(first posted 5/6/2015) You could be forgiven for not remembering much about Chevy’s Malibu. This was a car conservatively-styled to the point where it still blends into the background three decades after it was produced. There was no sport model Malibu, no Brougham, no special edition; instead, its purpose was to sell in large numbers in the mid-priced, mid-sized market segment. This it did successfully for several years, after which it was unceremoniously discontinued. But despite its bland exterior, the Malibu arose from a turbulent time in the automotive world, and represents a bridge between the oversized cars of the ‘70s and the front-wheel drive compacts of the ‘80s.
This well-preserved example is representative of the Malibu line, and is in remarkably original condition for its age. It’s hard to imagine what this car’s history has been – it is clearly well-driven, but nearly free of visible damage, and virtually intact, right down to the original AM radio.
When General Motors overhauled its mid-size cars in 1978, the process represented GM’s second round of downsizing, one year after its full-size cars went through a similar process. For these mid-size cars (initially called the A-body cars, but later changed to the G-bodies), the same formula was followed as was done for their larger cousins – reduce exterior dimensions, but keep interior size close to the same. This goal was largely achieved, with the newer cars shedding over 600 pounds, but maintaining most measurements of interior size.
The late 1970s and early 1980s were marked by a rapidly changing car market, brought about by economic turmoil, with wildly fluctuating oil prices and interest rates. As a result, it was very difficult for automakers to predict what buyers would be looking for a year or two in the future. In such an environment, it was best to play it safe, and while taking a big chance regarding downsizing, GM played it safe with the Malibu’s design and powertrain. One big gamble at a time was enough.
The end result was a conservatively-styled but handsome sedan, wagon and coupe that wound up being the same size as a Mercedes-Benz W123 – a coincidence that was probably not unintentional. Like with GM’s full-size cars, extra size and weight were shed by trimming unneeded space – reducing the dashboard’s depth, trimming down seat thickness, and making door panels slimmer. This last effort resulted (according to GM) in one of the G-cars’ most memorable characteristics – rear door windows that were fixed, with no ability to raise or lower.
Buyers seemed not to care much about the rear windows, though. In 1978 and ‘79 alone, the Malibu sold nearly 800,000 copies, and it quickly became another seeming success story in GM “right sizing.” Like many other cars of its era, the Malibu was offered in sedan, wagon and coupe configurations. Something unusual about the Malibu was that in those first two years, coupes accounted for one-third of all Malibu sales. This proportion dropped dramatically starting in 1980, however, and by 1982 the coupe was dropped from the Malibu line altogether (sales were likely lost to its fellow Chevy G-body coupe, the Monte Carlo). The wagon faced similar troubles, with Malibu wagon sales dropping by 50% between 1980 and 1981. Intriguingly, sedan sales remained relatively constant throughout the first four years of production, always hitting between 141,000 and 163,000 units. Ironically, three decades later, the sedans appear to be the rarest-seen of all three body styles.
The final blow to the Malibu’s sales success came in 1982 with the introduction of GM’s new A-body cars, including the Chevrolet Celebrity. At first, GM was unsure whether buyers would accept a front-wheel drive mid-size sedan, so the Malibu was kept in production as a ‘safe choice’ alongside the more pioneering Celebrity. Initially, Malibu sales were stronger than the front-wheel drive newcomer, but eventually buyers warmed up to the smaller 4- and 6-cylinder Celebrity. After two years of side-by-side sales, it was clear that the Celebrity won the battle, and the Malibu was taken out of production after 1983.
One curiosity about Chevy’s showroom dynamics from our featured year of 1981 is that Malibus were generally selling at about the same price (or less) than the smaller Citation. The dealer ad above reflects this phenomenon, but it was far from the only ad of its sort. Despite the Citation being widely reviled today, it caused quite a stir when introduced in 1980 (“The First Chevy of the ‘80s!”), and high demand for the compact X-cars lingered into 1981, before buyers became aware of the Citation’s many faults. Consumer interest in Malibus was waning in 1981, and while sales were still relatively robust, many of those sales came at the expense of heavy discounting and marketing to fleets. It is likely that in 1981, many would-be Malibu buyers were steered instead to other GM products… and it’s equally likely that those buyers who chose a Citation regretted that decision rather quickly.
For 1981, Chevy tried to inject some more interest in the Malibu line by giving it a modest makeover. The main feature of this update was a more formal, upright roofline for sedans that provided slightly more rear headroom, and presaged many similar rooflines in GM cars over the following decade. It’s debatable whether the new roofline was really an aesthetic improvement; the original sloping rear-window and C-pillar window provided a graceful, airy look that the ’81 cars lacked. But it underscored the Malibu’s niche as a traditional choice over more daring newcomers. The 1981 update also included a new “horizontal design” grille, restyled headlights and taillights, as well as a new instrument cluster, and other minor features.
This featured car is a 1981 Malibu Classic sedan, with the Classic being the higher-end version of the Malibu. The Classic added a variety of relatively minor appearance and convenience touches to the base Malibu such as a hood ornament, upgraded interior door panels, and additional chrome trim pieces, and carried a starting price of $7,074 ($343 more than the base model, but 57% of ’81 Malibu sedan buyers opted for the Classic trim).
