Life is full of wake-up calls. Sometimes we get a little nudge in the ribs; sometimes we get a swift quick in the rear. Other times, the wake-up call can be as serious as a heart attack-literally. Six years ago, Bill Freelin got the message loud and clear. Fortunately for him, he survived the crisis and is running strong to this day. Fortunately for us, part of Freelin's reevaluation of life involved embracing his hot-rodding past, and the result is a slick '65 SS Malibu that makes his life just a bit better and less stressful.

Working as a stock boy while in high school, Freelin saved enough dough to pick up a '57 Chevy 210 post car. "The guy selling it lived in Hollywood and his rent payments were so high that he couldn't afford the car," Freelin recalls. "He had put in a 340-horse 327 in place of the original 283, but it still had a three-speed tranny in it; I changed it to a four-speed." Freelin took a trip for a little Tijuana tuck 'n' roll, built his own traction bars, added Inglewood cheater slicks, and proceeded to tear up the streets with his hot shoebox, which eventually went away, as our first loves always do. Freelin owned several other muclecars over the years, but had done without for two decades. Then he got his wake-up call. "I really started looking at life," Freelin confided. Serious issues were no doubt considered, but we can all certainly relate to his desire for a new dose of Chevy muscle.

Unfortunately, the going rate on nice '57 Chevys was a bit steep, so Freelin started looking elsewhere. It was listening, rather than looking, however, that lead him to his prize. "I was at the car show/swap meet at Anaheim Stadium and heard it, the big lope of a cam, a fabulous sound. I said, 'I gotta find that car.'" What he found was one good-looking '65 Malibu SS. "It looked really, really stock, sitting on 15-inch Rally wheels," Freelin recalls. "It was beautiful, and the paintjob was flawless." Tony's Auto Body had sprayed the Tahitian Turquoise hue, the A-bod's original color, though rendered in modern DuPont basecoat-clearcoat. Tony's had also rehabbed the interior, another selling point.

Of course, what first caught Freelin's attention was the mechanical music that sang out over that Anaheim parking lot, and sure enough Bill had found a Mali with the brawn to back up its beauty. The A-body engine bay was filled with a Speed-O-Motive Maxi Mouse powerplant. Based on a 400ci small-block, the 415ci stroker motor was fitted with all the good stuff: an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake, a blueprinted Holley carb, AFR aluminum heads, and an MSD ignition are among the highlights. That seductive lope that first caught Freelin's ear is courtesy of a healthy Crane hydraulic roller cam.

Once he became the '65's third owner, Freelin tabbed Hayden Auto Works in his hometown of Mission Viejo, California, to go through the 7-year-old Maxi Mouse powerplant, just to make sure everything was copasetic. Hayden replaced the bearings and changed the not so quiet "quiet gears" timing set to a double-roller chain. They also verified the 3.31:1 cogs in the vintage 12-bolt before bolting on a powdercoated Summit braced diff cover. The Chevelle's Turbo 400 also saw some attention, gaining a Hughes 2,400-stall speed torque converter as well as a Trans-Go reprogramming kit and a Hayden cooler.

Freelin continued the routine, turning his ride over to Craig at The Muffler Man in Placentia, California. When Freelin came to reclaim his Mali, it sported a new, custom mandrel-bent 3-inch exhaust system, complete with an X-pipe and Flowmaster mufflers.