Story and photos by Brian Earnest
The 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS was the car that got away from Brian Robertson when he was a kid.
Now it’s the car he will probably never let go as an adult.
Robertson still laments not purchasing the first ’65 Malibu SS he saw years ago. It’s clear he was not going to let it happen again.
“The story is there was a Ford dealer in my hometown of Boscobel, Wis., and I wanted that car so bad,” he recalls. “It was $300 and my dad would not let me buy it and I was so mad at him. I was so upset. I could have just slapped him silly! But I finally got my ’65 Chevelle — my brother found it in Montfort, Wis., sitting beside a building.
“The car was maroon when I bought it and the rear quarters were shot on it. The rest of it is all original. So I had that all re-done, and when I had it redone I had it changed to Glacier Gray, which is a Super Sport color. My dad and brother just had a nuclear meltdown over that, until they saw it, and then I made them both tell me that, ‘Yes, you were right after all.’
Roberts, who lives in Wauwatosa, Wis., has had the splendid convertible for about 23 years now, and bringing it back to “like new” condition has been an ongoing process. He still has a few small things to do — some trim on the top of the doors needs work, and he’s going to spruce up the dash. Beyond that, the droptop is in stellar shape. Robertson’s patience and perseverance have clearly paid off.
“I had it for about three years and I was saving and saving. But the car was not holding up. The rust was just getting the best of everything,” he says. “I either had to do it, or sell it so somebody else who could save it. So I borrowed some money and just had it all done. Bryhan’s in Lancaster, Wis., did the work on it. They took it in I think the beginning of October … and then called me and asked if I minded if they worked on it all winter. So I got free storage and they worked on it all winter just as filler when they had time.”
The Malibu SS got new rear quarterpanels welded in, a new black interior and new paint. The 327-cid V-8 engine was rebuilt by Robertson’s brother. He also added an electronic ignition and swapped in a Turbo-Hydramatic 350 automatic transmission in place of the factory Powerglide unit. “There was nothing wrong with the Powerglide, other than I didn’t like the whine,” Robertson notes. “The Turbo 350 I believe was available in the Caprice and I believe the Impala. The Caprice had the Turbo 350, but in the Malibu series I think you had a 4-speed, 3-speed or Turboglide. There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like the whine when it would sit in park.
“The old interior was not bad, but the guy that had it before me, his dad got in with a screwdriver in his back pocket… I don’t have to tell you what happened there. The front door panels are original, the rear door panels I had put on. The seats are new, the carpet is new.
“I also had snaps put on the top [boot]. They had these goofy clips, and I didn’t want be dragging clips across the paint. Otherwise it’s pretty much [stock]. It’s pretty basic. It’s a true Super Sport. It does have a manual top, it does have manual brakes, it does have power steering. It’s a pretty basic car.”
A pretty basic car with a rich, glorious paint job. The metallic pale blue paint looks like it could have been shot last week. It is nearly flawless, and gives Robertson plenty of satisfaction almost two decades later. “They really did a super nice job on the paint,” he says. “I’ve never waxed it. I’ve never had to it. I just wash it and wipe it down and it stays just like this. It’s never been waxed.”
Robertson’s car is one of more than 81,000 Chevelles that rolled out of GM factories for 1965 with the Malibu SS treatment. It was available as both a sport coupe and convertible, although no exact breakdown exists on how many of each body style were built.
The ’65 selling season was the sophomore year for the Malibu SS, which was the top-shelf offering in the Chevelle lineup. The Malibu SS had debuted for ’64 as a $170 option that included bucket seats, a console and appropriate SS badges. For ’65, Malibu SS was a separate series from the 300, 300 Deluxe & Malibu with different numbering on Fisher Body Number plate and VIN plate.
Initial power-plant offerings included the standard 194-cid six, an optional 230-cid six and a pair of old reliable 283-cid V-8s. In V-8 models, the 195-hp two-barrel version was standard. An L77 220-hp version with a four-barrel carburetor was $54 extra.
With Pontiac shoving its big 389-cid/325-hp V-8 into GTO-optioned Tempests, and Oldsmobile following quickly with a 330-cid/310-hp “police” option for its F-85, which soon evolved into the 4-4-2, Chevy execs probably felt pressure to answer. Eventually, the 250-hp L30 and 300-hp L74 327 V-8s were added to the Chevelle options list at midyear. The former was only $95 over the base 283-cid V-8 and the latter added another $138. Chevy literature even advertised the 365-hp L76 out of the Corvette and some back-door drag racing specials most likely got them.
A clean, sporty appearance made use of wide bright body sill moldings; rear lower fender moldings; Malibu SS rear fender script; deck lid SS emblems; black-accented grille and rear cove (except silver rear cove with black exterior); specific Super Sport full wheel covers; front bucket seats with bright trim ends; center console with four-speed manual or automatic transmissions; and all-vinyl luxury interiors. Special instrument panel features included temperature, ammeter and oil pressure gauges.
Base prices for ’65 ranged from $2,484 for the hardtop with a six-cylinder, to $2,796 for convertible with the 327 V-8.
Robertson has logged about 15,000 miles behind the wheel of his blue convertible. He says he’d pile up a lot more if he wasn’t so worried about marring the paint. “I’m careful with it. My daily driver sits in the driveway and this sits in the garage. They typical story!” he laughs. “I drive it on Sundays, and once in a while I’ll take it to work, but not very often. I don’t want to worry about door dings and stuff like that.”
“It just scoots down the road as nice as can be. It’s a real comfortable to drive. It’s a little warm in there when the sun comes out with that black interior, but that’s whey I keep a towel in there — so I don’t sizzle when I sit down.”
Robertson says he plans to put disc brakes on the front of the Malibu SS someday soon. Having binders that stop a little faster figures to give him incentive to drive the car more often. “No matter how much room I leave, people don’t realize that old cars don’t stop on a dime,” he says. “I’m doing it mostly for security. After you do all this work to it, you don’t want to trash it.”
Robertson jokes that his car-loving nephew has had his eye on the convertible Chevy for years. He may, in fact, wind up with it, but not before his uncle spends many more years admiring and caring for it.
“I just always liked the ’65 Malibus,” he says. “I thought they were just the neatest-looking car, and they still are. They just don’t look almost 60 years old.”