Aside from an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and the AM radio, this car appears to have no other significant options. (There was no standard radio in 1981 Malibus; the AM radio was a $90 option.)
Cars of the early 1980s may not have had the build quality or performance capabilities of modern cars, but there is an area where they excelled – color options. Customers could order an ’81 Malibu in one of 14 colors, not to mention 7 available two-tone paint combinations, 7 available vinyl roof colors, and 6 interior colors. By comparison, a 2015 Malibu LTZ comes in only 9 exterior and 2 interior colors… so much for progress! This particular car features champagne metallic paint with a matching champagne vinyl interior. The car still appears to have its original paint, which is in excellent shape for a 34-year-old car.
This Malibu was likely equipped with the standard 3.8L V-6, although an optional 4.4L V-8 was available as well. In its day, the V-6’s 110 horsepower sufficiently powered the 3,138-pound car, though describing it as “peppy” (as Chevrolet did its 1981 advertisements) was perhaps an exaggeration.
The Malibu did still have some showroom life after this car was produced in 1981. In 1982, a new front end was added, featuring more modern-looking quad headlights. However, with sales sluggish in the face of new front-wheel drive competition, the Malibu was living on borrowed time. It managed to make it through the 1983 model year before being discontinued.
Oddly, most other G-body cars had considerably longer life spans. The nearly identical Buick Regal sedan continued until 1984, the Pontiac Bonneville survived until 1986 and Oldsmobile’s Cutlass Supreme soldiered on through 1987. Meanwhile the G-body coupes (Monte Carlo, etc.), as well as the El Camino, all made it through to 1987.
The longest-living element to our story is the Malibu name itself, which was resurrected in 1997, and is now in its fourth (soon to be fifth) generation since its reintroduction. But despite its perhaps unmemorable styling, the 1978-83 Malibu served an important function for GM and for car buyers in general. Instead of a revolutionary car, it was a transitional one – a halfway point between the excessively large and ponderous sedans of the 1970s to the smaller and front-drive cars that emerged in the 1980s. Thanks to the Malibu, that transition went fairly smoothly – and for a company that often bungled new-car introductions, that is a meaningful success. Not a bad badge of honor for a wallflower.
The two door Maibus were cool looking cars, the four door were a weird combo of utterly generic and fugly at the same time. Not an easy combo to accomplish.
One thing I do remember, and it baffled me when I read a contemporary road test back in the late 70s: You could not roll the rear windows down, right? Fresh air for rear passengers came through those little windows (dont know what they´re called). Did they do that in order to save money? Hardly in order to save weight, huh?
As a 10 year old my mind was ticking way….what would I do in case of an accident when the doors got jammed? Squeeze myself throught that tiny window?
Anyways….I always liked its styling. Especially in two tone blue metallic paint. Always regarded it as the smaller, sleaker sister of the Caprice Classic.
Hip room, as those cars are still fairly wide inside compared to modern cars.
hip room,? seriously? I always thought that people were still sleek and slender back in the 70s 😉
Well, I can’t say people are sleek back then but it was still common to stuff three kids/teens on the backseats at the time. Nowadays it barely happens anymore.
Good point. It seems today anybody with children is somehow forced to buy a CUV, an SUV, or a minivan. Heaven forbid three children sit together…it might be CRAMPED…their precious little behinds might touch each other! Not enough cup holders! No individual video screens! E Gads!
The era of Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds, While the “waif” look hit “hippies” in the ’60s and whatever the “hip” thing was called in the ’90s, Most people in the late ’70s were about the same size they were in the late ’50s.
The new Citroen Cactus also has rear windows that don’t roll down into the door. They’re like vent windows that pivot at the front and open slightly at the rear (more like the 3rd-row windows in minivans).
right David. You see that often in very small cars with 4 doors nowadays. There would be not enough space for the windows to submerge into. instead they have windows to “tilt” open just a bit.
Yes, very common in the past. Our 3-door Simca 1100 had them too.
That would have to go down with Fiat Rustica as being one of the most unfortunately-named European cars ever.
….and of course Citroën’s clown duo Jumpy & Jumper.
Maybe its just me, but if you have kids in the backseat, you really don’t want them putting the windows down, and if you want to put adults in the backseat, you probably should have a Caprice.
thats why they have kids safety locks for the rear power windows since the 70s, Dan! 😉
er…provided you have power windows, of course 😉
Or the Nova which was still available for 1978-79 and had rolling rear windows on the 4 Door Sedan version. Also at a much bargain price hundreds of dollars cheaper which separated the 1978-79 Nova Custom 4 Door Sedan with 350 cu. in V8 engine compared to the plain 1978-79 base Malibu 4 Door Sedan with 200 cu in V6 engine.
Amusingly, the fixed rear windows seem to be the one feature that folks remember about G-body sedans nowadays.
I found this excerpt from an interview with GM Executive VP F. James McDonald from 1977, explaining the choice to fix the rear windows:
“He defended the fixed rear windows vigorously, arguing that most rear door windows now don’t roll down completely, the new method substantially increases rear seat room, and occupant vision is also improved.”
