Car culture, and the trends that define it, have always been a moving target. At Super Chevy, the goal has been to keep up with those trends, and, if possible, influence the direction they take. While that is an aspirational goal for most automotive publications, it isn’t hard to figure out that keeping your core audience happy is also equally important. This simply means you feature cars that the readers like, and want to see more of, such as first-gen Camaros, Tri-Fives, Chevelles, and early Chevy IIs. That has certainly been the case in many of these pages. Sometimes, however, you just need to buck the trend. We think that Pennsylvania resident Brandon Good’s 1980 Chevy Malibu is an excellent example of that; a clear departure from the comfort zone.
These cars are perhaps off the radar for most enthusiasts when it comes to building that “special” ride. The Malibu, along with most other domestic vehicles from the early ’80s are, at best, forgettable. They were cheap, slapped together, and pushed out the door to dealers. From the beginning, Brandon’s ride certainly embodied that expendability.
Fresh out of high school, in 2004 he acquired it as a bare shell from his dad, Andy Good. It was one day away from being sent to the junkyard. The elder Good asked him if he had any interest in it, and he quickly said, “Yeah, I dig that car, don’t get rid of it.” His desire to tackle the rebirth of the lowly A-body was fueled by looks and economics. “I like the square body style,” he explains. “It looked more like an old Nova. When you’re young, you can’t afford the older cars.”
Brandon’s ride at the time was a ’78 Monte Carlo with a warmed over 305ci mill under the hood. His plan was to strip the Monte and transfer anything that would work over to the Malibu. Many of the drivetrain components migrated over—everything else that was missing had to be found. “It was very hard to find the missing parts because these cars are at the middle of the road. It’s not a car where you can open up a book and order restoration parts, or a car I can call GM and order the parts new. I had to hit the junkyards and network with other people,” he states.
The entire rebuild took Brandon a few winter months to complete. Once the car was road worthy, he sprayed the entire body flat black. Brandon points out, “It was never meant to be a real nice car. It was just a car that I took out and beat on.” For three years he did just that. During that time, he was working at a speed shop with his longtime friend Derek Widman, who would occasionally critique the Malibu and what could be done to it. He urged Brandon to showcase his skills by doing the body and paint on the car. During his high school days, he had trained to do the finish work on cars, so it was a challenge that he was up for.
Again, during the winter months, he rented a garage where he could work. The Malibu was completely disassembled, and the painstaking chore of getting the body razor straight commenced. His decision to paint it black was driven by the desire to showcase his talents with a paint gun. “If you’re good, you can paint anything gloss black. You can’t hide anything with gloss black,” he points out. The exterior wasn’t the only thing he focused on. Equally important was the interior. With a fixed budget to work with, he installed a replacement dash from a Monte Carlo SS, and a set of Corbeau seats. He also states, “I did the door panels myself. I couldn’t afford a high-end interior.” Once the Malibu was back together, he started to use it during the summer months. During that repaint, the power curve was also increased with the installation of a 406 small-block that he and Derek built at the speed shop. He explains, “That motor lasted one summer. It was too slow for me.” Moving up the displacement food chain, that small-block gave way to a 505ci naturally aspirated big-block. For Brandon, that still wasn’t enough to push the Malibu. He also wanted the car to have a more aggressive stance. Inspired by some of the rides featured in the pages of Super Chevy, slammed and blown was his next target.
Brandon took the car to his dad’s shop, AG Automotive, in Ivyland, Pennsylvania. The shop specializes in automotive fabrication, so it was the ideal place to push the boxy A-body to the next level. Under his dad’s guidance, the rollcage was fabricated, while the framerails were cut, narrowed, and raised 2 inches. At the rear, a set of minitubs was installed, while the Ford 9-inch shed 2 inches at each end to accommodate the massive Mickey Thompson Drag Radials. The cubic inches were again bumped with the installation of a 565ci Dart Big M unit, crowned with an 8-71 blower from The Blower Shop. Derek was once again there to lend a helping hand with the assembly of this potent Bow Tie. Backing up this combination required a new slushbox to be installed. A TH400 built by J&G Transmission in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, was the ticket for handling the 1,300 horses on hand.
With another winter’s worth of work in the books, the Malibu—now on steroids—once again hit the streets. With the addition of all that bling tucked between the fenders, and that towering blower, Brandon was encouraged to jettison the hood so all the world could admire his pony factory.
After a number of years—or more accurately, winters—the disposable shell that he started with has gradually morphed into a unique ride that is the best business card anyone in his line of work could possibly hope for. Not only does it showcase his paint and body skills, it also backs up those creds with some solid chassis fabrication. He believes that these cars aren’t popular now, but that they will come into their own and eventually mirror what the Chevy II has become within the hobby. “When I go to a cruise night, it’s definitely the only one there,” he states. So, if you’re thinking of building something that falls outside the comfort zone, this mighty Malibu might be just the inspiration you’re looking for.