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We check out a 10-second big block–powered 1966 Chevrolet Malibu

29 August 2015


There are street/drag cars that get driven on the road once a year, then there are true street cars like Steve Wall’s kick-arse Malibu

There’s truth to the saying about being in the right place at the right time. That’s a statement Steve Wall must believe in, as if he hadn’t known the right people, and been in the right place at the right time, his long-held dream of owning a Chev Malibu might not have come true.

Steve works as an industrial pipeline welder, and was enjoying smoko with his workmates one day when one of them, Rod, got a call asking him to go and work in the US. He accepted, and Steve soon convinced him to bring back a car from over there to make a bit of cash. Although not a car guy at the time, Rod took Steve’s advice and did just that, bringing in a ’68 Mustang. 

Fast forward a few years and Rod was back Stateside again, this time with a plan to fit four
cars into a 40-foot container. After buying three Mustangs he ran out of time, so did a deal with an ex-pat Kiwi to put his old Chev in as the fourth vehicle and see if he could sell it back in New Zealand.

Six weeks later Steve was helping Rod unload the container, and much to his surprise “that old Chev” that had made up the numbers was a ’66 Malibu, the very type of car Steve had always dreamed of owning. 

Once the car was VINned, Steve asked to borrow it to head down and watch the Fathers’ Day drags. With the car’s 396 big block and TH400 trans running super smooth, a deal was done and Steve now owned the car.

Twelve months later the purchase wasn’t looking so dreamy, as the windage gate dislodged from the cheap Mexican-made sump, blocking the oil pick-up and well and truly stuffing the motor in the process. Somewhat disappointed, yet not overly upset, Steve knew this was his chance to turn the car into a true 10-second streeter — another thing he’d always dreamed of owning. 

While working offshore for long periods, Steve scoured the internet looking for parts. The main item on the agenda was a big block crate motor. However, it wasn’t till he got back home that he found just what he was after, in the form of a 540ci Dart big block. Better still, it wasn’t some unknown crate motor, but a locally freshened Huntsville Race Engines unit that had powered Michael Franklin’s GTO (NZV8, Issue No. 47) into the low 10s.

As soon as the engine was bolted in place Steve was back overseas again, but this time the credit card got thrashed as he bought all the parts required to get the car running. You can only imagine the grin on his face when he arrived home to it all.

The first task was to fit the engine accessories, such as a swag of MSD ignition components including a billet distributor and 6AL ignition. Hooker Super Comp headers, complete with 2-1/8th-inch primaries, were bolted up and connected to a twin three-inch pipe set-up which includes Magnaflow mufflers. While he was under the car, the new fuel lines connecting the Magnafuel pump to the 1090CFM King Demon carb were also fitted. Cardboard box after cardboard box soon filled the recycling bin as the engine bay absorbed more and more componentry.

But if you think it’s a cheque book build, you’d be mistaken. The five-point roll-cage that can now be found inside was created by Steve himself, and all mechanical work was also his own doing. In fact the only outsourcing was the rewire, which was taken care of by Nick at Ron Wood Auto Electrical. Not only did he wire the engine and fuel system, but also the Auto Meter gauges which now adorn the dash.

Knowing the engine made in excess of 600hp, Steve wisely decided to have Auto Trans give the TH400 a freshen-up. Included in that was a reverse pattern valve body and a 3500rpm stall converter. After he’d talked to Shane from Segedins Dominion Road, a Strange nine-inch diff was ordered that would bolt directly into the stock chassis rails. The disc-braked diff is fitted with 35-spline axles, a Detroit locker head and 3.7:1 ratio. It may seem like overkill for a car that only has 12.5-inch rubber, but at least Steve knows it will never let him down. 

The diff is suspended by QA1 adjustable shocks and Global West springs, which are matched with QA1 adjustable coil-overs up front. For further adjustment of the rear end Edelbrock trailing arms have been fitted, as have adjustable upper control arms. The setup can’t be bad as the car manages to hook up remarkably well, when Steve wants it to that is. 

It wasn’t till the week before the 2010 Nostalgia Drags that the car was first driven with its new heartbeat. A touch nervous, Steve put it on the trailer (not a common occurrence) and took it to the strip. 

After running a 10.1 at 135mph (217kph), it’s fair to say Steve was well and truly stoked with its performance. Since then he’s come runner up at the annual Father’s Day Drags, managing to beat his brother’s supercharged Camaro in the process, and laid down some of the biggest Powerskids New Zealand has ever seen at Powercruise. 

The next plan is to add a 200hp shot of giggle gas and drop it deep into the nines. With the way Steve drives it, and his commitment to seeing things through, you know it won’t be long till it happens, either. Not bad for a regularly street driven small-tyre car, huh? 

1966 Chevrolet Malibu

  • Engine: 540ci (8849cc) big block Chev, Dart Big M block, Callies 4250 crank, Manley H-beam rods, 12.5:1 Jet pistons, Dart Pro-1 ported heads, Magnum Motors custom cam grind, Dart high-rise manifold, 1090cfm King Demon carb, Jaz 60-litre fuel cell, Magnafuel pump, Magna fuel two-port regulator, MSD ignition, MSD billet distributor, MSD leads, stainless steel three-inch exhaust, Magnaflow mufflers, Hooker Super Comp headers 2-1/8-inch primaries, Flexicool radiator, Moroso electric water pump
  • Driveline: TH400 transmission, reverse pattern valve body, 3500rpm stall converter, Strange nine-inch diff, Detroit locker, 3.7:1 ratio, 35-spline axles, 3.5inch driveshaft
  • Suspension: QA1 coil-overs, Edelbrock rear trailing arms, adjustable upper control arms, Global West coil springs
  • Brakes: Stock front, Baer rear discs and callipers
  • Wheels/ tyres: 15×5-and 15×8-inch Weld racing Drag Lite, Mickey Thompson 26×6 Sportsman front tyres, Mickey Thompson 28×12.5 ET Street rear tyres
  • Exterior: VFN fibreglass bonnet with 4-inch cowl 
  • Interior: RCI bucket seats, Jamex five-point harnesses, B&M ratchet shifter, five-point cage, Auto Meter gauges
  • Performance: 10.1 at 135mph (217kph)