If you had two long-term projects on the go, and the missus tells you to buy a car you can drive now… What would you do? Ed Trybula bought a nice sensible Chev Malibu … gasser!

Fast Eddie Trybula is a big bloke who likes big cars and big engines, especially those made by General Motors. I’ve known Ed for more than 20 years and he has owned and still owns some fine examples, all heavily and meticulously modified to suit his tastes. Currently in the shed is a pro-street HK Monaro that he bought from the Palmerston North swap meet back in 1990. Ed was going to do a quick rebuild/tidy-up and drive the wheels off it. Now with a tube chassis, massive tubs, Berry front end, and an 8/71 blown and injected 427 it’s still not on the road and has obviously turned into a long-term project… Keeping the Monaro company is a 1957 Bel Air, already a tidy driver which was also taken off the road for a quick tidy-up. It’s now roof-chopped on a custom chassis, air bagged with an injected 427 (see the In The Build page from NZV8, issue #60). I guess it’s fair to say that’s now a bit of a long-term project too. There have been numerous other vehicles over the years, from his blown Nova to his 1957 Chev station wagon, Bel Airs and Hardtops. 

After being at the Hot Rod Reunion nostalgia drags at Bakersfield and seeing Goldrush and other gassers at the local Nostalgia Drags, Eddie got the hankering for a ’57 gasser to fill the remaining space in the shed. Knowing ’57’s so well he decided to build one. With all the spares he had collected over the years, how hard could it be? He found a body shell at the right price, a beam axle out of an early Chev pickup and some good period correct wheels. A big block engine and clutched full manual 727 transmission appeared from the Trybula stockpile, as did doors, guards and a few other ’57 pieces, so the basics of the gasser began to take shape. Just need to sort out the chassis and diff and then get it all together.

About then the missus got involved... The exact transcript of the conversation may not be printable but the guts of it was: “Ed, you are a bloody dreamer. You are almost 50 years old, you have been building the Monaro for 20 years, the chopped ‘57 for 10 years, and have sold or traded all the other cars that we were driving. We don’t have a single car that’s finished and now you think it’s a good idea to start building another one! Why don’t you just get on the' net and buy one for your birthday that we can drive now?” (Happy 50th, Ed!).

The last words were the critical ones, no man would ever forget them. So like the dutiful partner he is Ed went car shopping for gassers! While a ’57 was considered because it would look good next to the slammed chopped one, this ’65 Chevelle caught Ed’s eye. Originally built as an A/Gas street strip car, Steve Carpenter of Galpin Auto Sports refined it to use as his daily driver and mobile billboard for his business. The Galpin Gasser II complemented his wild 525hp ‘56 Ford Mainline gasser, ‘The Galpin Gasser’. 

“I drive my gassers every day to work and shows so I like to make sure it starts and drives every time,” Steve explains. “If I had had my way it would have been blown, but I had to put money in the right places for now. My wife’s always keeping tabs (don’t they all?) and I couldn’t hide the blower money. Of all the hot rods and pro street cars I have owned, I have had the most fun with my gassers.” Unfortunately for Steve he needed to sell one of his gassers and the price he had on the Chevelle looked about right for Ed. Emails were exchanged along with more photos and the car's specs were sent over. It looked like the perfect gasser that Ed had been searching for. A Chevelle SS with a beam axle front, big block, four-speed and 12-bolt rear. Everything a gasser needs! 

Buying a car like this sight unseen was a concern, and Ed had seen a few shockers imported while he was part owner of Ed Juniors Kustom Rides and Classics, a well-known Wellington-based hot rod shop. This naturally gave him a major case of “buyer beware” so he had Steve Curle from Kiwi Shipping give it the once over for him. It turned out the car was pretty much as described and looked as good in the flesh as it did in the photos, so the cash swapped hands and the Galpin Gasser II was Wellington-bound.

Thanks to Steve and his team the Chevelle arrived safe and sound – all that remained was to get it legal. First step was to redo some of the American engineering. Steve Carpenter had claimed it drove like a Cadillac. Which it did, if the Cadi was riding on the bump stops the way the Chevelle’s front end was riding on its fully compressed shocks. 
This is where the preparations for the ‘57 gasser came in handy as the front axles and springs were the same, or at least very similar. With a bit of mix and match the Chevelle’s nose was raised a touch more and with a shock swap it was moving like it should be. 

