- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - Walk into just about any car guy’s garage and you’re bound to find a few pinups on the walls. It’s a safe bet most of the pinup models are under 30 years old. A 51-year-old pin-up model is almost unheard of, but Spearfish hot rodder Dave Marcoe has one in his garage that he has a very personal relationship with.

Marcoe’s fully restored, extensively customized 1965 Chevy Malibu convertible is the vehicular equivalent of “Miss March” in Snap-on Tools’ 2016 calendar.

The veteran auto body pro affectionately refers to his Malibu as “The Gray Ghost.” With its custom-mixed medium spiral gray metallic paint, custom gray leather interior, and custom gray convertible top, the car’s nickname makes perfect sense.

A few months ago, Marcoe’s Snap-on Tools dealer Rob Telkamp talked him into submitting his Malibu for consideration on inclusion in the 2016 Snap-on Tools calendar. Marcoe gave his friend and tool dealer a few of his favorite photos of the car, taken by Spearfish photographer Chris Yushta of FotoMotive, and several months later, Marcoe was told the Malibu made the cut.

“It was kind of a surprise, and it felt pretty good in a way. Rob was pretty excited too,” Marcoe told the Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/1OXbzPz ).

Before The Gray Ghost was a pinup model it was a half-abandoned car sitting behind a car dealership building in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. That was more than 20 years ago.

As soon as Marcoe spotted the Malibu he contacted the dealership owner to get the rundown on it. To wit: Some friends moving from the West Coast to the eastern part of the country decided not to take the car with them and dropped it off for him to take care of.

When Marcoe went back to the dealership later in person the Malibu was gone. It took him a month to locate the car again; when he did he bought it immediately.

“Basically it was a complete car. It was a 327 powerglide car when I first got it, light blue with a white top, all factory stock,” Marcoe said. “This is one car that I really wanted to build because you never see these cars out there, especially convertibles. You see a lot of ‘64s, but you don’t see a lot of ‘65s.”

The new owner drove the car occasionally for the first two years he owned it. After that it spent more time in storage than on the road. Marcoe was busy with his ‘70 split-bumper Camaro at the time, along with a litany of customer cars. But plans for the Malibu were already forming in his brain.

The Camaro unfortunately had to go to fund the Malibu project, which went as far as a restoration project can go - body off, frame up. Every single nut and bolt on the car was replaced with stainless steel, and the bolts were machines to a flat finish. Literally no piece of this car was left untouched.

“I decided to go a little bit outside the box with it,” Marcoe said of the project. “It was a five-year span of work to get this car ready for the road.”

Marcoe’s Malibu is a clean example of the popular pro-touring style, which was developed in the 1990s and has grown exponentially in popularity since.

Pro-touring cars are typically American muscle cars from the 1960s or ‘70s modified to drive - and to some extent look - more like modern performance cars. Pro-touring cars often feature shaved body molding, partial or full de-chroming, larger wheels, upgraded brakes, and modern drivetrain swaps. The only true necessity for a pro-touring car, however, is a modernized, upgraded suspension for increased performance in the corners.

True to the pro-touring style, Marcoe’s Malibu features an air-ride suspension setup with tubular a-arms up front and a similar tubular Morrison 4-link suspension out back connected to frame rails cut and moved in 2 inches. It also features upgraded four-wheel disc brakes and 17-inch five-spoke wheels. In keeping with the pro-touring aesthetic, Marcoe shaved the chrome body molding from the sides of the car to clean things up.

That’s a good way to describe Marcoe’s style: clean. That style can be found all over the Malibu - in the shaved engine bay, cleaned up of the usual wiring mess under the hood; in the custom dual exhaust outlets “frenched” into the bottom of the stock bumpers; in the swooping, functional interior center console Marcoe fabricated; in the custom flush mounted front windscreen.

Marcoe said he did 90 percent of the work on the car himself in his garage. He said he had some help with the suspension and wiring and enlisted other professionals to finish the car’s custom leather upholstery and custom convertible top, but everything else he completed himself.

“I’ve been interested in hot rods pretty much all my life. You’ve kind of got to teach yourself how to do stuff,” Marcoe said. “I can’t give all the credit to myself because I’ve had good teachers, too. You pick up stuff whenever you can wherever you can.”

In his 30-plus years of experience building cars, Marcoe’s had plenty of teachers. Thanks to those teachers and thousands of hours of experience, Marcoe’s now at the point where if he can think it he can build it. That was the case with the Malibu.

“I envisioned something and that’s what it turned out to be. I didn’t have any drawings or anything of what I was doing, I just saw a picture in my head and went from that,” Marcoe said. “It actually turned out a little better than how I thought it would. This thing is super fun to drive. It handles like a dream, and you can sit in it all day and never get tired of driving it.”

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

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