NEVER GIVE UP

Jesse Hal­facre’s 1966 Chev­elle fi­nally gets built the right way

Chevy High Performance - - Front Page - TEXT & PHO­TOS: John Machaque­iro

Jesse Hal­facre’s 1966 Chev­elle fi­nally gets built the right way

The old adage, “The ap­ple never falls far from the tree” is just an­other way of say­ing “like fa­ther, like son” and is of­ten used as a fig­u­ra­tive way of point­ing out that chil­dren ha­bit­u­ally in­herit some of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of their par­ents. In the car world, that usu­ally man­i­fests it­self as a par­tic­u­lar affin­ity for a spe­cific brand or model that is passed on from one gen­er­a­tion to the next. As a young lad grow­ing up in Wash­ing­ton state, that was cer­tainly the case for Jesse Hal­facre when it came to his bud­ding au­to­mo­tive in­ter­ests. His dad, Tom, an up­hol­sterer by trade, was heav­ily into cars and had for many years a rather lu­cra­tive side busi­ness flip­ping them. He would buy them cheap, drive some of them for a bit, and then un­load them. With a re­volv­ing sup­ply of mid ’60’s cars on hand, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Jesse would see one come his way. In 1996, at the age of 15, that op­por­tu­nity ma­te­ri­al­ized when Tom gave him a choice. He could pick ei­ther a ’66 or a ’68 Chev­elle as his first car. He re­calls, “the ’68 had the en­gine and chas­sis al­ready done but I liked the body style of the ’66 bet­ter, so I opted for that one.”

What Jesse in­her­ited was a car that had been sit­ting in

a field for many years. Tom had ini­tially given it a quick tune-up in or­der to get it out of its rest­ing spot, but not much else had been done to it. Since he was only 15 and legally not al­lowed to drive, Jesse de­cided to use the next few months to fix the Chev­elle up a bit. With the car parked at his mom’s house, the goal was to re­paint it. “I de­cided to get rid of the multi col­ors that were on it,” he ex­plains. “I did some body­work to re­move a cou­ple of small dents and made sure the body was fairly smooth. I then sta­pled plas­tic sheets up in the garage, wa­tered the floor, and pro­ceeded to lay down some Sap­phire Blue paint.” The paintjob looked great, ex­cept for one huge paint run that spanned from the back win­dow to the bot­tom of the rocker panel. He ended up sanding the

car back down and reap­ply­ing an­other coat of paint. The sec­ond ef­fort wasn’t as suc­cess­ful but at that point it didn’t mat­ter since he was out of money and was ready to take his driver’s test.

The Chev­elle be­came daily trans­porta­tion while he was in high school but it never ran right, so in 1998 he de­cided that the 327 mill was in need of a re­build. He notes, “when I took the block to the ma­chine shop they told me that it had four cracks and was no longer us­able.” The shop had a 350 block that was ready to go so it ended up be­ing an easy fix. From a friend, he also ac­quired a 400 crank and rods with the idea of build­ing a 383 stro­ker. As with the paintjob, tack­ling the en­gine re­build by him­self didn’t quite go as planned. After putting the en­gine to­gether and drop­ping it into the car he knew that some­thing was wrong as soon as he fired it up. He points out, “I didn’t ro­tate the as­sem­bly through with the camshaft in­stalled. When it fired up, the bolts on the con­nect­ing rods were hit­ting the camshaft, which caused a go­daw­ful noise.” As a re­sult, the en­gine was pulled and sent back to the ma­chine shop.

He even­tu­ally got the Chev­elle back on the road, but he points out, “I had the en­gine in and out of the car so many times dur­ing the sum­mer be­tween my ju­nior and se­nior year of high school that I drove it around with no hood.” The car also had ma­jor is­sues with the brakes and the elec­tri­cal sys­tem—to the point that it could eas­ily be started with al­most any­thing jammed into the ig­ni­tion switch.

In late 1999, he hired a lo­cal pain­ter to redo the car in a Fire Pep­per Red Pearl. Jesse states “this was the clos­est I could get to a candy ap­ple red that I could af­ford on a min­i­mum-wage job pump­ing gas.” The tra­di­tional teenager build process of tak­ing one step for­ward then two steps back reared its ugly head again. On his way home from the paint shop, with that shiny new coat of paint, the en­gine un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously grenaded it­self.

