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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone,

Long time lurker, first time poster, so go easy!

Before diving in, wanted to express my thanks and appreciation for this forum, and everyone in it. There are a ton of knowledgeable people here, and although we haven't interacted yet, the majority of the technical issues arising during my build were solved by reading through the countless build thread and advice forums here. THANK YOU!

A little history: When I was in highschool, I really wanted a muscle car. Growing up in my small farming town in Northern CA, there were tons driving around, and it was typical to see guys in my school driving chevelles, camaros, firebirds, mustangs, etc. My best friend was (is) also a huge gear head, and encouraged this budding addiction for better or for worse :grin2:. After convincing my dad, we set out to find a good father/son project car, and chanced upon a 1971 Chevelle Malibu at a weekend private car sale lot at a local fairground. Nothing truly special about this car, it was a standard Malibu with a 350ci, TH350, and 10 bolt rear. But it drove great, and we got it for a steal! Cue my lifelong addiction to this car.

I'm still looking for the original engine compartment pics, but this exterior picture was taken the day I brought her home. The white paint affectionaly earned her the nickname, "Fluffy". The engine picture here is after a year or so of owning her in highschool, where I swapped out the stock intake manifold and holley carb for an Edelbrock Performer RPM dual plane and Edelbrock 650 cfm carb. I also pulled the wheel wells and hood and painted them along with the firewall white to match the exterior. I know, I know, more of a mopar thing, but I like it.

One thing I want to preface this build log with is that at the time, I had no idea how to work on cars (the only reason I was able to swap out the intake and carb was because of my best friend holding my hand throughout the whole process!). I didn't even understand how an internal combustion engine worked, but ya gotta start somewhere, right? I love to take things apart and understand how they work, so this was the perfect (albeit expensive) solution to my engineering tendencies.

I drove this car all throughout highschool (not really daily driver, as that blue acura in the background was more reliable :laugh:), and began to appreciate the not-so-subtle nuances of owning a nearly 40 year old car. I learned a ton about GM A Bodies, and helped (read: watched and learned) my buddy work on his 1972 Chevelle SS to get that hands on experience (always better to learn from someone else's car before messing up your own!). Outside of the minor engine mods, I moved the column shifter to the floor using a cable. It was a used B&M shifter from my friend, but it was bad a** to me! At this point, I moved away to college at Cal Poly and Fluffy sat in my parents garage for the next 6 years (Engineering and Science degrees take time, ok??).

I was fortunate enough to find a job next to my hometown, and my wife and I moved back. Which meant that I: 1) was close enough to the car to start some projects, and 2) had a slightly better salary than a highschool student, so I could afford to make the changes that I had always envisioned. Since our house doesn't have a garage, Fluffy still resides at my parents house, and I work there whenever I get the chance.

The only initial changes I wanted to make was to change out the stock malibu sweep style dash to an ss dash, and do a bucket seat conversion. As I'm sure you all know, scope creep is real....

While she is still (and most likely, forever will be) a project, I think that I've done and documented enough to contribute to this forum. I don't think I can hold a candle to the awesome builds I've seen on here, but I hope you can get some enjoyment out of the progress that I've made.

And please, I would love feedback on this build, with any tips or suggestions that you may have! I have TONS of pictures (and won't post all of them here), so if you have a specific question, I'm sure I have a picture to help explain, so just ask and I'd be happy to accommodate.

Thanks again, Team Chevelle - you guys rock!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
One of the biggest issues that I had with the car is the unreliability of the electrical system. I never knew whether it would start or not, and had a set of jumper cables in the trunk just in case. I had replaced the alternator in highschool, thinking that might be the issue, but the battery continued to drain, and the starting problems continued. I hypothesized there were issues with the grounds, but had no idea where to look to validate that assumption. As I began to read (a ton) about the wiring in these cars, I learned a lot about 1-wire vs 3-wire alternators, and the "voltage sensing" hub that my car had at the horn relay buss bar on the driver side of the radiator core support. This is the point that a 3-wire external voltage sensing alternator will sense voltage drops in the system (as a result of increased electrical load from headlights, electric fan, etc.). It is also the main power distribution hub for the dash, and other areas in the engine compartment requiring 12v. The alternator senses voltage drops from this point, and (ideally) increases output to compensate.

