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1965 Chevy Malibu - Identity Crisis

What Happens When You Like The Front Of The '65 Malibu, But The Tail Design Of A '64? Combine Them Like Joe Hutcheson Did.

Patrick Hill Oct 21, 2009
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Building a Chevelle/Malibu with its own unique look can be tough. With the popularity of A-bodies among Bow Tie fanatics and the exposure of various cars on the Internet, building one that stands out from its peers usually takes time, patience, a ton of research, and some ingenuity. Joe Hutcheson set out to create a car that wasn't built very often, but it had to be a mid-sized Chevrolet, and have the body lines and style to look fast even at a standstill. After spying a rusty '64 Malibu in the local Auto Trader, he knew he'd found his starting point.

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Joe made the trek from his northern Indiana home to the car's residence near Chicago. Underneath all the rust and cancer, Joe fell in love with the body style and knew what he wanted to do. A deal was struck, and the car delivered to Joe's house later that evening. At the time it was painted a mint green, with a tired 454 for power and a 12-bolt rear out back, and a ton of rust. The front fenders were junk behind the wheelwell, the rear quarters had cancer all over them, and the floorboards resembled Swiss cheese. After a short drive, Joe pulled the Malibu into his shop and started a two-and-a-half year build to get the '64 right.

First up was cancer surgery and treatment. Years of driving on salty winter roads had given the '64 a serious case of body rot. Within a week everything was stripped from the car and the body mounted on a rotisserie. Once off the frame, the rust damage became even more apparent. Over several months the entire floor of the car was cut out and replaced, along with the floor supports. Next the quarter-panels were removed and replaced, along with the inner fender panels.

After that, the front cab corners had to be cleaned out and patched, 40 years of bugs, leaves, mud, and other road funk needed to be discared, as did one of the rocker panels. The front and rear windshield areas had rust spots in them that needed patching, too, and the panel between the rear window and the decklid was replaced. Because an aftermarket piece wasn't available at the time, Joe had to fabricate most of the replacement tail panel also.

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While metal was undergoing major reconstruction, the firewall was also smoothed, and all exterior holes (door handles, locks, trunk latch, key holes, etc.) were welded to clean up the exterior. About the only thing Joe didn't replace or modify was the roof.

Here's where the project took a turn towards the bizarre.

The hood, doors, fenders, and core support for the '64 had been sent out for acid dipping, and when Joe started working on reinstalling the pieces, he decided that he liked the look of the '65 Chevelle front end better than that of the '64. After thinking it over, research was done to find out everything that was different between the '64 Malibu and '65 Malibu front end structure.

Surprisingly, it was almost everything. Over a few months time, Joe scoured eBay, hunting down all the parts he would need to transplant the '65 front end onto his '64 body. From all over the country parts were bought and shipped, to assemble everything necessary for the transplant. During one winter, the frame was hoisted outside and sandblasted, then coated with POR-15 to prevent future rust.

Once the frame was ready, Joe started reassembling the driveline. The 12-bolt was freshened with a new Posi unit, Moser axles, and 4.10 gears. For suspension, a homemade air bag system was built and mounted. The front shocks were moved outside of the coil springs, then the body remounted to the frame.

The '65 front end was test fitted, and after some extensive trial and error, the necessary modifications were made to get everything mounted properly and looking like Joe wanted.



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