MAY 2023: TRUE STORY–CAR GUY GETS HIS 1966 CHEVELLE MALIBU SS BACK 52 YEARS LATER

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The 1966 Chevelle was a radical departure from the 1965 Chevelle because it was lean, mean and very stylish.

Exactly none of these features were lost on Gord Sutherland when he ordered a brand new 1966 Chevelle Malibu SS 396 from his local dealership and became the car’s proud first owner that year.

Jim Sutherland

Gord was a go-fast guy who wanted to race his Chevelle and subsequently made some changes to the car, including an air suspension for better traction. His ’66 Chevelle performed admirably, mainly because it was equipped with a beefy 396 cubic inch engine couple to a four-speed manual with a factory 3:73 Posi trac rear end.

Gord even took his Chevelle to the 1967 Winternationals but did not enter the car into the event. Instead, he enjoyed a California holiday and even put highway-friendly 3:07 rear gears in his Chevelle before the trip. The decision prompted one of the car’s former owners to ask; “Who’s the idiot who put 3:07 gears in the car”? Gord admitted it was him.   

However, 1967 marked the year when Gord parted company with his ’66 Chevelle and purchased a new 1967 Chevelle, a decision that gave him moments of regret over the ensuing years. His 1966 Chevelle SS 396 had a special place in Gord’s heart, so he decided to find out what happened to the car and whether he could buy it back.

Most car-guy-sells-his-first-new-car-and-wants-to-find-it scenarios are destined to fail badly, but Gord was very fortunate and saw an ad for a 1966 Chevelle SS that matched his car. He contacted the owner and discovered the car did not have a full paper trail, but it did have some unique add-ons that Gord put on the car during his brief history with it.

The list included the original dealership sticker that Gord placed on the underside of the trunk lid, along with the holes where he filled his rear air shock system on the Chevelle. There is no doubt the car was Gord’s long-lost Chevelle, but the owner at the time sold the car to another buyer before Gord could buy it.

Undaunted, Gord contacted the car’s then-owner and asked him to sell the car to him. The Chevelle’s former owner was not in a selling mood, but Gord kept in contact with him just in case he changed his mind.

That moment came in 2019 when the previous owner contacted Gord and offered to sell the Chevelle to him. Gord achieved the ultimate car guy dream: to reunite with his first new car over 5 decades later. The likelihood of a muscle car surviving 52 years without meeting a crusher is a testimony to the former owners who made sure the ’66 Chevelle SS stayed out of harm’s way.

The Chevelle SS has undergone a few changes since Gord was its owner, not the least of which was a major engine swap that replaced the factory 396 with a ZZ 502 crate engine that cranks out over 500 horsepower.

The monster 502 big block is mated to the Chevelle’s factory 4-speed manual transmission, although Gord noted the car now sports a Hurst shifter. The fact the Chevelle was an SS model made it an ideal candidate for a more powerful engine because it was a heavy-duty performance car when it left the factory.

Gord could easily have lived with the Chevelle’s original 396, but 52 years is a long time between ownership intervals, so he is very happy to be reunited with the one that got away all those years ago. Talk about a car guy happy ending.

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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