GM’s 1973-77 intermediate cars, known as Colonnades, get much love from us at CC. While the collector market hasn’t warmed to most of these models, we here at CC recognize that during an era when Detroit wasn’t exactly at its peak, these cars had a lot of inherent goodness. I think it’s also recognized that the dominance of the Colonnade car line in the personal luxury car field means they hold a significant place in history.
That said, we here tend to give a lot of love to the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiacs but the Chevrolets, at least the Malibus and Chevelles, seem to be the bottom of the barrel. Clearly, the 1964-72 Chevelles are well-loved and accepted by the collector community, but even die-hard bowtie lovers offer little love to the Colonnade Chevrolets.
I have made the argument that the Chevrolet Malibus from this era are probably one of the cleanest Colonnade GM’s of the era. Buick, Olds, Pontiac and even Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo had swoops and curves but the Chevrolet Malibu wore rather basic lines. Not until the revised Cutlass Supremes and Buick Regals was any other Colonnade cars adorned with such clean sheet metal. While the Chevrolet Malibu had clean styling, unfortunately Chevrolet stylists chose rather bland or unattractive front and rear styling on these cars. In my eyes this takes away from the remainder of the car, which I’d argue is relatively handsome.
I have to admit though, while I have come to this conclusion, as a former ’68-72 Chevelle enthusiast, there was a time I turned my nose up at these cars. Only after spending many years with Dad’s Malibu did I come to the realization that it is actually a nice clean design. Furthermore, they are relatively well-engineered, reliable, comfortable cars that are easy to maintain.
This ’77 Malibu Classic I found on Craigslist is one that demonstrates Chevrolet Malibu’s clean styling in spades. Having very little trim and no vinyl top it shows off its rather attractive lines, which I think are especially noticeable from the side profile. I know many here have the preference of the more formal roofline of the Cutlass Supreme, but I have always thought the semi-fastback Colonnade roofline was far more attractive, having an air of sportiness during the drudgery of Broughams.
That said, I still haven’t warmed up to the stacked headlights that were adopted in 1976. Clearly, it was a quick patch job by Chevrolet Styling to bring the old body style in line with modern trends with minimal investment. Only the Malibu Classics received the stack rectangular headlights though, and base models continued to use the dual round headlights with a unique grille for 1976-77. Also new for 1976-77 were larger and squarer bumpers, which spoiled the side profile somewhat. At least the rear styling was inoffensive and consistent with the 1975-76 Chevrolet Impala.
This particular Malibu appears to be quit the time capsule, a wonderfully preserved original car in fantastic condition. The seller claims 31,000 original miles and based on the condition, I have no doubts this is true. Not only that, it is somewhat of an unusually equipped car.
This being Malibu Classic, it is a step above the bare bones Malibu. However, beyond the upgraded Malibu Classic trim and interior, it seems to have few other options. While over 90% of 1977 Chevrolet’s Chevelle/Malibu line had V8 engines, of those equipped with a six, the majority were the base model Malibus. Only 7,765 Malibu Classic were equipped with the 250 six compared to 24,076 base model Malibus.
Although the 250 six was once Chevrolet’s most powerful six cylinder option, by 1977 this was the sole inline six being used in cars. With ever tightening emission standards, the six was rated at 110 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque (SAE net). Not exactly a pavement shredder, but a powerhouse compared to the Ford 250 six and a 5 hp increase from 1976. However, I do question the seller’s claim that the car is “peppy.”
The original purchaser of this car did spring for the $282 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 350, which no doubt would help improve performance over the older 250’s equipped with the 2-speed Powerglide. By 1977 automatic transmissions were becoming pretty ubiquitous in this class, and Malibu was no different with 98.7% being equipped as such. The original purchaser also selected power steering ($146) and power brakes ($61), which were in 99.3% and 97.4% of 1977 Malibus respectively.
The original purchaser, however, kept the base hub caps on body coloured wheels. Air conditioning, a passenger mirror and even a clock were also not selected. By this time the majority of the Malibu line-up was equipped with air-conditioning, in fact 80.6 % were so equipped in 1977. However, many northern state and Canadian cars still were built without A/C. I also noticed it had the optional (and not very effective) rear window blower defroster and that it’s being sold in Rochester. So it likely was a northern car from new. Despite that, its undercarriage is very clean and unmolested, suggesting it was never exposed to harsh weather.
This Malibu is a true unique rolling piece of history that hopefully finds a good home. The owner is asking $9000 for the car, which may be somewhat optimistic. But considering how few are left in this condition, and how few are equipped like this, it is probably a reasonable price. It will just take the right buyer to come along and scoop it up. Let’s hope it finds a new care taker, perhaps a fellow CCer might be interested?