Craig Stewart began his assault on this '64 Malibu a full decade before finally taking delivery in 2001. It sat in a driveway a mere two blocks from his dad's house for 20 years, dying a slow and unceremonious death. Ten years prior, he made his first offer to the original owner, and made an annual attempt until she finally lost her will to resist. Craig's patience and persistence won the war of attrition.
Although the car was reasonably straight, it suffered from neglect and cancer in some key areas and required replacement sheetmetal surgery to correct the results of 20 years of exposure. Having built several hot rods from scratch, Craig knew what it would take to perform his first frame-off restoration. Vogel's Auto Body of San Gabriel, California, was pressed into service to replace a rear quarter-panel and apply new paint using the original Azure Aqua hue. The interior was painstakingly restored by C.A.R.S. of Fullerton, California, and features the original bench seats, stock gauges, and a brace of Moon gauges.
But a restoration was only part of Craig's equation. Having owned a number of fast rides, including a '65 Hemi car, he needed the Malibu to haul the mail as well. Originally equipped with a 283/Powerglide combination, he tossed the drivetrain in favor of bigger and better things. Craig commissioned Performance Machine of Pomona, California, to assemble a 496-inch Rat motor to provide the Chevelle with plenty of forward thrust. The parts included a Cola crank, SRP pistons, and a Comp roller, along with a set of heavily reworked GMPP aluminum cylinder heads perched on top. It's the original '68 Corvette Tri-power that gives the mill a period look. A custom set of step headers by Morse Muffler of Burbank, California, were pieced together to expel unwanted combustion by-products through a custom-bent 3-inch exhaust system featuring Flowmaster mufflers.
Craig also sandwiched an M22 "rock crusher" trans between the fat Rat and the 12-bolt rearend pirated from a '66 Chevelle. A Hurst Competition shifter is used to stir the gears while a Centerforce dual-friction clutch and pressure plate ensure power transfer to the tarmac. J&S Gear of Huntington Beach, California, set up the 12-bolt with a 3.73 posi and Moser axles. A Chevelle provided the front disc brakes, and the stock drums were retained in the rear. Since Craig wanted the '64 to look stock, he kept the 14-inch steel wheels and hubcaps but narrowed the fronts to 5 inches and widened the rears to 7 inches to accommodate the fat Hoosier Quick Time Pro stickies.
Without the help and moral support of his wife Jo, along with Gerry, Daniel of True Connections, Ray, Flash, and Ron to name just a few, this project would never have come to fruition. Craig's next objective is to acquire a '61 Ford Galaxie convertible, and he's had the current owner under siege for the last 6 years. He's hunkered down for the long haul, and knowing Craig, he will emerge victorious.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: What shape was your Chevelle in when you purchased it?Craig Stewart: It was worse than I thought. I had to replace a rear quarter-panel, the trunk, and the rear floor. I could have just performed some repairs, but this car had to be done right from the outset. It's funny that the original owner wanted a lot of money for this car, and I had to pop the trunk open and poke a screw driver through the trunk floor to show her that it wasn't worth what she was asking.
CC: Your car is part resto, part racer. What was your vision when you built your Chevelle?CS: I really wanted to do a nuts-and-bolts, body-off restoration, which is something I had never done. I have built a number of cars from scratch, but no full restos. And, it had to have power, because I like speed. It had to be streetable enough to drive, though. I won't build 'em if I can't drive 'em.