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1979 Chevrolet Malibu - Gunmetal

Todd Geisler's Bellicose Heads-up Ultra Street Malibu

Ro McGonegal May 6, 2013
1303 Chpp 01 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Passenger Side View 2/15

Todd Geisler is a fabricator by trade and at any other time is a racer because it feeds an addiction, pure and simple. The process invigorates him and makes him feel whole. While the racing part is good, that he has the skills and the forethought to create his own stuff from nothing is even better. It would stand that such circumstance would naturally deflate the cost of the project, wouldn't it? When asked the estimated cost of building his car his answer was succinct: "Too much!"

 Chpp 03 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu HFR Fabrication Rollcage 3/15

While it's true that he did do most of the work solo, Todd's tied to the fourth iteration of this car, nearly a generation in. He pulled his '79 out of a junkyard in 1993. First, he built it as a body-off restoration, dismembering three cars to make one good one and its first engine was a 406 little-block that ran low 11s. Then Todd pivoted and built a 414-inch Rat, a decided oddball that pulled his 3,600-pound car to 10.70s (with a best of 10.49) on pump gas and running through a full exhaust system. That plant was followed by a 461ci big-block that eventually clicked off elapsed times in the 9.50-second range. The initial stage of the current 582 commenced in 2009. He bought it in balanced and machined pieces from Sunset Racecraft in Lubbock, Texas, and put the thing together in the privacy of his own home. He flogged that combination righteously for two seasons. He ran as quickly as 8.50 at 159 with a 1.24 60-foot in a car that now weighed 3,258 with him in it.

In the fall of 2010, he entered the fourth stage. He blew the car apart, ostensibly to replace the 10-point mild steel rollcage because it was at the limit of NHRA spec. He did the construction after-hours at HFR Fabrication in Manchester, Maryland. The backstory: HFR owner Henry Fryfogle let Todd use the tools, machinery, and supplies, and Carnie Fryfogle, Henry's father offered him the proximity of the back shop, which meant that Todd didn't go home early for many long nights-18 month's worth, give or take. The fruit of the mission was a stock suspension 275 Drag Radial car. Todd said he couldn't have done it without the involvement of Jeff Doster (Auto's Unlimited), Mike and Todd (TRZ Motorsports), Lenny (Ultimate Converter Concepts), Eric Saffell (Afco), Dave Bennett (Hock Auto Upholstery), and his biggest supporters, his dad, Walt, wife, Judy, and kids, Jessica and Carrie.

There is a point in all car builds where the inclusion of just one new thing can invariably and irrevocably lead to the Big Spiral. As Todd built that 25.3 superstructure, he realized that he'd need new floors in the rear section, then a fiberglass trunklid, then fiberglass doors, then powdercoating the chassis, which required mediablasting and, oh yes, repainting the entire car. In all, just the fabrication orgy consumed 600 hours and Todd, for the most part, was the solitary participant. He tested it in May 2012 at MIR. Off the trailer, the Malibu posted a 1.18 60-foot and ran 5.27 at 130.8. His best attempt was 5.23/131 (converts to a quarter-mile time of 8.15). The stock suspension Malibu is normally aspirated and runs 275/60 DOT tires in the fledgling Ultra Street class (a notch below X275).

 Chpp 05 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Afco Coilover 7/15

Todd made the final session on October 26 at Cecil County. In preparation, he included a 1250 Holley built by Advanced Product Design, an air pan to make the cowl hood most functional, and an air-smoothing plexiglass block-off situated behind the grille. These tweaks worked the 2,950 G-body to a best of 5.13 at 134 mph with a 1.13 60-foot.

Todd says: "We got a late start to the racing season but the car has shown pretty good progress. Out of our first three races the car has qualified Second twice and Third on the other. We've gone a couple of rounds, and are working toward getting to the finals and ultimately our first win in Ultra Street." That's something Todd's close friends and dragstrip crew Mike Armetta, Mike Hensley, and Randy Lambert will be instrumental in achieving.

