Mike Appio’s Life-Altering ’66 Malibu is Truly a Dream Come True

Building a car is not about fulfilling anyone’s fancy but your own. While we’re sure some people build cars just for the heck of it, many die-hard enthusiasts like our friend Mike Appio build for their own heart’s desire and the results are fantastic.

When we first came across Appio’s 1966 Chevelle Malibu on the Roadster Shop’s website, we couldn’t help but drool. Featuring classic body lines thanks to exquisitely straight sheet metal and the car’s correct factory Imperial Maroon Metallic paint, Appio’s Malibu is beyond show-room quality.

The culmination of two donor cars, Appio's Malibu had class even in bare metal thanks to the Roadster Shop's handiwork.

It’s not just what the classic Chevy offers on the outside that make it so special.

In fact, this seemingly factory-correct car has a few surprises that only add to the already outstanding build.

The Beginnings of a Life-Long Passion

In his young teen years, Appio was thrown into the world of cars, thanks mostly to his step dad Steve Walker. Needless to say, Appio didn’t complain one bit.


The Roadster Shop Chevelle suspension system:

  • C6 Corvette spindle with Z06 hub assembly
  • 1.25-inch splined front sway bar
  • Custom center crossmember
  • Adjustable, drop-out transmission mount
  • Mid brace crossmember with exhaust ports
  • Fully boxed 10-gauge frame rails
  • Adjustable AFCO billet coilovers
  • 18-inch polished aluminum Forgeline Wheels
  • 265/35/18 Pirelli Tires

Rear Suspension: 

  • HD Ford 9-inch rearend housing
  • 31-spline axles
  • Large-diameter triangulated 4-bar rear suspension
  • Adjustable AFCO billet coilovers
  • 20-inch polished aluminum Forgeline Wheels
  • 335/30/20 Pirelli Tires

 Proformance Unlimited turn-key 572ci engine:

  • Gen VI tall-deck 4-bolt main
  • 4.50 forged steel Eagle crankshaft
  • Eagle H-beam connecting rods with ARP bolts
  • Comp Cam’s hydraulic lifter camshaft and lifters
  • AFR aluminum performance cylinder heads
  • Manley chromoly push rods
  • Melling high-volume oil pump
  • Edelbrock Victor intake manifold
  • 1120cfm Holley Dominator carburetor
  • MSD Pro-Billet distributor
  • GM Performance valve covers
  • AED braided dual-feed fuel line

By age 16, a ‘66 Malibu convertible became Appio’s pride and joy, and part of the ever-popular activity of “cruising the loop” where he grew up in Missouri.

While still a classic and the apple of the new driver’s eye, Appio admits his first classic Malibu was a bit rough around the edges.

“It was a slow-moving death trap,” Appio told us in a phone conversation. “A U-Haul could out handle it.”

After high school, Appio joined the Navy, serving for 13 ½ years before returning home and to his passion for classic muscle cars. A submarine builder by day, Appio started actively searching for another Malibu to build shortly after his return and in 2009, he bought a ‘66 coupe off of eBay.

“I prefer the Malibu over the SS because of the trim lines,” Appio told us about his choice for a project car.

Unfortunately, the car wasn’t in nearly as good of shape as expected and nothing could be salvaged from the classic body, nothing except a few odd-ball pieces like the surprisingly immaculate rear license plate bracket.

In 2011, Appio purchased another Malibu, one in significantly better shape than the last, but it was the first car that Appio had bought in 2009 that he really wanted to emulate.

So, the build process kicked off with a goal of building one fantastic V8, manual, black interior-equipped Malibu out of the two donor cars.

The Build

The task of preparing the body, providing a drive-worthy suspension and tying everything together for the project was left to renowned builder Phil Gerber and his business, the Roadster Shop in Mundelein, Illinois. For the engine, Appio turned to Proformance Unlimited of Freehold, New Jersey.

Wanting to stick with the classic design for his car, Appio opted not to have any custom body work done to his Chevy. As performance goes, however, that’s a different story.

Drive-Worthy Running Gear

Giving the car the perfect stance and excellent handling capabilities, the Roadster Shop equipped Appio’s car with their own 1964-1972 Fast Track Chevelle suspension system.

This fully custom setup by the Roadster Shop features a C6 Corvette spindle and Z06 hub assembly, a 1.25-inch splined front sway bar with C6 Corvette end links, a custom center crossmember with an adjustable, drop-out transmission mount, a mid brace crossmember with exhaust ports, and custom fully boxed, 10-gauge frame rails.

Supporting the back of the car is an HD Ford 9-inch rearend housing with 31-spline axles, as well as a large-diameter triangulated 4-bar rear suspension. The entire suspension system is topped off with adjustable AFCO billet coilovers on all four corners.

The Brick House

With a suspension system like the Roadster Shop’s Fast Track setup going in the car, Appio knew that his Malibu could handle plenty of power and that’s exactly what he asked Proformance Unlimited to give him. What resulted was a fully-dressed, turn-key 572ci powerhouse between the Malibu’s fender walls.

To get the perfect engine combination, a new Gen VI tall-deck, 4-bolt main block was equipped with a 4.50 forged steel Eagle crankshaft, Eagle H-beam connecting rods with ARP bolts, high performance pistons, hand-filed performance rings, performance rod and main bearing, and a Comp Cam’s solid camshaft.

When the engine ate up the original cam, it the car was then equipped with a hydraulic camshaft and lifters from Comp Cams.

The engine also features performance niceties such as Air Flow Research aluminum performance cylinder heads, Manley chromemoly push rods, performance roller rockers, a Melling high-volume oil pump and screen, an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, 1120cfm Holley Dominator carburetor and an MSD Pro-Billet distributor.

Auto-Lite spark plugs, black Taylor ignition wires, GM Performance valve covers, performance balancer, and a new AED Performance braided, dual-feed 8AN fuel line top the engine off to make it one potent piece of equipment.

Built for pump-gas performance, this 572ci beast gives Appio’s car a potent 711rwhp and 730 lb-ft of torque.

Tied to a T56 6-speed transmission, this engine pushes extreme amounts of power to the street via the Malibu’s clear powder coated, 18 and 20-inch polished aluminum Forgelines wrapped in 265/35/18 and 335/30/20 Pirelli rubber respectably.

Mike Appio and his step father Steve Walker pose with their matching "Wicked '66s" shortly after Appio picked up his finished car.

The Finished Product

After just 15 months, Appio’s car was completed in June of 2012, just in time for the summer show season. Upon picking up his finished Malibu, Appio trailered it straight to Columbia, Missouri, where he showed his car side-by-side with his step dad and his step dad’s 1966 GTO.

Adding to the car's overall appeal is the gorgeous black interior featuring bucket seats, a classic center console and a custom stereo system.

After winning the Grand Champion award with a score of 400 points out of 400 available, Appio took his car on to other events like the Goodguys East Coast Nationals, where he took home the Slick 60s award.

With 12 shows under his belt, Appio is gearing up for another great show season in 2013.

On top of enjoying his car and all the shows he plans to attend, Appio is even planning to have a music video of his car made this year by his two younger brothers who own a videography company.

As for final words of wisdom, Appio left us with this: “Don’t wait for a dream- go make it happen.”

After life-changing circumstances in 2010, Appio decided he wasn’t going to waste another minute not pursuing something he wanted. His gorgeous ‘66 Malibu is the result of that decision and one that his step dad, who Appio gives much thanks to, was undoubtedly proud of before his passing earlier this year.

About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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