"Did you rub some rhubarb juice on that to get the color right? Or did you wipe it with Ajax?" Instead of asking about the obvious twin-turbo diesel engine under the hood of Blake's '66 Chevy Wagon, the company of gapers at the Car Craft Summer Nationals wanted to know how they got the paint color right. "It's just 40 years of California sun," Blake says.
The sun was from Rancho Cucamonga, California, to be exact. After three or four years of road trips in various muscle cars, Blake and his enabler pal Chad Maskrey needed a solution for the constant search for gas and hotels. A wagon was the answer. "Whenever you arrive in a new town, everyone is worried about where to get gas. With a big tank filled with diesel in a wagon, that and the hotel problems are solved. You don't have to store the cooler in the trunk, either. You can just reach back and grab what you want," Chad says. Using the Internet, he found the one-owner Aztec Bronze Chevy cooking in the desert and then flew from Springfield, Missouri, to pick it up.
The plan got better when Chad thought of using a Duramax diesel for power. "The only thing I had done on a diesel is change the oil. I wondered where Chad kept getting these ideas," Blake says. The Internet again provided parts in the form of an '06 Chevrolet truck that had rolled over. The drivetrain was for sale, but they skipped the Allison trans and went for a 4L80E instead. Before either of them was sure they wanted to do this, the engine and car were piled in Blake's shop.
They worked off and on for a year between jobs or when they were waiting for parts for other cars. In the final two months before the Car Craft Summer Nationals, the car came together enough to be driven from Springfield to St. Paul for the show. Look for it in the Midwest as it gets driven to death.
Who: Blake Hughes, owner of 417 Motorsports
What: '66 Chevy Nova Wagon with 42,000 original miles
Engine: The smoker is a 6.6L V-8 Duramax from an '06 Chevy 1-ton truck. The long-block is stock, but the single turbo didn't fit under the flat hood. They pulled the single and Blake fabbed up the intake, core support, radiator, and intercooler and flipped the stock truck exhaust to add a pair of Buick Grand National turbos. The estimate is 550 hp and 850 lb-ft.
Electronics: A company called PPE Diesel helped with the tune by sending a handheld programmer to modify the factory Chevy diesel wiring harness, eliminating the Allison transmission control module, the single turbo, and any other systems they didn't need.
Exhaust: A dual 3-inch system dumps off the turbo and exits before the tire. That's it, no mufflers.
Frame: The guys sawed off the nose of the car and installed a Jim Weimer Rod Garage Mustang II-style front clip that ties the tubular subframe, transmission mount, and Chevelle-style triangulated four-link in the rear. It was all fabbed up by Blake at 417.
Rearend: The rearend is from a Lincoln Versailles. It's an old trick to get a 9-inch and disc brakes in the rear without having to cut and weld any parts.
Wheels/Tires: The rear wheels are 19x8 Budnicks with 18x5s in the front. Blake bought them used off a street rod guy for $800. The front tires are 26x6.00R18 Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/Rs, and the rears are 245/40R19 Bridgestones.
Brakes: The car has four-wheel disc brakes. The front subframe came with Granada brakes, and the rears are factory Lincoln. All this Ford stuff is controlled by a pair of 1-inch-bore Wilwood master cylinders mounted on the firewall.
Transmission: The factory Allison transmission was too big and too heavy, so Blake ditched it for a 4L80E with a 2,200-rpm lockup converter after they discovered it would bolt right in. They used a Lokar kit to shift the transmission from the column.