By Scotty Lachenauer – Photography by the Author
Chevy fanatic John Sears had thoughts of building himself a wild street ride to chew up the local pavement. His search for a suitable starting point led him directly to a sunburnt 1980 Malibu that lived its entire life near John’s house in hot, toasty Florida. He quickly realized this needy ride was a perfect starting point for a big-power, streetable hot rod, so he and his friend, Rick, purchased the car and set their sights on bringing their ideas to fruition.
However, things came to a quick halt when John bought Rick out of the project. “I decided to make an Index and Heads-Up car out of it,” John says. So, he enlisted another friend and quickly built the Malibu into a contender, which saw duty in the 6.50 Index Pure Street class. It received a 406ci powerplant, an NOS plate, and a TH350 transmission along with a Grand National 8.5 rear and a chromoly ’cage. “We ran it at the World Street Nationals in the Radial class, running in the 9-second zone,” John remembers.
In 2003, the Malibu received a Powerglide transmission with a trans brake. The Chevy went on to race in the Florida Real Street class, with John’s good friend Wayne Oliver doing the driving and sharing costs. “I went on to take the role of chief tuner,” John says. After a few events the guys realized the Malibu was underpowered, so they purchased another small-block punched out to 410 ci, topped with better heads, more compression, and a bigger cam. “We ran it till the heads became too soft,” he continues. The next powerplant was a spare 383 stroker they used for a while to pull some 5.70s.
John later moved to Virginia and decided to stretch it out a bit and run some quarter-mile tracks. “That was tough on the nitrous small-block combo, so I started running more eighth-mile events again, which became X275,” John says. His first race at Virginia Motorsports Park eighth-mile the Malibu was runner-up, which gave John some hope for the future.
“My son and I would race every weekend during the summer,” John states. He eventually ran 5.40s using the 410ci engine. “All was great until 2011 when we had an issue with a freeze plug and got some water under the tire and hit the wall,” John says. That set the Malibu on a path to be rebuilt into the best ride it could be.
With the car sent to NRC Motorsports, the chassis was set up to be legal in every stock suspension class that the Malibu could possibly run in.
The motorvation for this G-body was then supplied by a 409ci Brodix block stuffed with 11.8:1 Diamond pistons. The slugs are hooked to a Callies crank with Callies rods, and the cylinders are topped with a set of GM SB 2.2 heads. A Divinci 4150 carburetor sits on a matching GM SB 2.2 intake. A custom nitrous-ground Bullet cam gets the valves jumping, and an MSD 7531 ignition with FireCore50 wires and an MSD Crank Trigger supply the spark.
Extra boost is supplied by an Induction Solutions Nitrous Fogger and NLR NMS-100 Nitrous Controller. A Racepak data logger keeps track of vitals. The headers were built in-house at NRC Motorsports where the car was also wired up using Speedwire components.
John runs RC Components 15×10 wheels out back and 17×4.5 up front, shod with either 275/60R15 or 28×10 Mickey Thompson tires, depending on the track and event. The front end is removable and mates up to a Glasstek nose and Heads-Up Composite bumper/valance with the factory GM grille and headlight assemblies. 2 Keys Custom in Augusta, Georgia, applied the GM Medium Ice Blue Metallic.
To help keep the car looking “street friendly,” the interior was pieced together using Scott Rod Fab interior panels with factory plastic covered with tweed fabric to match the Kirkey seat covers.
“After the complete rebuild, our most recent outing at the No Clock Nationals, a No Time event, resulted in my son, Matt, making it to the winner’s circle as runner-up almost 10 years to the day I did it at the same track,” John quips.
John would like to thank his wife, Laura, for her support and dealing with his addiction to the car hobby. Big thanks go out to friend and business partner Jeff Salvato, Jeff and Marcus of Brodix, Eric Mitchell, Jason Waterman, and Martin Connelly, as well as Bob and Jay at NRC for their help making his Malibu come to life. John would also like to send a big shout-out to the many manufacturers that provided the parts used in this monstrous build. It wouldn’t be possible without each and every one of them. ACP
Owner: John Sears
Vehicle: 1980 Chevy Malibu
Type: Chevy Brodix Block
Displacement: 410 ci
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Cylinder Heads: GM SB2.2
Rotating Assembly: Callies crank, Diamond pistons, Callies rods
Camshaft: Bullet solid cam
Induction: GM NASCAR intake, Divinci 4150 C23
Power Adder: NOS
Ignition: MSD 7531 and Firecore 50 wires
Engine Management/Data Logging: Racepak
Built By: Clements Racing Engine
Tuned By: EM2
Transmission: RPM TH400 two-speed and Powerglide by Conan
Rear Axle: TRZ 9-inch by NRC with Strange 4.30 gears
Steering: TRZ Motorsports
Front Suspension: TRZ Motorsports chromoly front with rack-and-pinion Menscer coilovers
Rear Suspension: TRZ Motorsports with Menscer coilovers
Brakes: Strange disc front and rear
Cage: 25.3 chromoly by NRC Motorsports
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: RC Components wheels, 15×4 front, 15×10 rear
Tires: Mickey Thompson 26×6 front, Mickey Thompson Drag Radials 275/60R15 rear
Steering Wheel: NRC Motorsports
Paint: GM Medium Ice Blue Metallic
Hood: Carbon fiber by Unlimited Products and Rhodes Custom Auto