates in high school.

His step father was a Hollywood stunt man for over thirty years. “I would go to the sets and watch him do stunts as a kid, that was a lot of fun.” Even with all the car influence around him Mike didn’t really become interested in classic cars until he was about 45 years old. In 2009, Mike picked up a 1969 Camaro off eBay for his first classic car. “I took it off the truck and I didn’t like the way it handled, so I took it straight to Jason, who was recommended by a friend.”

Jason, owner of Timeless Kustoms also grew up in California is the man responsible for introducing Mike into the Pro Touring scene. Jason grew up wrenching on cars as his father owned a shop. After Jason explained Pro Touring to Mike, he was interested, but ended setting the Camaro aside and picked up a rolling shell of a ’66 Chevelle.

“I came to Jason with a basic concept of what I wanted,” says Mike Cavanah, President of Pure.Gear. Perhaps his early influence of Corvettes from his father owning several and learning to drive in one is what inspired Mike and Jason to build this Chevelle Grand Sport. “We came out with a really cool car that’s unique, one of the more unique pro touring ’66 Chevelles out there” says Mike.

From The Frame Up

When Jason at Timeless Kustoms builds a car, he likes to start with the frame. He feels that this is the foundation of the car and sets up how the car will look and feel. To start, a front Art Morrison clip was added to the front of the Chevelle’s frame. This clip was fitted with a rack and pinion unit and C6 aluminum control arms. The “Grand Sport” is starting to make sense now. 

To finish off the foundation an Art Morrison triangulated four-link was grafted onto the rear of the frame. The Art Morrsion frame rails had to be moved inward a bit as well to allow enough room for the massive 13-inch wide rear wheels. In the middle of all that suspension is a narrowed Ford 9-inch rear end filled with 3:73 gears and a Detroit locker. A set of RideTech triple adjustable shocks are found at each corner, dialing in the perfect ride.

In order to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution, the engine and transmission were moved back a total of eight inches. A custom firewall was fabricated to make room for the backward move. Another integral part of the car handling like its on rails, is its five inch ride height. Everything, including the exhaust has been tucked up above five inches, so the low ride height works perfectly. Adding to the improved performance of the frame and suspension is a complete 14-point roll cage. The cage itself is tucked high and out of the way, so its barely noticeable in the car. The side bars are only six inches above the floor, making getting in and out of the car an easy task. Just in case Mike wants to load up the whole family, the harness bar is removable to allow easy access to the rear seat.

The Power Plant And Putting It To The Ground

The motor itself is an LS 418 cubic inch stroker with a Lunati crank and H-Beam rods connected to forged pistons. The top end is comprised of ported LS3 heads with an LS9 supercharger. All the machining and assembly of the motor was performed by Scoggin Dickey out of Texas.  Mated to the motor is a T-56 six speed transmission that’s outfitted with an ACT dual disc clutch to help lay the power down to the pavement. All this equaled out on the dyno to an impressive 600 hp and 650 lb.-ft. of torque at the wheels.

600 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque!

After romping on a built supercharged engine, you’ll definitely need some good brakes to get the car to stop. That task is assigned to the massive Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. These are light weight, keeping the rotating mass to a minimum and allowing the car to stop on a dime. Boze “Mesh” three piece forged wheels surround the brakes. The fronts are a massive 19-inch diameter and 11-inch wide with the rears being a 19-inch diameter and 13-inch wide. These are fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport tires, with the fronts being a 295/35/R19 and in the rear a 345/35/R19.

Outfitting the Interior

The interior of the car certainly grabs your attention as its a bright red leather interior contrasts against the white paint. Stitched into every seat is the iconic Grand Sport stripes, which breaks up the red and brings in the stripe on the side of the car. Even though the interior is red hot, a complete Vintage Air kit keeps the passengers comfy at all times inside.

If you’ve ever been inside a 1966 or 1967 Chevelle, you know that they have the wide sweeping dash. While this looks okay, its not very practical. Jason reworked the dash to fit in a full cluster of Auto Meter gauges along with smoothing out the rest of the dash.

Exterior

The exterior of the Chevelle looks fairly stock. However when you look closer there has been some extremely well executed changes that really set the car off. To start, the drip rails were shaved off. From there, the door handles were also removed for improved aerodynamics and a cleaner look. The body lines have been massaged a bit too, just enough to make you look twice, but not know what’s been changed. A completely custom front spoiler was added to the car as well to help with air flow and lead to the low look of the car. The hood was also modified with induction cooling vents to keep the car running cool even in the Southern California heat.

PPG White was chosen as the color for the sheet metal with Jason was actually the person who chose this color. Jason told Mike to just think it out and get back to him. Mike said, “I went and researched a lot of white cars and you just don’t see them, its unique. The car had to be bright white so if you’re standing next to it, you’ll get a sunburn.” They definitely accomplished that, and it grabs your attention easily but looks classy.

Driving

When we first spotted this ’66, the Chevelle wasn’t sitting pristine at a show with Mike casually wiping the car down. We actually heard it first with screeching tires and the roar of the engine. Walking over to the autocross course, there was Mike in his Chevelle, pushing it to its limits with son Garrett riding shotgun. Mind you, this car could compete in any show and win first place as it’s that beautiful and perfectly executed. When we caught up with Mike he told us, “I just have to drive it, thats why I built it.” Mike doesn’t just drive this car once a month for some morning coffee either. In the few months the car has been finished, he has competed in several autocross events and even raced the car on the famous Laguna Seca raceway.

We agree that this is one Grand Sport Chevelle. When asked if there was anything he could go back and redo on the car Mike responded, “That’s a tough one because I really love the car. But as minor as it is, I don’t like how the doors are remote operated. When the keys are in my pocket sometimes they pop open the door.” A minor detail, which means he truly is happy with this Grand Sport. We also asked Mike what his favorite part of the car is and he said, “Above all else, it’s just driving the car.” Judging by the amount of hard miles he’s put on the car in the last few months, we can agree with that one also.

Owner: Mike Cavanah, President of Pure.Gear

Builder: Timeless Kustoms

Car: 1966 Chevelle Grand Sport

Suspension: Art Morrison C6 in front, Triangulated four-link in rear, RideTech shocks, Ford 9″ with 3:73 gears and a Detroit locker

Brakes: Brembo Ceramic Carbon at all four corners

Wheels: Boze “Mesh” forged three piece

Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport, Front 295/35/R19, Rear 345/35/R19

Motor: 408 cubic inch LS with ported LS3 heads and LS9 supercharger from Scoggin Dickey

Transmission: T-56 six speed, ACT dual disc clutch

Colors: PPG White paint, Matte red leather interior

Body Modifications: Shaved drip rails, Shaved door handles, Custom front spoiler, Induction cooling hood

Photo gallery

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About the author

Tim King

Tim grew up in the garage with his Father. From those early years grew a passion for anything with a motor. Helping his Dad and brother restore a '67 Nova is what fueled Tim’s passion for cars. At the age of 15 he bought his first car, a 1966 Chevelle which he still owns to this day. That car started his journey into the automotive world where he’s done just about everything, from being an auto mechanic to an aftermarket Sales Manager. Not only is he a gear head, but he also holds two Bachelors degrees from Cal State San Bernardino.
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