This area is to address some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the 78-83 Malibu. It will also be the area where Malibu Tech (how-to) articles will be accessed. I will be continually adding to this as I receive more commonly asked questions. If you feel there is something that you would like to see here, drop me a line and give me your suggestion. Contributions to this page are ALWAYS welcome! The more people that contribute, the more knowledge there is to share.
What engines were available in the 78-83 Malibu?
Here is a list of engine codes listed for the 78-83 Malibu. I’m not totally sure that ALL were actually available each year, but they are listed as an option code for each year:
|Year Model||Available Engines|
|78||200 V6 (95 HP), 231 (3.8L) V6 (105 HP), 305 V8 (140 HP), 350 V8 (165 HP)|
|79||200 V6 (95 HP), 231 (3.8L) V6 (105 HP), 267 V8 (125 HP), 305 V8 (140 HP), 350 V8 (165 HP)|
|80||229 V6 (110 HP), 231 (3.8L) V6 (105 HP), 267 V8 (115 HP), 305 V8 (140 HP), 350 V8 (170 HP)|
|81||229 V6 (110 HP), 231 (3.8L) V6 (105 HP), 267 V8 (115 HP), 305 V8 (140 HP), 350 V8 (170 HP)|
|82||229 V6 (110 HP), 231 (3.8L) V6 (105 HP), 4.3L V6 Diesel (85 HP), 305 V8, 350 V8 Diesel (105 HP)|
|83||229 V6 (110 HP), 231 (3.8L) V6 (105 HP), 4.3L V6 Diesel (85 HP), 305 V8, 350 V8 Diesel (105 HP)|
What transmission were available in the 78-83 Malibu?
There was a large assortment of transmissions available in the 78-83 Malibu models. I’m not sure if all below were available, but all were listed in the option codes for these years. These included the following with the option code listed:
M15 – 3 spd standard transmission
M20 – 4 spd standard transmission (Muncie)
M21 – 4 spd close ratio (Muncie)
M38 – Turbo 350 automatic transmission
MM3 – 3 spd standard transmission.
MM4 – 4 spd standard transmission.
MX1 – automatic transmission (metric or TH250?)
Where can I find option codes for the 78-83 Malibu?
If you are luck enough to find the build sheet on your Malibu, you can go to the Canadian Classic Chevelle & Beaumonts Page. It is an EXCELLENT source of all the option codes listed by year model.
What type of rearend does the 78-83 Malibu have?
The factory rearend in all Malibu’s is a 10 bolt with a 7.5″ ring gear. This is the weakest rearend GM has produced, to my knowledge. They have 26 spline axles and small spider gears that are prone to breakage if moderate amounts of power are applied to them. Most come with very tall “highway” type gears for good fuel economy. Most came in the 2.41-2.73 range. To see a list of what was available, go to the Rear Axle Code Page to see a breakdown of available gear ratios, Posi ID, etc. for the stock 7.5″ rearend and also the more desirable 8.5″ rearend that came in the Buick GN turbo Regal and the Olds 442.
Which rearends can be swapped into the 78-83 Malibu?
The stock 78-88 A/G body rearend housing (housing flange to housing flange) is 52.125″. Here is a list of other common rearend dimensions:
|Body Style||Housing Width|
|62-67 Chevy II||52.125″|
|78-88 A/G Body||52.125″|
|Information from Chevy High Performance Magazine 3/2001|
Below is a list of common Ford 9″ housing widths. NOTE the widths listed below is for AXLE FLANGE TO AXLE FLANGE not housing flange like above!!!
|Body Style||Housing Width|
|64-71 Ford (full sized car)||61.0″|
|79-81 Lincoln Versallies||58.5″|
Obviously, some of those are not good swap candidates for a 78-88 A/G body. The 64-72 Chevelle is a good candidate because South Side Machine offers a kit to adapt these rearends to the 78-88 A/G body cars. You will have to use wheels with additional backspacing to compensate for the wider housing. For more swap info, go to the Rearend Swap Tech Page to see your alternatives to replacing the factory rearend in your Malibu.
How big of a tire can I fit on my Malibu?