I won't even try to get into the nitty gritty here, as I would most certainly butcher it all. However, if interested, I would recommend looking at MAD Electrical's website and giving Mark a call directly. He knows SO MUCH about the wiring in these cars, it's incredible. After a discussion with him, I ended up purchasing their trunk battery relocate kit, alternator wiring kit, Start 'em up kit, and their New system kit. This allowed me to do a couple of things:

1) Relocate battery to the trunk
2) Move the starter solenoid to the trunk as well (to forego any "hot start" issues I may encounter down the road)
3) Wire new voltage sensing hubs in the engine compartment, including relays for all high amperage circuits (brighter headlights - wooo!)

I also decided that if I was going to redo this much of the wiring, I might as well rip out the entire wiring harness and start from scratch. A little overboard perhaps, but that's just how I roll =)

So I went ahead (on Mark's suggestion) ordered an American Auto Wire Classic Update wiring harness. I can't say enough about this harness, especially for a first-timer, with no experience - it was a breeze to install.

Before I get into the build specifics for each component, let's head into the tear down!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So here's what I stared with. A pretty standard interior for a stock 1971 Malibu. Bench seats (which had to go), sweep style dash that had seen better days (radio cut up larger for aftermarket DIN, glove box that didn't want to stay shut, lighter which didn't work). At this point, I've already replaced the stock malibu steering wheel with a grant GT wheel (such an upgrade) - I've actually kept the old steering wheel and mounted it on the wall in the garage as a reminder of how far she's come! In these pictures, you can also see the floor shifter that I installed back in high school. Much better than the column shifter IMO, but still didnt' quite fit (and the handle would hit the bench seat in first through third gear haha).
 

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Welcome Mike!
Sounds like you do your homework before you jump in, good for you!
My Car was white when I got it.
That's a great car, good LUCK!
Keep the updates coming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
And the dash pad is off! Look at those crusty old speakers... One thing I was happy with is that this car was originally equipped with a stereo dash, rather than the mono speaker in the middle. I had played around with the idea of putting in kick panel speakers in addition to the dash mounted ones, but as you'll see later on, things changed and I ended up just replacing these old ones. Also can see here the typical failing "sound/heat proofing" falling off of the firewall. Not to worry, all to be replaced in time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, Bob! Excited to share here, and hopefully give back a little info, since I've taken so much from you guys! At this point, I'm pretty partial to the white, although perhaps not the vinyl top. I'm pretty sure there's some typical rear window cancer under there, so it's staying white/black for the time being =)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Aaaaand the dash it out. I can't really describe the feeling of reaching this point-of-no-return, but it was amazing. Lots to do here, but I was up for it. Originally a non-A/C car, with a leaky original heater unit (it still "worked" before I pulled it, but I'm more convinced that the hot air I felt when I turned the heater on and heard it shutter to life was more heat leaking in from the engine compartment rather than the heater trying to do its job).

It's amazing what kinds of things you find when you tear apart an old car like this. I don't think I have a picture, but someone had put a padlock and chain around the steering wheel mounting bracket - don't want those thieves to steal my steering column!!

