Almost every job on the planet comes with stress in one form or another. It could be the physical grind of a construction worker swinging a 20-pound sledgehammer while baking in the midday sun, or the mental drain experienced by a corporate CEO responsible for hundreds of employees and aggressive profit goals. Then there are the professions that have both physical and mental stresses, probably none greater than being a law enforcement officer, especially in one of the biggest cities in the world, New York City. As it happens, Luis Arroyo felt a ’66 Malibu would be the remedy for these ailments.
Luis was born on the island of Puerto Rico, however, he was raised in Brooklyn, New York. In 1991, with a young family to support, he decided to become a policeman and was assigned to the 5th Precinct in Chinatown. “I married young and had a daughter on the way and needed a real career, so I joined the NYPD. It was the best job ever,” Luis states.
Though he wasn’t always into vintage muscle cars, it didn’t take much convincing from friends that taking on a project would be fun and a great distraction from the rigors of his job. Luis tells us, “In 1997, a friend told me of a 1966 Malibu not too far from us, so we decided to go check it out. It turns out, the owner had the same first and last name as me, which I thought was a good sign. He originally wanted $2,500 but I got the car for just $900, and it came with a bunch of spare parts.”
Starting From Scratch
The old Chevy was complete but needed a total restoration. Luis was able to store it near his buddy’s shop in Brooklyn, New York, and do much of the grunt work himself to keep costs down. “I was working the 4:00 p.m. to midnight shift at the time, so I was able to work on the car quite a bit before work.” There were the usual rust spots that needed attention. He also replaced both lower quarter panels, one rocker panel, and all the floors. After priming and sanding, his buddy sprayed the Chevelle its factory color, Mist Blue, using lacquer-based paint.
By 2007, the first restoration was looking a bit tired, so Luis decided to have the Malibu redone. Five Star Auto Body in Queens, New York stripped the car to bare metal, revealing the work of the previous shop. Upon close inspection, the prior repairs were deemed sufficient, so only minor bodywork and panel alignment were required. Several coats of PPG urethane primer were sprayed, followed by more block sanding to ensure a straight and true surface for the fresh paint. Antonio at Five Star Auto Body expertly applied the Mist Blue, employing a PPG basecoat/clearcoat system. After proper curing, the shop wet sanded the clearcoat with 1,500 and 2,000 grit sandpaper, followed by polishing, which resulted in a mirror-like shine.
Originally equipped with a six-cylinder and Powerglide transmission, Luis knew that it wasn’t going to deliver enough oomph for his needs. So he easily sourced a tried-and-true 350 small-block and performed a full rebuild. The bottom end received new bearings, reconditioned crankshaft, and connecting rods. The block was also bored .030-inch over and stuffed with TRW pistons.
Luis chose a lumpy Comp Cams bumpstick with a fairly radical (for a street car) 253 degrees of duration at .050-inch lift and .525-inch valve lift intake/exhaust. Top-end goodies include World Products angle plug, steel cylinder heads with 72 cc chambers, and an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold. A venerable Holley 750 cfm double pumper carburetor feeds the hungry beast.
Spark is provided by an MSD 6A box and distributor, along with a Master Blaster coil. Hedman headers direct the noxious fumes into a dual system featuring 2.5-inch pipes and Flowmaster 40 series mufflers. This combo results in an unmistakable, classic muscle car rumble. A Be Cool direct-fit radiator keeps engine temps in check.
Suspension And Brakes
The suspension and brakes also received some much-needed attention, as the original four-wheel drum brakes were not up to snuff. A Wilwood Hydropower system was installed for enhanced braking pressure while also eliminating the vacuum issue associated with large camshaft profiles.
With Wilwood six-piston calipers, along with drilled and slotted rotors at all four corners, this Malibu easily negotiates today’s congested roads and maniacal drivers. For improved handling, a large-diameter Hotchkis front sway bar and Bilstein shocks were added, along with Hotchkis 2-inch lowering springs, the latter giving the car a perfect stance.
Intro 5 Series Vista wheels, 17×8 up front and 17×9 out back, give this Malibu some serious attitude. Falken redline tires in sizes 235/50-17 front and 245/50-17 rear complete the look. “I was running 15-inch Rally wheels but that grew old. I wanted an updated look, so I went with these 17s and I love ‘em,” Luis states.
After burning up a Turbo 350, Luis opted for a 700R4. The small-block’s power is then sent to a 10-bolt rearend stuffed with an Eaton posi unit and 3.73 gears. “The 3.73 gears work great with the overdrive transmission. It’s the best of both worlds with great acceleration and low RPM cruising on the highway,” says Luis.
The Malibu Gets A Factory-Fresh Interior
The interior was in decent shape but still needed some work. Luis was capable of updating the interior on his own, so he installed new seat covers, carpet, and headliner. He did such a nice job it looks as if a professional did the work. Luis loves his tunes but wanted to retain the interior’s factory-esque appearance. To accomplish that, a Pioneer receiver resides in the glovebox, and the factory unit remains in its original place for a cohesive appearance. A trunk-mounted Rockford Fosgate amplifier pushes two trunk-mounted 10-inch speakers, two 6×9 rear-deck speakers, and two 5.5-inch speakers in custom kick panels. This arrangement moves more air than a 747 at takeoff.
After having dutifully served more than 25 years in the NYPD, Luis retired in 2017. With his sister already residing in central Florida, he soon decided to join her in the idyllic town of Clermont. He certainly enjoys the year-round cruising weather that the Florida lifestyle provides. However, he divides his seat time between his beloved Chevelle and Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.
“I love driving the ’66. But lately, I seem to be favoring the bike, they’re both so much fun,” says Luis. Even though he only attends shows sporadically, the Chevelle has racked up some nice accolades since its restoration. He won the People’s Choice award in 2000 at the famed Belmont racetrack in New York. More recently, he earned several Best-in-Class trophies from shows in Kissimmee and Winter Garden, Florida.
“Owning this car has proven to be tons of fun and a great stress reliever,” Luis states. More fun and less stress is something we could all use, regardless of our profession. This stunning 66 Malibu certainly delivers the goods.