That hunk of rock in the night sky, often referred to by its technical name "the moon," orbits the Earth from 240,000 miles away. That's an astoundingly vast distance by most standards, but worthless bits of information like that wouldn't even impress the ladies at an MIT chess tournament. It does, however, put a little perspective on the feats achieved by Bryan Grove's '74 Malibu. In the 34 years it has been in his family, the valiant A-body has logged 450,000 miles on the clock, almost enough to complete a round trip to the moon or escape the screech of your mother-in-law's voice. To plagiarize those old Chevy ads, this sucker's held together "like a rock."
Not content to bask in past commuting triumphs, Bryan has transformed the Malibu into a blown 515 rear-wheel horsepower street/strip beast on the cusp of solid 11-second e.t.'s. Through the years, man and machine have developed quite a bond, and have literally grown old together.
The tale starts in 1975, when Bryan's dad purchased the car in practically new condition off of a friend who couldn't keep up with the payments. Six years later, Bryan rode home from the hospital as a newborn in the Malibu, and the duo has been inseparable ever since. "As far back as I can remember, my family was always driving around together in the Malibu. The car served as a daily driver for 22 years, and even had a trailer hitch on it at one point so it could tow our camping trailer all over the country," Bryan recollects. "There aren't too many driving memories I have from childhood that don't involve this car. It even had springs off of a 454 El Camino at one point so it could haul all our stuff without bottoming out. When my dad bought the car, little did he know it would still be around 35 years later looking better than ever."
Perhaps even more impressive than the 450,000 miles the Malibu has logged is the fact that 350,000 of them were with the original two-barrel 350 small-block and TH350 trans. "Other than routine maintenance and oil changes every 3,000 miles, this car never required a major repair when it was a commuter. The flexplate let go once, but that's the only thing that's ever broken," he says. Bryan's dad tossed him the keys when he turned 16, and he's been dumping every spare nickel and dime at the project ever since. "I was in love with that 150hp motor, and drove the car all through high school. At first, my dad and I spent a lot of time trying to reverse the havoc two young kids unleashed on the interior for all those years. Fortunately, since the car spent almost its entire life in Arizona, rust has never had a chance to attack the metal."
With a fresh coat of paint and a revamped interior, Bryan could finally focus on upping the power ante. The stock mill was yanked and replaced with a GM Performance Parts 350 crate motor, and he quickly tallied another 50,000 miles on the Malibu before retiring it from daily driving duty in 2001. For the first time in its existence, the car was driven just occasionally over the next seven years, and didn't see much progress in the way of mods. That all changed rather abruptly, however, after Bryan started hanging out at the dragstrip again. Out came the 350, and in went a new GMPP ZZ383 crate motor. It features a forged crank, powdered metal connecting rods, hypereutectic 9.6:1 pistons, GM Fast Burn aluminum cylinder heads, and a 222/230-at-0.050 hydraulic roller cam. Rated at 425 hp, the 383 is a stout combo right out of the box, but Bryan took it one step further with the addition of a 150hp hit of nitrous, a set of long-tube headers, and dual 3-inch pipes with Flowmaster mufflers. Despite weighing in at a hefty 4,140 pounds, the Malibu ran a best e.t. of 12.35 at 117 mph. "After taking a short break, I was hooked again," he says. "Ever since then, all I've been thinking about day and night is how I can make my car faster. It's like I'm 16 years old all over again."
After dropping in the new motor, the Malibu was running faster and looking better than it ever had before. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old car was starting to show its age, and Bryan decided to give it a full Pro Touring rubdown in an effort to modernize the A-body's dated chassis, and bolster its cruising credentials. The stance was lowered 3 inches with a set of QA1 coilovers up front, and Eaton springs and KYB shocks in the rear. Rushforth Fuel wheels, measuring 19x8 up front and 20x10 out back, were wrapped in Nitto meats before taking occupancy inside the wheelwells. Surprisingly, the capacious factory tubs swallowed up the gargantuan 315/35R20 rear rollers without requiring any beating or banging whatsoever. To help plant those meats, a set of upper and lower control arms from Performance Suspension Technology was bolted in place, and Bryan reports that they enable quick and easy pinion angle changes for maximum bite. Since the big wheels made the marginal stock brakes even more inadequate, they were swapped out for a set of Baer four-wheel discs.