I don’t understand the rear vision argument, but the rear door panels are carved out significantly, so there is a grain of truth to the hip-room theory. In any event, it was probably a mixture of that, and, of course, cost savings.
It didn’t seem to hurt sales, though, and I figure if GM thought that sales were suffering as a result, they would have included roll-down windows in the 1981 update. On the other hand, GM didn’t incorporate this “new method” in any other car, so I think the flak they received outweighed whatever benefits there were from using fixed windows.
he´s got a point there.
The strongest argument yet would have been to point out, that most Malibus would be equipped with A/C which is why rear windows wouldnt get rolled down anyway (rarely used power window mechanisms sooner or later stiffen up and break).
It was possible to get some air in the back of the downsized A bodies. They all had pop-out vent windows behind the main rear door glass. And in at least some of them, if you got power windows, the pop out windows were power operated, too.
That was small consolation when the A/C gave out, as it eventually did in our ’79 Cutlass Salon, but it was better than nothing.
those pop-out vent windows were usually always on the front side windows and very popular with smokers as the drag would virtually suck out the smoke from the interior….
Actually, I’m describing something else.
You’re talking about the Ventiplanes(TM) on the front doors that swung about 270 degrees. Those were a great way to get a lot of fresh air into a car with no A/C. I’d love to be able to get those on a new car.
The rear vent windows on the A bodies only popped out 10-15 degrees, just to give air a way to escape the rear of the passenger compartment. They didn’t do much, but they were better than nothing.
Karl, we were talking about the same thing.
I was just digressing.
Malibu´s rear pop-out windows with their triangular shape just reminded me of those ventiplanes.
My Opel Senator has the same type of additional window as Malibu, but cant be opened.
I wonder how many Malibu Classic Coupes came with a power operated skyroof?
At least in the northeast, most Malibus did NOT have a/c.
I beg to differ. Dealers rarely ordered cars for stock without A/C, and only ordered them without radios so they could install their own. If you wanted a car without A/C, you’d have to either order it or have your sales rep make a bunch of phone calls to find one.
My uncle had an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme from this era with the fixed rear windows. The vent window in the Olds could be opened electrically, which was little consolation to me as a rear seat passenger. There was very little air circulation in the back seat even with the vent window open and I had to beg him to turn up the A/C and position the vents so fresh air could eventually make its way to the rear compartment.
In addition to the rear windows being fixed, the lap belts in these cars did not have inertia reels. They ratcheted down on your stomach as you breathed and did not have any give. Therefore, any trip from the Olive Garden with a full stomach became a very unpleasant ride. I also remember the rear cushion to be short and thinly padded which added to the utter misery of being a rear seat passenger in this car. My uncle also had a large dog he placed in the back seat during road trips which slobbered all over the rear window since it could not stick its head out. Riding in this car was outright punishment akin to being placed in the back of a police cruiser as you were taken to the county jail for booking. These nefarious experiences as a kid have turned me off to GM cars even to this day. I imagine there were a lot of fights and arguments between kids and parents of these cars regarding climate control in those days.
We had a 1980 Buick Century Sedan in our family.
Yes, it did take a bit of getting used to the rear windows not opening up; I guess there was a bit of extra elbow room carved out of the door panels. I don’t know about occupant vision – as this was the more formal roofline modeled after the Seville so the thick C-pillar limited rear visibility. This wasn’t true of the short-lived Aeroback sedans prior to 1980.
Good thing we got that instead of the X-car just introduced – the car lasted a long time in our family (over 14 years). OK fuel economy for the time with the venerable Buick 3.8L V-6 – about 18-19 mpg in the city, up to 25-26 mpg on long highway trips.
My 81, Maroon on maroon metallic, 4dr 3.8v6 had rear crank windows but they only rolled down half way, mine also had front and rear wing windows, in front of the front windows and behind the rear windows
And we haven’t heard from Zackman yet?
No I don’t think GM did it to save money. The reason that the windows on the rear doors were fixed and unmoving is due to the fact the back doors are much smaller then the front doors to allow the driver and front passenger to enter and exit in comfort..
Since they could not lengthen the car or move the rear wheels back a few inches in order to achieve, they made the rear doors smaller and were not able to accommodate the internals needed to open and close the windows. Instead they added rear vent windows. On the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac G body sedans there was a power rear vent window option but I am not sure about if it was offered by in the Bu
The Malibu definitely had the power rear vents as an option. I distinctly remember the noise they made in my mother’s 1982.
She traded in a ’75 Charger SE to buy that Malibu new, and it served our growing family for 12 years before that 229 finally gave up. Donated it to the local FD for training purposes, and boy was it fun watching them cut that Malibu up.
“bhhwhhurr. bhhwhhurr.” Engraved into my memory, those power vent windows.
As has been mentioned here many times before the reason for the fixed rear windows was to provide as much width for the passengers as possible. The armrest area is inside the door structure. Yes they saved some money in doing so too. It was not because they couldn’t make a roll down window. By this time GM was switching to windows that only rolled down half way in the back seat if they rolled down that is. That was done because the entire window wouldn’t fit all the way down in the first cars they did it in but GM sold it as a safety feature for the kids in the back seat.
