This article is presented in partnership with Fast Lane Classic Cars.

Ron Marth had been looking for a project to do with his son and daughter in 2004 when he happened upon a 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS for sale in the front yard of a home on Highway 63 south of Licking, Missouri. He was on the way to Bull Shoals Lake, a trip he and his family made often, when he first saw it. He passed it eight times before he stopped. He knew he wanted a ’60s vintage car to restore—the technology was simpler and he could teach his kids—so he bought it and took it home.

The car ran but definitely needed restoration, so they began meticulously disassembling it in his garage. Restoration quickly came to a halt in 2005 after Ron had some health issues. Then his son went to college and his daughter had other interests, and the family project waned. Ron struggled with health issues through 2012, and by then, he had lost interest in doing the work and frankly had taken the project about as far as he could with the knowledge he had about automobiles. The 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS sat. 

In 2018, Ron decided to have someone finish what he had started and reached out to several shops for bids. At Fast Lane Classic Cars, he found the team to do the job at the right cost. He worked closely with Mark Hiatt, Brian Alberico, and Jason Serio to decide configurations and source parts for the build of his Malibu SS. (Chevelle was a trim package of the Malibu SS that later became its own model.) Brian and Jason rebuilt the body and interior, and installed the motor, drive train, wiring, and air ride suspension, among other components.

Older cars can be challenging, says Brian, who is the restoration department manager. Some things are easier but some are harder. It’s not so much the difficulty level but the lost knowledge. Specialized tools might have been used then that don’t exist anymore. If you don’t know they exist then the task may be impossible. Even so, the techs perform several restoration projects to varying degrees each year, but most don’t equal the scope of Ron’s Malibu. Ron’s frame-off restoration involved every nut and bolt on the car.

“Ron gave us a lot of free rein and trusted my engineering,” Brian says. “He knew what he wanted his end result to be, but anything in between there he let us do what we needed to do to come up with a means of getting it there. It involved some pretty fun custom work.”

When Fast Lane got the Malibu, Ron had completed the chassis work but was in over his head when it came to body work. The team found other issues Ron didn’t know existed. They replaced the entire back half of the car due to hidden collision damage, body filler, and rust: a door, rear quarter panels, the trunk floor, wheel wells, among other parts. They did save the trunk lid but had to do extensive repairs. Overall, nearly 75 percent of the metal in the car was replaced, which illustrates the value of engaging people with experience to identify issues the layman would miss.

“Working with Brian—he is a magician with metal,” Ron says. “He did some magical things when we started working on the body.” 

The new parts, like the door and quarter panels, needed extensive welding work to align with the car’s ’60s-era body, and Ron appreciated the extra mile the team was willing to go to remake the car right.

“When I wanted something done that wasn’t originally planned, they came up with ways to do it that worked really well and turned out as good or better than I expected when we started,” Ron adds.

The Fast Lane Classic Cars team unveiled the Malibu a year and a half after Ron delivered it to them. “I actually was amazed,” Ron says. “Where we started and what we ended up with and the amount of hours of work it took to get it all together…” 

His wife Judy helps describe where he trails off.

“They have a really cool showroom where they deliver your car, and it’s all white. The car just gleaned in this round white circle. It was pretty amazing to see it. It was gorgeous. It was like: wow! This is really done after seeing it in our garage for so many years in bits and pieces.”