The backstory: Zac found this nightmare/dream Chevelle in Toledo, Ohio. It was on Craigslist. It had collision damage in the front. It had a big-block bolted to an automatic. Zac had a stout 327 on his engine stand at home. He passed on the big-block and took the car as a roller. He said the most challenging aspect of the project was getting the body back in shape and that if he’d do this over, he’d begin with a bona fide 138 VIN instead of a pedestrian Malibu. A little bit further on, it turns out that Zac’s dad, Rich, had graduated high school in 1967, so that was a special year for him.
To some older hands, nostalgia runs deep and a return to the past is the message they want to live and remember. We had an L79 Malibu that we poked into some people’s business as they were trying to outrun us with their big-block SS boogeymen. It was a bellwether car—lighter, subdued, nearly invisible in the SS blood storm banged by cats in wife beater T-shirts and gnarly gold neck chains. Sometimes, we got a glimpse of them gritting their teeth … and never saw them again.
Back to the dad-and-son experience. “We realized the [Chevelle’s] 50th anniversary was coming up,” said Zac. The design concept was to keep the Chevelle as a pretty legit muscle car. We wanted something different than the typical red, black, Marina Blue Chevelle with bucket seats, so we went with a bench seat and converted the car to a four-speed. Nantucket Blue was the original color, so it seemed right to keep it that way. We used a white interior from a ’66 Chevelle because it wasn’t offered in ’67.” They built the ’Bu at his Dadz Motor Company in Liberty Township, Ohio.
“We got the car on the road in June of 2016. It had the 327 at first. We put about 1,000 miles on it until winter came. I’d kept in touch with the previous owner and asked about the big-block he’d pulled out when I bought it. We made a deal. I went up and bought the engine. Matt Davis and I disassembled and rebuilt the big-block over the winter and swapped it in February of 2017. The idea was to build a ‘sleeper’ style engine that looked like a stock 396.”
We had a similar notion of our Malibu. We didn’t even consider air conditioning, power-assisted steering, or even disc brakes. Big mistakes, but then our 22-year-old toad brain was more or less out of control when we bought our first new car, thinking it would be all things. It wasn’t. We were patently illiterate. We refused to meet compromise. While we could have lived happily with a wide-ratio M20 and included a final drive ratio of 3.08:1, we labored with the 2.20:1 Low gear and 3.73s in the pumpkin. Why? To the chauvinistic us, “wide ratio” stood for “wuss” and we were too reptilian to even consider the rational decision.
We’re heartened by Zac’s rendition. Though current, it maintains lots of famous cues and it makes no excuses. One minute it’s in the present; the next minute it’s looking hard over its shoulder at what used to be. And to us, that’s the most important thing. It uses stuff that hasn’t been considered for decades: those skimpy, though period-correct 15-inch wheels and tall, modest BFG radials slam the tub-less ’60s right back at you. The stance is interesting. In the day, it might have had a tipped up nose, not an elevated rear end. A bench seat is definitely throwback, and look how utterly strange (and cool) it is in the Malibu.
Zac followed the drummer in his head. He did what most young bucks would have done with their new Chevelle. He gave it a cool set of wheels so it would sparkle a little. He swapped out the camshaft, put tube headers on it, changed intake manifolds and put a different carburetor on it. He considered its mission and saw no need for an expensive forged rotating assembly, a power-adder, or a switch to fuel injection. Likewise for the chassis and running gear. He didn’t need coilovers, a hydroformed subframe, rack steering, or wheeltubs. He simply augmented the existing form much like it would have been all those years ago, and by following this ascetic regimen Zac saved a satchel of dead presidents.
That he has defied the expected and eschewed the status quo makes the Malibu somewhat out of the ordinary and thoroughly refreshing. Zac’s not intimidated or worried about what everyone else is doing. He’s just doing.
|Owner||Zac Zipperian, Liberty Township, Ohio|
|Vehicle||1967 Chevelle Malibu|
|Type||1969 Mark IV|
|Cylinder Heads||Corvette iron closed chamber, 108cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly||OE nodular iron crankshaft, connecting rods, hypereutectic pistons|
|Valvetrain||Comp roller lifters, 1.7:1 Comp rocker arms, valvesprings, pushrods|
|Camshaft||Comp XE284 (0.574/0.578-inch lift; 284/296-deg. duration at 0.050)|
|Induction||Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor, base of original air cleaner modified for better flow, stock fuel tank|
|Exhaust||Hedman Hedders headers, 1 3/4-inch primaries; 2 1/2-inch system; Thrush Welded Series mufflers|
|Ancillaries||Champion three-row aluminum radiator, Painless loom by Zac Zipperian|
|Assembly||Matt Davis/Zac Zipperian|
|Transmission||Muncie M20 four-speed, McLeod 11-inch flywheel and clutch assembly|
|Rear Axle||GM 12-bolt, limited-slip differential, 3.73:1 gears, OE axleshafts, OE driveshaft|
|Front Suspension||CCP 2-inch drop spindles, OE springs, Monroe shock absorbers, OE antisway bar|
|Rear Suspension||OE upper and lower control arms, Moog springs with aluminum spacers, Monroe shock absorbers|
|Brakes||CCP slotted 11-inch rotors, four-piston calipers, front; OE drums, rear; CCP master cylinder/proportioning valve|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Cragar SS 15x7 front, 15x8 rear|
|Tires||BFGoodrich Radial T/A 215/70 front, 255/70 rear|
|Seats||OE 1966 Chevelle bench|
|Steering||OE box, SS steering wheel|
|Shifter||Hurst Competition Plus|
|Instrumentation||OE, Auto Gauge ancillaries, tachometer|
|Audio||Custom Auto Sound head unit, Custom Auto kick-panel speakers, 6x9 rear speakers|
|Bodywork||Dennis Huening (Liberty Township, OH)|
|Paint By||Dennis Huening|
Photos by Robert McGaffin