At the end of April, I drove up from San Diego to the Automobile Driving Museum (link) in Los Angeles to attend the Malaise Daze Car Show. This was the second car show put on by the Malaise Motors Facebook Group. Even though I don’t currently own a “malaise” era automobile, just like you I appreciate them so I did not want to miss this opportunity to see a bunch of them all gathered together. The purpose of the Malaise Motors group is:
Dedicated to the history, design, manufacture and “roadability” of the unloved cars of the Malaise Era. We are the Brougham package of car groups ! Our seats are button tufted, roofs landau and we roll on the shiniest genuine wire wheel covers !
For the sake of clarity, we define the malaise era as beginning in 1972 and ending in 1995. For 1972 year model vehicles there was an across the board drop in compression ratios and a switch to net horsepower ratings in preparation for upcoming emissions regulations. In 1996 OBDII diagnostic electronics were universally adopted thus beginning the modern era of engine management and emissions control.
(ED: that 1996 cut-off is rather absurd, as the Viper in the show is the ultimate non-Malaise-mobile. Performance engines and modern engine management systems were in use long before this date, as in Ford’s 1983 EEC-IV engine management system and fuel injection. Probably the last car to qualify might be the carburated Olds 307, which was last built in 1990, IIRC)
Lets see how well the colorful Malaise era was represented.
Given how much market share GM had during the Malaise era, it’s no wonder that cars from the General were the most prevalent.
This is a good car to kick off the Malaise era at GM. The gas crunch drove people to buy smaller cars. To respond as quickly as they could and give all of their divisions economy cars to share, GM kicked off it’s “badge-engineering” practice with the X-cars, like this 1973 Buick Apollo.
As the 70’s wore on, it seemed like Pontiac was the only manufacturer to truly produce something resembling the muscle cars of the pre-Malaise era. This beautifully patina’d 1975 Firebird was not one of those fire-breathing monsters.
During the Malaise era there was an increase in government safety regulations for automobiles. One highly anticipated regulation was rollover standards, that drove convertibles to an early grave (although the regulation never happened and the grave was short lived). This big, beautiful B-body 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible was one of the last Oldsmobile convertibles built until the early 90s. Check out that gorgeous all red interior!
GMs first big downsizing happened to the large B-body cars for 1977. This 1979 (guess based on the grille) represents that generation Caprice very nicely. It was in excellent shape.
The next to get the downsizing treatment were the mid-sized A-bodies. These cars were represented at the show by not 1, but 2 A-body wagons. A 1980 Malibu wagon and a 1983 Cutlass Cruiser wagon.
The third swing at downsizing were the E-body personal luxury coupes, like this Cadillac Eldorado. I was enamored by the blue and white leather interior that this car had, which is a 1985 Commemorative Edition Eldorado.
Even though it was “downsized”, this B-Body wagon was still a big girl in the 80s. As a lover of station wagons, I was really liking this blue whale 1984 Pontiac Safari wagon.
The traditional, big American luxury car was represented by this gorgeous Chamios (?) 1986 Fleetwood Brougham.
As the 80s wore on, GM continued downsizing, as well as switching to front wheel drive. When the Deville was shrunken in 1985, it appeared as though GM had gone too far. Sales tanked. This 1987 Deville was an attempt to correct course, featuring a lengthened body.
You might wonder why am I including the last of the K-cars, this very Iaccoca-ish 1992 Chrysler LeBaron, in the GM section. It’s because of the car behind it. It’s the only front end shot I have of this Corsica. For the launch of the Chevrolet Corsica, the first Corsica’s built all went to rental fleets before you could actually buy them. This Corsica is one of those, and it was very lightly optioned. A/C was really the only option it had on it. It only had an AM radio and crank windows. The owner loved to talk about his Corsica. His grandfather owned a GM dealership, and was the one to get this Corsica once it was done with it’s rental car duties. It has since been passed between 4 different family members but it still in the family. Check out the original California “Sunset” plate and all the literature in the back.
More downsizing and switching to FWD, the big Oldsmobile Delta 88 switched over from the B-body to the FWD H-body. This is a pretty rare 1989 coupe model. It sported the Buick “twisted 6” engine decal on the front fender, and sported an FE3 tag on the grille denoting the possibility of being equipped with the performance FE3 suspension.
The GM section is finished out with this two-fer comparison shot. By the time that this aero-nose 1992 Buick Century was sold, it was already a relic from the previous era. It had been severely outclassed by the Ford Taurus when it debuted in 1986. But Buick continued to sell these until 1996, even after most of it’s platform mates had been replaced by the GM-10/W-body cars. This Taurus is a 1991 model, and leads us into….
Ford Motor Company
This 1972 Ford Ranchero is just inside the group’s guidelines of the Malaise Era. With it’s Arrest-Me red paint and great stance, it sure looked gorgeous.
Another that was just inside the guidelines is this baby blue 1972 Mercury Comet. Even though the Comet’s twin, the Ford Maverick went on sale in April of 1969 followed by the Comet in 1971, I’m sure almost everyone will associate the Maverick/Coment with the Malaise Era and not the Muscle Car era. Also shown is the first of a few Fox body cars that were at the show. The Fox platform proliferated through Ford’s lineup in the late 70s and early 80s. This was one of the more luxurious ever made, the bustle-back 1984 Lincoln Continental .