Engine & Drivetrain

The premise here is energy-and how to produce it. As mentioned, Todd constructed his 582 (4.600x4.375) with parts from Sunset Racecraft. At the core of the Chevy block are a Callies Magnum II arm, Lunati Pro Billet rods, 15.5:1 Diamond CNC-dome pistons, Trend H-13 tool steel wristpins and a 0.043/0.043/3mm moly ring packs. Valve gear begins with the Jesel beltdrive/front cover, moves to the big COMP solid roller (0.891/0.822 at 0.050), thence to the Manton 7/16x0.120-wall pushrods, and finally the T&D shaft rocker system. Todd closed the bottom of the block with a Moroso pan (PN 20385) and billet oil pump. Brodix out-of-the-box Head Hunter 377MC castings (complete CNC ports, 2.400/1.850 titanium valves and PSI triple springs) seal the cylinders. Electrical energy rises from the MSD Power Grid. Tract for the C15 race gas begins with the MagnaFuel Pro Star 500 pump and ends at the APD carburetor. Todd broke out the hot wrench and proceeded to build the header system with whopping 23/8-inch primary pipes leading to 41/2-inch collectors. The slick, shiny "silencers" are from Coast Fabrication. Todd equalized crankcase pressure with a Star Machine vacuum pump and he used ARP hardware throughout the build. On the dynamometer, the normally aspirated 582 blew 811 lb-ft of grunt at 6,500 rpm. Power is 1,056 at 7,500 rpm. The recipient of all this energy is a Rossler Terminator 5 Powerglide nestled in a Reid SFI case. Low gear ratio is 1.80:1. The shifter is a Turbo Action Cheetah SC. Torque is processed through an Ultimate Converter Concepts converter fixed with a 6,500-stall speed. Dynotech Engineering in Troy, Michigan, furnished the 4-inch aluminum driveshaft. Todd relies on TRZ chassis components, including a fabricated chrome-moly 9-inch housing that's narrowed 5 inches, holds 4.11:1 gears, and a 40-spline Strange differential with corresponding gun-drilled axle shafts.

 Chpp 02 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu 582 Engine 11/15


Todd notched the crossmember for oil pan clearance, notched the rear framerails to the inside skin to clear the tires, put up that intricate 25.3 rollcage and merged it with the inner framerails, boxed the intermediate framerails (C-channel portion), and built a chrome-moly sheetmetal driveshaft enclosure that's hidden beneath the floorpan. In front, he placed TRZ upper and lower control arms, shock mounts, and rack-and-pinion steering conversion with the original spindles. Todd instilled high-rate damping qualities and wheel control with Afco Big Gun coilovers (10-inch spring, 325-pound rating). At the rear, he installed a Wolfe Race Craft antiroll bar and partnered it with Afco coilovers (14-inch spring, 125-pound rating).

 Chpp 11 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Grant GT Steering Wheel 12/15

Wheels & Brakes

Burning off energy is left to Strange Engineering 11-inch, four-piston Pro Race discs at all corners. The light-metal wheels are 15x3.5 M/T ET drag with M/T 26.0x4.5-15 ET drag skinnies and 15x10 Holeshot Sun Star with M/T 275/60R ET street radials.


The media blaster was not charitable. The process was a tad bit aggressive and warped the hell out of the roof panel, which took many hours to rehab. Jeff Doster's Auto's Unlimited in Glenville, Pennsylvania, did the deed. By the time the Malibu reached AU, Todd had already positioned the Glasstek hood, doors, trunklid, and rear bumper. Doster narrowed the rear bumper and fitted the Kenward's Heads Up Composites manicured bumper at front-Eric Kenward, you might remember, runs that nasty, mostly lime green Malibu wagon in Ultra Street. Doster also repaired the freshly painted driver door that Todd had accidently passed over with his 7,000-pound truck. After all the rubbing and tweaking, Doster applied the PPG Vibrance Collection Silver Star coating.

 Chpp 14 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Kirkey Seat 13/15


The interior is streamlined and free from distraction but far from stark. Todd is surrounded by a carbon-fiber farm of door panels and tube protectors. All other interior bits are production. Todd wired the machine with a K&R Performance HD kit (Cleveland, Tennessee). He installed a VFN fiberglass dash assembly (removable for maintenance) and socked in the Auto Meter MFDL data logger-no other gauges necessary. For Todd's low 8-second rips, the Kirkey production seats are just about right. Dave at Hock Auto Upholstery in Westminster, Maryland, installed the carpeting and the headliner. Should there be combustion anywhere outside the engine proper, our driver will leave one hand on the Grant GT steering wheel while the other pulls the pin on the Firefox suppression system.

 Chpp 13 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Trunk 14/15
1303 Chpp 09 O 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Passenger Side View 15/15



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