In 1876, the first discovery of natural gas in Indiana occurred in the tiny town of Eaton. Though drilling for coal, when the bit reached a depth of 600 feet or so, loud noises and bad smells rushed from the opening, prompting many to conclude that they must have certainly breached the ceiling of hell. The hole was filled posthaste. About a decade later, this discovery ignited the Indiana Gas Boom, leading to 20 years of rapid regional growth. As an aside, in Eaton (population approximately 1,500) and in other towns all the way down to Muncie there have also been numerous, documented ghost sightings.
Gale Pitman, however, doesn’t live in haunted rooms. He does his hot rodding in Eaton and is not directly associated with anything weird going on in that burg or its environs. Though we’ve never met, between us there are some tenuous links. He’s 67; I’m 66. Authentic war babies we are, not baby boomers. His current ’67 Chevelle began as an ordinary Malibu. I bought a new ’67 Malibu with an L79 small-block (325/327). As the rift between the geezers and the young guys widens, I feel in league with an old friend. I still dig hot cars and so does he. Like me, Gale navigated his way through at least a half dozen precursors including a ’72 Chevelle, ’55 and ’57 Chevys, and even a ’48 Packard. When I was kid, for a while, we had a big, slithery ’56 Packard.
As for the origins of the A-body: A friend found this car in Tennessee and held on to it for three and a half years, Gale says. Before I’d gotten it, he’d taken the body off and disassembled everything, and had the frame and suspension parts powdercoated. Put the body back on after adding new quarters, inner rear fender panels, and trunk floorpan. This is where son David and friends Kevin Reynolds and Dan Moore enter the equation. In the process, they rebuilt or bought N.O.S. for every part of the car, but even with the prebuilt windfall, Gale still managed to inject $45 large in the project.
We worked on the body for six or seven months at Kevin’s home garage, Gale says. Eventually, it was ready for paint. We redid the motor and transmission. We redid the interior. The bumpers are new. All the chrome is new. The crew ran new brake lines, master cylinder, wheel cylinders, and more, but retained the stock braking configuration.
Gale entertained no fantasy of exploding out of the hole at six grand with front wheels dangling, could care less about threading his A-body through a river of orange cones, and would rather motor down the road in comfort than try to pass someone on the inside corner of a road course. No, none of that. His aim was to rebuild the vehicle to near new, thus quashing any fear of breakage on the road, and to take the image in his head and create a tangible object that would cruise steady, make big noise, and cause a little ruckus. Although he would have preferred a gennie SS, the Malibu doesn’t know the difference and neither do passersby.
But sometimes you must attach to something you need instead of what you want, especially if the price is right, and it appears that Gale, despite the funds channeled he’s into this smashing bit of nostalgia, was on some kind of a budget. Or not. His kids are grown up. Under the place for his spouse’s name on the tech sheet he wrote none. Why didn’t he go the full suspension/big brake route, install mini-tubs, big tires, and build a mountain of power under the SS hood?
Because that was not his vision. He built the Chevelle as it would have been (save for the oversize tires and wheels) back in the day. His Chevelle sends a message that’s just as clear to some folks as the Pro Touring image is to others. Besides, it’s the hot deal these days. Thankfully, Gale and I are too jaded for all that. Gale, what do you say we jump in that shiny black car, lay some stripes, and go ghost hunting?