The diamond pleated upholstery went. Part of the Cadi-like ride came from six inches or more of foam in the seat bases, and this put Ed’s head into the roof. Resprung seats and new padding made it driveable for Ed, and then it was time to complete the little things required for compliance. After a few more weeks of burning the midnight oil the Chevelle was starting to go the way Ed had always envisaged it. A few sneaky shakedown runs showed the front end was now working fine and ready for certification by Julian Cheer of Cheers Auto in Carterton. Now it’s legally on the road and Ed plans on putting plenty of miles on it, and of course change a few things. The clutch is not up to task of the healthy 427 and big sticky rubber, so that’s the first on the list. What’s the fun in having a manual big block if the clutch won’t let you enjoy it? Plus there is the lure of the new gasser class at the Nostalgia Drags, if not this year then next, and a slipping clutch would certainly hurt the times.

The next change is the rear gearing. Steve Carpenter had it geared fine for street/strip, as long as the streets were downtown LA. Once the Beach Hop and Nostalgia Drags are finished Ed is changing the rear diff gears for something a bit more street focused as the 4.33:1s keep the engine a bit busy for road trips. Ed thinks he has a set of 3.31:1s that should be a bit friendlier somewhere in his stash. For Ed it’s nice to have a good driver to take to events while he finishes his other projects and rest assured he has already been warned by many who know him (especially the missus!) about taking the Chevelle off the road for one of his “quick rebuilds” before the others are done. 

  • Engine: 427 big block Chev, rebuilt with aftermarket internals, not sure what or by who, cast iron heads, 850cfm double pumper with Don Garlits injection system (fake – but it looks cool!), Carter electric fuel pump, MSD ignition, aluminium radiator with mechanical and electric fan
  • Driveline: Muncie 4-speed manual, Centreforce clutch, 12-bolt diff, 4.33:1 gears (not quite a cruiser yet…need to change cos I wanna drive it everywhere!) 
  • Suspension: ’48 Chevy I beam straight axle, CPP adjustable top arms, strengthened lower arms, custom springs
  • Brakes: Stock
  • Wheels/Tyres: Big and small E/T Spokes, ET Street tyres
  • Exterior: Matt–ish, grey-ish, black-ish paint, heaps of cool hand-painted old school signwriting
  • Interior: Full custom retrim, early American Racing wheel, Hurst stick shifter, shiny chrome rollcage
  • Performance: Plenty, but needs more!

Driver profile

  • Car Club: Cam County, Lower Hutt
  • Age: 50
  • Occupation: Owner All Fleet Services – mechanical workshop – we fix darn near anythin’
  • Previously owned cars: Chevy Nova, ‘57 Chev, ‘68 Monaro, ‘57 Chev, XU1 Torana, ’68 Monaro, ’34 Ford Sedan – lost the plot a bit there but it did have Chev running gear, ’57 Chev – how many ’57 Chevs? Still building ’68 Monaro (PROFAT) and ’57 4-door Chev, seriously chopped, one day….one day…
  • Dream car: Gottem’ – just gotta finish them!
  • Why the Gasser?: Always wanted a gasser, was gonna build one, had started collecting bits to build one but I’ve got two projects already and the missus said to stop dreaming and just buy one. 
  • Length of ownership: Six months

This article was originally featured in NZV8 Issue No. 72. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below:

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw loves most forms of motorsport, having had a crack at rally driving, drag racing, and four-wheel driving over the years. Over the years he has owned a diverse mix of vehicles from Range Rovers to T-buckets. While awestruck by the power vehicles in the import scene can make, he still prefers an old V8, and he currently drives a ’56 Bel Air that is an old New Zealand–new survivor, which sometimes tows a 1969 Concord caravan that is currently being restored. Also in the shed is a BB Chev-powered 1926 T roadster pickup, which is a long-term project hiding in the back of the shed. In my professional life I have spent 20 years in IT, 10 years as a self-employed builder, and my day job now is in operations / fleet management looking after 400-plus trucks around New Zealand. I've been a contributor to NZV8 since 2010.