As soon as I saw this article I knew one of the first comments would be regarding the windows. I lived with them for the vast majority of my childhood–my Mom got a ’79 Malibu when I was 6 years old, and it was our main family car for the next 10 years–and it didn’t bother me. Because the car had A/C, and when it went out, it was repaired. If there had been no A/C it would have been pretty unpleasant so I guess I can understand some of the vitriol though…
About the non rolling down rear windows, Police corps appreciate this feature.
Pré ’81 have roll down rear windows
I owned one of these during 6-8 months. Complete with botched repaint and nice touches of rust (some of these with holes in the body…), sagging headliner held in place with sewing pins, a badly repaired door, missing trim, etc.
But I loved that car.
It had the 3.8 litres V6. I could say it was “peppy” but it was definitely lively. It had enough power to climb hills without slowing and keep 80 mph forever on highways. Most important thing, it had enough low end torque to win redlight drag races. Last but not least, it had that characteristic V8 growl when the engine was idling.
Though, I must admit that every anti-smog paraphernalia had been removed by the previous owner.
Brakes and handling were good too and the TH-200 was as smooth as silk.
I sold it because the body was in really bad shape. The driver’s door wouldn’t fit completely so it was raining in the car.
But it was my first shot at american cars which are some kind of a drug. Once you’ve tried it, it’s hard to let go.
It looks like a giant in a European street.
it looks like it carries an F for France on the front registration plate…
it does even now…so can you imagine what it must have looked like compared to 70s cars? in France? Where they all drive Renault R5 ? ( I exaggerate)
Yes. Must be really a challenge to find parking spots in Paris – which is my guess of the location – looking at the background, and the car behind it with a plate that ends in “75”.
Right, I live in Paris.
It might seem odd, but I found the Malibu to be quite nimble in the crowded streets of Paris.
Because of automatic transmission and low end torque, I was always in the “right” range of power. No downshift needed, no clutch to work. Add that to overassisted steering and I found myself easily zipping through cars and traffic.
And parking spots are just a matter of time of arriving. Near my working place, it’s easy to park an 18-wheeler in forward gear if you arrive before 9 am. After 9:15 am, it’s difficult to find a spot big enough for a child’s scooter…
And that was a downsized intermediate!
chrome wheel arc applications as thick as they were after market items 😉
Yeah, Drooping Headliner Syndrome eventually afflicted all of these, especially if you parked in the sun a lot. The headliners were backed with a soft, black foam rubber that dried out and turned to dust. Nothing that strategically-placed thumbtacks couldn’t resolve, though.
My 1990 TransSport eventually had the headliner droop like pretty much every old car with the fuzzy cloth over molded foam. On a previous Horizon I slashed it here and there and sprayed a lot of spray mount in there. One version of Dupont spray mount even mentions headliners. Worked on the Horizon, but the nothing would stick on the black GM stuff. I used long staples in a staple gun. Classy.
“the TH-200 was as smooth as silk.”
That might be the only compliment I’ve ever seen regarding the Metric 200!
Great comments, nice to read mostly positives about the car for a change, and someone who enjoyed the car in Paris France – I admire going against the grain. Some folks primary concern about a car is getting from one place to another in comfort, not impress others. Those who do are ironically more unique from the drivers of cookie cutter “sports sedans” and “luxury SUVs”. My first car was a ’81 four door “Classic”. I must have bought it ’91. It was originally two-toned, light and dark jade green. I got a cheap one-tone jade green color, which sadly had some “orange peel” effects to it. I worked on a military base – driving in onto base it already felt like I was in a tank; it looked more solid than the military police cruisers of the time. Others can say what they want about the car, but it was solid. It was kind of my “Christine” at the time.B-)
”characteristic V8 growl” avec le V-6 3.8 ??? Cela ne fait pas de sens .
I’m surprised at how often that owner waxes the car, as the wax is excessive enough to fill up many gaps between the panels and badges.
This generation of Malibu is the ultimate basic daily transportation. There are three of them hanging around regularly here, 1st one stays in a small town in northern Michigan as I spotted here. Second one is owned by a hippiester in Ferndale, Mi with full body of stickers. Third one always stays on 9 Mile Rd next to a Ford Fairmont coupe.
The one from northern Michigan is very basic so the owner put two speakers on the dashboard ( probably it doesn’t come with any radio from the factory ) and I am not sure if it comes with the AC ( as I recall they all came with the vents on dash On Chrysler F-Body, the vents were saved for those without AC )
If it has a lacquer paint job, frequent waxing is not a bad idea.
Unprotected lacquer paint oxidized and got hazy, and it was softer than acrylic paints, which made it vulnerable to chips.
A regular coat of Turtle Wax had two benefits. The mild abrasive in the paste would strip off the oxidation. Then the coat of wax put a layer of protection on top of the paint for as long as it lasted (which was never nearly as long as the wax companies promised).
But GM may have already switched Chevrolets to acrylic paint by 1981. I know that when got a repaired fender repainted on our 1979 Cutlass, the guy in the paint shop said Chevrolets and Pontiacs were getting acrylic paint, with Olds, Buick and Cadillac sticking with lacquer at that time.
