That hunk of rock in the night sky, often referred to by its technical name "the moon," orbits the Earth from 240,000 miles away. That's an astoundingly vast distance by most standards, but worthless bits of information like that wouldn't even impress the ladies at an MIT chess tournament. It does, however, put a little perspective on the feats achieved by Bryan Grove's '74 Malibu. In the 34 years it has been in his family, the valiant A-body has logged 450,000 miles on the clock, almost enough to complete a round trip to the moon or escape the screech of your mother-in-law's voice. To plagiarize those old Chevy ads, this sucker's held together "like a rock." Not content to bask in past commuting triumphs, Bryan has transformed the Malibu into a blown 515 rear-wheel horsepower street/strip beast on the cusp of solid 11-second e.t.'s. Through the years, man and machine have developed quite a bond, and have literally grown old together.
The tale starts in 1975, when Bryan's dad purchased the car in practically new condition off of a friend who couldn't keep up with the payments. Six years later, Bryan rode home from the hospital as a newborn in the Malibu, and the duo has been inseparable ever since. "As far back as I can remember, my family was always driving around together in the Malibu. The car served as a daily driver for 22 years, and even had a trailer hitch on it at one point so it could tow our camping trailer all over the country," Bryan recollects. "There aren't too many driving memories I have from childhood that don't involve this car. It even had springs off of a 454 El Camino at one point so it could haul all our stuff without bottoming out. When my dad bought the car, little did he know it would still be around 35 years later looking better than ever."
Perhaps even more impressive than the 450,000 miles the Malibu has logged is the fact that 350,000 of them were with the original two-barrel 350 small-block and TH350 trans. "Other than routine maintenance and oil changes every 3,000 miles, this car never required a major repair when it was a commuter. The flexplate let go once, but that's the only thing that's ever broken," he says. Bryan's dad tossed him the keys when he turned 16, and he's been dumping every spare nickel and dime at the project ever since. "I was in love with that 150hp motor, and drove the car all through high school. At first, my dad and I spent a lot of time trying to reverse the havoc two young kids unleashed on the interior for all those years. Fortunately, since the car spent almost its entire life in Arizona, rust has never had a chance to attack the metal."
To maintain a street appearance,...
To maintain a street appearance, Bryan scored a round factory Chevelle gauge cluster off eBay, and retrofitted Auto Meter gauges into it. The shift light is mounted underdash to keep things low profile.
Unlike a typical 383 small-block...
Unlike a typical 383 small-block Chevy that uses a 4.030-inch bore and a 3.750-inch stroke, the GMPP ZZ383 pairs a standard 4.000-inch bore with a 3.800-inch stroke. That leaves extra meat on the cylinder walls come rebuild time. The Carb Shop tuned the carburetor for blow-through operation, and the MSD ignition box is mounted in the glovebox to de-clutter the firewall.
With a fresh coat of paint and a revamped interior, Bryan could finally focus on upping the power ante. The stock mill was yanked and replaced with a GM Performance Parts 350 crate motor, and he quickly tallied another 50,000 miles on the Malibu before retiring it from daily driving duty in 2001. For the first time in its existence, the car was driven just occasionally over the next seven years, and didn't see much progress in the way of mods. That all changed rather abruptly, however, after Bryan started hanging out at the dragstrip again. Out came the 350, and in went a new GMPP ZZ383 crate motor. It features a forged crank, powdered metal connecting rods, hypereutectic 9.6:1 pistons, GM Fast Burn aluminum cylinder heads, and a 222/230-at-.050 hydraulic roller cam. Rated at 425 hp, the 383 is a stout combo right out of the box, but Bryan took it one step further with the addition of a 150hp hit of nitrous, a set of long-tube headers, and dual 3-inch pipes with Flowmaster mufflers. Despite weighing in at a hefty 4,140 pounds, the Malibu ran a best e.t. of 12.35 at 117 mph. "After taking a short break, I was hooked again," he says. "Ever since then, all I've been thinking about day and night is how I can make my car faster. It's like I'm 16 years old all over again."