Anything is possible if you are willing to work hard. Eric Solomon's '78 Malibu sets an example for the rest of us. He was able to assemble this car using wit and knowledge in place of wallet prowess. The result is his daily-driven street machine that runs 11s for around 4 large.
It started with an ad in the Trading Post, a cage liner in his home state of Kentucky that offers free classified ads. "I'd been looking for a Malibu for a long time," Eric says. "I still had the interior and other parts from my first car, and I wanted to build another one." The ad offered the car for $500 without the running gear. The catch was Eric would have to pull it himself. "The owner told me to come back in a few weeks when the engine was out, but I wanted the car, so I pulled the engine and trans and paid $485 for the car."
Eric found standing in the engine bay making car noises boring, so he went back to the classifieds. "I found a used 350 and TH400 from a '69 Impala for $100 in the Trading Post," he says. He plunked down the hundo then took the engine apart to examine his gamble. "I didn't have any cash, so I needed to cut every corner possible." The pistons were junk and he looked to fill the void with the least expensive set possible. "The 0.040-over pistons were the cheapest, so that is what I bought." The heads sucked, too. They were the 186 casting that proudly boast the double-hump stamp but deliver the 1.94/1.50 valve size. "My grandfather talked to Lee Sheppard on the phone a lot when Lee was porting a set of castings for him. I used the fundamentals my grandfather taught me to port the heads," Eric says. With the cheapie pistons and a 0.015 steel shim gasket, the compression ratio was a reasonable 10.5:1.
The rest of the car is a combination of used parts, like the differential housing and limited slip, and new parts like the 4.11:1 gears and a good converter. The paint isn't there yet, but who needs gloss with a Glasstek 5-inch cowl and pounding Flowmasters? Hey you, in the detailed Prius, please get out of the way.