After dropping in the new motor, the Malibu was running faster and looking better than it ever had before. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old car was starting to show its age, and Bryan decided to give it a full Pro Touring rubdown in an effort to modernize the A-body's dated chassis, and bolster its cruising credentials. The stance was lowered 3 inches with a set of QA1 coilovers up front, and Eaton springs and KYB shocks in the rear. Rushforth Fuel wheels, measuring 19x8 up front and 20x10 out back, were wrapped in Nitto meats before taking occupancy inside the wheelwells. Surprisingly, the capacious factory tubs swallowed up the gargantuan 315/35R20 rear rollers without requiring any beating or banging whatsoever. To help plant those meats, a set of upper and lower control arms from Performance Suspension Technology was bolted in place, and Bryan reports that they enable quick and easy pinion angle changes for maximum bite. Since the big wheels made the marginal stock brakes even more inadequate, they were swapped out for a set of Baer four-wheel discs.
At this stage, it appeared as if the project was nearing the end, but considering the engine combo was already a year-and-a-half old, Bryan called an audible and changed it up once again. Bottom-12s in a 2-ton cruiser just wasn't enough, so it was time to add some boost. "I wanted the feel of nitrous without having to hit the button or refill the bottle, so one call to ProCharger took care of that dilemma," he quips. "Since installing the intercooler required moving the radiator back two inches, I figured it would be a good time to upgrade that as well. A stout cooling system is a must here in Arizona, so in went a Be Cool radiator and dual electric fans. The blower made the motor much thirstier, so an Aeromotive fuel pump was installed as well. When the engine mods were finally complete, the car put down 515 hp and 497 lb-ft of torque on the chassis dyno at just 8 pounds of boost. I haven't had a chance to run it at the track yet, but I don't think deep 11s are out of the question with the kind of power this car is making now."
The consequence of combining so much power with so much weight was that the stock TH350 trans had no chance of surviving. Furthermore, it was a gear ratio short for the type of cruising Bryan had in mind. Not wanting to fiddle around with electronics, he ordered up a heavy-duty 700R4 from Bowtie Overdrives. Next, to complete the street cruiser motif, he lined the entire interior in Dynamat and installed a Vintage Air A/C system. To put everything to the test, and have a whole lot of fun in the process, Bryan loaded up the Malibu just like the Grove family did back in the day and cruised cross-country to Wisconsin and back. "The car ran great and averaged over 16 mpg. That's not bad at all considering the minimal space that was between the floorboard and gas pedal for most of the trip," he jokes.
In perpetuating the Grove family tradition, the Malibu continues to rack up the miles on long and frequent road trips. It draws plenty of attention along the way, and Bryan revels in keeping onlookers guessing. "I took all the badging off of the car, so people have no idea what kind of car this is, and a lot of them think it's an Oldsmobile. I just tell them it's a Nova, and the confused looks on their faces is priceless," he says. Considering that Bryan is seven years younger than the Malibu, it's understandable if he's pondered trading it in for a new, hotter model. As Bryan adamantly affirms, however, that isn't going to happen. "Some people buy certain project cars because it reminds them of cars they grew up in, but my Malibu is the actual car I grew up in. It's the only project car I've ever owned and worked on, and I plan on keeping it that way. I still have the original 350,000-mile 350 at my dad's house, and it's a constant reminder of all the great times my family had in our Malibu."