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1968 Chevy Chevelle/Malibu - LP'S VIP

For This Chevelle, VIP Means Violent, Innocent, And Pristine.

Doug Marion Oct 1, 2009
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The "LP" in this story is California's "Big" Leroy Peterson. He has been a car guy for 25 of his 37 years. But for the last 16, his wife and three kids came first. In the film developing business, Leroy kept his decades-long Chevelle ownership dream alive by stashing away all the overtime pay he could-knowing that some day his A-body might come in.

His favorite Chevelle is the uncommon '68 Malibu sport coupe. His ship did indeed come in when he spotted a stock 327, rust-free beauty on eBay, sitting idle right up the road in Culver City, California, for $2,800-running. Leroy, wife Tiffany, and their oldest son, 15-year-old Kameron patiently and precisely disassembled their new 40-year-old, rust-free beauty down to bare bones. During the entire unbolting process, they smartly bagged and tagged everything.

Always dreaming of owning a hot show and go Chevelle, Leroy met up with longtime friend, Mark Bohlen at Bent Custom and Performance (Chatsworth, California) to lay out a "restification" plan of action, as Bent does complete restorations and rebuilds. Leroy's lifelong goal was to own a totally modified powerhouse Chevelle with creature comforts and looks to-match.

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A short time later, Bent Custom and Performance removed the primo body from its rust-free frame and had the latter particle-blasted to remove all original paint and decades of road grime. The front crossmember was notched and boxed-in for the larger Moroso six quart-capacity oil pan. The frame was powdercoated in gloss black. Credit A&M Sandblasting and Andrews Powder Coating, both nearby in Chatsworth. The front suspension, steering and select brake parts were also powdercoated gloss black. The front assembly now consists of 2-inch dropped front spindles, disc brakes, anti-roll bar, QA1 gas shock absorbers, quick steering box plus 18x8 Intro wheels with Ventus 235/40R18 Sport radial tires.

Bent Custom & Performance also prepped the body for paint (a one-off custom shade of light blue), then reinstalled it to the rolling frame and trailered it 30 miles up the coast to Camarillo, where veteran painter Allen Palmer performed his magic. Mind you, Leroy did not want bright red, shiney black, bingo yellow or hot-to-trot orange. And no SS stripes, either. He wanted to downplay the exterior visuals so the Malibu would not stand out at first glance. He wanted fellow cruise-in and car show Chevy lovers to have to take a second look. In all, the Chevelle is ultra clean, but understated to the initial or casual glance. But a second look will take 30 minutes or more.

The entire interior was redone by Mike Ambrose in nearby North Hills, California, who does just one car at a time. A pair of Glide bucket seats and a totally new rear bench seat would be covered in contrasting black, silver and blue suede and pleather. Ambrose's door panels would then contrast the trick seats. Bent Custom & Performance laid out a plan to rework the dash face and trick it out with an Auto Meter tachometer, speedometer, and gauges. Lastly, V.C.S. Motorsport would later install a custom hidden stereo system.

After paint, Bent Custom & Performance finished up the chassis. At the rear is a heavy-duty 9-inch differential with 3.70 gears, Equi-loc, disc brakes and 31-spline Moser axles. A Global West adjustable four-link setup anchors it spot-on to the frame. Polished aluminum Intro-brand 20x10 wheels rotate Ventus Sport 275/35R20 low profile radial tires.

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The new powerplant is a custom-built, 450hp 383 small-block. It began life as a '70 350. A 0.030-inch overbore and a 400 ci small-block crankshaft with 0.270-inch more stroke pumps the number to 383 cubic inches. Service Center (Lomita, California) did the machine work. Heavy duty 4340 forged steel connecting rods are mated to Probe forged aluminum pistons with Sealed-Power moly rings. The compression ratio is a drivable 10.2:1. Working the valves is a stout bumpstick from Engle Cams. The intake and exhaust valve lift is 0.48/0.50-inch. Its duration is 280/290-degrees. Crane aluminum roller rocker arms finish off the valvetrain.

Edelbrock 2.02-intake aluminum heads, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold and a vacuum-secondary Demon 650 cfm carburetor comprise the air and fuel flow systems. Service Center performed some valve bowl blending work and a multi-angle valve job. The oiling system features a high volume Melling oil pump and a six-quart Moroso oil pan. Firing the fuel mixture is an MSD billet aluminum distributor and an MSD 6A multi-spark amplifier. Ceramic-coated Hooker 13/4-inch, four-tube headers scavenge the spent fumes through 21/2 inch diameter, ceramic-coated exhaust pipes to Flowmaster three-chamber mufflers. A tri-core radiator with twin electric puller fans keeps the 383's coolant temperature in check.

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The transmission is a 700R4 from R.E.B.S. Specialties in Reseda, California, and the torque converter features a 2,400 rpm stall-speed. The actual final drive ratio is about 2.95:1 with the OD-great for freeway cruising with decent fuel economy. To actuate gear changes, Leroy purchased Flaming River's column-shift, tilt-steering column.

The entire restification took 18 months. The end result is a one-of-a-kind, super smooth '68 with sleeper looks and power. It is as subtle as they come, but upon further glance, is outstanding. The engine compartment, with its totally flat firewall, plus the trick frame and performance chassis are all just as fine as the custom interior and mirror-smooth body.



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