Today I set out to find a classic Colonnade Monte Carlo to shoot, but it just didn’t work out. Although no Monte Carlos were found, I did find something interesting while on my search. I happened upon this tired, but pretty much complete, 1976 Malibu Classic coupe in Bay City, MI.
In 1976, the Great Brougham Epoch was in its prime; velour, Landau roofs, whitewalls, fake-wood dash – you want it, you got it! A new, love-it-or-hate-it feature on the top trim Malibu Classic was stacked rectangular headlights in place of last year’s faired-in round lamps. Lesser models made do with the ’75 front end, albeit with revised grilles.
Monte Carlos and Buick Regal sedans and wagons also received the stacked headlight treatment for 1976. Inevitably, the remaining Big Two took notice and adopted it for the 1977 Ford LTD II and the 1978 Chrysler Cordoba. And then, almost as quickly as they’d sprung up, stacked headlights disappeared–on cars, at least. The higher-trimmed models of Dodge, Chevy and GMC pickups and full size vans would get them in the early ’80s.
Engine choices would be familiar to ’70s Chevy fans. Entry-level engines were a 105 hp, 250 cu.in. six-cylinder and a new 140 hp, 305 V8. While bigger V8s were available, they didn’t deliver much more bang for the buck: The optional two and four-barrel 350s produced 145 and 165 hp, respectively, and the top-shelf 400 was good for only 175 hp. It’s worth mentioning that while the horsepower wasn’t any great shakes, the bigger engines did produce quite a bit more torque. Automatic transmissions were the norm, but a three-on-the-tree manual could be had with the 250 six.
It’s not every day you run across one of these (unless, perhaps, you live in Eugene). It’s even rarer to find a top of the line Malibu Classic, especially without the Landau roof that most of them sported. Like many cars of the 1970s it is brown, a color which most manufacturers tried to glamorize with names like Saddle Metallic and Tobacco Firemist. Brown seemed to be as ubiquitous then as silver is today.
A 2002 inspection sticker in the windshield indicates this was once a Texas car, and perhaps that’s why this particular Malibu has survived as long as it has.
It’s not perfect, but it does make an interesting design study for students of the Magnificent Malaise Era/Brougham Epoch!
Vinyl roofs weren’t standard on all Malibu Classics, it was the ‘opera window’ that was though. Even base Monte Carlo, G. Prix, Cutlass Supreme, and Regal had no tops standard.
It wasn’t til 80’s that cars like Crown Vics had standard vinyl tops.
I recall seeing a few of these back then, but certainly not many.
GM seemed to use medium browns like this well after everyone else stopped. It seemed to me that about half of what GM made even into the late 80s were this color. Sort of like beige early 60s Mopars.
What’s the story with the “1976 Chevelle” photo? It has a Malibu Classic badge on the grille. I know they’ve always been kissin’ cousins, but the branding seems a bit weak here.
Chevelle was the car line from 73-77. Malibu, Malibu “Classic”, Laguna and Deluxe were all Chevelles.
When GM’s intermediates were first introduced, each division had a top-trim version with a distinctive name (Chevelle Malibu, Tempest LeMans, F-85 Cutlass, Special Skylark). Over time, these would prove to be top sellers, and would expand to take over more and more of the intermediate lineup. By the late ’60s, each of the B-O-P divisions had begun marketing the top-trim version as a distinct model from the main, lower-trim model. Over the next several years, the lower-trim model names faded away completely.
For some reason, Chevrolet did not do this. The Malibu continued to be a subseries of the Chevelle, not a distinct model. Even after a 1974 model lineup reorganization resulted in there no longer being a lower-trimmed “regular” Chevelle, it was still the “Chevelle Malibu”. By 1977, with the demise of the Laguna, there were no non-Malibu Chevelles, but the “Chevelle Malibu” designation remained. Finally, when the A-bodies were downsized for 1978, the Chevelle prefix disappeared, and the car became just the “Malibu”.
The aforementioned Laguna is another example of this. Pontiac’s version of the car, the Grand Am, was considered to be a distinct model from the LeMans. But the Chevrolet verion was the “Chevelle Laguna”, not the just plain “Laguna”.
Thanks MCT–insight like that is why I love this place.
Note then the Skylark name after 1972 was put in a temporairy hiatus. Buick reviving the Century name for its 1973 intermediate. The Skylark returned as a higher model of the X-body Apollo for ’75 and replace it completely for ’76.
Actually, for 1975 Buick called all the two door X-bodies Skylarks and all the four doors were Apollos. I know this only because I have the 1975 Buick full model line brochure which I bought on ebay since I owned a 75 Century Custom coupe. In 76, all Buick X-bodies were Skylarks again, regardless of trim level or number of doors.
