For Jack Hansen, recalling the good old days automotively is kind of a wistful experience. "When I was in high school, everybody had a hot rod of some kind. It's really sad for me that those days are almost over," he said.
So what does make him happy these days? How about a brown 1978 Chevy Malibu?
"It was kind of a 'Granny car' when I got it about five years ago... it had a V-6 in it. You just don't see many of these around these days," he said.
"This thing was a slick car to start with," says his buddy, Randy Benjamin of Johnson Automotive in Valley Center, who helped him build the boxy-bodied Malibu.
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But a brown V-6? "It's kind of a street rod/race car now," Hansen said. We pulled that engine out and installed a 383 stroker motor... built by Martin Machine Shop."
The car runs an Edelbrock intake topped with a Holley 4-barrel carb, MSD ignition and a set of Hedman headers, all channeling power through a Turbo 350 automatic built by Rick Bills of Goddard. That power gets to the pavement through a 9-inch Ford rear end fitted with 4:10 gears.
The 383 pumps out an estimated 400 horsepower." We built it just enough to run on street gas (premium). It's kind of a stepping stone. I'm hoping some day to put a high-compression motor in it," Hansen said. Benjamin, who shares driving duties at the drag strip, interjected, "Maybe a big-block."
"It goes fast enough for now," Hansen said, adding that the Malibu clocks consistent mid-13-second runs at a little over 100 mph in the quarter-mile. Plans call for the street tires to come off and a set of racing slicks to be installed to see if the 12-second barrier can be broken next spring.
The Malibu features a set of JAZ racing seats with racing harnesses and a full roll cage built by Rob and Chad Holzman of Holzman Race Cars. They also fabricated the aluminum panels that now cover the inner doors and the spot once occupied by the back seat. "They did really good work and were very fair to me," Hansen said.
Ironically, the car still has working electric windows, the basic factory dashboard and even the stock ignition interlock. Hansen chose not to change things that didn't really need to be changed.
So when it was time for fresh paint about a year and a half ago, he commissioned Dawson's Rod & Custom Shop to spray the factory GM metallic brown on the car. It even retained its factory-style black vinyl top.
But the inner fenders were stripped out to save weight, the front bumper removed in favor of a fabricated sheetmetal air dam, and a wing was added to the rear deck, which covers a 16-gallon fuel cell and a pair of Optima batteries to help with weight transfer at launch. There's even talk of putting a straight axle under the front end and turning the car into an old-school "gasser."
Hansen took a break from hot rodding when he and his wife began raising a family. Today, sons Jeremy and John help with the car on race days.
"Now I've got me a toy again," he said. "I don't have the fastest car. I don't have the prettiest car. But I'm proud of it... it's been a lot of fun," Hansen said.