Dog Dish Sleeper! 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air 396

These days, the body color steel wheels and low-buck “dog dish” hub caps often accompany a giant tire-roasting engine, but no one would have wanted to cruise the town in this plain-looking Chevy it its day. The Bel Air trim level, top of the heap in 1957, slotted in just above the bare-bones Biscayne in 1966, and below the sport Impala and top-line Caprice. The “2-door sedan” roof line with its B pillar or “post” would have mostly appealed to those who wished to go through life without being noticed. This running and super-clean 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, will definitely get noticed when the driver drops the hammer on the 396 cubic inch big block V8. The listing here on Detroit Craigslist asks $31,500 (presumably USD) to make it yours. Thanks to lov2xlr8 for some details, and thanks to reader Pat L for spotting this sedate-looking sleeper.

Pop the hood an you realize this is one fully-restored ride. It would be a shame to sully this museum-quality engine compartment with actual driving, but I’d have to take that risk. Judging by the listing’s avoidance of topics like originality and documentation, we must assume this Bel Air came with a more pedestrian engine, but the fit and finish certainly pays tribute to a factory esthetic. Regardless, the motor is said to make about 400 HP today, and probably delivers an even higher torque number.

The Chevy uses GM’s sturdy 12-bolt rear end with aggressive 4.10:1 cogs to get this full-sized beast off the line. Those tires don’t stand a chance. The TH400 three-speed automatic handles gear-changes, and should do a fine job, though a four-speed would take this car over the top.

The bench-seat interior calls to mind my old ’66 Dodge Coronet and a host of other contemporary sleds. Nothing here suggests anything but a polite trip to the grocery store or church on Sunday. Only the Flowmaster exhaust or a blip of the throttle will disrupt that illusion. Have you owned a boring-looking “sleeper” that punched above its weight?

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  1. Ralph

    I had a 66 Dodge Coronet. I prefer this and would have been happy to cruise in this back in the day. Wow, this is one that looks like the true sleeper it is.
    Beautiful example.

    Like 9
  2. Joe Huff

    It’s a nice car, but the seller makes no claim that it’s numbers matching so I’d value it as a clone. Especially after the seller said “1966 396 Big Block” but nothing else. But you probably can’t build it for the asking price, so the value is there.

    As far as it being a sleeper, every street racer since the ’60’s looked for the 396 fender emblems. It was a dead give away. If you don’t want people to know what it is, replace the emblems with ones for a 283 and cut off one exhaust pipe 6″ before the bumper so it looks like single exhaust.

    I used to street race my Mother’s 65 Dodge Coronet, 383/TF. Most of the racers didn’t know enough to look for the little “Commando” bar through the V-8 emblem on the fenders. That’s the only thing that told them it was a big block. I surprised a lot of 396 Chevelles and GTO’s with that car because they thought they were running against a small block car.

    Like 20
  3. Joey

    Did anyone notice the “heater delete option”?

    Like 13
    • Steve R

      Block off plates are available aftermarket and have been for decades. There is one on eBay exactly like the one on this car right now for $19.00 plus shipping.

      Steve R

      Like 4
    • local_sheriff

      Yeah, but what struck me first was its body color firewall – a US built ’66 Chev would have a satin black finish but this being Canadian it’s correct with body color. IMO it actually looks better than just black. Don’t understand why anyone would retrofit a heater delete; it must be much better to be able to heat the cabin and enjoy a longer season…?

      Another interesting detail about the lower rung Biscayne/ Bel Air cars is that the taillights don’t go around the corner as on Impala/ Caprice – taillight is just a rectangular strip

      Like 3
  4. ron b

    My fear you get that home and in about 6 months the rust starts popping through again .

    Like 5
    • MrF


      Like 4
  5. Chawlers Plepgeat

    A sleeper, you say?

    Like my 1979 Olds Delta 88 Royale Brougham with a supercharged 370 inch fuelie small-block, a built 4-speed auto, and a Ford 9-inch with 3:89s and an Eaton True-Trac?

    Nah – never owned one.

    Like 7
  6. Timothy Phaff

    Remember that twin-turbo that was sold a few months back. That was a nasty sleeper.

