The Luther Automotive Group

AN EYE FOR THE UNUSUAL- 1978 Chevy Malibu Drag Racer

Cedar Falls Raceway (Midway Shootout) (Small)

The year was 1978, when the fastest Chevrolet Malibu featured a 5-liter V-8 making 135 hp.  Some 35 years later, a street-legal drag racer model of the same car sports 518 hp, all of it under the control of Hudson technician Joe Fritts.

“I joke with everybody,” said Fritts.  “that I love the smell of race fuel in the morning.”  Available at but a few stations in the east metro area, fuel for

Hudson Technician Joe Fritts

Hudson Chev technician Joe Fritts said he loves the smell of race gas in the morning.

his 406-cubic-inch Chevy small-block V-8 pushes it through the quarter mile in 11.23 seconds, faster than a modern Corvette.

The Fritts Malibu is more of a hobby, said its owner, though he does involve the car in light bracket racing.  The Malibu requires a listen and feel approach to automotive maintenance that was long ago replaced by electronic ports and devices to diagnose problems.

“I grew up with cars my whole life and speed is kind of an addiction,” he said.

1978 Chevrolet Malibu

  • 406-cubic-inch Chevy V-8, 4-barrel double pump carb
  • Ford 9-inch rear end, Turbo 350 transmission
  • 518 hp at the crankshaft
  • 3-inch exhaust, 40-Series Flowmaster mufflers
  • Quarter mile best: 11.23 seconds at over 120 mph
  • Weight: 2,970 pounds with a half tank of fuel
  • Racing gas, fuel cell equipped
  • Street legal, 6-point roll cage
  • Race venues: Cedar Falls, Iowa, Fargo, Brainerd
  • Goal: sub-11 second times with nitrous injection

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