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Gunchsta Dork
2/11/22 9:17 a.m.

Here is my $1200 beater Malibu on one of it's better days 

It has since blown a head gasket - slowly leaking into the combustion chamber over night making it miss on startup in the morning, and finally resulting in James Bond level smokescreen out the exhaust and nuclear engine temps. I was with a dear friend who's in a bit of a rough spot in life so we basically made a night out of it and drove the hell out of it, stopping to fill it with coolant occasionally and wondering how this thing soldiered on at 260+ degrees for miles at a time. Eventually it got pretty sad and even at WOT barely made it up the slight hills to my house. If this was the end, we gave it a great send off. It even took us to a favorite dive bar for a greasy cheese burger and a beer. Many laughs were had; maniacal, cackling laughs of juvenile delinquents testing the boundaries of man and machine.

Anyhow, it is now disabled and in my garage. There's a couple extra quarts of oil, and as far as I know it isn't seized yet. Before you call me a giant wuss ninny for contemplating sending this to the great garage in the sky (junkyard) over a headgasket, let me add that the trans seems to slip on occasion, the AC compressor is working on locking up in a moments notice, and this thing has some pretty brutal piston slap and valvetrain noise.  Otherwise, everything works great and it isn't terribly rusty (for a midwest car it's clean). 

What would you do? I have the garage space and mechanical ability to fix the head gaskets, and parts look to be a couple hundred bucks max. That seems like a no brainer. However, given the other listed problems and likely warped heads, is the juice worth the squeeze? I actually kinda like the car, and as we all know the used car market is out of control so fixing it seems to have some additional value that it maybe wouldn't in different times. 

Basically I see 3 options:

Fix the car myself. Try to sand the heads down on a piece of glass or similarly flat object. Assemble and hope for the best. Worst case I'm out $200 and some time, and it ends up in the junk yard anyhow.

Sell the car to the junkyard. Cut my losses, move on to the next thing. Couple bucks in my pocket and a car sent to be recycled

Far-fetched stupid option: Buy a 3.4, stick in place, MOAR POWER. Most work, Most money, Still needs head gaskets and intake gaskets anyhow? 


TLDR; Should I junk my car over headgaskets? 


06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
2/11/22 9:54 a.m.

Trans slip could just be a sign of needing a service, those old 4T40's (i think thats what those are) they aren't known to be glass, at least not down here. No chance of finding a junkyard engine for a couple hundred bucks?  If it's not a rustbucket that's just too pretty to go to the crusher.. (maybe it's the wheels?)

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
2/11/22 9:56 a.m.

Sell me the wheels before crushing please. I need more for my collection....

Gunchsta Dork
2/11/22 10:06 a.m.

The wheels will NOT be going to the crusher, have no fear. 

The car isn't a rust bucket at all, that's part of why I'm struggling to justify throwing it away. It's cleaner than most of the crap I'm seeing for sale currently. 

Wally (Forum Supporter)
Wally (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/11/22 10:13 a.m.

I would think about a 3400 swap. Mine was a pretty good car and I would probably still be putting miles on it had it not rusted away. 

slefain PowerDork
2/11/22 10:14 a.m.

Once it seals up borrow a nitrous kit from someone and give it a true Viking funeral. Then part it out.

Toyman! MegaDork
2/11/22 10:29 a.m.

3400s should be a dime a dozen. I'd go that route. 


mad_machine MegaDork
2/11/22 10:42 a.m.

swap out the engine and sell on to somebody who needs a car.  

I had a 96 Malibu for a couple of months,  hated that car with a passion.

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
2/11/22 11:27 a.m.

Junkyard engine would probably be my choice too.

I'm tempted to say skip the 3.4 and go straight for a 3.9 - if you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly. Or just replace with another 3.1 and sell to someone who needs cheap transportation.

Gunchsta Dork
2/11/22 12:17 p.m.

In reply to MadScientistMatt :

The 3.9 sounds awesome but perhaps more involved. And, I need cheap transportation. So if I fix it I'm going to keep it, at least for the time being. 

I think the 3400 seems like the most straight forward 'fix' - and it's a little hotroddy so it'll feel cool to do. At the moment that plan is winning the race.

I want to crawl around the car a bit this weekend and assess the overall condition. From what I recall the rockers are solid, one of the dog legs behind the rear doors is a little cruddy, and there's some scale where the rotted out old muffler was. But otherwise I think it's pretty solid and worth dumping a few hundred bucks into. And forwhatever reason I like the car. I think it's attractive enough and it's comfortable to drive. 

Maybe this will become a build thread. 

Stampie MegaDork
2/11/22 12:29 p.m.

LS RWD swap it.  Fix the engine and trans issues at once.

Gunchsta Dork
2/11/22 12:34 p.m.

In reply to Stampie :

The thought crossed my mind. I fear that is a bit beyond my skill/desire level. 

I sent out a couple quote requests on a few 3.4's locally so we'll see what they get back to me with. 

iansane Dork
2/11/22 12:34 p.m.

Or LS4/6speed and don't futz with rwd just yet.

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/11/22 12:45 p.m.

came here to suggest nitrous.  slefain beat me by almost 3 hours.

Gunchsta Dork
2/11/22 12:47 p.m.

So if we're talking ultimate dreams - there's a turbo involved. No nitrous, yes turbo. 

Noddaz UberDork
2/11/22 7:18 p.m.

That is pretty for a beater.

That is all I have to offer.

759NRNG UberDork
2/11/22 8:26 p.m.

Keep it!!!!! my 04 Bravada with the LKQ(56k) motor has been a godsend lately.... actually better than the original motor and this is #3. With everything being equal? lately I'm down with the if it REALLY ain't broke dive in and DO IT.....3.4 the hot set up? 

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
2/12/22 8:45 a.m.

I'd blue devil the engine.  But I have no fear. 

Gunchsta Dork
2/12/22 9:12 a.m.

Thanks for the input gang. I naturally chose the best picture of it, right now it's got stock wheels with hubcaps and it's covered in salt because Midwest winter.  

I crawled around under it a little bit yesterday and it's pretty good. The girl I bought the car from bought it from her grandma in South Dakota and I think they use less salt than us. 

So, stay tuned as I figure out just how far down this rabbit hole I'm heading

Gunchsta Dork
2/13/22 11:05 a.m.

well I guess we're going for it. A low mile Buick 3400 is headed my way.


If there is a mod watching can this be moved to the builds section? 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/13/22 11:09 a.m.


StripesSA1 Reader
2/13/22 11:38 a.m.
John Welsh said:


Glad this moved and will be given another chance at live

Gunchsta Dork
2/13/22 11:52 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Thank you!


We're giving the Malibu another shot at life! 

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
2/13/22 11:57 a.m.


Little opening up of the intake tract helps a lot

Gunchsta Dork
2/13/22 12:12 p.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael :

I was kinda hoping you'd chime in. On the upper or lower? I have an air compressor and die grinder, anything more exotic than that needed?

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