    Like 2
  7. Troy s

    There’s nothing sleepy about this car nowadays, those wheels, the type of car it is, the clean paint…..everyone who knows cars will suspect a 396 at the bare minimum,,, or a lot more. That Is the look.
    Sure, back in the olden days it looked like a taxi cab or granny’s favorite church car, just like a whole bunch of cars did, like the ones sitting on Joe Freindlys Chevrolet new car lot, in the parking lot at the super market, etc, etc….
    I think it’s a great ride and figured right off it was locked and loaded with big block power before I even read the article up there. Have a great day!

    Like 15
    • Tort Member

      I was going to make a comment but you pretty much said it for me!

      Like 8
    • Chuck Dickinson

      Your comment about “Joe Friendly’s Chevrolet new car lot” brought back memories of the day. Unless you were a local here in Portland, you’d not know that at the time there was a dealership “Friendly Chevrolet”. They did a lot of live advertising bringing cars into the studio for their ads. The owner was named Joe, so all his spiels began with “Joe Cahan here for Friendly Chevrolet”. So there was a “Joe Friendly’s …..” here during those years.

      Like 3
  8. CCFisher

    I don’t understand why someone would build a car like this with a 396, unless he just happened to have the 396 cluttering up his garage. If it’s not going to be original, why not go with a 427, 454, or even a Mark V 502?

    Like 3
    • Tony Primo

      A 540 stroker with 396 decals on it would be my choice.

      Like 4
  9. 86_Vette_Convertible

    HS Office secretary drove one similar to this one though that one was a Biscayne. Dark green with a 4 speed. It was her husbands car and though she could drive it, she didn’t drive it well IMO. It was a beast none the less.

    Like 4
  10. gerald felsing

    I worked for a Chevy dealer in 1966 and we had a Biscayne like this with a 427 in it. It was Orange and it had a loud speaker that played the Chevy song that was sung by Diana Shore. It was a Chevy promotion vehicle. Fast car but didn’t handle very well.

    Like 4
    • Chased

      Dinah Shore, not Diana…

      Like 4
  11. glenn hilpert

    Love those 2-dr sedans with the big block set-up. The plain Janes of yesteryear and now so ever popular. I’ll settle with my 72 4-dr Biscayne with the factory 402 and Turbo 400, a unique and fairly quick ride. This owner should have no problem selling, a very nice piece.

    Like 5
  12. CraigR

    Put it on a Detroit CL listing, great. I suspect no one is allowed across the border into Canada to actually look at this thing.

    Like 1
  13. Bill Hall

    This reminds me of what the Oregon State Police used at the time.

    Like 2
    • NG

      Ohio, too. Two door, big block Biscaynes, some all white, some all black.

  14. its1969ok

    Finally, a car without two goofy looking extended tailpipes sticking out from under the rear bumper!

    Like 7
  15. BW

    I had a ’65 Biscayne when I turned 16. Dad had some connections (honorary police commissioner) and picked up this ex-detective car. It had the 327 police interceptor in it along with a 2-spd Powerglide. It was damned year untouchable (no pun intended) from a 30 mph romp.

    Like 2
  16. BW

    I had a ’65 Biscayne when I turned 16. Dad had some connections (honorary police commissioner) and picked up this ex-detective car. It had the 327 police interceptor in it along with a 2-spd Powerglide. It was damned near untouchable (no pun intended) from a 30 mph romp.

    Like 1
  17. 1-MAC

    In our town a man and his wife bought a 66 Biscayne 427/425 hp. She drove it. Divorce a few years later he went in service but kept the car all these years. Several years ago it was restored to brand new Quite a car and it is beautiful.

    Like 3
  18. Browndog

    396 automatic with 410 gears you gotta be kiddin me

    Like 1
  19. Gray Wolf

    I have a #matching 1966 Impala S/W,396,400trans and 12 bolt diff. We call it “Great White”.Being a wagon no one pays attention to it and it surprises the hell out of people! I don’t know why a 4:11 is used for a big block in the Biscayne??

  20. Len marchand

    I bought a 66 ford custom 2 door with a 428 police intercepter 4 speed ,310 gears, maroon in colour new right from a dealer. It turned alot of heads at red lights, Lots of fun to drive,and never lost a race, including the Chevy’s

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