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Eight Weeks: Charlie Bailey’s ’71 Chev Malibu

17 May 2024



Cool cars always take years to build, right? Not if Charlie Bailey has anything to do with it!



Eight weeks. Yep, that’s right … eight whole weeks. Now, have a quick look at the pics on the next few pages and then say that again: “Eight short weeks.” Yes … Now, those of you who have completed an automotive project will know that that’s an achievement, while those of you haven’t, will quite possibly roll the old “Foose can do it in a week, I’ve seen it on TV” statement. Don’t panic, guys, we all know reality TV is an honest appraisal, so don’t feel bad while the rest of us collectively chuckle into our greasy, weld-splattered sleeves.

Let me remind the naysayers: first, this is New Zealand; even in the most urgent of emergencies, we’re still three days away from the US when ordering necessities — and that’s if the parts are readily available. For the weirdo stuff, then be prepared for a wait, a long one. So, let’s get back on point, have another look at the next few pages, and we’ll continue.

It all started in January this year. Charlie Bailey, from Auckland’s leafy Meadowbank, had been to California for a family holiday and arrived home with a ’70 Chevelle that he intended to enjoy for quite some time. Off it went to get its VIN, and back it arrived with a nice fresh tag and New Zealand plates just one day before Kumeu’s big car event of the year.

Charlie hit the road early on the Saturday, and his mates all gave him a ribbing about how long he was going to hang on to his new big block–powered acquisition. Good money was on him owning it around three months, but, little did they know, a handwritten ‘For Sale’ sign on the back of a discarded Jack Daniel’s box would see the Chevelle gone that afternoon. “I was really surprised when somebody rang a few hours later,” says Charlie. “In fact, there was no way I was going to sell it ’cause the summer had just kicked in.” The guy was persistent, and a silly offer was declined before Charlie countered with a number that he was sure would be refused. Anyway, that was the beginning of what you see here.


“I ended up with a decent amount of disposable burning a hole in my pocket but nothing to spend it on,” Charlie explains. “I’d been watching a Malibu of the same shape on Trade Me for a few months but figured there was a little too much work to be done on it.” That line of thought soon changed when his California toy disappeared up the line three hours after its debut at Kumeu.

“I rang the guy on Trade Me, made a time to drop over, and, after a bit of haggling, the car was back in Auckland almost the same day. Kayton Coughey from Real Rides sat in the driveway of my business and we made a shopping list on the spot. I was still writing the list as he pulled out with the car on a trailer, heading for his shop in Silverdale,” remembers Charlie.

Anyway, back to the subject of eight weeks. With the old Chevelle well and truly gone and Charlie wanting to enjoy something for the summer, it was decided to try to make Beach Hop with a new car. That was exactly 320 work hours away from when his new car arrived in Auckland. This wasn’t just some blow-over and a bit of dress-up, though. Charlie wanted a pro-touring example that would surprise and impress at the same time. It was going to take every minute of that eight weeks to make the deadline.

While Kayton and his team at Real Rides frantically stripped trim and blemishes back, Charlie manically ordered parts from the States. “I would normally sea-freight things in, but, in this instance, I went a little mad with DHL, FedEx, and UPS,” Charlie recalls. “In fact, some parts cost more in airfreight than they did at purchase.”

Running a construction business in Auckland, Charlie knows that it’s imperative that his team understand that deadlines must be met. Cooperation is key in building, and it soon became obvious the same applied to his automotive ambitions.


“I knew Kayton was up for the job ’cause he’d already done a few projects for me earlier, and my friend Hamish at Takanini Auto Services knows me well enough to realize challenges are my forte,” says Charlie.