Probably THE most asked question! This isn’t necessarily something set in stone, because you can tweak things to run a pretty big tire. Some people are interested in drag racing, some want the biggest wheel diameter with ultra low profile tires. Since this is primarily a drag racing site, I’ll say that a 275/60/15 is the largest rear street tire you can run and a 28×10.50 is the largest slick. I found that the McCreary L60-15 fit nicely. These should be used with 15×8″ wheel and 3.5″ backspacing. I have been told by a few people that they are running 295/50/15 tires without problems. The largest front tire would probably be a 235/60/15 with 3.5″ backspacing. My Father runs 245/60/15’s on the front and it rubs at full turn. There are MANY other combos using 16″ or larger wheels. I have not tried them, since I am more of a dragracing fan. To see a compilation of what some people are successfully running on their 78-88 G-body cars, go to the G-body Tire/Wheel Fitment link.
What does it take to put a big block Chevy engine in my Malibu?
Ah, very good question! I have done a tech page covering everything I could think of at the time about this swap. It’s really not that difficult, just get ready to come off your wallet! Go to the BBC In Your G-Body Page to see all the details.
How do I modify my crossmember for dual exhaust?
Go to my Crossmember Mod. Page. It discusses different methods of modification and list vendors that offer bolt-in crossmembers for about any tranny combo out there.
What Transmissions will fit?
This is another common question. You can fit practically ANY transmission GM has produced for passenger cars into the 78-83 Malibu. This includes TH350, TH400, 700R4, 2004R, Power Glide. In most cases, it is a simple procedure requiring, at most, modification to the crossmember and/or driveshaft length. Go to the Transmission Swap Page for more info.
What manual transmissions will fit and how do I convert do the conversion?
No doubt, manual tranny’s are cool and fun to drive! The T5, T56, Muncie (and possibly others) can be adapted to the 78-83 Malibu. These cars actually came from the factory with 3 and 4 speed manual tranny. Check out these pages:
How do I convert to manual steering?
This modification is simple and quick. It removes weight, cleans-up underhood appearance, and removes the HP sucking power steering pump from the engine. All that is required is finding and installing a 82-91 (years I’m sure that fit) S-10 pickup truck with manual steering. These should be PLENTIFUL in the scrap yards. It is a direct bolt-on. Simply remove your old power steering box by removing the steering link rod from the pitman arm. Then remove the bolt in the steering column shaft that connects the shaft to the steering box. Slide the column shaft back. Next remove the 3 bolts that mounts the steering box to the frame. Re-install the new manual box in reverse order. If the pitman arm is different than the stock one, you will have to use a pitman-arm-removal-tool and swap those out. Some have said that you may have to use the existing pitman arm from your stock steering box. I found that this was not true in my case. I used a manual steering box from a 1989 S-10 pickup.
How do I convert to manual brakes?
Converting from power brakes to manual brakes is becoming a popular swap for A/G-Body car owners. Especially if you are running a large cam, causing your engine to produce a weak vacuum and rendering your power brakes virtually unusable. There are plenty of aftermarket parts available, but the costs can become expensive rather quickly. What many do not realize is that manual brakes were available on A/G-Body cars. My ’79 Malibu came from the factory with manual brakes, so I simply bought new parts as I rebuilt the brake system. The only real change is the master cylinder, pedal pushrod, and a pedal pivot point relocation.
A quick call to NAPA autoparts here locally confirmed that the manual & power master cylinders carry different part numbers. My local dealer did not stock the manual pieces, but could order them for me. The manual piece was $31.75 rebuilt, and $127.66 new.
To make the conversion, the original power booster & cylinder needs to be unbolted from the firewall & discarded. A small aluminum plate should be fabricated to cover the large hole in the firewall where the booster previously mounted. 1/8″ thick aluminum should be fine as it is just a cover plate. The new manual master cylinder will slide onto the top two studs sticking out of the firewall. The brake pedal pushrod pivot pin is in the lower hole on a power car, and needs to be moved to the upper hole on a manual brake car. This higher hole allows for the proper pedal ratio and line pressure. I doubt anyone will be lucky enough to find a manual brake activation push rod, so a one will need to be fabricated from scratch. This swap is quite simple to accomplish with little customizing and risking poor braking performance due to mismatched aftermarket parts. Using a rebuilt master cylinder can limit cash outlay to less than $75 for the conversion.
