1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Wagon - Two Tons Of Fun

This Global West-equipped Malibu wagon proves good parts and sticky tires can beat the laws of physics

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It was anything but ... my first lap was the "get to know you" lap, and I only needed one fast turn to feel comfortable heaping some serious flogfest pressure on this car. "Drive it like you stole it" were the owner's instructions and I followed 'em to the letter. The Chevelle was really easy to drive, and almost every system worked in synchronity, which is a fancy way of saying all the stuff got along well. Driving sedately can be done by anyone, but pushing a car to it's "pissed off" point tells you so much more about it's personality and willingness to work. Is it a Rottweiler or a Golden Retriever? For this one, I say it's the Golden, as there was no bite, no grouchiness, and absolutely no copping a curmudgeon-like ‘tude at all.

The car was easy to horse around as I "backed" it into corners by asking for rotation, pointing to a late-apex for everything that had concrete with an angle attached. Applying power in the middle of all this got me through the corner and spit out the other side ... all easily under control and within the boundaries the Chevelle had set. The Nittos complained mightily but never gave up the fight. The shock damping was perfect as well. It kept the tires from bouncing along, and coupled with the Global West bars, controlled body roll, but never produced a harsh ride or responded negatively to road chatter. Best of all was the feel as a driver. This wagon didn't drive "big," but felt very fluid and nimble throughout my phase of the testing. No surprises with handling and when stuff happens, it happens slowly. Like every other Global West suspended car I've driven, a definite "two wrenches up" from me!

I did find the brakes to be quite touchy and very hard to modulate. The pedal had minimal travel, making gradual slowing and speed reduction almost impossible. Those poor Nittos now have about a million little flattened sections of what was once round tread. That and a few more feet of lap and shoulder harness would be my only recommendations for improving this fun ride.—Mary Pozzi

On The Street

Unlike the other two vintage cars at our Suspension Challenge in 2013, this Malibu was not owned by an employee of the company whose parts it wore. Steven Rupp drove it to The Streets of Willow Springs in track-ready condition. He didn't have a lot of time to spare, and could only be at our event for one day. That meant it arrived loaded for bear, which didn't help it in the street-drive portion of our test.

Over the real choppy pavement it definitely felt jittery and nervous, especially in the rear. It was by far the harshest of the three classics I put through their paces, less suited to over-the-road driving than it was track action. We're sure with a few adjustments it could have been made more agreeable.

Still, there was plenty to put in the plus side of the ledger. The steering was excellent, the handling flat and sure-footed. The action of the clutch and shifter was exemplary, and the response of the "hot-cammed" LS3 was instantaneous. The suspension parts are obviously doing their job, as this car was able to run lock-step with the '13 Camaro SS in every measured facet of performance.

While I can't say I've ever been a "wagon guy," the inherent goodness of this package would work in any body style Chevelle. There's a lot to like here. We only wish we had the chance to drive the car in a softer state of tune.—Jim Campisano

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1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Wagon Side 5/8

Specifications

Global West 1971 Chevelle Malibu wagon
Engine Type: LS3
Block: Aluminum w/ six-bolt, cross-bolted main caps
Fuel Delivery: GM fuel injection
Drivetrain
Transmission: Tremec T56 six-speed
Clutch: LUK LS clutch package from Hurst Driveline conversions
Rearend: Custom Narrowed Currie 9-inch with TSD limited slip and 3.50 gears
Chassis/Suspension
Chassis: Stock GM with added gussets
Front Suspension: Global West Extended Travel coilover system with tubular arms
Steering: Global West 600 series steering box with 12.7 to 1 ratio
Springs: 800 lbs/in
Spindles: Global West 2-inch drop
Shocks: Penske single-adjustable
Sway Bar: Global West 1-1/4-inch solid
Brakes: Wilwood 6-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors
Rear Suspension: Global West coilover conversion system
Springs: 175 lbs/in (Wagon Only)
Shocks: Penske single-adjustable shocks w/ remote canisters
Sway Bar: ¾-inch solid(was disconnected during testing)
Brakes: Wilwood 4-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors
Cost of Suspension:
$7,296.50 (without brakes)
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Forgeline RB3C three-piece, Front-18x9, Rear-19x10
Tires: Nitto NT05, Front-275/35R18, Rear- 275/30R19
Weight
Total: 4003
Results
Skid Pad: CW 0.88g, CCW 0.89g; Average 0.885g
Slalom: Best 44.3 mph; Average of 5 runs 43.4 mph
Road Course: Best 1.05.67; Average of 5 runs 1:06.36
Baseline
2013 Camaro SS
Skid Pad: CW 0.88g, CCW 0.88g, Average 0.88g
Slalom: Best 45.5 mph, Average of 5 runs 45.5 mph
Road Course: Best 1:05.56, Average of 5 runs 1:06.20

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