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GM G-Body Performance Upgrades: Setting Performance Goals

by Joe Hinds

(Taken from GM G-Body Performance Upgrades 1978-1987 by Joe Hinds) 

Once you pick an appropriate model, the next step is to determine what you want from your project. I often talk to people who have purchased thousands of dollars worth of parts and spent countless hours making modifications, only to be frustrated because their vehicle doesn’t perform the way they want it to. Sadly, spending a lot of money is no guarantee of quality or suitability for any particular purpose. Decide what you want out of the car up front, and work up a plan for achieving those goals.

 

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These original appearing G-Bodies are great candidates for project cars. A Monte Carlo SS is shown on the left; a Cutlass is on the right. When purchasing a G-Body for a high-performance street, pro-touring, or street/strip buildup, buy the best car you can afford. Body panels, materials, fitment time, and paint make major body work an expensive endeavor. Therefore, if you buy a more expensive and structurally sound car, it saves you money over a cheaper and rougher car that requires extensive body work.


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Chevrolet Malibus with solid floors, frames, and body panels are becoming more difficult to find. The car has always been popular with the drag race crowd, and now it is one of the most sought after starting points for a G-Body project.

 

The primary goal of this book is to provide solid and specific information on how to build your G-Body into the safe, reliable, high-performance vehicle that you want.

Whether the car will be a daily driver, either during or after the buildup, greatly affects the choice of a starting point, as well as what modifications are suitable. Considering the age of even the newest G-Bodies, few are going to be reliable enough as a daily driver without a little work. Fortunately, these cars are very simple, and the most commonly worn mechanical parts are both inexpensive and readily available.

 

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It is very tough to find a G-Body with an interior that is this nice, but they are out there. The custom gauge panel and dash insert feature Auto Meter gauges. The door panels are custom upholstered leather. It also carries the fourth-generation F-Body console, aftermarket seats, and roll bar.


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This Malibu has a 408-ci LS engine with an 88-mm turbo for power and a full complement of aftermarket parts. The suspension, interior, body, and drivetrain have been customized. The fiberglass cowl-induction hood and the American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels are very popular additions.


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Buying a rolling chassis is a good option if you plan to swap in a modern engine and transmission. A “roller” often sells for far less money than a complete running car, even if the body and interior are in excellent condition. In this case, owner Nick Freiser has cleaned and painted the engine compartment.


Emissions laws and/or state vehicle inspections need to be kept in mind, as well as gas mileage and occupant safety. That tunnel-rammed, big-block Chevrolet isn’t the best choice for a 50-mile daily commute, and race buckets and a 12-point cage aren’t going to work for taking the kids to daycare. That said, you can still have the performance you crave without breaking the bank.


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