Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cars Part 10: 1968 Chevrolet Malibu/Chevelle Coupe

This is not my Chevelle.

1968 Chevrolet Malibu/Chevelle Coupe—So…I’m gonna build a hotrod, because hotrods are cool and they attract hawt chicks.



I peruse the local Wheels and Deals newspaper for a suitable project car.

I venture out to the Hoosier hinterlands to inspect several, and most of them are so far gone there is no way an average Joe driveway mechanic like me could ever do anything with them.

Then, one snowy early spring day, my father-in-law and I find a diamond in the rough.

And I mean rough…

This is my Chevelle. There are many like it, but this one is mine!

It is a 1968 Chevy Malibu/Chevelle coupe…a GM A-Body! I have returned to my youth. The cycle (or is it circle?) of life is complete.

But the car sure as hell isn’t.

It is in eleventy billion pieces…in two separate locations. The bulk of the car sits on the owner’s Back 40, while most of the front end sits in a storage facility miles away.

I hand the owner the correct amount of $100 dollar bills, gather up all the pieces, and have them delivered via tow truck to my house.

I now have my project car.

Because I have read many issues of Car Craft Magazine, I have a plan too.


Here’s what I would do for the engine:

I will scrounge a 1972 350 CID 2-bolt main block from a wrecked Biscayne. I will make sure the block is one of those ultra-rare, high-nickel-content Mexican jobs. I will modify the main bearing journals (by hand) to be 6 bolts per journal. Doing this will gain me an additional 600 horsepower.

I was gonna grind my own camshaft with my dad's wood lathe, but I decide to go ultra freaky custom. I will eliminate the camshaft, push rods, valve lifters, and rocker arms entirely by designing and installing a pneumatic valve train similar to Formula One racing engines…but completely different and much more better and faster…adding 200 more horsepower.

I will custom grind octagonal ports on my otherwise stock iron heads and billet Offenhauser titanium intake manifold. I will modify the intake manifold so that I can stab in my custom-curved High Energy Ignition (HEI) at a 45-degree angle like the Mopars do because it's cool. I will port and polish the entire length of the intake manifold runners and blend the bowls using a hand drill, Duraglit, and saliva. I will top it all off with 2 Weiand pro street superchargers…realizing a 350 horsepower gain.

I will use the standard 5140 forged chrome moly steel crank, Childs & Albert forged billet aluminum rods, mated to some Keith Black Silv-O-Lite hypereutectic slugs (pistons). Add 120 more horsepower…

The above slammin' combination will register 1,300 horsepower at the crankshaft when measured on the dynamometer.

I will estimate 1,270 rear-wheel horsepower.

And you have probably estimated by now that I am full of shit!

And you would be correct.

Pretty much.

Reality turned out to be a lot different.

When my dad first took a look at the car, he said, “You’re gonna need a welder.”

The fact that I had no earthly idea how to weld didn’t enter into the conversation.

Did Dad mean that I would need an actual person…a person who is conversant with welding…in order to patch up and repair the huge gaping rust holes in my new found Chevelle?

Or, did he mean I was gonna need the actual physical device one uses to join two pieces of metal together?

Who’s to say?

Certainly not me.

Anyhoo…I decided to ignore the rusted hulk of a body, and, in the meantime, concentrate on building a real and suitable engine for the car.

Dad and I rebuilt a small-block 350 Chevrolet engine, in the middle of winter, in my garage (which I had by that time equipped with a portable kerosene heater).

Then, a little bit later, some people who weren’t from around here decided it would be a good idea to drive hi-jacked passenger jets into some buildings.

This revolting turn of events kinda made me rethink life’s priorities, and that maybe it was imprudent to pour alarming amounts of cash into something as silly as an old shit-box car.

A few months after September 11, 2001, cancer would take my dad from me, and this loss would hurt me deeply.

Building that engine would be the last time my dear father and I would ever do anything cool together.

By this time in my life, I had added two children to my family…twins.