At this stage, it appeared as if the project was nearing the end, but considering the engine combo was already a year-and-a-half old, Bryan called an audible and changed it up once again. Bottom-12s in a 2-ton cruiser just wasn't enough, so it was time to add some boost. "I wanted the feel of nitrous without having to hit the button or refill the bottle, so one call to ProCharger took care of that dilemma," he quips. "Since installing the intercooler required moving the radiator back two inches, I figured it would be a good time to upgrade that as well. A stout cooling system is a must here in Arizona, so in went a Be Cool radiator and dual electric fans. The blower made the motor much thirstier, so an Aeromotive fuel pump was installed as well. When the engine mods were finally complete, the car put down 515 hp and 497 lb-ft of torque on the chassis dyno at just 8 pounds of boost. I haven't had a chance to run it at the track yet, but I don't think deep 11s are out of the question with the kind of power this car is making now."
The consequence of combining so much power with so much weight was that the stock TH350 trans had no chance of surviving. Furthermore, it was a gear ratio short for the type of cruising Bryan had in mind. Not wanting to fiddle around with electronics, he ordered up a heavy-duty 700R4 from Bowtie Overdrives. Next, to complete the street cruiser motif, he lined the entire interior in Dynamat and installed a Vintage Air A/C system. To put everything to the test, and have a whole lot of fun in the process, Bryan loaded up the Malibu just like the Grove family did back in the day and cruised cross-country to Wisconsin and back. "The car ran great and averaged over 16 mpg. That's not bad at all considering the minimal space that was between the floorboard and gas pedal for most of the trip," he jokes.
In perpetuating the Grove family tradition, the Malibu continues to rack up the miles on long and frequent road trips. It draws plenty of attention along the way, and Bryan revels in keeping onlookers guessing. "I took all the badging off of the car, so people have no idea what kind of car this is, and a lot of them think it's an Oldsmobile. I just tell them it's a Nova, and the confused looks on their faces is priceless," he says. Considering that Bryan is seven years younger than the Malibu, it's understandable if he's pondered trading it in for a new, hotter model. As Bryan adamantly affirms, however, that isn't going to happen. "Some people buy certain project cars because it reminds them of cars they grew up in, but my Malibu is the actual car I grew up in. It's the only project car I've ever owned and worked on, and I plan on keeping it that way.
I still have the original 350,000-mile 350 at my dad's house, and it's a constant reminder of all the great times my family had in our Malibu."
'74 Chevy Chevelle Malibu
Bryan Grove, 28
Total cost to build: $45,000
Type: Chevy 383 small-block
Block: GMPP standard 4.000-inch bore
Oiling: stock pump and pan
Rotating assembly: GM 3.800-inch forged crank, powdered metal rods, hypereutectic 9.6:1 pistons
Cylinder heads: GMPP Fast Burn aluminum castings with 2.00/1.55-inch Manley valves
Camshaft: GM 222/230-at-0.050 hydraulic roller; 0.509/0.528-inch lift; 112-degree LSA
Valvetrain: GMPP lifters, 1.5:1 rockers, and double-roller timing set
Induction: Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake manifold, Holley 750 cfm carb
Ignition: MSD 6AL box, distributor, coil, timing controller, and plug wires
Fuel system: Aeromotive pump and regulator
Exhaust: Hooker 15/8-inch headers, custom H-pipe, dual 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers
Cooling: stock water pump; Be Cool radiator and dual electric fans
Power adder: ProCharger D-1SC supercharger and air-to-air intercooler
Output: 515 rear-wheel horsepower at 4,700 rpm and 497 lb-ft at 5,100 rpm
Built by: owner
Transmission: Bowtie Overdrives 700R4 and 2,800-stall converter; TCI shifter
Rear axle: GM 8.5-inch 10-bolt rearend, 4.10:1 gears, Eaton limited-slip differential
Front suspension: rebuilt stock with QA1 coilovers
Rear suspension: Performance Suspension Technology upper and lower control arms, Eaton springs, KYB shocks
Brakes: Baer 13-inch rotors and two-piston calipers, front; Baer 12-inch rotors and single-piston calipers, rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Rushforth Fuel 19x8, front; 20x10, rear
Tires: Nitto 275/35R19, front; 315/35R20, rear