I meant say enamel paint instead of acrylic above.
This ’81 Chevy probably has an enamel paint job.
Thats odd enamel was ditched in favour of acrylic laquer in the late 50s out here two pack came in during the late 80s early 90s and water borne paint was introduced more recently
They all did have the vents, and even if it had a factory radio fitted, the sound was provided by a single 4×10 speaker mounted dead center in the top of the dash. No stereo sound or multi-speaker option that I’m aware of. So upgrading to two or four speakers is part of fitting a modern stereo system…on my ’79 I replaced the one 4×10 with two 4″ round speakers in the same center mounting, and added two 5x7s mounted in the rear parcel shelf.
They did have a AM-FM stereo option for 78-83 and also a rear speaker option for 78-83
The rear speaker option was UX6 and in 1979 it was $21.00. This speaker option was not available with the base AM radio
1979 Malibu Info Kit
1980 Malibu Info kit
1981 Info kit
I had a 1980 Malibu that came with single mono front speaker and AM radio.
I got the radio, blue radio connector, black speaker connectors and speaker mounting brackets from a 1982 Caprice in the junk yard
I ran all the wires to the trunk and mounted two NOS Audiovox SPS GM plug and play speakers(this was 1997) and all was good
The dash/crash pad on those cars was one piece which meant there were two different dash assemblies used – one for AM or no radio and another with holes at each end for the various stereo options. The front speakers on the stereo cars could be easily replaced by popping off the speaker grilles. The AM speaker was buried in the top of the dash.
My mom had an 81 she bought from a friend named Sally. She dubbed the silver sedan Sally Gray. I immediately put in radio and speakers that quickly got stolen. Thieves got in using the vent windows to pop open the rear door. Although it lacked charm, that car got me to lots of places in high school, and had decent acceleration with the 6.
Someone near here has a Monte Carlo of this vintage (in at least cosmetically good shape), but I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these. For an American sedan of its time, it’s completely inoffensive in execution, but man, is it dorky-looking. The ’77 B-bodies were actually a fairly handsome design — it took me a long time to come around on that because it was so dulled by ubiquity (and a strong association with police cars), but it was a pretty deft effort. The Malibu just looks awkwardly proportioned.
I think the root of its problem is that the small wheels look lost in the wheelhouses; it’s not as noticeable in profile, but from any front or rear angle, one gets the impression of somebody wearing a hat about three sizes too big. The B-body cues don’t help, losing the bigger car’s confident stance and just adding to the “kid wearing their father’s clothes” vibe.
“dulled by ubiquity”..thats a good phrase…
In Europe back in those days a Malibu was a shiny, glamorous appearance 😉
Granted, the Classic does have enough brightwork to chrome some European automakers’ entire annual production…
and also in 70s Europe you would hardly see any two tone painted cars or cars still sporting white wall tires around anymore.
One again, I don’t think I can ever get past the rear window thing. Probably one of the worst ways to save a few bucks and a few pounds of weight.
I do like the styling of these cars though, both pre- and post-facelift. If I had my pick though, I’d go for the Bonneville G sedan. I like the front clip.
I agree about the Bonnevilles — I think the mid-80s Bonneville is the best-looking of the G-sedans, both interior and exterior.
Always thought the 1982-86 Bonneville’s were the best looking G-body sedans, especially when equipped with those snow flake alloys or the Rally IV’s.
I’m pretty sure Vic Mackey rolled in one of those Bonnevilles in Season Three of The Shield, a burgundy one.
Well, you’ve found my Driver’s Ed car! Actually not quite, as I wasn’t blessed with the Classic trim for my first forays behind the wheel. But otherwise the car is seemingly identical, down to the bizarre “Champagne” color (we called it “Puke”). So my memories of this car will always be tied to it being just a ho-hum fleet car, which I imagine is how the majority of the ’81 Malibu sedan production was used, accounting for their near non-existence today.
Funny… here in Virginia, the Fairfax County Public Schools have a fleet of champagne-colored 2004-07 Malibus that are used for Driver’s Ed. Some things never change.
When I took driver’s ed in the early ’80s (W.T.W. class of ’84 here) the FCPS fleet was a bunch of bloated, refrigerator-white, base-model ’72+ Torinos. Awful cars. I guess they figured if you could pilot one of those beached whales safely, you could drive anything.
I thought those Malibus were the perfect size car and the perfect design for the times, but the back door fixed glass killed buying one for us.
By that time, I had grudgingly accepted fixed glass on coupes, but on sedans? NEVER!
Too bad, because Chevy lost us as a customer until 2004.
How I miss having the color choices that were available back about this car’s time. Only 1 shade of grey, 2 shades of red and 2 of blue, but THREE shades of beige/brown…..so 80s.
In this area, the “specialty” coupes are more prevalent than any of the other body styles followed by the 2 door sedans, the 4 door and wagon are never seen. The more mainstream models were seen as “tools” and were discarded when they got used up.
“Honoring our newest President, Ronald Reagan. Own a car driven for his inauguration.”
Ah, yes. I remember well Reagan arriving to take the oath of office in an ’81 Monte Carlo.