Here is Ford’s “sporty” economy car, the 1982 Ford EXP. This was essentially a rebodied 2-seater Ford Escort.
This beautiful 1989 Town Car (also seen at the top of this post) that sports the CA vanity plate MALAISE is owned by one of the original founders of the group. It still looks showroom fresh.
There were no Fox-body Mustangs at the show, at least two-door versions. This is a Ford LTD LX, which was also known as the “Four-Door Mustang”. The LTD shared the Fox platform with the Mustang, and Bob Bondurant built a special LTD with Mustang engine and suspension parts to create a training car for the Bob Bondurant Driving School. After Ford President Donald Petersen rode in one, the LTD LX package was born. The HO 5.0L V8, 4-speed automatic, and Mustang suspension were installed into the LTD. (More information at the LTD LX Registry) These were only available in late 1984 and 1985, and according to a Marti Report only 5,287 were produced during the 1.5 year model run. This particular LX has non-stock Mustang GT “phone-dial” rims on it. It was great to see not only one LTD LX at the show….
…but 3!!! Out of ~40 cars, three of them were LTD LXs?!? The near car has had some mods to it, including the later EFI from the Mustang 5.0 and some 17″ 93 Cobra Rims.
This car is a car that I have actually stalked on message boards and FB, and I’ve chatted with the owner a few times online. This has had some serious work done to it. The motor has been hopped up, Cobra intake, 5-speed manual trans, and 5-lug conversion. I’ve seen photos and video of this car on the autocross, and it’s been featured in a magazine or two. Probably the best looking and running LX in the entire country.
We will finish off the visit with Ford Motor Company with this side-by-side comparison shot. The car on the left, the mid-size RWD sedan. On the right, the car that replaced it, the new FWD Ford Taurus. The Taurus was a radical departure from the LTD, and Ford sold both for a year (1986) side by side in case the Taurus styling went too far and turned customers away. The personalized black plate is a nod to the first ad campaign when the Taurus debuted. Taurus… FOR US.
Just as it has almost always done in sales of the “Big-3”, Chrysler Corporation was 3rd place in representation. Starting off is a 3rd generation 1972 Dodge Charger. While the Charger is almost always though of as a powerful muscle car, it had a bit of an identity crisis in the early 70s. This is a 1972 SE package, which added a lot of brougham features to the mid-size coupe. I do love those hideaway headlamps. This particular car was owned by Doris Day!! (reference link)
More hideaway headlamps on this, the top of the line Chrysler for 1979. Chrysler basically repurposed the mid-size B-body chassis from 1979 to create the new “downsized” full-size R-body chassis. This 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue edition features a two-tone Cream-on-Beige paint job and every features Chrysler could throw at it. These sold very poorly, but I have alway liked the styling of these R-body cars.
While most would not consider the 400-hp, 8.0L V-10 powered Viper proper “malaise”, by the groups definition it is part of the cars from the era that is celebrated. This 1995 Viper RT/10 was beautiful in Emerald Green metallic over tan leather interior.
American Motors Corporation
American Motors was always last place in sales of the domestic manufacturers, but there were still a few of them that were here at the show. This particular Pacer is a one year only model, being that it was the newly introduced Wagon bodystyle with the pre-facelift front end. For 1978 it would gain a larger, more upright grille.
This here AMC Pacer X was a looker as well. It appears to be a Pacer X package. The interior, however has had the buckets recovered in the “Basketry Print” fabric. According to the brochures I saw, the “Basketry Print” fabric was part of the D/L package which was never available with the “X” Package. The seats of the D/L package were also of a different shape than you see here, which appear correct for a Pacer X. Even though, it still looked the part of a total 70s car!
Finishing out the AMC representation is this very clean AMC Eagle wagon.
Delorean Motor Company
The Delorean made a huge splash when it was introduced in the early 80s. So much as been said about it, so I won’t repeat. They are still just as awesome to see in person almost 40 years later. This particular one had a very clean interior.
The show definitely had a very US-centric showing, but there were a couple of cars from foreign makes.
Representing Europe is this 1987 BMW M6. It was just perfect. This has always been my favorite BMW design (followed closely by it’s replacement the 8-series). The color, wheels, interior, everything on this car is exactly as I would want it.
Representing Japan is this 1989 Nissan Pulsar NX XE. The second generation Pulsar was just your regular ol’ FWD 4-cyl “sporty” commuter car, with one exception. With a variety of removable panels, it could be converted into several different body styles. Coupe, Targa, Cabriolet or station wagon. The most unqiue of the removable panels was the “station wagon” that replaced the rear hatch, called the Sportback. I’ve seen a few Pulsars running around Southern California, but this is the first I have seen with a Sportback on it.
…and the winner is.
There was a best in show award that was presented. The award was the coveted Golden Smog Pump. And the winner is…..
… this 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco Brougham wagon, sporting a 440 CID big block under the hood, and a LOL-tastic vanity plate 7MPG4ME. The Royal Monaco was another 1-year wonder. Prior to 1977, the C-body Dodge was named just Monaco. For 1977, the Monaco name moved to the B-body (replacing the Coronet) and the C-body was rechristened the Royal Monaco.
That’s it for this year. The museum has already been booked for next year’s hosting of the show, and I plan on being there with my camera in hand.