I got the bonus plan.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that I now have a grand total of three kids who were very needful.

I made a few improvements to the car, but the Chevelle kinda got put on the back burner because I had mouths to feed and bills to pay.

But, I wasn't mad about it or anything. That's the way it goes sometimes...

I still have the car.

To this day it sits covered in my garage.

I figure it isn’t costing me anything, except valuable garage space, to let it sit where it sits. They aren’t making any more 1968 Chevelles, so maybe one day, when the kids are all grown and I’ve thrown them all out, I can return to it and restore it to its intended glory.

However, if I was going to get rid of it, this is how my For Sale ad would read:

I've come to the unavoidable conclusion that I'll never finish this beast. It is way beyond both my financial and technical abilities. It needs a full, professional restoration job, and I need the garage space...and the cash.

It's a '68 Chevelle Malibu hardtop. I believe it originally had a 307 in it. When I bought it, it had no engine, tranny, or doghouse. I got a '72 Chevy 350, and had Schmidt Automotive Machine Shop on the Indianapolis East-side do the engine work:

-polish crank journals .020 X .020
-milled heads
-valve job
-replaced valve guides
-thermal cleaned block
-new cam bearings
-new freeze plugs
-bore & line hone
-rods reconditioned
-new flat-top pistons .030

All together, I have roughly $800 in the engine work alone. Engine has never been fired.

I'll throw in the new Edelbrock Performer intake, 4bbl carb, and fuel pump too.

The tranny is a TH350, which had been rebuilt, according to the previous owner, prior to my purchase. I saw the rebuild bill, and drove it while it was in another car. It shifted good and ran smooth, and when I dropped the pan, everything looked squeaky clean.

The chassis is fucked.

I did some horseshit sheet metal pop-rivet shit, which sucks, on the floorpans, and decided to stop butchering this pig before it bled to death.

To do it right, it needs floor pans, trunk floor, rear wheel wells, rear quarters, and new doors.

The hood and trunk lid are good.

Front fenders are new GM, and cost me $800 for the pair.

Radiator core support is new reproduction from The Paddock, which cost $125.

Interior is pretty good, but not perfect. Seats were recovered by previous owner. Carpet is good, is obviously not the original, and needs a good cleaning. Door panels are reproduction and in good shape. Headliner had a rip, and is a reproduction.

Glass is good.

The rusted rear and front window channels need professional attention. I dicked around with these areas, but they need to be done right.

The front suspension has all new parts except for the upper and lower control arms, which have all new bushings. The front brake drums, which have been resurfaced, and are within spec.

I'm pretty sure I have all the parts, and maybe a few extra.

Clean and clear title in my name.

Car is pretty much gutted and in pieces, so I saved you lots of work and time! Feel the love!

The correct amount of $100 dollar bills takes car and engine/tranny and all extra haggling or dicking around. I don't have time for bullshit or dumb asses coming to my home and wasting time and fucking around.

I am not parting this crap out, so don't even ask. All or nuthin'...

So....bring cash, a flatbed wrecker and a box truck for all the parts.

You arrange shipping. Once I have the cash, I don't care if a C-130 lands on my street to load this beast up. I'll help you load all the parts, though. Maybe.

If you don't want this car, fine. It can sit in my garage for another ten years and it won't bother me none.

I would be an awesome salesman or advertising executive.


And David Freiburger still needs a good sound ass-kicking.

My Chevelle will look like this someday. Maybe.


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog.
    Especially the crap about the engine mods and the rw horsepower.

    My fantasy rebuild project would pan out exactly like yours, even though I do have a workshop full of welders, machine tools and heaters. That's why I bought a Mopar air freshener, hung it on the rear view mirror in my 2wd 4cyl Mitsubishi ute and completed the upgrade in 30 seconds.

  2. Brett:

    You sound like my kinda guy.

    You and I should track down Freiburger and kick his ass together.

    That Mopar air freshener will add 3 to 4 horsepower to that one-lunged rice burner you have.

    You probably already knew that, though.




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