Words are such a fickle thing. “Driven at his inauguration” would only be true provided there was an ’81 Chevy in the inaugural parade. “Driven for his inauguration” means absolutely nothing. Since I bought my car on 31 Dec, does that mean it was “driven for the new year”?
I suspect the ’80 Caprice demos (“5 at this price!”) may have been used to ferry around midlevel hangers-on.
The station wagon version was hugely popular as a “Mommy Mobile”. I’ll bet I can name at least a dozen people who had them. Baby blue seemed to be to color of choice but the various tans also had a following. They had a lot to recommend them too: cheap to buy and operate, functional, relatively durable and reliable for the times, etc.
Everybody wants to complain about the rear windows not rolling down but I will be market research showed how rarely they were ever actually used. Seems to me that the weight and cost savings were probably really worth the tradeoff.
Th Malibu was gone by 1984 when the Plymouth/Dodge minivan came out. As we all know young families flocked to these. I will bet that GM saw the minivan coming and knew there was no future for the Malibu wagon so they let it die.
I’d go so far as to suggest that the late seventies’ Malibu wagon was the first major casualty of Chrysler’s minivan success. FWIW, the famous, troubled television news anchor Jessica Savitch drowned in the Oldsmobile Cutlass version of the Malibu wagon when it flipped over in four feet of muddy water.
As to the necessity of roll-down rear windows, while research might show that they’re not used all that much, they’re one of those things that when they ‘are’ wanted, people really want them. The biggest time would be, as someone else mentioned, when the A/C went out. IOW, it’s the old ‘we may not need or use them all that much, but we still sure as hell want them, anyway’.
Someone with more engineering knowledge than me can correct, but I think the point has been rendered moot by the almost universal application of thinner power window motors. I say this only because ubër-cheap stuff like the Chevy Spark comes ‘standard’ with power windows.
I’m not against the minivan. I think they are good vehicles. I had a 1987 Mitsubishi van my dad and I used to transport candy and soda pop for various vending machines. So I don’t want to knock the minivan.
However, I also believe that the station wagon is a good car and should not have been discontinued from the model line-up.
Dropping the A/G-body wagons had nothing to do with the Chrysler minivans:
–The RWD A/G-body wagons weren’t simply dropped. They were replaced by the FWD A-body wagons.
–The changeover from the RWD A/G-body wagons to the FWD A-body wagons happened in the same model year the Chrysler minivans were introduced (1984), and before they were introduced no one knew what a hit the minivans were going to be.
–It had probably been planned a few years in advance that the RWD A/G-body wagons would be replaced by the FWD A-body wagons in 1984, minivans or no minivans. The FWD A-bodies debuted for 1982, but didn’t have wagons at first. The A-/G-body wagons remained in production until the FWD A-body wagons were ready, then the A/G-body wagons were dropped.
GM dropped the A/G RWD wagons in favor of the FWD A body family versions. GM and Ford were bringing out the Astro and Aerostar to counter Chryslers minivans.
Also, the rear door windows rolled down on FWD A, J and X cars.
“Intriguingly, sedan sales remained relatively constant throughout the first four years of production, always hitting between 141,000 and 163,000 units.”
Might be intriguing, but not surprising, given how many of these I saw as a newly-licensed driver back in 1980:
These were introduced in the Chevy police car line-up to replace the former very well received 9C1 Nova’s. The Malibu’s never did seem to live up to the former Nova’s, although they were noted to be very agile good handling police cars. I knew a former cop who was working when these cars came out as police cars. He said they were had excellent handling and were great in an urban environment.
I was surprised to see that noted in the article. I knew that Malibu sales dropped off in 1980 due to the second energy crisis and the recession that it led to; the recession caused a lot of people to postpone buying a new car, and those that did gravitated towards smaller, more fuel-efficient models. But I had never realized that the decline in Malibu sales was almost entirely in the coupe and wagon, with the sedan holding up fairly well.
One possible explanation, which ‘Tomcat630’ alludes to further down the thread: buyers fleeing the A-bodies for smaller cars may have been replaced to some degree by other buyers moving down from the B-bodies. And those buyers may have been predominantly sedan buyers (including many fleet buyers).
The sedans were very popular as fleet cars. At one point growing up there were three Malibus in the immediate vicinity of our house. My mom’s car (’78 Classic coupe which would become my first car), a ’78 sedan which the pharmaceutical rep across the street had for a company car, and a ’79 sedan that the copier repairman next door had as his company ride.
Good thing the neighborhood was pretty safe, as the contents of those trunks were very valuable. One full of tools and electronic test equipment, the other full of Demerol samples!
The light jade green/jade green two-tone looked (and sold) great on the Malibu and all GM models that it was offered on. My avatar Catalina would have looked even better in two-tone.
I had a friend in high school who had the Pontiac version of this car (LeMans, if I recall correctly). Medium silver coupe, he put a built 350 in it. It was a great sleeper.
According to Wiki Pontiac made G-Bodies under the LeMans, Grand LeMans, Grand Prix, Grand Am and Bonneville nameplates. Talk about diluting the brand.
