It might only be a local piece of history, but it’s history nevertheless, and when it’s about street-racing muscle car like this unique ’66 Chevy Chevelle SS396 – we’re bound to take notice. Moreover, this story includes a triangle of owners – all with their own plans for the car. So, let’s not waste any more time.
The car used to belong to David Heath who often put it through its paces off Dobyns Road outside the little mountain town of Claudville, Virginia. That was back in early seventies though, when muscle cars were still dominating American roads – especially those in the country. David bought Chevelle SS396 from his uncle’s dealership Stanley Chevrolet, in Stuart, Virginia and it was better-looking than anything new in the shop at the time, according to him. Even mechanic who tampered with it said it was the second fastest car he’d ever worked on – fastest being 1967 Corvette with a 435-horses. That’s after David replaced the busted stock 396, mind you. Chevelle’s 396 simply couldn’t cope with big blocks at the time and one day, David over-revved it after bouncing off the ground. He was racing 1970 Mustang with a 428 Cobra Jet under its hood. David’s next move was to replace the busted engine with the 427 and the rest is history.
Races were being held on Highway 103, also known as the Claudville Highway, after 11 PM. There was very little traffic at that time of the day (or night if you will), and highway featured a straight quarter-mile section which is such a rarity in small mountain communities. Lads never stopped after quarter-mile, though. They went straight over the old two-lane iron bridge and over the Dan river, and raced for another five miles or so on curvy roads. This type of racing required some skilled driving, but as all things come to an end, so did Chevelle SS396’s time on the roads come to an end back in 1980.
David stored the car in his hay shed, but never thought about selling it. He even gave it to his son Mark who was supposed to restore it to its former glory, but starting a family never goes hand-in-hand with almost 50-year old muscle car restoration. That’s where Jonathan Large come in. He too is a local car enthusiast, and although younger, still recalls those Saturday nights when Claudville Highway became the ultimate muscle car proving ground. Mark, and especially David are at least content now as their Chevelle SS396 is about to embark on a new journey. Black Chevelle has plenty of surface rust, but floor pans and frame are still solid. It won’t be easy restoring it, but it’s better than having to replace everything. The question is what kind of powertrain should Jonathan install in it? Should he go with the original stock 396 or something larger? After all, this black Claudville Chevelle SS396 has a certain reputation to keep.