Do you remember what you were doing 24 years ago? Bill Leas does, and like it was yesterday. Back then, he was working on this Chevelle to make it a daily driver. In case you were wondering, the car looks as good now as it did when it was first completed all those years ago.
“When I bought this car, I was looking for a project car that I could drive on weekends,” says Bill. “One that had room to enjoy with my growing family. In the late- ‘70s, I owned a couple of ‘68 and ‘69 Chevelles. In 1996, when I acquired the car, these early Chevelles were very affordable, I liked the car and restoration parts were easy to find.”
Bill found out about the car when a friend and coworker, Dave Coleman, purchased the car from an elderly woman in 1990. “He thought she might have been the original owner,” states Bill. Although Dave owned the car for several years, he never really had the time to devote to its renovation. Eventually, it even became a burden to store it. “When he heard Bill was looking for a project car, he offered it to me at a very reasonable price,” quips an elated Bill.
When Bill got the car home, what he found was the car was all there, but it was basically worn out. “I was able to drive it the 15 miles home after replacing the upper radiator hose,” Bill recalls. “The paint and interior were bad, and the original engine was tired.”
Bill told us the car had very little rust which was contained to the bottom of the front fenders as he remembers. The paint was severely scraped from the front of the driver’s door well into the quarter panel. The roof had been used for storage and showed creases at the four corners after it had been pushed back from being collapsed. Another friend, Frank Bautista, completed the bodywork and painted the car Mist Blue shortly after he purchased it in 1996.
Once the bodywork and paint were done, it was time to move on to the suspension. “I added a 1 1/4-inch sway bar to the front, and a 7/8-inch rear sway bar to the rear,” he affirms. “I boxed the lower control arms, added Energy Suspension polyurethane A-arm bushings, KYB shocks, new steering linkage, ball joints, and rear springs.”
A neighbor was parting out a 1970 Impala and it donated its steering box with its improved ratio. Next, 15×7 rally wheels were added along with stock A-body disc brakes and dual master cylinder.
Bill does tell us he did find many of the parts at Original Parts Group (OPGI). “I have purchased interior parts, upholstery, exterior trim, and suspension pieces from OPGI. I purchased a reproduction AC dash when OPGI first offered them.”
To “motorvate” the Malibu, the original 250hp 327 engine received a mostly stock rebuild featuring a 10.0:1 compression ratio. The double hump heads now have hardened valve seats, and an Elgin E903P camshaft, that in Bills words, “delivers a fair idle quality with a nice lope. With .477/.477-inch lift and 22-degrees of duration at .050-inch, it also offers good mid-range torque and response in 2,400 to 3,200 rpm range. Sitting atop those much-sought-after heads is an Edelbrock dual-plane manifold with an Edelbrock 1406 carburetor.
Behind the perfect cruising mill is not a Powerglide like the car had originally, but rather, a rebuilt Turbo 350 with a shift kit. The stock floor shifter utilizes a Shiftworks detent and cable conversion, which Bill states it works very well. The rearend is a 12-bolt with 3.31 gears.
We asked Bill about any future upgrades, and he mentioned he would like to install a 200R4 overdrive and rebuild the rearend using 3.55 gears and add positraction. They both sound like great upgrades to us.
After 23 years of hitting the highway, Bill’s Chevelle is a testament to what can be done with a little time, patience, and having the ability to find the parts you need — thanks to help from Original Parts Group — to make his classic GM car the best it can be without breaking the bank.