And challenges they were. While Kayton had upwards of five guys working the body over, Charlie and Hamish were going over what suspension mods and wheels would work best. That diamond-in-the-rough was now turning into a sparkler …

With all OEM trim and mouldings gone from the car, holes welded up, and a surprisingly good body underneath, Charlie made the executive decision to move from his initial choice of charcoal to jet black. As Kayton explains, “That put a little spanner in the works, a metallic sparkle can sometimes hide lies, but when black is laid down, you better have every panel perfectly straight ’cause the mirror effect will show every tiny imperfection.”

On top of the bodywork, Charlie also wanted to transplant an LS into the engine bay: “I wondered about utilizing a large-cube big block initially, but friends convinced me the 700R4 wouldn’t handle the sort of torque a BBC would throw out, so we went the LS route.”

Kayton and the team at Real Rides took that conversion on too. So, not only was the body being worked over, but the driveline also got their tick, and any necessary adjustments were completed to make Charlie’s 402hp LS1 do duty in the Malibu’s engine bay.

In went a set of stainless headers, a Holley oil pan, and an Aeroflow dress-up kit to help make the engine appear late model and factory fitted. Hamish at Takanini Auto Services made a few more adjustments too. The Commodore belt set-up interfered with the steering box, so new bracketry and a smaller alternator went in, along with a quick-ratio steering box. That engineering episode could be described as a nice little curveball, which loaded fabrication hours on to the deadline.


After many trips to New Zealand Customs, and up the motorway to Silverdale, Charlie had all his new repro trim, weather strips, and parts in the hands of Real Rides three weeks before Repco Beach Hop 19. And, while the body looked immaculate, the car still sat like a 4×4. In the words of Hamish: “Low is never low enough for Charlie.”

Thankfully, the Chevelle that Charlie had sold at Kumeu had been a learning experience for Hamish, and everything that he had done to lower it now translated into the new car. Not surprisingly, locally sourced HQ Holden springs work well in a Chevelle platform. These, along with QA1 coilovers, drop spindles, and some careful camber adjustments, give enough clearance all round to make for a comfortable yet sporty ride.

With help from the guys at DTM Wheels and Tyres, a set of Asanti Black label rims went on. “Initially, we went with 20s and 22s,” says Hamish, “but, after a weekend of thrashing the car round town, it was realized we could get 22s on the front too without tyre rub being a problem.”

While the suspension and rolling wares were being sorted at Takanini Auto Services, Charlie was away having the upholstery sorted. “It came with the original seats,” he says, “and, while they were in good nick, the ’70s styling didn’t work with the pro-touring finish I was wanting.” Luckily, one of his clients just happens to run a furniture-upholstery business, and Charlie approached him to see what he thought.

Have another quick look at the photos — yes, that’s a first effort to refit a car’s interior by the very talented team at Siba Design in Ellerslie. Considering Siba specializes in antique furniture and had never laid a hand on automotive seating, we’d that say Simon and his team did admirably. And, to top it off, the transformation happened in a matter of days. After it was completed, Simon did come clean with Charlie — it turned out that he had worked for a company in the UK that did stitching work on Porsche and Ferrari restorations.


With Repco Beach Hop 19 looming, it was then back to Hamish and team in Takanini to freshen the 700R4. A new 2500rpm Auto Trans converter was matched to the car’s dyno output, and in went an ATI Racing reverse-pattern manual valve body along with extra clutches. Both Hamish and Kayton knew that their build quality was going to be tested by Charlie, so insurance was the name of the game when completing their sides of the build. Yes, Charlie has a heavy right foot and no fear of the cost of tyres.

As the deadline loomed, it was on to one of Charlie’s benchmark prerequisites with all his projects. Hamish had the job of cleaning up the exhaust system with Flowmasters and a set of trademark exhaust cut-outs. “Yeah, Charlie loves his cars low, and he also loves them loud,” laughs Hamish. In fact, while we all know it is less than acceptable, the cut-outs are more often than not cracked open while out cruising.

