When the Chevelle/Malibu first hit the streets in 1964, it was a mid-size car that appealed to the masses, much like the Ford Fairlane at the time or the Plymouth Satellite beginning the following year. It was a car for the every man, from the young man just coming out of high school in the form of the Chevelle SS or the family man looking for a practical sedan with a Malibu 4-door.
There was a Chevelle for everyone, and with the release of the 375 hp, 396-powered Z-16 package for ’65, it looked like it was already equipped with all of the power one would ever need. Or so we thought back then. These days, it seems you need to be producing somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 hp to be even taken seriously in the world of hot rods or street machines. Sometimes more, depending on where you live.
But Mike Musto of Big Muscle makes an argumentative point with a particular ’65 Chevelle/Malibu SS. He believes that it’s not all about horsepower, it’s about how you use it – how you craft it – in balancing it out with the help of a great suspension setup, the right rolling stock and the perfect set of binders.
Citing Bill Alfonso’s 525 hp LS1-powered, pro-touring Chevelle, he puts it all into perspective on how building an “average” or “medium car” can be a difficult, but worthy challenge to overcome. Let’s face it, as cool as having an 800 hp musclecar can be, how often will you actually use all of that power in something you regularly drive on the street?
Digging into the specifics of the Chevelle, reveals the aforementioned LS1 ‘plant, but with an aluminum intake, a carburetor and a “Ford-style” distributor system. Backing the alloy mill is a Viper-spec T-56, Global West suspension bits, Wilwood brakes, a Moser Engineering axle and a set of millet alloy wheels to increase the handling characteristics even further.
Summing up the car overall, comparing it to a modern BMW M3, citing that it brings you the perfect balance of handling, braking, performance, comfort, style, reliability, presence and personality. Mike brings it all home by saying, “medium, for the win. It’s a seven, and it’s a glorious seven.” Well put, Mike.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of Timeless Muscle Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.