This isn’t another trailer queen, Chevelle SS clone. This is Chris Davenport and his ‘Bu. Chris is a lifelong car guy and Chevrolet aficionado. He owned several hot rods including a ‘55 Chevy, but spent several years focusing on other priorities, then decided it was time for another classic car. After some searching, he bought this brown 1965 Chevelle Malibu in 2012 from a local Craigslist ad. Why a ‘65? Like many enthusiasts, Chris wanted a car that he could enjoy while staying budget-conscious. That meant most of the ever-popular 68-72 Chevelles were out of his price range. Plus, he digs the square shape of the ‘64-‘65 A-body, a sentiment that I wholeheartedly reflect with my own ‘65 GM A-body GTO. It doesn’t hurt that the early A-bodies are much less common than later ones, since many were bashed to pieces on oval tracks before the ubiquitous Monte Carlo began making left turns at your local quarter-mile circle.
What makes this car so special in the sea of 1960’s Chevrolet muscle cars that you may find at virtually any car show? For starters, Chris has racked up about 44,000 miles since 2012, covering countless local shows and Hot Rod Power Tour and Cruisin’ the Coast multiple times. Traveling that many miles in anything requires one of two things: comfortable seats or a sore butt. Chris wisely chose the former and grabbed seats from a 2002 Cadillac deVille and a rear bench from a 2002 Audi A8. He got both seats and a Dodge Neon center console for a paltry $125 from the local Pick-a-Part. The color and patterns match remarkably well, and the power controls on the front seat even work! The seats aren’t the only creature comforts packed into this Malibu, with an aluminum radiator and electric fans to keep it cool while waiting in line to get into Power Tour venues. If you, the reader, have been on Power Tour, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It also has a Vintage Air system to keep the occupants cool, and it works to perfection. Chris enjoyed bragging to our Power Tour convoy about his air conditioning and electric fans in those infamous venue lines as I inched through the summer heat blasting the heater to prevent the Pontiac equivalent of Chernobyl from occurring under my hood. No, I’m not bitter.
That’s nice and all, but what’s going on under the hood? Chris’ Malibu was originally powered by a 283 and a Powerglide, and now has a 350 from a 1996 Tahoe backed by a 700r4 automatic with overdrive. Unfortunately, not long after the 350 was first put in the car Chris had a near-catastrophic engine mishap. He was out to lunch one day and began hearing a weird squeal from the engine. He cut the ignition, got out, and checked under the hood. The timing chain cover was bent outward due to cam plate bolts backing out. A lesson learned that those bolts always need Loctite. After getting a new cam – and applying Loctite this time – Chris hasn’t had any other real issues out of the car.
As for the parts that are currently on the engine, the 350 has Vortec heads, an Edelbrock air gap aluminum intake, a GM HEI distributor, Comp beehive valve springs and a Comp Cams XR270 hydraulic roller camshaft. Fuel delivery comes from a Holley Sniper EFI that helps achieve excellent gas mileage for a classic car. In fact, the Malibu gets better mileage than Chris’ daily-driven Avalanche and his ‘87 C10 with a bone stock 305! Air comes through a chrome breather equipped with a K&N filter. Usually a breather isn’t anything special, but the interesting note here is the nut holding the breather down – it’s a Ford blue oval. Our friend Tony swapped that on during Power Tour 2018 as a gag and Chris hasn’t taken it off. The GM Optikleen windshield washer fluid bottle is a crowd favorite at car shows as well. The rear end is a stock 10-bolt, which is enough for what Chris does with the car. Exhaust is handled through a set of Hedman Hedders and 2 ½” Magnaflow Mufflers with turn-downs in front of the rear end.
This car is home built, and at one point or another Chris has put his hands on pretty much everything but the brown metal flake paint. The car came with Corvette Rally Wheels from the previous owner, and while those are perfectly acceptable, they don’t exactly stand out. That’s where the 17×8” Boss 338 wheels come in. Sure, five-spoke wheels aren’t rare at all, but how often do you see gold wheels on a car from the sixties? They look rad and pop with the gold metal flake in the paint. Speaking of the paint, a lot of people thought the car was black before he painted the wheels gold. I can easily see how someone would think it was black after a photoshoot in way too much sunlight. Rubber comes in the form of 225/50 Continentals on the front and 235/60 Yokohamas in the back. They deliver plenty of grip – enough to keep up with some wannabe street racer in a C6 Corvette on the interstate. Allegedly.
I wouldn’t say that Chris’ Malibu is ready to destroy the Optima Ultimate Street Car competition, but it does have some handling upgrades. Helwig front and rear sway bars get some of the slop out of the old body-on-frame muscle car. While it still has factory drum brakes out back, the front brakes were replaced with a Pirate Jack front disk brake conversion kit.
All cars except the newest, craziest high end exotics were originally built for driving, but a lot of classics get restored and immediately parked for good. Chris’ Malibu is not like this. He works on it himself, makes upgrades as needed or wanted, and puts thousands of miles on it every year. It’s a reliable machine, and while it may not be a quarter mile king, it still has plenty of giddy-up. The Malibu also looks like a modern build with no gaudy chrome or billet, and it maintains enough classic features that you can tell what it is without having to ask. Four horizontal headlights and a point in the middle of the grill are a dead giveaway for the ‘65 Chevelle/Malibu. The ‘64 looks similar from the front, but has a flush grill all the way across. Differences in the rear between the ‘64 and ‘65 are much more subtle, with a couple metal strips across the trunk on the 1965 where the 1964 is just painted. The body changed drastically several times over the next years, with a recessed grill and much smaller rectangular tail lights coming in ‘66. Go to virtually any local car show to see what happened after that, as the late sixties Chevelle is a wildly popular classic. The early A-body isn’t rare, but it’s certainly not common. It’s time for this one to get back on the road. Keep an eye out for Chris Davenport and his ‘Bu.