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.
Next up was the Chevelle's suspension system. Though the previous owner had installed Hotchkis springs at all four corners, the balance of the components were original and in need of refreshing. "When I jumped on it, the car floated to the left," Freelin told us. "It was like I could feel parts bending." The stock lower control arms were boxed, powdercoated, and treated to poly bushings; an assortment of new components from Global West, Hotchkis, and Bilstein completed the suspension renewal. "It's now strong enough to make me confident, and it goes straight," Freelin reports. When asked about tackling the twisties, he admits, "Turning is an added benefit-it responds like right now-but I can't turn too quickly with the stock seats, or I slide right off!" (Stock-looking seats with built-up bolsters to permit higher-g maneuvers are in the works.)
A big part of the veteran A-body's newfound turning prowess came from Freelin's new rolling stock. Looking for eye candy as well as improved stopping power, a Baer Track Plus kit replaced the stock binders; of course, this necessitated a wheel and tire change, so 17-inch Americans clad in sticky Nitto 555 rubber were mounted up. "The car still looks stock, yet upgraded," Freelin commented. "I wanted to fill the wheelwells and fit the Baers in." Mission accomplished there. The brake work was done by Freelin with his friends Mark, Art, and Kevin at the latter's shop, Penna Volvo in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. (Kevin's '68 Camaro graced our Nov. '05 cover.)
Make no mistake about it, Freelin's Malibu has made him one happy camper. "It rides tight," he reports. "It's not cushy. And when you jump on it, boy, it's something. It'll get totally loose in Second gear...it's a thrill." But the car hobby camaraderie Freelin has found seems to be just as important. "I enjoy showing the car, meeting new people, and talking about their projects," he tells us. Hearing Freelin talk about it, the time spent with family and friends at various shows is good for the soul, but re-embracing his old hobby has provided solitary therapy as well. "Owning a car like this is stressful sometimes," he observes. "But it's also a stress reliever, even just waxing a fender after work." We think you've proved the point, Bill: The AMA may not prescribe it, but a fast, good-looking Chevy is obviously good for the heart.
'65 Chevelle Malibu SS
Mission Viejo, CA
|Transmission: ||Turbo 400 with Trans-Go reprogramming kit and Hayden cooler, Hughes converter (2,400-rpm stall speed), Hurst Quarter Shift shifter and Lokar Electric Kickdown Kit |
|Rear axle: ||GM 12-bolt Posi, Summit support diff cover, 3.31:1 gears, OPG performance stock axlesDriveshaft: stock steel |
|WHEELS & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||American Torq-Thrust II, 17x7 and 17x8 |
|Tires: ||Nitto 555, 235/45ZR17 and 255/45ZR17 |
|Type: ||'70 Chevrolet 400 displacing 415ci |
|Block: ||Four-bolt main, 0.155-inch overbore to 4.155 |
|Oiling: ||GM high-performance pump, Milodon pan |
|Crankshaft: ||Speed-O-Motive Maxi Mouse, 3.832-inch stroke |
|Connecting rods: ||GM 5.7-inch, sized |
|Pistons and rings: ||Speed-O-Motive Maxi Mouse, 9.5:1 compression |
|Camshaft: ||Crane hydraulic roller, 0.510/0.512 lift, 236/246-degrees at 0.050 |
|Cylinder heads: ||Airflow Research 190R, aluminum |
|Valves: ||Manley, 2.02/1.60-inch |
|Valvetrain: ||GM 1.5:1 roller rockers, Crane springs, pushrods, retainers, locks |
|Timing set: ||double-roller chain |
|Induction: ||Edelbrock Victor Jr. manifold, Holley 735-cfm carb, K&N filter with OPG brushed aluminum housing |
|Ignition: ||MSD 6AL box, Blaster coil, and Pro Billet distributor; custom 8mm wires and ACCEL U-groove plugs. |
|Exhaust: ||Hooker Super Comp headers, custom exhaust with X-pipe by The Muffler Man, Placentia, CA; Flowmaster mufflers |
|Cooling: ||GM heavy-duty four-row radiator |
|Other: ||Edelbrock fuel pump, polished and painted GM cast-aluminum valve covers |
|Output: ||estimated 475-500 hp |
|Built by: ||Speed-O-Motive, West Covina, CA; refreshed by Hayden Auto Works, Mission Viejo, CA |
|Thanks to: ||Bill's "always loving, caring, and encouraging wife Linda" |
|Frame: ||Stock |
|Front suspension: ||Global West upper control arms, stock lower arms (boxed and powdercoated), Hotchkis springs and swaybar, Bilstein shocks |
|Rear suspension: ||Hotchkis upper and lower trailing arms with mount braces, springs, and swaybar, Bilstein shocks |
|Steering: ||GM power box |
|Other: ||Hotchkis polyurethane bushings |
|Brakes: ||Baer Track Plus system with 13-inch two-piece front rotors, 12-inch rears, PBR calipers, Baer master cylinder, Stainless Steel Brakes booster and Volvo vacuum pump |
|Built by: ||The owner and his car buddies: Kevin, Mark, and Art at Penna Volvo, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA |
|BODY & PAINT |
|Body: ||Original body sanded, blocked, and primered; hood and trunk logos shaved, inner and outer fenderwells black powdercoated |
|Paint: ||DuPont Chromabase Tahitian Turquoise, by Tony's Auto Body, Corona, CA |
|Interior: ||Original Parts Group replacement carpet, seat covers, door panels, and headliner; stock gauge panel with AutoMeter tach, Stewart-Warner water temp and oil pressure gauges; Classic Car Audio Secret Audio SS system with six-CD changer and Pioneer speakers |