Rather than replace a part here, another part there, and wind up with some old and new parts, we decided to unbolt and toss just about everything that will unbolt from the bottom side of our '68 Malibu. The best part is we're surrounded by high-quality parts from some of the best companies in the aftermarket. They've assembled everything you need in kit or crate form. It cuts down on the expense to the builder/owner and keeps you from having to wonder if you ordered all the parts you need, or if you'll discover somethings missing in the middle of the project?
After noticing the popularity of the "crate" motors in rods and musclecars, Currie Enterprises developed a crate rearend. If you're going with stock dimensions and aren't doing monster tubs, this is a simple way to go. It's quicker and less expensive than piecing together your own rearend assembly and still allows flexibility in ratios. Of course, Currie can still accommodate just about any custom application imaginable, in a variety of configurations. We chose the company's 9+ with Trac Lok and a 3.50 ratio, and it went in with no complications. What used to be referred to as a Ford 9-inch is a thing of the past. The parts in the 9+ are all new, not re-constituted scrapyard material, and are even stronger than in the past. The supply of salvage parts dried up some time ago, so everything is new.
Once we had the rear set up the way we wanted it, it was time to do the entire suspension, front to back. Hotchkis Performance offers a unique Total Vehicle System (TVS) that is engineered for specific makes, models, and years of most high-performance cars built today-and definitely for Chevy musclecars. The TVS for Project Malibu Muscle allows us to avoid piecing a system together as it includes everything we need to upgrade the chassis for maximum handling on the street. There's a package for small-block cars and for big-blocks; we're using the latter.
Here's what you get in the TVS package:
* Sport coils: front, 520 lb/in, which will lower the ride height approx. 1-inch; rear, 135 lb/in
* Sport sway bars: front 1 3/8-inch hollow steel tube construction; rear 1-inch solid steel, powdercoated with greasable polyurethane end links, brackets, and hardware
* Heavy-duty adjustable tie rod sleeves, powdercoated steel lower rear trailing arms, boxed construction compared to open, made of 0.120 steel wall tubing, compared to .080 stock, and fitted with Hotchkis bushings and powdercoated trailing arm mount braces, tubular steel, powdercoated
* Adjustable steel, powdercoated upper control arms to allow suspension for a variety of rearends and driveline installations.
We will soon have a big-block nestled between those new fenders, which will impact the ride height quite a bit, and at that time we'll finish the steering components. When we mentioned the car didn't have a drivetrain to the Hotchkis folks, they told us that they ordinarily prefer the car be as close to the final configuration before installing the suspension system since the weight, of course, will affect the final alignment. However, in this case, Hotchkis decided to install the suspension on our Malibu to make the point to other builders that the suspension install isn't complete until the car has all the "heavy" parts such as engine, trans, interior, major accessories, and the correct tires and wheels. Don't expect your project to sit right until everything is installed, and then do the front end alignment.
Can't make it ride and roll without thinking of how to stop it, can we? Since one of our goals is to build a car that most readers and builders can identify with, we intentionally avoided highly-sophisticated (and maybe complicated) brake systems that would add measurable amounts of bucks to our project. Master Power Brakes has specifically engineered a package for A-bodies that replaces the stock rear drums with their own "big" rear drums, and front disc brakes. Master Power Brakes claims tests have shown that this front disc/rear drum setup is as effective as four-wheel discs on A-bodies such as our Malibu. Master Power also sent us its booster, master cylinder, and proportioning valve, so we have everything.