This was one of my favorite parts of the old wiring job that someone did - need a wire to run for a tach signal? no problem, what ya gotta do is: expose a bunch of the copper wiring, then just wrap and solder the new wire there and don't bother to cover it up! No way that could lead to a short, or even a fire....
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Dash harness out! It honestly didn't look THAT bad, but I'm weird about things like this and would truly prefer to start from scratch. Also, the glass tube fuses were way too outdated, and the harness had far too few circuits for what I had in mind. AAW to the rescue (eventually)!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Next up on the chopping block was the e-brake. It never worked, and I just assumed that it was an issue with the cabling going back to the rear drums. As I found out, rust and movement do not go hand in hand, go figure! A solid wire brushing, degreaser, and fresh paint brought this little guy back to life, and I finally have a working parking brake! (which I'll show later).
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I originally had no plans to even touch the carpet, but as I pulled up a corner to start removing the highbeam switch, I had to pull more up to get the rear harness out, and then I just kept pulling. Once you start you can't stop!

Heater core also removed at this point. I knew it was leaking coolant, and just hoped for the best. The firewall wasn't bad at all - just a bit of rust that came off with a wire brush. Although it was a bit flimsy due to the rust action, I wasn't worried as this hole was going to be covered over with a UMI heater delete plate (a bit pricey, but damn it looks cool).
 

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Had you driven on the SPC control arms? If so how did you like the way the car handled?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Time for rear seat removal. These things take a little bit of finesse (read: a big rubber mallet) to get out! I just "tapped" on the bottom edge of seat to push it back and out of the brackets, and she eventually popped out. I was really crossing my fingers for a build sheet under the seat, but no luck. I'm pretty sure these seats have been reupholstered, so I'm sure the sheet is long gone.

Ooo! Bondo! Gotta love that, just a sign of things to come...

As I found out, the driver rear quarter window had been smashed in at some point (I found ALL the broken glass down in the window well later on), and someone thought it would be a good idea to then leave it out in the rain. This led to water buildup under the driver side rear seat footwell. awesome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yes, those SPC arms are amazing! Although, I'm sure anything would be amazing in comparison to the stock stamped steel UCA's that were originally on there. I really wanted this car to be driveable (in the beginning, and then autocross-able later on), so the suspension was important to me. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Mark Savitske (awesome guy btw, I think he gave up ~3hrs of his time on the phone with me to discuss my plans), and decided to go with their Stage II suspension package. I'll post the install pics later on when I can find them.

After I had done the install (front shocks, springs, UCA, sway bar, steering box, and rear upper and lower control arms, shocks, springs, and adjustable rate swaybar, I had planned on trying to do the alignment myself, but figured that this is one area that I didn't not want to mess up, so I took it into a place that had good references from another autocross friend. They did a great job, and were able to get the caster, camber, and toe-in just perfect, along with adjusting the rear UCA's so the ride height was perfect too.

I swapped out the sloppy original steering box with the JGC steering box that I pulled from a pick n' pull, so that in combo with the SPC UCA's made this car seem like a whole new car. I would highly recommend them.
 

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Welcome aboard Mike! Following.
 

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where was your car built?
Above the gas tank is another popular Build Sheet location
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Rear seats all gone - btw, anybody know the real purpose of the silver "vent tube"? Figured it was part of the gas tank, but didn't mess with it too much.

Rear package tray stripped as well. Somebody had cut ovals for two 6x9 speakers...which is nice.

On to the trunk wiring. Pretty basic here, but was able to remove the bumper for the first time - that is one of my least favorite things to do now. As you can tell, this beauty has been multiple colors over her life, but she started that sunflower yellow color. As an aside: I always wondered whether the rear frame rail should be "bent' that much in the middle. I highly doubt it, but I just pat myself on the back and tell myself to forget about it =)
 

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vent tube was for fuel vapor recovery system
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks, Ron! Happy to be here.
@Bob - I believe the car was built at the Van Nuys plant, but will post a pic of the VIN when I find it to verify. I was aware of the gas tank location, but have yet to drop that baby out. I'm still holding out hope that I'll find one there!
 

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I figured Van Nuys because I thought the vent tube was a 72 thing except Calif built cars.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
That makes sense that it would be for the vent tube. Cool fact about the CA car vent tube - guess we're a little particular about air quality out here =)
 
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