BTW, many parts store master cylinders will not look anything like the factory piece. Mine was made by Bendix and included paperwork warning of the visual difference, but stated that performance was identical.
By Todd Geisler
For more information, go to the MANUAL BRAKE CONVERSION page
How do I convert my V6 Malibu to a V8?
This is a common mod, since many of the Malibu’s came with a V6 from the factory. Since I have never performed this swap, I will re-direct you to Ray Buck’s Chevy Asylum. Ray has some great tech info on his site. If anybody has pictures or a tech write-up they would like to submit, feel free to email me.
Neil Cromwell furnished the following info:
A V8 swap is very easy to do. The only parts that I had to acquire when installing the 400 small block into my 80 was the proper motor mounts as well as the transmission crossmember. The V8 crossmember is from Chevrolet, but I was able to find one in a local salvage yard. The front crossmember needs no modifications, as the frame has all of the holes predrilled for the multiple number of engine possibilties that the G-body platform could have. A V6 crossmember could probably be modfied by cutting the transmission mount pad and rewelding it in the proper location.
How do I install larger 12″ front disc brakes?
This is a popular swap. You use the spindles and other necessary parts from a B-body (Caprice). Only drawback is that if affects your steering geometry, so you will have to get aftermarket tubular upper control arms. Check out the G-body.org 12″ brake conversion article for an in-depth article on this upgrade.
What are the first basic mods I need to do to get my car to “hook-up”?
There are MANY things that you can do. This is Suspension Tuning 101, NOT Pro-Stock tech so don’t send me email saying I haven’t discussed pinion angle or Instant Center, blah, blah, blah. This is just a beginner’s guide to suspension setup for drag racing. Once you get these basic mods done and you have more detailed questions, go to the message board and discuss it with the Pro’s there!
The rear suspension setup of the Malibu is a very good suspension for drag racing. Of course, it’s not tuned from the factory for drag racing. But, there are simple bolt-ons that can help you get hooked-up. First you want to get the wimpy flex prone control arms strengthened. They are prone to twisting and deflection since they are stamped steel pieces. You need to box them or buy aftermarket boxed control arms. When doing this, go ahead and install polyurethane bushings (Energy Suspension makes good ones) to remove the play or slop associated with factory rubber bushings. Next, you want to make sure your rear shocks are in good condition. Normal gas shocks (considered a 50/50 shock) will work fine until you have a seriously fast ride. It’s good to keep the factory sway bar bar setup(the thicker the better) to help prevent “squat” that normally occurs in the Malibu on launch. Air bags are also helpful in this area. Airlift makes bags for the A/G-bodies and are about $60 last time I checked. I have found that I get the best results by running about 5 psi in the drivers side bag and 15-20 psi in the passenger side. There are other alternatives such as the South Side Machine Lift Bars, these work very well but you’re getting serious when you start using these type of devices. Front suspension also plays a key part in your car hooking, but you start sacrificing streetability when you tune your front suspension for drag racing. You want front springs that are compressed more than a stock spring. Also, you want to use a shock on the front that will let the front end come up easily (rebound) but is stiffer (compress) going down ( 90/10 shock). Removal of the sway bar also helps, but seriously hinders the cars ability to corner. And last but not least, sticky tires are always a must to really be able to get your Malibu to hook. But, if you have a mainly street driven car, slicks are out of the question and so are many other tires such as the Mickey Thompson ET Streets. Your next alternative is the BFG Drag Radial, McCreary’s, M/T Sportsman Pro’s, or other DOT tires. It is all dictated by how streetable you want your car to remain.
How do I know what size ujoint I have (1310, 1330 or 1350 series)?
The series is determined by two measurements, the end cap diameter and the width of the ujoint. First, measure the ujoint end cap diameter, if it is 1 1/16″ or 1 1/8″ then you have either a 1310 or 1330 series. Because each one of these two can have either cap diameter or a combination of the both on a ujoint, you must measure the width of the ujoint to determine which series it is. Measure the width with the caps on, if you come up with 3 7/32″ (just under 3 1/4″), you have a 1310 series and if you get 3 5/8″, you have a 1330 series.
If you measured an end cap diameter of 1 3/16″, then you have a 1350 series ujoint and the width will ALWAYS be 3 5/8″.