In ’73 there was also a Chevelle Deluxe below the Malibu.
If one wanted a Monte Carlo but the side swoopiness was a bit too over-the-top, this car would be the ticket. I liked the cross-hatch grille of the ’76 pictured.
Dang that Camel color interior (or was it “buckskin”) was just awful. That A65 notch bench seat is super comfortable though, especially on the softly sprung Malibus…I had a ’77 El Camino SS with this same interior (thankfully it was light blue) & it drove like a Cadillac.
The micro CHEVROLET emblem to the right of the trunklid has got to be one of the smallest font exterior emblems I’ve ever seen on a vehicle.
Extra note…a 4-door one of these went through an impound auction in Birmingham many years ago: it was that beige with vinyl interior. Few if any exterior options at all and it had the 250 L6 but get this…it had power windows and power door locks.
Extra extra note. The dash pads in these cars, especially the ’74 – ’77 models had to be the most crack-prone units I’ve seen…next to the ’71-’76 Chevrolets, ’73-’77 Buicks, 7….oh, never mind.
I owned a Chevrolet malibu classic in the eighties it was the square headlight four door met brown with a tan vinyl roof might have gone through brum auction at some time after I owned it birmingham uk .
I remember driving a 305 powered ’77 “Classic” and thought it the most powerful car I had ever driven. It had swivel buckets a console and I what I call “Vette” rims. It was nice but way north of my price range.
Put any modern car alongside one of these, whether in two-or four-door form and see just how gigantic these “mid-size” cars really were. They are larger than my Impala, I believe!
They are massive, my cousins mother had a blue sedan with the same wheelcovers as the brown one in the feature pic, I remember the rear floor was getting weak in one of the footwells when it was like 5 years old and in Florida all its life, it was metallic blue so the paint looked like crap after about 3 years.
In that last photo the CMC reminds me of Smokey waiting for the Bandit and Snowman to come runnin through town. Most of the police cars were Le Manseses sporting odd hood scoops. Then there were the patrol cars you knew were going to be crashed, including a bevy of Plymouths and even an old Delta 88.
Bandit, you got your ears on?
It is sort of the same brown as Sherrif Justice’s LeMans, I found the hood scoops in the movie odd, though I did hear that some places did that to lower the temperature in the engine compartment while the cars idled with the a/c on day, but I have never confirmed it.
Ahh. I figured it was because they hopped up the motors. I remember reading about the 81 T/As Pontiac built for S&B-II, which swapped out the 301 for hopped up 455s.
Have you looked at the pavement when the stunt man pretending to be Burt Reynolds performed evasive maneuvers? Tire marks are clearly visible where they did multiple shoots.
Oh yeah, you can see them on the road in the scene when Bandit picks up Sally Field after the Impala broke down, there are bunch of skid marks on the road.
I think Jackie Gleason left some skid marks too. He also spit all over everybody around him at the choke and puke when he ate that burger
Ahh, I know I’m beating a dead horse and this gets said all the time… but just imagine how much nicer this car would look in side-profile if it wasn’t being chased around by that spooky, disembodied chunk of chrome everywhere it went. Are there aftermarket companies that manufacture non-ridiculous looking 5-mph bumper replacements? Somebody probably could’ve made a whole bunch of money building those at some point, although I doubt there would be very much interest now.
Unfortunately, even if that were an option, it would still be baby doo-doo butterscotch metallic mist with the 70’s ultimate automotive fashion faux pas lighting the road ahead. At least there is no padded vinyl helmet on top to ruin the best lines on the entire car.
I thought you were going to say it would look better if it wasn’t being chased by my little blue Escape in the background!
Sorry I am late to the party. I’ve been out of town and I just returned home.
It was kind of nice getting to see my byline, next to my birthday today!
As far as these cars go, one thing I didn’t mention was that (at least to me) these cars really showed off just how space-inefficient they really were, especially from the rear. I should have taken a pic directly from the rear.
There is no disputing the heft of the 73+ cars.
My 73 with Fiberglass fenders, doors, deck lid, hood, Laguna header or “nose”, Lexan door glass, AND.. All unnecessary insulation removed running a BBC/T400, a Moly cage and two “racing” buckets hit the scales at 3950 with a quarter tank and my heavy tail in it at Rt66.
That was back when having a 12 second DD was considered “fast” too though..
My car buddy Zach had a succession of three 70s GM boats back in the day. Two of them were this soul-crushing brown.
Add Quaalude-dazed stacked squares and you have this sad critter. Even with the happy associations I have with CBZ’s brown cars, this thing is just depressing. Could anything be less suggestive of Malibu, CA?
