CC Capsule: 1976 Malibu Classic – What, No Vinyl Roof?

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  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!