Tony Grzelakowski said it: “I got started with model cars when I was 9,” he confessed. “They just got bigger.” That was then. Now, it’s more like this: the father-son team of Tony and T.J. had already put together several 1966 Chevelles, mainly because that year was Pop’s seal, his favorite. When finally T.J. asked Dad about what else might motivate him, the response was this 1970 body, Tony’s other favorite body.
“My thoughts for the perfect car would be a barn find, all-original, six-cylinder grandma’s car. Everybody said good luck on that; it would be like finding a haystack of needles.” As his company, ABC Performance (Imlay City, Michigan), was an established vendor, Tony was privy to the car-show grapevine. “Kevin Collins, the event coordinator for the Frankenmuth Auto Fest called me about two possible unfinished projects of people he knew. One was a 1966 El Camino. The other was a 1970 Malibu.
“We looked at the El Camino first because it had already been started [in reconstruction]. The top was chopped and I was not interested in that, so over to the Malibu we went.” More and more of Tony’s original inspiration began to out serendipitously. The ‘Bu had been sitting there for 18 years in its original patina, white painted top, gold exterior, and matching interior.
The seller revealed that he’d acquired it from a buddy’s grandmother (the little old lady from Pasa … umm, Arizona). She was small of stature. She had bought it new in 1970. We all know that a climate dry enough to chap the lips off chickens is the best place to find substantial unsullied sheetmetal.
“I could not believe my eyes or the story he told me. Wow! This was exactly what I was looking for. I called him and asked if he would consider a trade. It was covered with dust and I could see paw prints all over it.” Yeah, it did, but the cats had kept the mice away. Tony wound up swapping a complete ABC Performance suspension system the guy wanted for his 1969 Chevelle and walked the Malibu away.
They got it back to the shop and checked the usual places that attract rotten behavior and nurture it, looking closely at the lower body panels and inside door seams. They’d found it rust-free and solid, and they were thrilled. Tony: “I was very lucky to find this, and in Michigan, too. Further looking revealed an aftermarket A/C system. Then I saw something that I have only heard about—an extension on the gas pedal, so the story of a small woman who owned this car was true!”
While the Grzelakowski’s wanted a willing accomplice for autocross and Ultimate Street Car competition, their primary vision was a rolling advert for ABC the company, a showcase of its abilities and the worth of its wares.
They began with the chassis, wrapping either end of the frame with box-in plates to promote torsional stiffness, to keep the ’rails from twisting under torque and managing the oversized rubber. Since a six-gear Tremec was part of the plan, they cinched it to the underbelly with an ABC crossmember. They attached an ABC splined antisway bar. Tubular control arms and tall spindles came next. Untoward body motion is damped by coilovers featuring Viking Performance Crusader shock absorbers. Moving to the live end, they planted the Strange Engineering full-floater with ABC four-link bars and a coilover conversion kit. ABC replaced the lazy stock Saginaw 700 recirculating ball with a much quicker Turn One 12:1 box.
For the seriously steppin’ out part, the men wanted a naturally aspirated system, no juice, no compressed air, but rather a snappy 12.0:1 compression ratio (accommodated by aluminum cylinder heads). On nuts, the Callies/Diamond outfit in the 380-inch Dart SHP PRO block peels off nearly 600 horsepower and just under 500 lb-ft of torque at the crank, just about perfect for what Tony and T.J. must do.
Accordingly, the Chevelle retains most of its original interior trappings. This is a business office, not a lounge, so only the basic stuff is in there—custom bucket seats, the required safety equipment, a smattering of Auto Meter Sport Comps, and a cheeky attitude. We assume that the car is street-driven more than occasionally, so when Tony rewired the thing, he included basic audio equipment driven through speakers sunk into the doors. Mostly, though, he’d rather listen to the engine thrash.
The Chevelle’s appearance is polarizing; aero-helper lips, wings, and splitters localize and define the changes. The body parts are steel. The front bumper is a Glasstek item customized by ABC. Below it, they built a custom air dam augmented with a deep splitter secured by link supports. On the decklid, they mounted a viciously raked wing with a nod to tough-guy demeanor, and staked it solid with a phalanx of link supports.
