ART CROFT’S 1967 CHEVELLE MALIBU MUSCLE CAR

By John Machaqueiro   –   Photography by the Author

Car projects can often lead owners down steep rabbit holes, even when just looking for a “driver.” Art Croft’s ’67 Malibu makeover checked quite a few boxes as he slid down one of those holes in 2019. It was his first automotive project and was fueled by memories going back to his childhood. “I grew up around those cars,” he recalls. “I always liked them and always wanted one. When I was in high school, I didn’t have any money to own one, but now was the time to buy something that I always wanted.”

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06 Rear view of a red 1967 Chevelle with prominent badging and chrome detailing

Read More: This Day Two Resto 1965 Chevelle Has Lived its Life on the Streets of New York City

That desire was fulfilled with an online purchase of what he described as a 5 out of 10 car. He explains, “It was painted black with a 283 small-block and a four-speed, and no power anything—it was just a driver. All stock, all original. I planned on taking out all of that and putting my own stuff in. I wanted a car that I could work on myself—that was the original plan. When I started ripping it apart, I found an ugly mess of rust, Bondo, and shoddy fiberglass work.” As he cut into it, rust was the gift that kept on giving. That 5 rating dipped down to a 1, forcing Art to reevaluate his plans. The rethink involved him ditching the frame with an ambitious effort to hand craft one. He notes, “I started making my own chassis out of 2×4 and 2×3 rectangular tubing.” As the project moved forward, he came to the realization that the magnitude of his ambitions exceeded his skill level, and a planned move out of Ohio to Florida meant the loss of his garage space was approaching. At that point he started looking for alternatives by trying to find someone to take over the project.

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05 Rear angled view of a red 1967 Chevelle emphasizing its taillights and dual exhaust

While his project was taking shape, the Chevelle forums became a great resource for information. It was there that he met Tom Rightler, the owner of Mid Atlantic Muscle Cars, who offered up a wealth of advice in the cyber realm. He points out, “We met online in the forum. I was on there talking to people about what I was facing. Rightler replied to me and told me a series of tasks that I needed to do.”

02 Front angled view of a red 1967 Chevelle on a checkered floor highlighting its sleek design

The Malibu had been reduced to a bare skeleton propped up on the new frame. Numerous items like the 283 and the four-speed had also been sold off. At that point Art reached out to Rightler. “I asked him if he would be interested in taking the whole thing on or helping with some of it,” he explains. “We were moving at that point, and it wasn’t a project that I could take on anymore.”

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03 Front view of a red 1967 Chevelle showcasing its quad headlights and grille

Read More: Inside the 1967 Chevy Malibu’s Stunning Restoration

In mid 2020 the car was shipped to Rightler’s shop in New Jersey. What he received were the remnants of the body mounted on the frame that Art had put together, along with several boxes of parts. As it rolled off the trailer it was dubbed Skeletor to reflect the state it was in. Once he started digging in it was determined that the frame was unusable because of discrepancies in its geometry. That prompted a rethink, with the solution coming in the form of a stiffer convertible frame.

07 Detailed view of a 1967 Chevelle’s engine showing a high performance setup

When it came to tackling all the sheetmetal work, Rightler states, “Art cut the B-pillars off the car, which caused some problems because you can’t get new ones. The way we were able to salvage the body and put it back together was by using the rust outlines as reference points where the B- and C-pillars were originally welded together. We ended up repairing the original rusty B-pillars and reinstalling them.”

10 Interior engine view of a red 1967 Chevelle highlighting the MSD ignition system

Dan Truman, the owner of Truman Metal Works, was responsible for the bulk of the metalwork on the car. Rightler contracted him to cover that part of makeover to the point it was ready for some bodywork to take it to the paint stage. Once that threshold was reached the frame was fully built with the new suspension. Rightler then sent the car off to Cornell’s Auto Body in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, to have the BASF basecoat/clearcoat GM Bright Torch Red paint applied.

08 Close up of a 1967 Chevelle’s air filter part of its powerful engine

Read More: A Malibu Made to Deceive

His plans for underhood motivation were kicked up a few notches while Rightler was hanging the sheetmetal. It came in the form of a Chevy big-block from the folks at Jensen’s Engine Technologies in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania. They started with an iron Dart Big M Sportsman Chevrolet big-block stroked out to 555 ci. It was fitted with a Manley forged crankshaft and connecting rods and SRP forged aluminum pistons. On the top end they went with a set of Brodix Dragon Slayer aluminum heads and a Weiand Street Warrior aluminum intake capped off with an Advanced Product Design Billet Enforcer 4500 Dominator 1,050-cfm carburetor.

11 Interior of a red 1967 Chevelle showing grey seats and a red steering wheel

Shifting duties changed from a manual to an automatic transmission sourced from Pennsylvania-based Kool Kar Performance. They began with a GM TH400 that was fitted with an FTI Transmissions SST 9-inch 4,200 stall torque converter along with other internal mods. In that powertrain mix was also a Dynotech Engineering Ultra HD driveshaft going back to a Strange Dana S60 rear.

