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.
Who: Eric Solomon
What: '78 Chevrolet Malibu
New parts: The new parts included 4.11:1 gears and a new Jegs diff cover, the kind with the bolts that preload the caps. Eric thinks the cover has been saving the 7.5-inch 10-bolt from destruction. The most expensive new part was the 5-inch cowl hood from Glasstek, but he wanted it. Instead of buying lighter hood springs, he simply unwound the stockers one turn and reinstalled them. The 90/10 Lakewoods and the Competition Engineering rear three-way-adjustable shocks are new, as well as the Moroso trick springs—these parts were key in getting the car to hook. Eric also bought a set of adjustable upper control arms from IcemanRacing.com so he can adjust the pinion angle. He also
bought a set of antihop bars that raise the mounting point of the upper arms to move the instant center.
Used parts: "In Kentucky, the junkyards are different. No concrete, there are weeds, mud, cows, and snakes." The wrecking gods produced a complete rearend housing with a GM limited slip, and the swap meet delivered the 3310 carb, the Weiand X-celerator manifold, and the '73-'74 Vega manual steering box. Eric found the original M/T valve covers in his neighbor's basement.
Homemade: The Malibu isn't an AC-delete car—the fiberglass was sawed off and re-formed with Bondo fiberglass filler. Eric also built his own crossmember out of 2x3 square tubing and pulled the sway bar, crash bars in the doors, and sound insulation to save weight.
Rollers: The wheels are Weld Draglites that were a Christmas gift. The rears are 15x8 with 3.5-inch backspacing to fit the 28x12.5-15 M/T ET Streets. The fronts are standard 15x4.5s with VW 165 tires.
Cheap: Eric had a machine shop retouch the valve seats and reface the valves, check the deck, and bore the block 0.040 to fit the pistons. The rest of the rotator is stock. The cam is a Comp Extreme Energy solid flat-tappet with 0.510 lift and 236/242 duration at 0.050.
Carb: Eric used a Proform body to soup up the carb. It adds the four-
corner idle circuits, screw-in air bleeds, and a measure of control of the carb.
Trans: The last speed trick was to add a shift kit to the TH400 and buy a 3,500-stall-speed converter. "I wanted a stall around 3,000 to get the car moving, but I knew I needed a loose converter to get there with that engine," Eric says.
Best e.t: 7.69 at 86 mph
'78 Malibu: $485.00
Used Monster tach, seatbelts: $250.00
Shift Kit: B&M: $75.00
Solid motor mounts: $60.00
Machine work: $400.00
Engine mounts: $60.00
Roller rockers: $179.00
Jegs converter: $198.00
Used Holley with Proform body: $150.00
Rearend housing: $60.00
Richmond 4.11 gears: $189.00
Differential cover: $150.00
Weld Draglites: Present for Christmas or $750.00
Used rear tires and tubes: $125.00
VW skinnies: $69.00
Glasstek hood: $480.00
Used intake: $100.00
Holley blue fuel pump: $159.00
Total cost: About $4,000.00