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Back in the early 2000s Tom Farrington and his wife Deb decided it was time to get another Chevelle. Tom had owned a few of them throughout high school, but as other responsibilities had begun to demand more of his attention in the years afterward, the cars had been had moved on to other homes. His passion for A-bodies never really subsided, though, and while attending an Army communications school in Sacramento, California in 2002, he managed to find a 1966 that fit the bill.
“It kind of turned into a whole family thing,” says Sam Farrington, Tom’s son. “It was a big project – it took almost ten years to build it. It’s been through multiple iterations over the years, and early on it was a show car more than anything else.”
But after the family attended the 2009 Chevellabration show in Nashville, Tennessee, the direction of the project soon began to change course. “The guys from Detroit Speed and Engineering were there, and they let me ride along with Kyle Tucker in their ’65 Chevelle on the autocross,” Sam recalls. “We also had our ’64 Chevelle wagon out at the event and ran it on the course, too. That event really got us hooked on the pro touring side of performance.”
Sam tells us that for a while they were essentially just figuring it out as they went. “It changed how we approached pretty much everything with the car, and sometimes we learned the hard way. The ’66 started with a 454 big-block, and we spun a bearing in that engine at the first autocross event it was out on because of oil starvation. We had another event planned for the following weekend, so we pulled the motor, tore it down, and managed to get it fixed and back together just in time for that.”
Regardless, the project was clearly headed in the right direction, as the family’s subsequent performance at Run Through the Hills in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee scored them the Spirit of the Event award, which in turn earned them a spot in the 2010 Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. “At that point the ‘66 was sort of a hodge-podge of different performance parts,” Sam says. “And the 454 was pretty heavy and made something like 270 horsepower, so the car was kind of a boat. After my dad ran at that Optima event, we started looking at making some bigger upgrades.”
First up was a 6.2-liter L92 V8 to pair up with the Bowler-prepped Tremec T-56 six-speed gearbox that was already in the car, along with an array of chassis upgrades from the folks at Detroit Speed. “The combination stayed more or less that way for a number of years, and it was really more about dialing the car in,” Sam notes. “But then one night while driving to an event, we hit a broken driveshaft that was laying in the road. It tore up the car pretty good.”
The carnage included both frame and engine damage, which was undoubtedly a major bummer considering how far along the project was at that point, but the Farringtons chose to look at it as an opportunity to take the Chevelle’s performance to the next level. They channeled the frame and added mini tubs during the repair process to provide room for wider rubber, and they also swapped out the L92 for a Mast Motorsports 416ci stroker LS that’s good for 630hp and 550 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel in its current configuration.
“We also ended up swapping out the computer that the 416 came with from Mast for a Holley Terminator X system,” Sam points out. “We had done a Holley EFI retrofit on my mom’s wagon previously, and we just really liked the tunability and the fact that it was just easy to work with – the system is really just plug and play.”
These days the Chevelle rides on a UMI Performance tubular suspension setup up front and a factory-style four-link in the rear with triple-adjustable Viking coilovers installed at all four corners. 18-inch Forgeline wheels wrapped in BFG Rival S competition rubber bolt up to C7 Corvette hubs and Speedtech Performance spindles, while the stopping power is provided by a Baer Extreme+ brake system with XTR calipers and 14-inch rotors.
Inside the Chevy there’s a pair of Momo racing buckets to keep occupants securely in place and provide proper routing for the Impact racing harnesses. A custom six-point cage provides additional structural stiffness and safety, along with a bar to mount the harnesses to, while a Dakota Digital dash keeps tabs on the car’s vitals and black Daytona weave carpet is on hand to spruce things up a bit. AC from Vintage Air helps to keep the car’s daily drivability factor high.
Sam says that although they’ve made a lot of memories with the ‘66 Chevelle over the years, there’s one that stands out to him in particular. “Back in 2015 my dad and I were basically sharing the car for different events, and he had taken it up to an event in Pittsburgh,” explains. “I was in basic training for the National Guard at the time, and I was allowed to make one phone call. So I called my parents, who were driving home from that event at the time, and we talked about random stuff for a while. Then I heard my dad say to my mom kind of solemnly, ‘Should we tell him?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah – you should! I heard you, and now I need to know!’ It turned out that my dad had put the ’66 into a tire barrier at the event. But it was one of those things that we kind of knew was going to happen sooner or later considering what we do with it, so plans were already in motion to rebuild it and make it even better. By the time I got home they had already started on it. We have a field with probably twenty or so 64-67 Chevelle parts cars, so that definitely helps.”
These days Sam mostly pilots his own ’67 Chevelle while dad runs the ’66, and both Chevys made their way out to LS Fest this past year. “My dad has competed at LS Fest events over the years, but this was the first time for me,” he says. “I really enjoyed it – I got a good amount of runs on the autocross and I really liked the course layout, but what really stood out to me about LS Fest was how it brings together a lot of different aspects of car culture. You’ve got the pro touring guys, the drift guys, the drag racing guys, and everything in between. It’s not the same crowd we’re used to at autocross and track events, so that brings a lot of new ideas to the table.”
Sam and his wife Tackora are currently prepping the ’67 for Ultimate Street Car Association competition and other events later this year, but he notes that this might be the first winter where his dad hasn’t made major changes to the ’66 since his folks bought it. “There’s another project that has his attention right now – a 1967 Chevy G10 van. That’s actually going to be a pro touring build, too! He has an LS3 and a six-speed for it, and he’s planning on doing C5 Corvette suspension. I feel like we have the first generation A-bodies pretty well understood at this point. The van is whole new animal.”