At this point, some might have given up on such a colos­sal headache, but Jesse was de­ter­mined to sort the car out. After grad­u­a­tion he landed a bet­ter pay­ing job and once again de­cided to redo the en­gine. He had Britco Au­to­mo­tive Ma­chine in Cen­tralia, Wash­ing­ton, per­form the work. They punched the cylin­ders 0.040 over and com­pletely re­did the bot­tom end. The top end con­sisted of a set of Edel­brock Per­former RPM heads that were a grad­u­a­tion gift from his mom, along with a Comp Cams Thumpr cam, a pol­ished in­take, and an Edel­brock car­bu­re­tor. Hav­ing learned his les­son, the shop put the bot­tom end to­gether, but Jesse and his buddy Jerry Red­field did the rest of the as­sem­bly work. The re­cur­ring en­gine is­sues were fi­nally re­solved.

Jesse’s life took a dras­tic de­tour when he joined the Navy to­ward the end of 2000, and after his first de­ploy­ment in 2001, a new truck re­placed the Chev­elle as the daily driver. It be­came a fair-weather ve­hi­cle that saw lim­ited duty while it sat out­side ex­posed to the el­e­ments. As a re­sult of sub­se­quent de­ploy­ments, the lack of use started to take its toll on the Chev­elle’s body, with rust be­ing the big­gest cul­prit. By 2005, he was not only mar­ried but a fa­ther so dis­pos­able in­come was at a pre­mium, and spend­ing money on the car was no longer down to him ex­clu­sively. But the de­sire to keep fix­ing it was solely his.

With some gen­tle per­sua­sion, he

con­vinced his wife, Lisette, to agree to an­other round of work on the car. He states, “The orig­i­nal plan was to just take it apart, fix the rust ar­eas, and do an­other re­paint. I told my wife that it shouldn’t be more than 10 grand.” That plan didn’t last long. The more he tore into it, the more is­sues he found to the point that a frame-off re­build be­gan to make sense. As a

Navy avi­a­tion struc­tural and hy­draulic me­chanic, his mil­i­tary ser­vice-ac­quired fab­ri­ca­tion skills were cru­cial in putting the Chev­elle back to­gether and keep­ing the costs down as much as pos­si­ble. He was able to per­form all the sheet­metal work him­self. He even man­aged to do some weld­ing on the floor­boards after he broke his back. Be­yond re­plac­ing the rusty sheet­metal, he also tack­led the cus­tom fab­ri­ca­tion of the in­ner fend­ers and fire­wall. That en­gine bay would also be the re­cip­i­ent of yet an­other ver­sion of the stroked 383.

Since much of the pre­vi­ous work was al­ready done, Jesse swapped cams and in­stalled a Comp Cams roller unit, along with an Edel­brock Per­former RPM AirGap in­take, and a Quick Fuel car­bu­re­tor. Part of the re­build also in­cluded some vis­ual en­hance­ments in the form of smooth­ing out the sur­faces on the block, heads, wa­ter pump, and in­take, which were then painted to match the ex­te­rior color.

That ex­te­rior color choice was a de­par­ture from what had been pre­vi­ously ap­plied. In­stead of an in-your-face loud color, he opted for a two-tone ’07 Mer­cedes sil­ver and black com­bi­na­tion, which was laid down by Stan Win­gate at Win­gate Auto Body in Oak Harbor, Wash­ing­ton.

He also ad­dressed the han­dling and brak­ing is­sues with the in­stal­la­tion of Hotchkis front and rear hard­ware, KYB shocks, and Wil­wood discs and calipers at all four cor­ners, while Rush­forth Su­per Spoke wheels wrapped in BFGOODRICH g-Force Sport COMP-2 tires rounded out the ride en­hance­ments.

The in­te­rior was also com­pletely re­done us­ing TMI Sport R seats and up­hol­stery. In an ef­fort to elim­i­nate all the sins of the past, Jesse re­placed the en­tire elec­tri­cal sys­tem with the as­sis­tance of his fa­ther-in-law, Dave Rig­gle, who was also in the Navy as an avi­a­tion elec­tri­cian.

This en­tire process spanned the bet­ter part of 11 years, and it is worth not­ing that Jesse did all the work in a small two-car garage. After such a jour­ney to get the car to his level of sat­is­fac­tion, all that was left was to fi­nally get some en­joy­ment out of it, and do­ing some shows was def­i­nitely part of that equa­tion.

His first show was a mem­o­rable one. On his way home, the 700-R4 trans­mis­sion went out with a bang. “It was an ex­pen­sive five-mile trip that day.” That mishap prompted the in­stal­la­tion of a 4L60E. Other re­cent changes have come in the form of a cus­tom dash and con­sole and a switch to a FiTech fuel-in­jec­tion sys­tem.

After such an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney with this car, and all the mishaps along the way, Jesse has noth­ing but fond mem­o­ries. When asked what his big­gest chal­lenge was, he will quickly state that it all came down to one word, “cash.” His big­gest de­sire go­ing for­ward is to in­spire his son and daugh­ter to em­brace all things me­chan­i­cal in the same way that he was in­spired as a young lad. CHP

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