Gearheads are a funny group; they often reminisce about what could have been, waxing nostalgic about a particular vehicle that hit all the right spots at just the right time in life—even if that vehicle was a rattletrap with missing interior bits and pieces, had rusted-out quarter-panels, or the engine was on its last go-round before the junkyard trip.
In the case of the stunning 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS seen here, it was John Boggio’s high-school terror, and looked nothing like it does today. For that matter, it didn’t run anything like it does today, either. But for a high school kid it was a fun toy, until it was time to move on to something else. “It was a kid’s drag car,” says Boggio. “It had 15x9 rear wheels, 3.5-inch-wide front wheels, and was able to run 12.50s at Pomona. I sold it in 1998, after high school.”
Then life took over. He started a business; got married to his wife, Marina; and didn’t give the Chevelle much thought. That is until one day the phone rang and on the other end of the line was a friend who remembered the car. “He saw it sitting in a yard in Riverside, so I went down there and bought it back,” he says. The car had basically been sitting all that time, as he found out shortly after bringing it home. “When I bought it back my old insurance card and registration was still in the glove compartment,” says Boggio. “That night, I brought her home and the project began.”
In the 12 years between selling the car and putting it back into his stable Boggio had acquired many skills—including those needed to do the vast majority of the work himself—to bring the car to its current state. The build process, completed with the help of a number of local businesses who specialize in different aspects of vehicle customization and modification, took a total of seven years to complete once the car returned home.
With a plan to turn the car into a machine worthy of the Chevelle nameplate—and build it to his own vision—Boggio decided that a frame-off restomod would be the way to go in this particular instance. The frame was modified, completely boxed for strength, and had a set of mini-tubs installed to help provide just the right amount of tire clearance in the rear. The frame-off portion of the project provided Boggio with the one area of remorse concerning the entire build. He says if he had it to do over again, he’d start with a custom chassis underneath rather than expending the time and effort to modify, repair, and strengthen the factory unit.
No machine like this impeccable Chevelle is complete without a strong powerplant so Boggio took his time sorting out the details on the bullet for the car. With the help of Don Lee Auto Service (DLA) in Rancho Cucamonga, California, the decision was made to update the engine bay with none other than an LS1 engine.
The strength of the LS platform was noted as a desired quality, so DLA machined the engine to clean it up, leaving it with stock bore and stroke dimensions. It was subsequently balanced and blueprinted for consistency purposes. A set of Manley connecting rods and Manley 10.5:1-compression pistons finish off the rotating assembly, which retains the stock LS1 crankshaft. Patriot cylinder heads sit on top, with rockers actuated through an LSA camshaft. ARP fasteners keep the components firmly attached to one another.
Many other factory components were retained, as they’ve been proven over the years in applications like this one. Boggio made the decision to upgrade the oil pan to a 7-quart unit from Milodon, but retained the factory-style oil pump, water pump, and timing chain. Wegner Automotive’s front-drive kit and aluminum valve covers finish off the long-block, while a two-row, custom Be Cool radiator keeps the temperatures in check.
The real star of the show, though, is the 2.9-liter twin-screw supercharger sitting atop the engine. Boggio has it pullied to produce 12 psi of boost through the intercooled design. With this configuration, the engine spun the chassis dyno roller to 586 rear-wheel horsepower at 5,800 rpm and a stump-pulling 760 lb-ft of torque at only 3,200 rpm. Perfect for a street brawler like the Chevelle. The car was dialed-in and tuned on the chassis dyno at legendary Westech Performance; yet another benefit to living and working in the horsepower-rich environs of Southern California.
Bowtie Overdrives created one of their exclusive 765R4 transmissions. This unique design uses modern 4L65E components and retrofits them into a 700-R4 housing. The transmission is fed power through a 3,000-stall converter from TCS, and sends it out through an Inland Driveline aluminum driveshaft to the custom-fabricated 9-inch rearend housing from Chris Alston’s Chassisworks. The housing was assembled by DLA; it features 3.55:1 gearing and an Eaton TrueTrac differential.
Next Level Motorsports in Riverside—Boggio’s go-to sheetmetal wizards—crafted an amazing dual-element air intake system designed to maximize the supercharger’s deep-breathing capabilities. They also created all of the other underhood panels, which gives the engine bay its unique appearance. A set of custom stepped 1.750- to 1.875-inch headers were built by Brownie, then ceramic-coated prior to mating up with the 3-inch stainless-steel X-pipe and MagnaFlow mufflers. Wiring and plumbing were handled by JAX Motorsports.
To get the stance just right, 2.5-inch drop spindles combine with tubular A-arms and adjustable shocks both front and rear. An adjustable airbag suspension system has a number of responsibilities in this application: to set the visual appearance at rest, provide excellent ride control when the car is in motion, and offer suspension adjustability when the conditions demand it.
A complete set of Wilwood components make up the braking system, with 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers in the front providing the bulk of the stopping action. Fourteen-inch rotors and four-piston calipers in the rear finish off the monstrous stopping capabilities. Rolling stock has been especially selected to fit perfectly within the Chevelle’s bodylines: a set of DONZ Gigante wheels measure 19x9 in the front and 20x12 in the rear, with 255/30/19 and 315/30/20 Falken Azenis tires providing the handling capabilities.
It’s not all about performance for this ride, though. Art of Sound set up an Alpine head unit to run through a complete assortment of Rockford Fosgate speakers, subs, and amps. Rather than outfit the car with race seats and make it unforgiving to drive, Boggio decided to have Elegance Auto Interior tune up the seating positions and the rest of the interior. Black and red leather and suede were merged with the stock seat frames to create a one-of-a-kind cabin for this Chevelle. Even the headliner was treated to the leather/suede upgrade. A Sparco steering wheel finishes off the appearance upgrades, while SpeedHut gauges allow him to monitor the engine’s vital signs.
Foothill Autobody in Rancho Cucamonga, California, was selected to cover the exterior. It’s covered in PPG Torch Red pigment—a Corvette hue—that looks right at home on the flanks of the Chevelle. Powdercoating responsibilities were laid into the hands of Concept Powder Coating. Surprisingly, Boggio says that people don’t necessarily notice all of the major modifications he’s done to the car. “The one thing people seem to like is that I shaved all of the emblems and powdercoated all of the chrome to black,” he says. Until the engine fires to life, and the blown LS starts to play its song.