Automotive History Capsule: 1981 Chevrolet Malibu “Iraqi Taxi”

 

Since we’re on the subject of Iraq, we can’t neglect the Malibu “Iraqi Taxi”. I’ve never encountered one, and there’s no posting of one at the Cohort, so we’ll have to ask for a google lifeline. Not that they’re anything special to look at, at least from the outside. This one is courtesy of gbodyforum.com. But the story behind them is worth retelling.

In 1981, Saddam Hussein’s government placed an order for 25,000 specially-configured Malibus with GM of Canada, to be used primarily as taxi cabs.  The specs included the smallest V6 engine, the rather un-loved 229 cubic inch (3.8L) 110 hp predecessor to the 4.3 L Chevy 90° V6. And curiously, they insisted on a three-speed manual, with a floor shifter, as well as air conditioning, HD cooling, AM/FM/cassette decks, front bench seats, 200 kmh speedometers, a rugged tweed-vinyl upholstery, and fully opening rear door windows (I kid). I do suspect that a heavy duty suspension was also in the package to deal with the rough roads.

The only shot of one in Iraq is this one, from what appears to be an Iraqi movie or tv show, but I make no guarantees. The Malibu’s stock baby moon hub caps have been replaced here by what looks like wire wheel covers.

Only about half of the order was ever shipped, as Iraq suddenly cancelled the order in 1982. Some excuses were given, including that drivers were having a hard time shifting the Saginaw three-speed. Apparently that wasn’t all just BS, as GMCL techs did identify and rectify (in Iraq) a problem with the clutch release.  Perhaps more likely, the cancellation was the consequence of hard currency tightness due to Iraq’s war with Iran at the time.

In any case, the remaining 12,500 Iraqi Taxis were sold to Canadians at a hefty discounted price of about $6800. A fair number are still around, and often referred to as an “Iraqibu”.