"Now that I hear myself talk about it, it almost sounds like I'm sick," Frank Scifres laughingly told us after running down a bit of his automotive history for us. "Maybe I need professional help." Could be, but Scifres is only suffering (if we can call it suffering) from the same malady that afflicts us all, and he knows it. "I'm just a car freak," he continues. "I'm always looking for the next rush." Sick? It sounds normal to us. More than that, it's downright healthy when the symptoms manifest themselves in the form of this extremely sano high-powered '64 Malibu SS drop-top.
Continuing the theme, Scifres explained a bit further: "I like to drive. I'm in constant pursuit of the next ride." Over the course of 2005, the chase for his next hot set of wheels has taken Scifres through a '67 Camaro, a pair of Sunbeam Tigers, a C6 Corvette, a Porsche (which is still in the barn), and, of course, a certain Malibu SS convertible. Although he pledges no allegiance to any one marque, it's no surprise the Bow Tie has come up more than a few times over the years. "My first car was a '72 Camaro, and that's when I fell in love with high-performance cars. I can't tell you how many I've had since," Scifres says.
The inspiration for the next ride came from another red ragtop, specifically the '63 Nova SS convertible built by the folks at Mother's Polish. This little box may look like a tame, albeit very nicely done ride. It packs a punch, though, sporting a 420-horse small-block under the hood. This was enough to get the gears turning in Scifres' head, but he was unable to turn up a suitable Chevy II project car. Far from being a project killer, this dilemma simply caused Scifres to go about things a bit differently. He found a '64 Malibu SS convertible on eBay and took possession of the factory air-equipped A-body sight unseen.
So what was next? Why, getting to work, of course. And that's exactly what Scifres--who cut his gearhead teeth in Whittier, California, wrenching on his Camaro and its stalemate, a VW dragster--did. "I disassembled the car at home," he told us. "The vehicle was sound with very minimal rust." After two months of disassembly work, Scifres was ready to start the necessary repairs when the residential regulators put the kibosh on home repair work. Some may stop and ask, "What's the world coming to when a man can't build a car in his own garage?" And though he didn't say so, Scifres may have thought just that. He did, however, adapt his plan again, finding someone to finish the project.
That someone turned out to be Dale Akuszewski of Dale's Restorations in San Bernardino, California. Dale was working on Scifres' Sunbeam Tiger ("He's the guru," we're told), but was more than up to the task of creating the convertible his customer wanted. Shop name not withstanding, Scifres didn't have restoration on his mind. "A restoration isn't fun," he told us. "What fun is 200 hp?" That question is persuasively answered by Scifres' choice of powerplants, namely a 427 small-block from Bill Mitchell's Hardcore Racing, which cranked out a tire-ruining 563 hp on Mitchell's engine dyno before making the trip to California. It turns out this motor is a favorite of Scifres', given that the '67 Camaro he parted with early in 2005 was also equipped with one of these mini-monsters. "The motor revs incredibly quick and is virtually bulletproof," says the voice of experience. "Those guys build a great motor."
The engine bay may raise a few restoration-minded eyebrows, but we do have to give Scifres credit for sticking with his vision--which led him to do away with the factory-original air conditioning. "I just wanted to open the hood and not see that ugly factory piece," he told us, and the smoothed firewall in its place is certainly slick. "Besides," Scifres continued, "it's California--it could use a heater more than A/C." And given that it's a chilly December in Southern Cali as we write this, we can't argue with that, either.
Then again, there's definitely a sleeper angle inherent in this ragtop rendition, and that is also according to plan. "I wanted to retain as much of the stock outward appearance as possible," Scifres told us, "with just a hint of hot rod." That meant updated internals--the aforementioned Rat-sized Mouse among them. He also went with a full Global West suspension package to give his Mali proper handling manners, and a Baer brake setup to make sure the thing stops. And while he eschewed the creature comforts of A/C and heat, Scifres did have a luscious custom black leather interior created for his project. But at a distance, all that sets this ride off from a stocker are the Billet Specialties wheels and the mirror-like red paint. This is also by design.
"One thing I've learned," we were told by way of conclusion, "is that if you compro-mise, you'll never be satisfied. If you're set on something, do it or do without." And when it came to creating what he calls a "timeless hot rod, something that can't be dated," Frank Scifres certainly didn't compromise. "This car retains all the stock brightwork, the dash looks stock, it's got the wheels and the right stance, and it hauls ass," he continues. "The entire package is tight and powerful." We don't know what's next on the agenda, but this rush-inducing red ragtop should hold even this car freak's attention for a while.