There is no paint. There is vinyl wrap instead, a practice that has been adopted by racers of every stripe (NASCAR in particular) as well as hordes of commercial vehicles, wherein the 3M medium can be infused with just about any color and any image or design that could be conjured via Photoshop. The secret to success is to make the metal finish as fine as possible (even 200-grit sanding marks are still detectable). Down in Fraser, Michigan, Chris at Tintz & Graphx painstakingly applied the 3M Garnet Matte Metallic. Meanwhile, Tony was having the window trim and door handles powdercoated black.
In the aftermath, we asked Tony and T.J. about their most memorable moment with the Chevelle. “After the first upgrade of the rearend, trans, suspension, and motor,” said T.J., “we drove it from Michigan to Texas to start the 2013 Power Tour.” They’ve been having memorable moments in it ever since.
|Owner:||Tony Grzelakowski, Imlay City, Michigan|
|Vehicle:||1970 Chevelle Malibu|
|Type:||Dart SHP PRO block|
|Cylinder Heads:||Edelbrock Victor Jr., PAC springs, 64cc combustion chambers, 2.02/1.60 valves|
|Rotating Assembly:||Callies Magnum crankshaft, 6.000-inch Ultra I-beam connecting rods, Diamond pistons, Clevite 77 coated bearings, Total Seal ring packs|
|Valvetrain:||T&D 1.7:1 roller rockers, 3/8-inch rocker studs|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams (custom grind) 290/297-deg. duration at 0.050, 0.688/0.675-inch lift|
|Induction:||Dart intake manifold, Pro Systems Holley 4150, K&N air filter, 20-gallon Tanks, Inc. fuel cell, Walbro pump, Fragola lines and fittings|
|Ignition:||MSD 6AL box, Blaster 2 coil and primary wires|
|Exhaust:||Stainless steel American Racing Headers, 1 3/4-inch primaries, ABC Performance custom 3-inch system, Borla mufflers|
|Ancillaries:||Superior aluminum core radiator, SPAL electric fans, Power Master alternator, ABC Performance Front Runner accessory drive|
|Output (to the crank):||585 hp at 7,600 rpm, 490 lb-ft at 5,150 rpm|
|Machine Work:||Modern Cylinder Head (Clinton Twp., MI)|
|Assembled by:||Mark Bredernitz at Beavis Machine (Durand, MI)|
|Transmission:||Tremec T-56 Magnum, McLeod billet flywheel and 11-inch clutch assembly|
|Rear Axle:||Strange Engineering full-floating 9-inch type, S-Trac limited-slip, 35-spline axles, 3.70:1 ratio, DTS driveshaft|
|Front Suspension:||Stock frame modified with ABC Performance box-in plates, solid body mounts, tall spindles, tubular control arms, X-member, rear lateral loop brace, splined antisway bar, Viking Performance Crusader coilover shocks|
|Rear Suspension:||ABC Performance upper and lower links and bolt-in coilover conversion kit, Viking Pro Touring shocks|
|Brakes:||Wilwood 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers front, Wilwood 14-inch rotors and four-piston calipers rear, Wilwood proportioning valve|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Forgeline DS3 18x10.5 front, 18x11 rear|
|Tires:||BFG g-Force Rival S 315/30 front and rear|
|Upholstery:||June’s Auto Trim and Upholstery (Attica, MI)|
|Seats:||Custom made, Schroth four-point harnesses, aftermarket door panels|
|Steering:||Stock column, Turn One steering box 12:1 ratio, Grant GT wheel|
|Dash:||Stock, dyed black|
|Instrumentation:||Auto Meter Sport Comp|
|Audio:||Auto Sound head and speakers|
|Bodywork:||Tony and T.J. Grzelakowski, Todd Raska, custom-built air dam/splitter, rear spoiler, powdercoated black window trim and door handles, Red Line Lumatronics headlights|
|Paint by:||Chris at Tintz and Graphx (Fraser, MI)|
|Paint:||3M Garnet Matte Metallic body wrap|
|Bumpers:||3M Garnet Matte Metallic body wrap|