NASCAR is the biggest racing league in the United States. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing has used factory-ish vehicles since its early days, more than six decades ago. Quite a bit has changed since then, as the original race cars were “strictly stock” and were just factory vehicles with safety and performance modifications. Ever wonder how the current “stock” cars compare to what you can buy from the factory? Let’s take a look.
For this comparison, let’s look at the 2013 NASCAR season, as the stats on the newest cars are still being sorted out. That year, Chevrolet debuted the brand new Chevrolet Malibu, but saw NASCAR move to a Chevrolet SS on the new “Gen 6” racecar chassis. Sure, Chevy also launched the fantastic SS street car that year, but it is a low-volume premium sedan. NASCAR is about making racing for everyone, and the Malibu is more in-line with being a car for everyone. As you will see, there are slight differences besides the names.
The 2013 Chevy Malibu has a choice of competent dual overhead cam four cylinder engines. The base engine is the gas sipping 2.5L, delivering 197 horsepower. This engine features variable valve timing, and is EPA rated at 22 MPG in the city and 34 on the highway. It’s economical to run, as filling the 15.8 gallon gas tank with 87 octane (and up to 10% ethanol) will last you up to 350 miles.
The other option for 2013 is the turbocharged 2.0L four cylinder. Power is noticeably up, at 259, and tops out at 145 MPH. Keep in mind, this is no sport model, as this engine is the economical replacement for the old V6. The turbo four manages 21/30 in the city/highway test, and still takes regular gas. Both four cylinders have a 6-speed automatic transmission.
NASCAR strays from factory stock, a little. The 2013 Sprint Cup SS featured an overhead valve 5.9L (rounding up) fuel injected V8. Engine output varied by the builder and team, but 2013 saw roughly 850 horsepower without a restrictor plate from the big guys like Hendrick.
With the plate, power decreased to approximately 450, but that is still noticeably more than the turbo factory-built Malibu. The Cup-spec SS ran 98 octane unleaded, with 15% ethanol, in an 18 gallon tank. Gas mileage would make the EPA frown, as an SS racer ran about 5 MPG at speed. No word on city gas mileage, but flat out in a draft, it’s capable of over 200 MPH.
The 2013 Malibu is a “Top Safety Pick” at the IIHS, which scored the Malibu as “Good” in all tests but the small offset test. That rating is “Marginal” but that is still pretty good since that test is relatively new and a very high bar to meet. The NHTSA gave it 5 stars overall, and with 8 airbags, this is a very safe car.
For the Sprint Cup driver, there are no airbags, but the 5-point harness and mandated helmet and HANS device are far superior to your lap/shoulder belts. The entire car is wind tunnel designed for maximum downforce, so even when there’s a bit too much rubbing on track, none of them go airborne. The seat is closer to the centerline than the factory Malibu (or factory SS) to provide a larger crumple zone. The steel roll cage can take a serious beating while keeping the driver safe, as you may have seen Clint Boyer educationally demonstrating that one time he crossed the finish line backwards, upside-down, and on fire.
The Malibu can be loaded up quite nicely. Check all the boxes and you’ll get leather, turn-by-turn navigation, paddle shifters, OnStar, Bluetooth, and satellite radio. Of course, being for the American market, there are Big Gulp capable cupholders front and rear. Plus, the drivetrain has a 5 year, 100,000 mile warranty. All of this is wrapped in a steel chassis that weighs 3,580 pounds in street trim.
With a racecar, there is no leather, satellite radio, or navigation. The seat is custom formed for your body, but has almost no adjustment. The pedal on the right is the fun one that makes the entertaining noise. There’s no weaksauce paddle shifters here, but a proper manly four speed rock crusher, as God intended. Little known fact: there are zero cup holders, so Dale Jr has to hold his diet Mt Dew the entire race (Okay, sure. There’s a place to plop a sports bottle if the driver isn’t wearing a Camelbak, but it is not a traditional cup holder). There is no warranty, so if you tag the wall and have as many sponsors as Kvapil, you’re paying for that yourself. This steel and sheetmetal beast is close to production weight, at 3,300 lbs empty.
A new 2013 Malibu retailed for a little over $23k as a base model. With the turbo engine, leather, nav, and some sweet 19”s, you could spec out a Malibu into the $33,000 range. While that was a good deal on a new car, the used market really shows depreciation as strength for the used buyer. Poking around Mojo Motors, there are 42 pages of Malibus for sale, and a low-mileage 2013 Eco can be had for as little as $10,995.
Unfortunately, there are no 2013 SS race cars currently on Mojo Motors. However, for price comparison, a 2006 Nationwide Series Chevrolet Monte Carlo is selling on the used racing equipment site RacingJunk.com for $35,000. While the race car is faster, it looks like the street car is a way better value.
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Written by Andy Jensen