Mike Appio embraces his 1966 Malibu for its clean creases and the minimal visual distraction not possible with the vaunted SS. In the day, smart money bought the 350hp small-block that would thump SS drivers every time you called them out. His first ride was ’66 raggie ’Bu, with a six-banger and a ’Glide. “I bought that car when I was 15,” he says. “It looked really good, but it was a slow-moving death trap. The brakes were terrible and a U-Haul truck handled better.” These disparities were what sparked him to make his current Malibu a terror in every respect.
To him, the most unique features of the car are the chassis and the drivetrain. His research was extensive and suggested that perhaps the full chassis built by the Roadster Shop in Mundelein, Illinois, was really the only way to go. Elsewhere on these pages you’re likely to find RS’ unorthodox advert, the one featuring a Chevelle on its roof, exposing its intricate, all-encompassing underbelly. The over-reaching chassis branches out ladder-like and suspension members are immediately recognizable as something quite out of the ordinary.
“As for the drivetrain, I wanted to go old school: no computers, just big and powerful but able to cruise without revving like mad. Thinking of a Chevelle you think of a powerful big-block and a manual transmission for performance. What’s bigger and more powerful than a 572, and what’s better matched than a Tremec six-speed?”
He found the first donor on eBay. It was a build code 13617 (V-8, manual transmission) car out of Texas and exactly what he wanted. Well, some of what he wanted. It had a Madeira Maroon coat, black gut, and a bench seat. “Problem was the body was so far gone we needed another donor to continue. The second car was solid, out of Georgia, and perfect for the project. “…I wanted the car to look as stock as possible. No body mods or interior changes. When you look at the car you notice the cowl hood, rims, and tires. Something is different about the stance but you’re not sure what it is. The hardest thing to figure was the wheel and tire combination. I worked with Roadster Shop’s Phil Gerber and after seven months of looking and at least six different choices, we ended up going with the original suggestion from the rendering. It all just fits, subtle and elegant, at least while the engine is off!”
Concurrently, there was a smoldering family rivalry, albeit a friendly one. Mike’s stepdad had finished the reconstruction on his ’66 GTO while Mike was still in the Navy. When he was on leave, he saw the Goat and got invigorated and decided to do the Chevelle as a raging counterpoint. “I wanted a car that would handle like a dream and go fast enough to beat his GTO [without] question.”
The plan was to show both cars at the 2012 Anchor Festival in Centralia, Missouri, and then participate in the full round of speed and handling trials. They had wagered a dollar on the outcome. “After 30 years of listening to him brag about how fast his GTO was and saying ‘ain’t no POS Chevelle ever gonna beat my Goat!’, I thought I would be able to turn all that around.”
And he did. When his stepdad heard the Chevelle as it backed off the trailer, he began to wilt. The elder wound up placing Third, while Mike scored a perfect 400 points for his efforts. “That was the best show I’ll ever have,” he says, a bit wistfully. The rivalry was done.
Mike’s stepdad died unexpectedly last January.
For the go-fast, Mike tapped Proformance Unlimited in Freehold, New Jersey, to put the bear hug on a ground-up 572. They built the short-block off a fully machined new Gen VI tall-deck (10.2 inches) four-bolt main Chevy cylinder case. They used GM forged 10:1 flat-top pistons, but pinned them to Eagle H-beam connecting rods that cycle on a 4.500-inch stroke 4340 crankshaft. COMP Cams supplied the custom-ground mechanical camshaft according to Proformance specs and everything else in the valvetrain, save for the Manley chrome-moly pushrods. The cam is in the block with a double-roller chain drive gear, and the crank snout accommodates a Chevrolet Performance harmonic balancer. This whopper is contained by AFR 357 Magnum CNC-ported cylinder heads fixed with 2.30/1.88 valves and PAC springs. The Edelbrock TD Victor intake manifold and AED 1,120-cfm carburetor swill pump gas and a tried-and-true MSD 6AL box and Blaster coil (secured under the dashboard) companions the Pro Billet distributor. The Moroso sump works with a Melling pump. With the dyno headers, the engine produced 792 hp, about 60 more than the GM 720R version. Roadster Shop put it to the car with 21/4-inch primaries thence to a complete 3-inch stainless exhaust system. Where most would have stooped to an automatic transmission, Mike was adamant that his car would have a pedal all the way over to the left. On went the Science Friction billet steel wheel and 11-inch clutch that were covered by the Quick Time bellhousing. The Tremec Magnum six-speed was fitted with a 2.97:1 low gear and 0.50:1 top. At 70 mph, the big rat cruises at 1,900 rpm. As part of its swap kit, American Powertrain included a DOM aluminum driveshaft. Meanwhile, back there in traction land, a Strange Engineering 9-inch takes the pole axe punch with 3.89:1 gears, a Detroit Truetrac differential and 35-spline axleshafts.
The chassis is massive, a monument, and covers two-thirds of the underside. Roadster Shop founded the entire project on its Fast Track design. The one in Mike’s car utilizes the IFS as attended by the large, swoopy upper and lower control arms, AFCO coils on double-adjustable dampers, a splined 11/4-inch stabilizer bar, C6 Corvette spindles, and a rack steering assembly. Though the Roadster Shop repertoire includes an independent rear suspension system, Mike preferred the solid-axle design that incorporates a modified four-link, vertically mounted AFCO double-adjustable coilovers. Widened wheeltubs and a frame designed with the appropriate kick-ins easily accommodate those chubby 335s, and the fuel tank is covered by smooth shield to reduce turbulence at high speed.
Here, Mike wanted a near replication of the original setting. Aside from the Grant steering wheel and the Hurst shifter, the whole scene could have been lifted from the showroom in 1966. We like seeing those clean, straight lines and the refreshing simplicity that is often overlooked these days. Though they appear original, the cushions and backs of the bucket seats are TMI bolstered replicas attached to OE frames where a bench seat once stood. That work and the rest of the upholstery, trim, and Daytona Weave low-loop carpet is the product of Custom Interiors by Voss in Lansing, Illinois. Roadster Shop revived the grid with an American Autowire harness. Since Mike likes to listen to more than the voice of the 572, RS concealed an Alpine head unit and amplifiers and made them invisible.
Some big-time forgings here, and they sure look inviting to consummate five-spoke junkies like us. Forgeline CFC3 Concaves all around, 18x9 and 20x12. Front skins are Pirelli 265/35, rears are a tweaky 335/30. All but hidden beneath them are the Wilwood six-piston 13-inch and four-piston 12-inch brake assemblies.
Since the one-car-made-from-two was less than supple, Roadster Shop lavished time and grit on every bit of it, then applied PPG (original 1966 N-code) Madeira Maroon to the aftermarket cowl hood and stock body. Prior to all that, RS had built a new larger transmission tunnel, sanitized the firewall, and modified the inner fenders.