Now that the car was sitting right, Kayton and Charlie put their heads together and came up with another point of interest in the build. Charlie has always been into fitting air dams with his previous cars, and this was no different. It just so happened that, discovered among the spares, there was a nice straight front bumper. Kayton and team cut and shut, then flipped the bumper to create a mirror-image spoiler for the front. Not only does it truly work, but it’s also unique as far as a point of distinction is concerned.

With it now only days away from Beach Hop, and “I’m driving this thing to Whangamata” in his mind, Charlie decided the standard Malibu dash didn’t suit his new high-tech Siba interior. Off he went and had a full set of Auto Meter gauges flown in from Australia (don’t worry, advertisers, he did try to source them locally), and then it was a frantic thrash (lots of 1am finishes) involving re-crafting the main fascia, stripping a bunch of loom from under the dash, and removing the whole air-con system. With mere hours left before hitting the road, Charlie charged the battery, and, to his relief, smoke stayed inside the wires, while all gauges, lights, and electrical appliances worked as they should.

It was down to the wire now, and, with no trailers in sight, the boys hit Auckland’s motorway heading for Whangamata. First stop was the Kopu Station Hotel to celebrate an uneventful trip across the Hauraki Plains — not that Charlie was drinking any adult beverages — and his smile told the whole story. Eight weeks, 320 hours, or 19,200 minutes, of teamwork made the trip that much more enjoyable. And, yes, the exhaust cut-outs were open …



Charlie Bailey
Car Club: Meadowbank Bridge Club
Age: 41
Occupation: Builder
Previously owned cars: As a teenager, I started in the rotary world, soon moved to American and Aussie stuff. EH wagon, HT Monaro, ’67 Impala, ’69 Camaro, ’57 Chev, ’62 C10, ’61 Apache, ’67 Chevelle, ’59 Bel Air, ’74 Camaro, ’71 Camaro, ’70 Chevelle, and a plethora of Harleys, along with a boat
Dream car: There’s two I have in mind: another pro-tour Chevelle, this time with 24-inch rims and on bags, along with a ’67 Nova done in pro-street style … watch this space
Why the Malibu? Because I wanted to prove a point
Build time: Eight weeks
Length of ownership: Eight weeks
Charlie thanks: My wife and kids, for putting up with my addiction; Kayton Coughey of Real Rides (and his mad team); Hamish Paton of Takanini Auto Services, for believing in my ambitions and never saying no; Simon at Siba Design, for a simply superb interior; and the guy who sold me his old bronze Malibu at a reasonable price (even if he doesn’t like what I’ve done with it)

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1971 Chev Malibu
Engine: 5.7-litre Holden Commodore LS1, Cathedral port aluminium heads, 1.7:1 rockers, Walbro in-tank fuel pump, stainless 15⁄8-inch headers, twin 2.5-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers, Badlanz electric cut-outs, Northern Rad aluminium radiator, twin electric fans, OEM ECU
Driveline: GM 700R4, Auto Trans 2500rpm stall converter, ATI reverse-pattern manual shift, Corvette servo, Beast shell, Alto Powerpak 3-4 clutches, 12 bolt diff, 3.73:1 ratio, Posi head, 3.5-inch driveshaft, 1330 universals
Suspension: Classic Performance Products (CPP) two-inch drop spindles, QA1 adjustable coilovers, 350-pound front springs, Hotchkis Pro Tour sway bar and links, 12.7:1-ratio 800-series steering box, Hotchkis triangulated four-link, HQ super-low rear springs and shocks
Brakes: CPP remanufactured booster and master cylinder, stock discs and drums
Wheels/Tyres: 22×9-inch and 22×10.5-inch Asanti Black Label wheels, 245/30R22 Delinte Thunder D7 front tyres, 295/25R22 Lexani LX Twenty rear tyres
Exterior: Custom front spoiler, custom paint
Interior: Aftermarket seats, custom retrim, Budnik steering wheel, shaved column, horseshoe shifter, Autometer Pro Comp gauges, Kenwood audio
Performance: 402hp at 6200rpm