Mike Ardizzone could have dropped a real heavy bundle on his ’64 Malibu Super Sport, but he did nearly everything himself except for stitching up the upholstery. Mike built the motor, modified the frame and suspension, did the bodywork and paint under less than ideal conditions, and screwed the whole package together properly. He learned from it. He was very happy about the first car he’d ever fathered.
Mike is tight with his dad, Mark. His dad helped a lot. Mike’s friend Louis and brother-in-law Paul did their time, too. Even with the support of this small, dedicated squad, the build cost was more than Mike likes to think about. Imagine what he’d have forked over to have someone else do it all? This man is like us: He finds just as much pleasure in doing and learning from the building phases as he does wiggling behind the wheel. Mike gives props to Griffin’s Auto Parts, Center Paint, CS Restorations, E Transmissions, and Lemons Headers for their help and understanding.
As you might have guessed, the whole wet burrito took some time to fix–yes, nearly 20 winters to wrap up and get ready to scarf. “The car was purchased from a friend of my father’s in May of 1992, my sophomore year in high school,” Mike says. “I drove it on a daily basis. My father and I changed out the 283 and the ’Glide for a 350 and Turbo 350 automatic. Actually, we did this a couple of times. I had a heavy foot.
“In January of 2000, I had an accident in it. Crushed the front end. The car sat in the garage until 2006. By that time, I’d gathered up all the parts as well as the hours to rebuild it. The motor is out of a boat that had sunk. There were two engines in it with about three hours running time on them. We sawed the thing in half and dragged the part with the motors home. Mine was still full of water when I opened it up.”
Mike lives in Santa Clara, California, a bedroom community southeast of San Francisco between San Jose and Sunnyvale. At the very least, the California Air Resources Board frowns upon spray painting anything larger than a decklid outdoors, but some Americans naturally feel constrained by certain laws, so they make amends—something like bootleggers did and still do.
“All bodywork and customizing was done in my garage, by me, my father, and my best friend, Louis. The bodywork took about a year. I painted it in a booth that my father and I put up in a secret location,” Mike says. “He used it to paint his ’65 Chevelle convertible. The homemade booth was great. It just made weather a very important factor.” Guerilla tactics for guerilla warfare. We aren’t condoning this practice. We’re stating a simple fact about an ongoing process that is part of hot rod lore.
Drive time is precious, but Mike indulges two or three times a week. He cruises with the Wrenched Rodz Nor Cal “driving” club, but he often makes the ride solo with nobody prattling from the shotgun seat. Mike built his car to drive, not to be the focus of geezers in lawn chairs in a parking lot. He didn’t aspire to any particular niche; he simply built the car to salve his psyche. Therefore, there are some brilliant dichotomies: steel wheels with minimal tires, small disc brakes, air-filled suspension components, no air conditioning, no mini-tubs.
Is Mike married? Got kids? Under “spouse’s name” he wrote “Car is my spouse.” No more questions? Light ’em up, bro.