Over the years, we’ve seen our fair share of engine swaps—particularly LS engine swaps, duh—but there’s a new sheriff in town. The LT is GM’s latest and greatest and, just like the LS before it, it is already getting thrown into vehicles it didn’t leave the factory in. But unlike the LS, we’re seeing adoption of the LT happening even more quickly than ever before—and that’s saying something.
Flash back to almost exactly one year ago, when we brought you one of the first LT4 swaps we had ever seen. Ty Collins, and the guys over at Midwest LSX, decided that a 1978 Chevrolet Malibu would be the perfect project car to receive a brand new LT4 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance. At first, we were surprised. The fairly late-model Malibu is not what most people would select as a project car for such an exotic mill. However, Ty says that was one of its biggest appeals.
Guy have been building almost every year of Malibu into all-out drag car since… well, forever. Recently, the mid- to late-‘70s models have really caught on with drag racing crowds due to their low cost, relatively simple yet functional suspension design, and the fact that they have enough room to shoe horn just about any power plant you want between the fenders.
But unlike those drag racers, Ty said he wanted something less drag focused and more of an all around cruiser.
“It was built with the intention of just being a cruiser,” Ty said. “Every time I drive it everyone asks if it’s a drag car or show car or what, and I just tell them ‘it’s just a car.’ I built it just to enjoy it. Obviously I wanted it to have good power but overall I just wanted it to be original more than anything else.”
Last time we saw the car, the LT4 had yet to even fire and most of the details of the drive train still needed to be sorted. Today, the car is up and running and looking very different than the first time we saw it.
The car is backed by a built 4L70E transmission with a looser torque converter to take advantage of the LT4’s considerable grunt. All that power is sent out back to a 9-inch rear end stuffed with 3.50 gears and split evenly to both rear tires by a True Trac.
The LT4 was left completely stock, due to the considerable amount of power it already develops, but Ty says that improvements for the mill are on the horizon. Next, he plans to go with a set of custom long tube headers from Ultimate Headers. After that, a smaller supercharger pulley and a tune should have the LT4 making enough power to take down all but the most potent street machines.
The most obvious changes are to the exterior of the car. A coat of Invictus Supershift paint was applied to the vehicle, giving it its signature chameleon appearance. Ty told us that while most people would have accomplished the look with a wrap, he wanted something a little more genuine.
“I didn’t really plan for it to get as much attention as it does,” Ty said. “I know the color is pretty unique but I get a lot of people stopping me telling me they’ve seen the car on social media and that’s really cool. I built it because I like it but I’m glad other people enjoy it too.”
In addition to the unique hue, the car received custom air damns up front and a new rear spoiler. The headlights where updated with LEDs and the hood was modified to fit a heat extractor borrowed from a fifth-gen Camaro. Ty had the car fitted with Intro EZ billet wheels 20X9 and 20X10.5, which are wrapped in Nitto 555 G2s and NT05s front and rear respectively.
The suspension utilizes UMI components throughout, including the springs and adjustable upper and lower control arms at all four corners. The new suspension was paired with a set of Viking double adjustable coil overs to give the old car a much needed updated ride.
For the car’s interior, the former burgundy faux crushed velvet was ditch in favor of charcoal leather and suede throughout. The stock seats where retained, but the use of higher end materials really help to modernize the interior and give it a look that people other than your grandparents can appreciate.
The gauges have all been updated by Dakota Digital VHX units that keep Ty apprised of the LT4’s vital signs at all times. In essence, everything on the car has been touched or changed giving the car a look that is completely unique.
“Honestly, when the swap was first being done, the car looked like it belonged to an 80-year-old guy that drove it to get groceries,” Ty said. “She’s come a long way and I’m really happy with what we ended up with.”
LT4 or no, this is definitely one of the most unique ’78 Malibus you will ever happen to come across. This one just has the added benefit of being one of the first LT4 engine swaps in the nation—and that counts for a whole lot around here.