When did I acquire it, Where and How? Well, that story takes us back to 1993. Back in 1993, I was searching for a Black 66 SS… and after a long and exhaustive search to no end, I settled on a Marina Blue/Bright Blue interior 66 SS that I bought in 1994. The story behind that car turns out to be a fascinating one in its own right, and can still be read here on my web site too!
Needless to say, I did “settle” when I bought that car and though it took me some time to get her finished right, it brought me much enjoyment, many awards and magazine features. But, I still had the yearning for a Black 66 SS... so I finally made the very difficult decision to sell it so I could pursue a code AA Tuxedo Black 66 SS.
Now I had plenty of cash flow to play with, so I started the search for my DREAM car... that Black 66 SS... and I wanted one show ready! Life was getting complicated with a new baby daughter and other time constraints, so finding one done and ready to show was the way to go, or so I thought. I had the money, so I didn’t feel it would be a difficult task. I didn’t even care if it was Matching Numbers or whether it was a 325, 360 or 375hp car. I am more of a quality-of-the-car type guy than numbers (most find that hard to believe) and I just wanted and needed to get back in the saddle again. Most who know me are aware that I was and still am an admitted 66 SS addict! I needed to have a 66 in the garage right quick. Well, as the old saying goes, money can’t always buy everything, and I found that to be the case in searching out this black 66 SS Chevelle. I got to a point where I honestly believed a well done and restored black 66 SS just didn’t exist (still feeling that way). A year passed, I had chased down every lead, bought every car trader mag, searched all the web sites, attended all the shows, including the Chevelle Only Regionals and Chevelle-abration... all to no avail. Sure, I found some Black 66’s, but nothing that was what I had in mind. I can be very particular! And I like to spend my money wisely too.
Then, one day I found a link to a link of a link to some small add for a 66 SS for sale… sounded like it had potential... described as matching numbers with docs, 396/360hp, M-20, original California car now residing in CT. The price was steep, which I could deal with if it were as described. But one major negative… it was not black! It was Danube Blue. Now, I know you all are saying, so you settled again? Well, yes technically... but with good reason. First, I was detoxing… the shakes, the sweats, twitches, all of it… and if I didn’t get a new 66 in the garage soon I was going to be in Rehab even sooner! Second, I knew what Danube Blue looked like and of all the 66’s I’d seen over my many years of showing and attending NCOA and ACES events, I never forgot what car grabbed my attention the most. It was a Danube Blue 66 SS I saw at the NCOA Showdown in Atlanta 1995. I never forgot that car. It was Danube Blue, black bench seat interior, 4 speed, 375hp and cowl plenum air cleaner. It belonged to a guy who has now become part of my huge extended Chevelle family across the US and beyond! It was just awesome... the color was so unique! I knew of the color, but had never seen it in person. I recall seeing it from 30 yds away and thinking, "Hey, that’s a sweet looking BLACK 66... I have to get closer and get around the small crowd looking at it". To my surprise, it was not black at all, but it looked black from even 20 feet away! I fell in love with it and the color always stayed with me.
Fast forward to 2000 and this ad. No photos, just the description and I thought... hmmm, this could be it, best of both worlds! Looks black from a distance, original California built car, has some documentation (how much I wasn’t sure of at that time), numbers matching, and it was that color… that color I had once seen and loved!! This I needed to investigate further!
So, the “Art of the Deal” begins… phone calls, sending photos (snail mail type) and sorting out what is a guy trying to SELL a car from what is really the truth. I get the photos and the car is not quite as described, among many other things, there is no front end on the car, no drive train in it, no interior, and it’s certainly not ready for prime time! But... I secretly love it... and have a vision of what it could be with my special touch. So I call the owner and start talking about what I see and what I don’t see and that I need to SEE the car. He tells me he will finish the car before I get there and so I make arrangements to travel the 5 hours from PA to CT to see this Diamond in the Ruff! I bring with me, a very good Chevelle friend known for his expertise in the body and paint world, someone who will not have the emotional involvement that I will, someone who is a USER but not an ADDICT like me. It's Easter weekend and we drive up, it’s raining the entire way, we are hoping this doesn’t turn out to be a wild goose chase like so many others.
