For a car guy from a Southern California beach town, there are few things cooler than a 1960’s muscle car-era wagon toting a surfboard on the roof — something we’d argue is second only to said wagon wheels up, ripping its way down the dragstrip.
For Hermosa Beach native Mike Moore, his ’65 Chevelle wagon has done time as both.
Moore was fortunate to grow up in a time and a place to witness some of the sport’s all-time great people, cars, tracks, and moments. Barely 10 years old, he attended races at Lions Drag Strip, surrounded by race cars and street rods throughout his youth in the 1960s and ‘70s. In ’76, right out of high school, he entered the automotive repair industry and bought a ’65 GTO that he raced at Terminal Island in Long Beach. He also helped his older brother work on his ’55 chevy C/Modified production drag car.
“We got parts from junkyards and Super Shops. We’d surf in the morning, work on cars in the afternoon, and work at night. I got married in 1982 and sold my GTO to buy a house. I then went through an offroad period with dirt bikes and trucks,” Moore shares.
The year was 1997 when Moore, itching to get back behind the wheel of some classic muscle, paid 400-bucks for his prized ’65 Chevelle Malibu four-door wagon. The car had been sitting in his next-door neighbor’s driveway rusting away, so he made the deal, pushed it home, got it in running condition, and put it to work as a surf and snowboard wagon. He also drove his kids to school and martial arts classes. He even put its extra cargo space to use transporting lumber and bricks in it.
Powered at the time by a 283 with 270,000 miles on it, the mill was soon swapped for a 350 crate engine, along with a new Turbo 350 transmission, and a fresh new coat of factory Teal Green paint. He stuck an Alpine sound system in it and made it a cool street cruiser. But his brother had begun building drag racing engines and wanting to try his hand at racing again, Mike sold the engine and transmission, and had his brother build up a 383 and a more stout 350 transmission combination. As he says, ‘then it was a party,” as it clicked off 12.90s at almost 90 mph in the 1/4-mile with its mild setup when he started running it at Pomona in ’99.
To this day, the wagon remains in the family, as an ongoing family project, Mike says he and his kids could get their hands dirty and learn the ins and outs of tinkering with cars.
The 383 later gave way to an all-aluminum, 18-degree Brodix small-block built by Mark Millhollin at Hot Rod Performance in Torrance. The 434-inch engine sports a 4.15×4-inch bore/stroke combination in the 9.027-inch deck aluminum block; Hot Rod utilized a SCAT crankshaft and H-beam connecting rods, and CP pistons for the rotating assembly. The valvetrain consists of an Isky custom-grind cam, Manley valves and pushrods, T&D rockers, and Edelbrock 18-degree CNC-ported has, all resulting in a 14.21:1 compression ratio. The mill is topped with an Edelbrock intake manifold and an 1150 cfm Holley Dominator carburetor.
An MSD ignition box and Grid setup provide the spark, and the exhaust gases exit via custom 2-inch headers. A Mike’s Transmission Monster Glide transfers the power through an 8-inch, 6,000 rpm Mike’s stall converter, all shifted with a Hurst Quarter Stick. A fabricated 9-inch housing contains a Strange aluminum center section with 4.86 Pro gears on a spool. Strange 35-spline axles transmit the power out to Cragar Drag Star wheels front and rear (15×4 front with Mickey Thompson 27.5×4.5 and 16×8 double-beadlock rears wrapped in M/T 275 ET Street Radial Pro’s). Wilwood disc brakes bring it all to a stop.
The Chevelle has been molested as little as possible, retaining all of the factory steel, save for an aftermarket fiberglass hood. Mike and his family did much of the updating themselves, adding a mild-steel 8.50-cert roll cage for safety. Inside, you’ll find a very stock-appearing look, with factory door panels, dash, grey/teal seat covers, and carpeted floors. Mike relies on a seat from Summit Racing for a comfy ride, AutoMeter gauges for pertinent information, and a Grant steering wheel to maintain his heading.
Other than the roll cage, the chassis is all ’65-era GM. Mike has since added Racecraft front control arms with QA1 coilover shocks, and the stock factory four-link has also been beefed up with QA1 control arms and coilover shocks. PMR Race Cars in California also built him a custom set of wheelie bars.
Moore and his family mostly race near their home in California, him noting, “we’re proud to say we race in the West Coast N/A 10.5 heads-up class Small Tire Limited.” Moore has been a best of 5.57 at 120 mph to the 1/8-mile. Being the “big car in the class,” Moore says he’d be tickled to go 5.40s at 130, but ultimately, his real goal is to “have the best time racing with the finest people you could ever hang out with.”