The reactions were mixed. Some readers thought it was cool that Mark Stielow, arguably the best "private" street machine builder in America (he doesn't build "customer" cars), was temporarily abandoning the first Gen Camaro platform to take on a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu. While others didn't get the point.
This Malibu with attitude that Stielow called "Malitude" would obviously be far bigger than any car he had built. It would have an automatic transmission--a first for the Detroit "home" enthusiast. It would have twin turbochargers, making for the most powerful combination that Stielow had installed in any of his top Chevys built in the past 12 years. But this time the king of Camaros wasn't building a Camaro. Would the Malibu be as cool?
Stielow's cars have been well documented here in PHR. From the Thrasher Camaro (the red '67 whose 18-degree 427 small-block engine was built on these pages and was raced in One Lap of America) to the infamous Mule Camaro, his reputation for engineering and style don't need much explanation. This car would be very different, as an A-body GM ride from the mid-'60s just doesn't have the sex appeal or reputation of the smaller and more agile Camaros. Then again, you could just make up for that with sheer power and a killer stance. That's just what Mark did.
A General Motors ride and handling engineer by trade (whose latest work includes the surprisingly quick Saturn Ion Red Line and the much-anticipated Cadillac STS-V), Stielow isn't just a fan of grip. Sharp minded and experienced street machine fans will remember that he was the first guy to utilize exotic GTP-style cylinder heads on a musclecar. Later Stielow variations included more cost effective combinations, but never before has he gone done the boosted road. Hanging around fellow Road Apples car club member and Detroit speed guru John Meaney (who's twin-turbo C4 Corvette is the stuff of legend) convinced him he had to build something similar. Stielow's dynamite intercooler packaging (created by Detroit's Wheel to Wheel) is a sign of how difficult building one of these combinations can be if you're hooked on design and engineering like this guy.
The actual engine is relatively simple, featuring a Tom Nelson-built 372 small-block assembled with a Dart Little M block, Pro Topline 228cc cylinder heads, Oliver 6.125 inch rods made from 4340 steel, JE pistons with a 28cc dish, COMP valvetrain, and a Vintage Air FrontRunner accessory drive and a stock-stroke crank. A Holley Stealth manifold and a pair of Holley's 58mm throttle bodies work with Electromotive fuel injection that took some time for first-time-user Stielow to figure out. After countless hours on the dyno and careful mapping, this 8.5:1 compression engine makes over 1,000hp and more than 700 lb.-ft. of torque with 10 pounds of boost in pump gas configuration. This testing centered around finally choosing a pair of T-60 turbos from Innovative Turbo Systems. Understand that on race fuel, this combo made 1,000hp with 18 pounds of boost!
Chassis and suspension mods on Malitude are relatively off-the-shelf. Hotchkis Performance supplied springs, a B-body spindle conversion, tubular control arms, and tuned hollow sway bars to Stielow, who refrained from creating a tubular front clip or other such exotic mods. From the get-go, Mark wanted to build a car that others could repeat (since it would be documented step-by-step in PHR) but still gain serious grip. Baer's 13-inch Grand Touring Plus system is designed to work with this combination, too. Stielow's minitub job made room for Yokohama AVS Sport radials in 315/35-17 (up from a original maximum of 275mm, and that's only if he had rolled the body lip). These sticky tires (which also channel water and ride surprisingly well) mount on 17x11 Budnik GTX wheels in a satin finish that makes the look on this car, providing a similar look to the intercooler setup so obvious in the nose. The fronts measure 17x8.5 and mount with a matching Yokohama 245/40-17, providing reasonable front-to-rear balance and oversteer that's nearly two full tons of fun.One can't escape the color of this car. Mark wanted to escape the orange-ish red found when he first got the car and his wife, Kathryn, helped him to select the Valspar "straight" red that you see here. Upon getting the paint stripped, pound after pound of dreaded body filler was found. As with the Mule Camaro, Stielow turned to his Canadian resource, Mike Verellen, and his shop, Art in Motion. You can't argue with the ultra-straight results.
Credit the "resto" look to Original Parts Group, the aftermarket house from Huntington Beach, California, that Stielow turned to for one-stop shopping. From the trim to the interior pieces, Stielow says the equipment that arrived from OPG fit correctly and was period perfect. Other important details came from Totally Stainless, who supplied all of the car's fasteners, and from Stainless Works, who prototyped a complete exhaust system for the car. It's the details that help make this car one of the most unique and sought after A-body street machines ever built.
The work is done and the wait is over. How does this baby drive? Mark is very satisfied with the car. "For a car that's almost two tons, it handles surprisingly well! The brakes work great, it rides nicely, and is really quiet." Thanks to the turbochargers, the noise is knocked down dramatically and Malitude has a cabin where you can actually go fast and carry on a conversation. "Many people underestimate how important quiet can be. My neighbors are all very cool, but they can lose patience over starting a loud hot rod at 6 a.m. to go to work. This thing idles at 800rpm without an issue, but when you stomp on it once you're out of the neighborhood, it's pissed off!"Now, how fast is fast? Unfortunately, Mark hasn't had the car on a drag strip yet, but he thinks the car will easily run in the 11s. "The TCI transmission software is really fun to tune," providing Stielow with the opportunity to nurse the throttle, deliver quick shifts, and get a completely different result at wide-open throttle.
"The other day, I finally got to stomp it out on 12-Mile Drive in Detroit. If you choose, it will smoke the tires all through first, second, and third gear. I'm amazed at how well it works for such a big car and it's probably the most fun and useful of any car I've built."
Will this car spark a scene filled with sensible cars that sit right, go really fast, and have a sensible mix of parts that you can actually purchase rather than build? Boy, do we hope so.