Curbside Classic: 1975 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Classic – A Dollop of Sanity

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So many of the cars I find prompt some degree of daydreaming about possessing them in their as-found condition.  Not this one; it had me thinking about car shopping back in 1975 and what my reaction would have been.  Given I turned three in late 1975, I can only view it from a rather removed position.  But it’s worth speculating as this is the size of car I would have been looking at were I car shopping back in the day.

Times have changed immensely since 1975; Gerald Ford was in the White House, Space Mountain opened at Walt Disney World, and this Chevelle was classified as a mid-sized car.  The definition of “mid-sized” has been pretty fluid, accumulating about as much mileage as a five-year old Chicago taxi.

A form of automotive puberty began in the 1960s, as cars bulked up mightily and sprouted all kinds of new growths.  This Chevelle is nestled on a 116″ wheelbase, which was nearly a half-foot shorter than the full sized Impala / Caprice.

1955 Chevrolet Mailer-06

The venerable 1955 Chevrolet, the standard Chevrolet of the time and a car I’m using as a reference, sat on a wheelbase merely one inch shorter than our mint green Chevelle.  Times do change.

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Despite there being little doubt the Chevelle has a big bone structure under that green and white dress, I will submit it was the most sane mid-sized car available for budget conscious customers of the Big 3.

1975 Ford

Had I darkened the doorstep of the Ford dealer, odds are I would have been confronted with this conglomeration of sheet metal and vinyl Ford called a Torino.

While a step ahead of Chevrolet and Plymouth by having a V8 engine (5.8 liters) and an automatic transmission as standard equipment, it would still be insufficient for me to overcome the appearance of this sad Ford.  Yes, I’m biased against Torino’s in general, especially one this ungainly.  It has so much pork, I might get grease stains on my pants from driving it.

Besides, vinyl works much better on bathroom floors than on car roofs.

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Even with the more sedate Torino, it’s still too easy to envision it with those hideous fender skirts.  And the tag line of “solid mid-size” is evidence of truth in advertising.

1975 Plymouth Fury-08

Plymouth, that third leg of the quaint “Low Priced Three”, doesn’t look too bad in a crew-cut-and-bell-bottoms sort of way.  Chrysler deserves credit for a noble effort in squaring off a rounded body shell and to these eyes they did rather well given their constraints.  I can see myself having test driven one of these.

As an aside, I’ve seen enough of these over time to conclude this example is quite hunkered down on its suspension.

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The Fury’s downside was quality.  While quality was a relative term throughout the 1970s, purchasing a Chrysler product was like taking a trip to Las Vegas – you could win big or lose your shirt with equal splendor.  Lots of folks shared that sentiment as Fury sales volumes were a mere fraction of the Chevelle.  It wasn’t the contender Ford was.

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Let’s not overlook the AMC Matador.  While everything behind the radiator support looks great, the area preceding the radiator is a little unfortunate.  AMC was even more tormented than Chrysler with trying to keep an old body looking fresh but they put their heart into it.  In a sense, this was the Studebaker of the 1970s.

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The sanity of the Chevelle isn’t a matter of it being the last one standing; it was a matter of its demeanor and how GM went about executing the overall package.  GM was still king in 1975 despite their mojo nearing a plateau.

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This brochure is proof good advertising still works years later – or at least it inspires revelations.  In talking about the Chevelle interior, it states the Chevelle has interiors that are stylish but not gaudy.  In my mind this translates to tasteful and timeless in contrast to trendy.  Trendy has such a short shelf life.

It also made me wonder…

1975 Plymouth Fury-04

Was the brochure a pot-shot at the optional Plymouth interior?

1975 Ford Torino-05

Or were they insinuating the interior of the Torino?

Odds are this girl is simply upset due to the ugliness on the exterior of her parent’s new Torino.  Children are such wonderfully observant creatures.

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The only trendy thing on this Chevelle interior is the color.  The overall content is simple, straightforward, and user-friendly.

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User friendly was the key element to the success of the Chevelle.  At 209″ in length, the battering ram bumpers help the Chevelle exceed the length of our benchmark 1955 Chevrolet by sixteen inches (or roughly one-half meter).  The Chevelle wasn’t diminutive, but it was the least lengthy of the mid-sizers and not by a small margin.

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If I were to have purchased one of these four mid-sizers, I would have had to park it somewhere.  While garage depths vary greatly, typical depths are 20′ and 22′.  With a 20′ garage depth, a new Impala would leave less than 18″ of free space front to back; the Chevelle would give a total of 30″ for opening any door accessing your house, the ability to walk completely around the car, and a splash of storage space.  The mid-sized Chevelle was simply friendlier than the competition about fitting into a garage all while providing as much – if not more – interior room.

That’s only for those with a garage.  This same situation was faced by others, many of whom likely had only a street, an alley, a parking garage, or a hint of a driveway.  The relatively shorter length of the Chevelle was a boon not only for parking, but maneuvering and driving.

Parking a car in a garage no longer raises the same considerations, but the Chevelle is the most user friendly.  Parking may seem like an ancillary item, but one must do it every time a car is driven.
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As I sit here and think about our Chevelle, it would be hard for me to seriously entertain the thought of any of the Chevelle’s competitors for 1975.  From having power plants ranging from a lowly six-cylinder to a honking 454 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8, these cars hit a sweet spot in the automotive market place – particularly when equipped with the 5.7 liter V8.  That this car has struck a cord with somebody who was a toddler during the 1975 model year, that is quite the accomplishment.

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Related reading:

1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

1977 Pontiac Grand LeMans