Let’s compare this car to the Granada we saw yesterday. First we should commend the owners of both cars for keeping their cars up so well. The care they showed allow us to ponder such silly questions so many years later.
At the time and mostly since, the extra chrome, sound deadening and plastic wood of the Granada was sneered at, by the hipper among us as gingerbread or fake luxury. Lido is putting one over on you, you chump from fly over country. Well this Malibu took their advise. The chrome is mostly gone and the interior is quite spartan. The front end has been shortened for the slightly more efficient but far rougher V6. Each car is ready to give you a very long service life. But look these two same size/same price cars over, where would you want to spend the next 35 years. Here are some numbers from automobilecatalog.com to ponder.
Granada 250 inline 6 90hp 17.0 0-60 3291 curb weight 15.3 mpg 92mph top speed
Malibu 229 v6 105hp 15.0 0-60 3179 curb weight 17.2 mpg 99mph top speed
I would pick the Granada, how about you?
I think a good combination of options would have been the Malibu with the optional V-8 and the F41 sport suspension (larger sway bars, etc.). Equipped that way, the Malibu was quite a nice car to drive.
That said, the Grenada was certainly more luxurious-feeling, and (in my opinion) more substantial looking as well, so I can see your point about choosing the Grenada.
This brings up discussions my high school friend and I used to have regarding these two cars. He had a 1980 red/orange Granada in base trim with the 250 six. We also acquired a nice lower mileage 1981 Malibu Classic just like in this very well written article in our dealership during the early 90’s with 66K miles, the base 229 V6, A/C, two tone champagne/cream paint, split bench seating, F-41 suspension and Am/FM stereo. His Granada had none of those things. Not even a radio. Comparing both cars found the good and the bad in each. The 229 six was surprisingly peppy in this car, not surprising since it just had a tune up and carb rebuild right before we got it according to paperwork. It idled pretty smooth but had that characteristic throb off idle. It also pulled this car up to speed pretty well for the time. The Granada was noticeably slower. But the 250 was smoother and quieter. Still those 90 horses struggled mightily with the over 3300 LB curbweight. 1980 229 V6’s made 115 horses. 1981-84 versions made 110 which was still 20 more than the Ford also dealing with less weight. We stop watch timed his car at 16 seconds 0-60 and the Malibu was 13.5.
Mileage was actually not all that different between the two but the Malibu did get a little better on the highway and combined. His best highway trip mileage worked out to 24. The Malibu on the same trip to PA achieved 25.5.
The one area where the Malibu was a clear winner was ride and handling. The Granada was smooth enough but soggy and flaccid with limp over assisted steering- a leftover from the early 70’s. The Chevy felt spry and lively in comparison and much tighter. Note that this car had the F-41 suspension upgrade which was probably not typical during this time era on V6 cars.
The Malibu loses points on the fixed rear window and an interior that can best be described as spartan. The A/C did help though and the rear vent windows did scoop in some fresh air. The Granada felt a little tighter inside but that could be in part to the higher belt line. Both cars had reasonably comfortable front seats(much better than my 1979 Fairmoint) with the Malibu gaining a few points for offering a split bench as apposed to the Ford’s solid bench. Note that both cars also offered bucket seats which were preferable to the bench seats.
In exterior styling the Ford looks older with all of it’s tacked on trim and chrome. The Malibu’s 1980’s formal upright look to my eye looks fresher to this day though I admit both cars look a bit bland.
If forced to choose make mine a 1980 2 door Malibu coupe with 305 4BBL, bucket seats, F-41, rally wheels and gauges along with A/C. A combo like this today would sell for pretty good money and it’s surprising how much a Malibu coupe goes for now.
If the choice was a sedan i would still choose the Malibu but only with the optional V8, suspension upgrade, A/C and upgraded seats. The two-tone paint and rally wheels also spiced up the exterior.
The performance gap you report between the 250 & the Chevy V6 is shocking. GM V6s had a clear advantage over Ford’s 200 & 250 dogs. This was why Pop Sci rejected the 250 Granada & chose the 302 instead as a fairer match against the Mercedes 280, which they unsurprisingly remarked was still “plain more efficient.”
Three words for Ford: Aussie Crossflow Head.
Joe that is an interesting comparison.
It would be fun to see more posts here done in a comparison style. Although, I suppose, old magazines are available for that.
That’s actually a good point in that the Malibu and Granada were, to some degree, direct competitors. The Granada is a little smaller, but the next car up in Ford’s lineup for the first two years of this Malibu generation was the enormous LTD II, so the Granada probably makes more sense.
I can’t really claim impartial participation in the choice though, as the two Malibus I’ve owned bias me just a bit…
And again, maybe this is the bias talking, but the styling is the biggest thing for me. The Granada was always very fussy-looking; very much Lido’s mini-brougham. The proportions weren’t great, the details were a little baroque, and just in general the styling never did anything for me. Compared to the Malibu’s design, which was clean, well-proportioned, and free of excessive ornamentation, it was night and day. Especially with the earlier six-window roofline, I still to this day think it’s a good-looking car.
During this era, the Big Three were no longer marching in lockstep when it came to revamping their product lines. It wasn’t like the mid-1960s, when all three rolled out all-new big cars for 1965, followed by heavily revamped intermediates for the 1966 model year.