We arrive… Now recall, the guy knows we are coming. He will not open the garage door!! He says it’s raining and he doesn’t want any moisture to get in. Okay, I’ll buy that, so we have to go in through his house to enter the garage. A one bay, very small garage and one 60 watt bulb hanging over the center of the car!! We ask if he has more light and the best he comes up with is a flashlight. So, despite being extremely annoyed, we go about trying to see this car… and we are not happy with what we do see. So much wrong or incomplete, unfinished. Chips in paint, some paint still not wet sanded, some things not even painted, engine still not ready and far from clean or detailed. The list was extensive and I was very disappointed on many levels. Had the car been priced differently, I would have been okay with what I could see needed to be done... which was a lot of work, and a lot of money! But, he was one of these guys who felt he had a diamond when all he really had was a cubic zirconia! He would not even consider compromise on price, even after I pointed out all the issues, and there were plenty!!
So we got in our car and headed back to PA. Oh well. But, that little voice, the one in your head and on your shoulder, the one that won’t stop whispering to you… it just kept flapping its lips. In the days and weeks that came after that rainy Sunday, I couldn’t get that Danube Blue 66 out of my head. But this was crazy!! That car was in need of so much work, so much time and money, and according to my buddy who was a paint wizard... no guarantee that the paint issues could be fixed??? I knew I could correct all the restoration details that were either done wrong or not done at all, and I was confident that I could replace every part with NOS items... but if the paint issues were not fixable, why bother? I was not looking to buy or build a driver. When I got done with this car, I wanted to have the Best 66 SS in the country!! I had to face the fact that this car might not be able to accomplish that goal without an entire do-over restoration! Was I willing to do that?? If only he would compromise on price…
A few weeks later it’s time for the NCOA Chevelle Showdown being held in Waterbury, CT and I have plans to attend. I am there and still thinking about this car, and now it’s only 45 minutes away. One more look maybe? Couldn’t hurt, right? So I have no problem convincing another close friend who is with me and a well known 66 expert in his own right, to come look at the car with me. He knew all about it, we had talked about it and he had seen the pictures and knew the issues… he was intrigued. So since we were so close, we called the guy. He agreed to let us come by. The good news was the weather was sunny and nice and he still had the car!! The bad news… he still wasn’t willing to compromise… and it still wasn't ready to be fired and in the light of day. I saw things I hadn’t been able to see in that one-light-bulb garage, and they raised eyebrows. Once again, we leave frustrated, though this time I made the mistake of video taping the car. I say mistake, because that video became regular programming in my household for the next few weeks and I’d wished that I didn’t have it to tease myself with. We exchanged more calls, and finally there was some movement toward a compromise, but not enough. Then one day, I sat down and penned a letter to the owner. I explained things from my perspective, explained why he hadn’t sold the car yet, explained why he needed to sell it to me if he ever wanted the car to receive the justice it deserved, and ended with a final offer. One week later, I arrived home to the flashing light of my answering machine and I knew, I just knew, even before listening to it… that it was him and that the car would be mine! I was correct.
I made yet another drive up to CT. I picked the car up, put it on the trailer and headed back to PA one more time. Was I making a mistake? Was I crazy? Could I get this Danube Blue 66 SS to be one of the best in the country? Only time would tell and I was cautiously optimistic.
Nine months later, money, anxiety and with the help of the those two very good friends, I was content that the car would show well and maybe even win me a trophy or two. Time would tell. I was scrambling to debut her at the ACES Chevelle-abration show in TN, but it became clear to me that Nashville was not going to be a reality. I set my sights on the ACES Mid-Atlantic Chevelle Regional hosted by the Maryland Chevelle Club. I don’t think I ever, in my wildest dreams, expected the reaction and reception the car received when I rolled her on the show field that hot June day in 2001! My efforts were rewarded with a 1st Place in the 66 Stock Class, The People’s Choice Award for Best Chevelle, and having Chuck Hanson photograph my car for an upcoming feature in the ACES magazine Chevelle World!
I continued to show the car after that and have been the recipient of many prestigious awards:
ACES Top Three winner at Chevelle-abration in TN, Georgia, Maryland, and Niagara Falls, NY. Super Chevy's Outstanding Achievement Stock. 1st Place Muscle Car Nationals, Antique Automobile Club of America 1st Place Junior and Senior National Winner and 1st Place AACA Senior Grand National Winner. The car has been featured in several magazines, books, articles and a calendar. It is also the cover car of The Essential 1966-1967 SS 396 Fact Book.
I love being a part of this car hobby. The car has won the above awards, but I have been rewarded with something else; friendships across the US and Canada that I know I will have long after this car passes into the hands of someone else, and long after I find that Black 66 SS.