When your father builds the kind of quality hot rods you see in the following pages, how could you not get back into it? That was what we wondered with a slight smile on our face as we cruised down the boulevard toward the Pacific in Rob Saltarelli's '65 Chevelle Malibu SS. As a young man growing up in Huntington Beach, California, Rob admits to being preoccupied with life while his father churned out some killer rides in the last eight years, but after inheriting his dad's last great projects after he died in 2011, Rob seems to have caught the bug. You know the one that makes you swap water pumps the night before to make a photo shoot even though you have to "customize" it; the same bug that makes burning a tanker of SoCal winter blend trying to find the ideal shoot location no big deal.
As a 30-year-old who has a couple cool rides (he also has a superclean '68 Chevelle), Rob is glad that he's showing off his dad's '65 Malibu, as this is one he never got to drive. "This was the project he was working on before he [died] last year, so I'm really excited to show it off." And he should be, because everything about it is stylish. The dark leather interior and color-matching dash provide a good contrast for those who appreciate it, but the 600-plus horsepower big-block underhood reminds you that it's not just a pretty face. The Rushforth wheels make it really pop and the RideTech suspension provides a perfect stance.
One of the coolest parts of Rob's cruiser is the cost to build it. "My father knew how to build them without spending a fortune," Rob says. "He would go to all the swap meets and do a lot of the work himself." If his father couldn't do it himself, like the paint for example, he had the connections to get it done for a deal. "The car's interior was handled in our driveway by my dad's friend," Rob says. "I actually remember seeing a Chevelle similar to this, same wheels and paint, at a car show and rumors were he spent $200,000 on it," Rob says, "We spent about $40,000 on the car without the engine."
Cruising down to the beach past hybrid vehicles and hippie surfers in a Matador Red big-block Chevelle is a fun experience for a gearhead and although it's not too obnoxious, the low rumble through the tailpipes reminds you this car is a beast. "It should make over 500 hp to the wheels," Rob says. "Once I get my water pump situation taken care of, I plan to take it to Paul Pfaff Engines in Huntington Beach, California, for a dyno session." Although this is essentially a car show cruiser, we wonder what it could do on the autocross. "I'm actually thinking about it. I've been taking it to a lot of shows, but I'm curious to see what it would do on a track," Rob says. That's how it starts.
Under the all-steel hood is a 468 big-block Chevy that features Edelbrock 335cc cylinder heads, and a single-plane Edelbrock manifold. A custom ground cam provides a nice roar when revved, and the torque experienced when it's flat-footed is phenomenal. A Holley 850-cfm 4150-style carburetor feeds the combo, while an MSD ignition system fires up the cylinders. Compression measures in at 10.1:1 so pump gas can be used and large tube, Lemons headers route spent fumes through a full Flowmaster exhaust system. Suspension and Brakes
Providing an absolutely wicked stance is a full Level 2 Suspension System from RideTech. Controlling the ride height at will using a digital fob from the driver seat is a neat setup and it actually rode very smoothly despite its in-the-weeds stance. CoolRide Air Springs and QA1 shocks are also in place, and an air compressor mounted in the truck articulates the car's stance with a push of a button. The brakes featured are 14-inch Wilwoods with their red powdercoated six-piston calipers.
Wheels and Tires Rob's wheel and tire choice really adds to the car's style, and the suspension allows them to be tucked nicely. To house the large Wilwood brakes, Rushforth's 19-inch Super Spokes were mounted up and wrapped in Nitto's 235/35/19 in the front and 275/35/19 in the rear, and trust us, it has no problem boiling them into smoke.
Opting for the overdrive instead of a three-speed auto or manual transmission, Rob went with a beefed-up 700-R4 transmission and TCI torque converter. The shifter is a nice polished aluminum Bandit model from B&M that his father picked up from the Long Beach swap meet for a deal, and backing the overdrive trans is a 9-inch rear with 3.50 gears and a posi unit.
The interior features a Matador Red dash with an Auto Meter carbon gauge cluster that Rob's father installed into the factory slot. Lokar's billet aluminum Competition pedal assembly is another nice feature to the cockpit, and the dark leather buckets feel like you're sitting in a brand-new Bimmer; then you snap out of it and realize you're in a 50-plus-year-old machine. A Budnik steering wheel and custom center console also add to the feel.