I think I remember a line in the movie “Fletch” where Chevy refers to his ex-wife’s lawyer’s car as a “medium brown Oldsmobuick.” Pretty much says it all.
I will have to read something pretty good today to top this. 🙂 There was something about GM’s version of that color that was just so horribly lifeless. Others did browns, but nobody did them in that particular shade that just sucked the life out of whatever design they were painted onto.
Though the car they show parked at the curb is a Nova?
I did like Fletch’s boat tail Riviera though.
These were the last of a breed in many ways and comparing them to the 1977 B body is interesting. The last Chevelles, the 1977, drove like softly sprung, ponderous tanks. It didn’t matter what motor you got, they all kind of felt the same and they certainly resisted course corrections. Any attempt at any spirited driving resulted in some of the worst understeer you could imagine.
The 1977 Impala, on the other hand, was much firmer and handled delightfully, especially if it was a 305 stripper with no a/c. They had a better seating position, control relationship and a much nicer interior. Gone were the Rubbermaid door panels.
Which is funny, because both cars sit on the same platform.
I’ve got this car but in a 4 door ‘Classic’ guise and I swapped out the tired and soft original springs for some HD springs, and that made a difference, along with adding a rear sway bar. The rear bar I got was from a 95 Caprice cop car. To say that it understeers now, would be an invitation to drive it and toss it into a corner. It’ll still plow a bit thanks to the tallish 215-70-15 tires but it’ll put a smile on your face.
Mines got the 305 but saddled with a pathetic 2.56 rear axle ratio.
A friends of mine had one of these and it had front seat that pivoted sideways to ease entry and exit, hevant seen that sine the late 50’s chryslers
i owned a 1976 malibu classic LE. Not very many were made . eng. 327 4bolt main, rears 4.11 posi. console shifter. king swivel bucket seats. no vinyl roof .Solid black factory paint.black factory interior. remember mine was numbered 800 and something. i have searched every way possible and cant find another. would like for someone find more info about this
I have owned quite a few of the 73-77 A-bodies from all 4 of GM’s brands. My first one was a 76 Malibu Classic with 250 straight 6 and 3spd manual trans. It was blue with a white Landau top. My aunt bought it new and gave it to me when I turned 16. I loved that car. I read somewhere years ago, that there were only 500 produced in 76 with the 250 6cyl. 3spd manual with a Landau top combination. I had a rare car and didnt even know it at the time. It actually met its fate a few years later as it was so far gone with rust because my aunt didnt take care of it. Would love to find another some day.
I have one! Mine is a 1876 second owner, genuine granny car found in the North Georgia Mountains, I am the second owner. . With only 30,000 original miles, have only driven it about 1200 miles per year for seven years now. It was garage stored, no rust whatsoever. Yellow with black vinyl interior. What a find! Of all the collector/muscle cars I have owned,this is the one I held on to. It has some of my old school modifications. The original block was used. It has brodix heads, headers, duals, sport suspension and tires, a dual quad crossram with two Holley 450’s, electric fuel pump, an electric vacuum pump for the 30 30 Duntov off road camshaft I had ground, and best of all, power steering, brakes and air conditioning from the factory. It has the most incredible lope you have ever heard. Other than that it is a total sleeper. It is in the paint shop right now and the factory yellow is done. It is gorgeous! We did remove the vinyl because of known rust problems underneath. We are waiting for the chrome to be put back on and the black vinyl has been replaced with a semi gloss black with a finish that looks like the original vinyl. I have about 800 miles on the engine now. Changed the break in oil at 500 miles and somewhere in between then and now, the engine loosened up and just did some interesting transformations. It went from about seven mpg to 24 overnight, combined driving and it is fast! Why did I keep this particular car? I knew the original condition. Low miles, verified and most of all it cruises on the highway like a Cadillac. And runs like a race car. it is very lovable. Some photos before the paint shop.
I have a 1976 Malibu classic White interior, green dashboard and carpet 350 cid 350 turbo transmission . Came with the original rally wheels and exterior is green, it had a white vinyl top ( popped off from old age and a rainstorm while I was going about 65 )… looking to replace the top at the moment actually when I came across this article. I purchased from a friend of mine who purchased from a little old lady who never drove it over 55 mph… still has the original sales emblem on the back from the original dealership it came from . Still has the original eight track player and the eight track tape‘s the old lady left in it… The guy who sold me the car is a good friend. To this day everything is original except for I converted it to four barrel and hooker headers. … Buy my perspective this car is pretty rare.
Ever find a source for a replacement top ? I just picked up a 77 malibu classic that needs a new one.
Everything is original except for converted to four barrel and exhaust is different