This is one of those restoration stories that started out with a sad event but ended with a lot of happiness. A gentleman in Indiana named Ray was the proud owner of a very original and well preserved 1972 Malibu. At some point the engine went bad and he decided it would be a good time to do a frame off restoration. Ray took the car apart. He started cleaning up the original parts and collecting new parts to install. Then he passed away…… His family knew how important the Malibu was to him and there was no question that the car would be restored as part of his legacy. The family members banded together and transported all the pieces down to his son Anthony’s home where they were stored in his garage. That’s where we stepped in. Anthony, a local resident, contacted me about the project and we were thrilled to be a part of preserving such an important car.
In the interest of shop space we had Anthony bring over specific parts as we needed them. Here was the first load. The first step was to assemble the chassis. This was fun work for us since most of the dirty work had already been done. We were able to assemble cleaned, restored and new parts without the hours of rust and grease removal. The Malibu had factory disc brakes and a 2.73 open differential. We did a rebuild on the rear end but left the stock gears. The acceleration would be fine with the engine we had planned for the car. That gear set would also make for nice highway cruising without having to upgrade to an over drive transmission.
It didn’t take long before we had a rolling chassis.
At this point we were ready for the body shell and engine. We chose a 365 hp small block from Chevrolet Performance that came with all the front accessories. We were all excited when the engine came in. That is until we pulled the cardboard from around the crate. This is NOT how you want your new crate engine to arrive……
It appeared that the crate was dropped and barrel rolled during shipping. Did the freight company think we wouldn’t notice ? The engine had a lot of obvious damage so back it went. While waiting for a replacement engine we moved ahead with the body shell. Due to the way it was transported and stored in Anthony’s garage the only way to move it was with people power. Anthony’s buddies were able to man-handle it onto a flat-bed trailer and haul it to our shop. With no room for a fork lift we had to get creative to get it off the trailer.
The crew finally got it safely on some dollies and then the process was straight forward.
We had the body and chassis bolted together with new mounts a short time later.
Thanks to the excellent customer service at Summit Racing we had our replacement engine in a just a few days. Summit made things so easy for everyone and handled all interaction with the freight company. This is how a crate engine is supposed to look when it arrives.
We had Jimmy’s Transmission Service rebuild the original Turbo 350 along with some minor upgrades. After that we mated the engine and transmission and dropped it in the car.
The crate motor package we bought came complete with a nice carburetor. The owner wanted fuel injection so we replaced the carb with a Fitech EFI unit. We also replaced the stock fuel tank with an EFI version that had the pump inside the tank. Here’s the engine all dressed up.
The Malibu was a factory air car but it was decided to go with a Vintage Air direct fit kit rather than go through all the time and expense of restoring the original system. We also replaced all the factory wiring with an American Auto Wire kit designed for the Malibu. We gutted the body shell which gave us lots of room for pulling wire, restoring the dash and installing the new AC unit. In the process of gutting the interior we found both of the factory build sheets !
The green interior of the car was original and in amazing condition for its age. The owners thought they would prefer a black interior so we did a color change along with the restoration. The dash was repainted and the dash pad dyed black. The door panels were in great shape so they were restored and dyed. We installed a new headliner, carpet and seat upholstery to complete the look. All work was done in-house.
The Malibu originally had only warning lights so we installed a period correct gauge pod to monitor the new engine. We replaced the old radio with a retro-look head unit including Bluetooth. The factory AC controls were replaced with the Vintage Air control panel.
And finally, here is the finished product. The paint isn’t original but is a good 25 years old. There was some damage and rust spots but we were able to repair them and get a reasonable paint blend. The vinyl top is original ! We dressed the car up with some retro styled 17 ” wheels of the owner’s choice and left the ride height stock.
This sharp looking Malibu is definitely not going to be a “garage ornament”. Anthony and family are already racking up some miles and having a great time cruising the St. Pete area. Keep an eye out for this beauty !