14 Close up of a custom shifter in the 1967 Chevelle with clear gear labeling

When the Malibu returned to Rightler’s shop, his task was to put it all back together. While the extensive sheetmetal replacement might seem the most challenging, Rightler points out, “The engine and headers were the most difficult to install. I must have had the engine in and out of the car probably five times. Clearance issues with both were way worse than dealing with the sheetmetal work.” Another item that didn’t have an easy fix was the hood. Because of the clearance limitations with the intake and carburetor combination, the viable solution came down to the installation of a Glasstek fiberglass hood that also required a substantial amount of massaging to fit properly, while on the positive side, all the original stainless was polished and reused.

18 Close up of the tire and braking system of a red 1967 Chevelle

Read More: Chris Castro’s 1964 Chevelle Malibu Personifies Style

The last hurdle was the interior. Some of the pieces were previously sorted by Art, like the rear custom seat made by Benny’s Upholstery in Barberton, Ohio, and the Procar by Scat front seats. A replacement dash was also fitted and Dakota Digital gauges installed.

In February 2023 the Malibu was shipped to the Sunshine state. For Art, driving it has become an adaptive experience. He explains, “I’ve never owned a car this old. It is very raw and powerful and very exciting to drive. It’s completely different from a modern car, and something that I’ve had to wrap my head around as to what I’m actually driving.”

15 Detailed view of the ignition control panel in a 1967 Chevelle showcasing various switches

This experience has spawned some new ideas on potential projects in the future.

TECH CHECK:
OWNER: Art Croft, Vero Beach, Florida
VEHICLE : ’67 Chevy Chevelle Malibu

ENGINE
TYPE: Dart Big M Sportsman Chevrolet iron big-block
DISPLACEMENT: 555 ci
COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.6:1
BORE: 4.50 inches
STROKE: 4.25 inches
CYLINDER HEADS: Brodix Dragon Slayer aluminum
ROTATING ASSEMBLY: Manley forged crankshaft, Manley H-beam forged connecting rods, SRP forged aluminum pistons

VALVETRAIN: Brodix valves and springs, Scorpion 1.7 roller rockers
CAMSHAFT: Comp Cams, (0.678/688 lift, 266/272 deg. duration at 0.050) 110 LSA
INDUCTION: Weiand 7623 Street Warrior aluminum intake, Advanced Product Design Billet Enforcer 4500 Dominator 1,050 cfm, Advanced Product Design fuel log
ASSEMBLY: Jensen’s Engine Technologies (Nescopeck, PA)
EXHAUST: American Racing headers, 3.0-inch exhaust, and Pure Thunder mufflers

ANCILLARIES: Jensen’s Engine Technologies valve covers, Diamond Performance billet aluminum air cleaner, Wizard Cooling aluminum radiator, CVF Wraptor belt drive system, SPAL electric fan, Aeromotive GEN II Stealth Tank 340-LPH 20-gallon tank
OUTPUT: 734 hp at 6,000 rpm, 699 lb-ft at 4,200 rpm

DRIVETRAIN
TRANSMISSION: TH400, FTI Transmissions SST 9-inch 4,200 stall torque converter, Precision Performance Products Kwik-Shift 1 shifter, built by Kool Kar Performance (Coal Township, PA)
DRIVESHAFT: Dynotech Engineering Ultra HD driveshaft
REAR AXLE: Strange Dana S60 with Ford end housings, 3.73:1 gears, 35-spline axles, built by ABC Performance (Imlay City, MI)

CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION: OEM upper and lower control arms, Fatman Fabrications 2-inch drop spindles, Viking double-adjustable coilovers, UMI Performance antiroll bar, Borgeson 800 series Power Assist 12.7:1 ratio steering box
REAR SUSPENSION: ABC Performance rear suspension kit with coilover conversion, Viking double-adjustable coilovers, ABC Performance Extreme Performance 1 1/8-inch sway bar
BRAKES: Baer 11-inch rotors front and rear, Baer four-piston calipers front and rear, LEED Brakes master cylinder

WHEELS & TIRES
WHEELS: Vision Sport Star 571 Sport Star II; 15×7 front, 15×8 rear
TIRES: Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/T; 235/60R15 front, 275/60R15 rear

INTERIOR

UPHOLSTERY: Rear seat by Benny’s Upholstery (Barberton, OH)
CARPET: Auto Custom Carpets Gunmetal Gray
SEATS: Procar by Scat Elite Series 1100 (front)
STEERING: Stock column and Lecarra Mark 9 Supreme steering wheel
INSTRUMENTATION: Dakota Digital VHX, QuickCar switch plate panel with ignition switch
INTERIOR INSTALLATION: Mid Atlantic Muscle Cars (Bridgeton, NJ)
WIRING: American Autowire Classic Update Kit installed by Mid Atlantic Muscle Cars

EXTERIOR
HOOD: Glasstek fiberglass
SHEETMETAL: Auto Metal Direct, Dynacorn
SHEETMETAL INSTALLATION: Truman Metal Works
BUMPERS: Dynacorn reproduction
GLASS: Auto City Classics reproduction
BODYWORK & ASSEMBLY: Mid Atlantic Muscle Cars
PAINT: BASF basecoat/clearcoat GM Bright Torch Red
PAINTWORK: Cornell’s Auto Body (Egg Harbor City, NJ)
TRIM POLISHING: Classic Moulding Restoration (Greenfield, IN)

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of ART CROFT’S 1967 CHEVELLE MALIBU MUSCLE CAR.acp may 2024

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