The large dent in the photo increased the value of this 1980 Malibu by over 20 times its value in 1992, but this is not a story about a car insurance scam. It is doubtful that CC readers will be able to similarly benefit because the odds would be, well, “astronomical.”
In 1980 GM’s Malibu base model offered a standard carbureted 230 V-6 mated to a 3 speed manual with a claimed fuel consumption of 20/26 mpg, and a 0-60 time of 11.8 seconds, although a 5 liter V-8 mated to a 4 speed manual were also offered. In an economy move GM decided that the rear windows on the four door sedans–many un-air conditioned even as they left the showroom– should be fixed rather than movable. Like other cars of their era, Malibus were clearly not regarded as classics in their own day. By 1992, the red Malibu that is the subject of this piece had already fallen into disfavor. The owner had recently bought it from her grandmother for $400 in “undented” condition. After acquiring that mammoth dent, the car’s value skyrocketed, and the Malibu has been widely exhibited in locations as far away as Europe and Japan. But back to the story.
On the evening of Friday October 9, 1992, while the Malibu was parked in the driveway at 207 Wells Street in Peekskill NY, a few blocks away from this contributor’s sister’s house, a meteor which started its journey somewhere between Mars and Jupiter headed toward earth, and once caught by the Earth’s gravitational pull headed toward downward into the atmosphere where it fragmented and in a mere 40 seconds passed over Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey until eventually slipping between two houses and slamming into the right rear section of the Malibu parked in the driveway in Peekskill, about 40 miles north of New York City. One authority estimated that the rock might have been careening around the solar system for over 4 billion years before it’s untimely collision with the Malibu. Although the rock was traveling at an estimated velocity of 33,000 miles/second in space, scientists estimate it had slowed to about 135 mph just before impact.
Michelle Knapp, the 18 year old car owner heard a crash and ran outside to discover her car’s smashed rear end. Although police initially suspected vandalism, firemen who responded because of the leaking gas tank retrieved the rock from under the car, still warm and smelling of sulfur and now scarred with red paint, and quickly deduced its otherworldly origin. The car owner called her mother (yes, on a land line in those days) at the local bowling lanes and explained to her that a meteorite had smashed her car. Evidently her mother treated this news from her teenage daughter with some skepticism, probably thinking that the two Bs–boys and beer–may have been a more plausible explanation for the damage while she was out bowling. .
The meteorite itself –now simply called “Peekskill”– is rather famous, not for its size or composition but because it was so well-documented. The sky was clear that night and viewed by thousands. Observers reported that the green fireball was brighter than the full moon.
The meteor was also videotaped by at least 16 individuals, several of whom recorded the meteor’s flight as they were filming their children’s Friday night football games. A compilation of videos is found at this French website. But back to the story.
A woman who heard the report about the crash quickly contacted the car owner offering to buy the Malibu for $10,000 as a gift for her husband, a meteorite buff, who was initially puzzled why his wife would want to give him a 12 year old Malibu and one with a large dent at that.
The car was later exhibited worldwide. Ironically, the most famous “meteor car” is a not a Mercury, but a Chevy.