1966 454 Grand Sport

In 2005 I received a phone call regarding a 1966 coupe that needed extensive rebuild. I did something then that I have never done before or since. My friend and well known Corvette expert Chris Sale was staying with us that weekend so we jumped in my Corvette and drove to Essex to look at the car and discuss the proposed rebuild. 
 I don’t know why I made the trip, it is something we just don't do but I was intrigued by this car. The owner, Chris, was a very engaging guy and we hit it off from the start. I was also very moved by his story that he had lost his son in a motorcycle racing accident and this was to be his tribute to him. A trip to Essex may seem like no big deal but bear in mind I seldom set foot outside of Felmingham, let alone Norfolk…. So there I was, miles from home….
  • 31st Jul 05

    Not a pretty sight eh! The car had suffered extensive front end damaged, and had received a set of 70’s flares. Still it is a 1966 big block coupe, and has an owner with big ideas, so the car was loaded up and brought back to CK HQ.

  • 15th Nov 06

    The body had already been off the car and the chassis refurbished. It had also been upgraded with a Herb Adams handling kit. This included solid A arm bushes and the biggest sway bars I had ever seen. Great for the track but would have been awful on the street. We rebuilt the suspension with polyurethane bushes throughout to give a better ride, and freshened up the paint on the chassis.

  • 13th Feb 07

    We then set about straightening out some of the damage to the structure. The right hand windshield pillar had been pushed in and this took some work to get right. When the repair was finished we took a mould of the windshield bodywork off another car and made a panel to be let in.

  • 2nd Apr 07

    And this is how it all starts, the new front end gets hung on there so we can see what a Grand Sport is going to look like. The body panels were not particularly good quality and really took some fitting.

  • 3rd Apr 07

    This shows the rear section laid out at the rear of the car. I seem to recall we were trying to decide which end to do first!

  • 12th Nov 07

    And now I can’t remember which end won that argument. Here is the car with the front and rear bodywork bonded into place. Looking awesome already!

  • 7th Feb 08

    The dash moulding was very tricky to get right, the panel came oversize and needed trimming to size. It also needed trimming for the dash cluster to fit. This was easier said than done because of the difficulty in getting the panel in the car and knowing just how much to take off so it was a slow process.

    We also had to extend the centre piece so it would reach the transmission tunnel.

    The instrument cluster was stripped and repainted black. We didn’t pick out the chrome accents around the gauges to give it more of a race car look.

  • 9th Mar 08

    Next was the hood louvers. The high rise hood kit came with a louver kit but they were just terrible. Ronni had to remake most of them which was very time consuming but as usual she did a superb job and the end result was stunning. 

    We also mocked up the headlight setup and Ronni made the brackets to hold the plexiglass headlight covers in place.

  • 9th Jun 08

    By this time we were really getting an idea how this car was going to look, it was all coming together very nicely. We cut the holes in the rear upper fender for the functional brake cooling ducts and let them in.

    We also cut the holes for the side fenders and fitted the fender trims, again these needed to be remade as the fit of the supplied items was very poor.

    The side pipes were originally black which we had ceramic coated white.

  • 6th Nov 08

    And after all the hard work that you cant see, its time for paint. 

  • 11th Nov 08

    What a difference! The car is looking amazing

  • 27th Nov 08

    Starting to really take shape now. Getting some trim on the car gives us a real boost. We spend so long on the dusty mucky stuff that when it all comes together it is a real joy.

    Take the hood louvers for example, they must have been fitted and removed 20 times during their manufacture, test fits, masking for paint, and then the final fit, those stripes don't paint themselves you know!

  • 2nd Mar 09

    Oh My! The GS replica wheels were custom made for us and were a nightmare to get hold of, they were also a jaw dropping price, but are the only wheels that can be fitted to one of these. Note the LeMans style filler cap, that took some doing…

    The park lights and tail lights are factory units cut down and then fitted with new lenses and we hand made the grille from aluminium stock. The amount of work that goes into these one off projects is mind blowing.

  • 18th Jun 09

    But this makes it all worthwhile.

  • 19th Jun 09

    I was very pleased with the interior of this car, I wanted a race car for the street feel about it with lots of exposed fasteners and toggle switches. We custom made the door panels in the style of the original Grand Sport cars with heat welded pleat lines and custom made the carpet and console covering.

    I particularly like the satin finish we did on the dash.

  • 20th Jun 09

    Here are a few detail shots.

  • 21st Jun 09

    Ronni made the headlight cover retainers from aluminium and Chris had them anodised blue. The covers took a good deal of work to trim and get the fit as good as this.

  • 22nd Jun 09

    Number 11 was the race number of Chris’ son Richard, whose favourite hotwheels toy was the inspiration behind this wonderful car.

  • 22nd Jun 09

    And a few of this monster on the road.

  • 8th Feb 11

    Phase 2 of this rebuild took place the following year. Having had a bit of use from the car there were a few areas Chris wanted to improve upon. 

    One was to add an extra gear to make motorway speeds a bit more comfortable. A Tremec 5 speed transmission was installed. These are a lovely upgrade, and if you can get over the cost, it is absolutely the way to go.

  • 10th Feb 11

    Next was a set of Edelbrock aluminium heads and a new cam, sometimes those big blocks just aint big enough!

  • 25th Feb 11

    The ceramic coat on the exhaust was not holding up too well so Chris tried powder coating them. We wrapped the headers with an insulating material, one of my hobbies is cycling and my handlebar wrapping experience paid off here…..

  • 11th Aug 11

    Phase 3 was an upgrade to power brakes. Corvette brakes are superb, but they gotta be assisted baby! As usual though it wasn’t straight forward. One of the hood louvers fouled the master cylinder and had to be reshaped and then repainted.

    Not only that, the valve cover fouled on the booster, the rockers were too tall to replace them with stock Corvette valve covers and try as we might I couldn't find anything that would work with this particular combination. The only option was to modify what we had. We cut the corner off the existing valve cover and then set too making a fillet piece that would give us rocker clearance and booster clearance. I had this piece welded in and then painted the valve covers satin black.

    And after all that the new cam didn't make enough vacuum to operate the power brakes satisfactorily so the original cam was reinstalled. If only the car had had power steering we could have used a hydroboost system. The improvement in braking was worth the effort though. 

  • 12th Aug 11

    This is a very special car to me. It was never meant to be an exact Grand Sport replica, the whole project was based on a hotwheels toy and I really dig that. The car looked like you could pick it up and zoom it round the carpet like I did when I was a kid!