GM got the jump on everyone else when it came to downsizing. While the Granada may seem like a competitor to the Malibu based on size and some specifications, I’d bet that the Malibu was more expensive than the Granada.
For example, there was a roughly $630 base price differential between the Malibu and Fairmont, which, adjusted for inflation, is over $2,200 dollars today. That’s not exactly chump change.
Ford didn’t really roll out a true competitor to this Malibu until the debut of the Fox-based Granada for 1981.
Actually the Malibu was considerably cheaper.
Malibu sedan: $4276
Malibu Classic sedan: $4561
Granada base: $4782
Granada Ghia: $5157
They are certainly quite comparable in almost every way: wheelbase (109.9″ and 108″) size, engines, etc. But Ford was still pushing the Granada as a “premium” compact-mid sizer, and pricing it accordingly.
The Fairmont was more of a direct competitor to the low-end Malibu, which started at $3700, for a stripper four-cylinder.
Or more accurately, the Fairmont and Granada bracketed the Malibu.
And of course, Chevy had the Nova too, which price-wise right with the Fairmont. But the Nova was a longer car than the Malibu, so things were a bit fuzzy then.
Wow! Thanks for the accurate pricing information.
Based on that information, I’m surprised that Ford sold any Granadas in 1978, given that the car looked quite tired compared to both the Fairmont and the Malibu.
But it looked just like a Mercedes….and we all know that Mercedes are worth more 🙂
Things were fuzzy, but Nova and Fairmont were in same price/size class, just older classes.
While Ford still had huge “mid size LTD II” for 78-79, they were sales duds. Ford intermediate car buyers either got a T-Bird or Granada, shunning the II.
Interestingly enough, this Malibu and the Fairmont look more “European” in their overall design than the “designed-to-look-like-a-Mercedes” Granada.
In Europe at the time, Mercedes was commonly criticized for having such dowdy, conservative styling. Which led directly to the drastically different new look for the 190 and W124 E Class. Nobody in Europe was imitating Mercedes styling in the mid-70s.
Where I came from, Ford fielded the Fairmont (I6) and Zephyr (I4) to compete with the Malibu.
Having sat in the GM and blue oval ones, and seeing how cars from each OEM looked after 25+ years in service, I stick to my choice.
Actually I think the Mercedes comparisons are pretty silly, remember there were also ads comparing it to the Rabbit and the Seville. None to Volare or Nova the real early competition. The styling cues on the ESS were derivitive of the W114, long out of production by 1980. The ad I remember showed the W116, since the W114 was already gone. By 1980 I think even Mercedes was tired of the radiator shell grill, notice how it shrunk on the 190. I will still argue that a buyer seeking smoothness, quiet and comfort, was better off with a Granada. Performance would require a properly outfitted Malibu. Or realisticly on either one, aftermarket parts.
If anyone’s interested in tracking down the numbers, I’d be curious how these models compare in terms of interior room. The Nova, Granada and Fairmont (as well as the Chrysler F-bodies and M-bodies) were all using designs that had been conceived as compacts, even if some of them ended up being marketed as midsizes, while the Malibu (similar in size to most of the models just mentioned, aside from the Fairmont) had been designed from the ground up as a midsize.
All of this illustrates Geeber’s point that the GM, Ford and Chysler lineups didn’t match up as closely in this era as they had in the past, due to the different schedule each downsized on, and the different ways they handled downsizing (e.g., did they introduce a new midsize, or did they take a design originally intended to be a compact and call it a midsize?).
of those mentioned, my choice would probably be the Nova…2door version with 350 motor and 4speed.
As someone noted above, the Bonneville was a good looking car, much more attractive than the Granada.
I’d still go for the Ford though, an ESS with the Windsor Block/4 Speed Manual and the knit vinyl bucket seats. Strip off the crappy smog gear and put a proper 4V and dual exhaust on it and it would be a sweet sleeper.
What a reminder of the grim state of the automobile in 1980-82. I was in the second half of my college years then, and there was very little that really appealed to me at that time. It was the age of compromise, where we all had to accept less than we were used to. Only a decade earlier, cars had been stylish and powerful (if poorly built with a big fuel appetite). Cars like this were why I was happy to cruise the used car ads for clean older cars that could be had for under $1000 and were much more pleasant to drive.
That said, these later became a teeny bit attractive, like with a friend who got hold of a wagon with a 305.
It was around this time that less glamorous cars from the late 1950s and early 1960s started to grow in popularity as collector vehicles. During the 1970s, the only cars from the 1950s that people really collected were the 1955-57 Thunderbirds, 1955-57 Chevrolets, early Corvettes, the 1953-54 Studebaker coupes and the Edsel.
It was basically a reaction to cars like this Malibu.
Now the Malibu coupe is considered a collectible with an increasing number of reproduction parts available. Good restoration candidates are hard to find as many if not most of the survivors are only driven a quarter mile at a time.
I know, all-too-well, that feeling in 1980 when I had my first decent paying job and finally had the ability to buy a brand-new car. Trouble was, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot to choose from, particularly from the domestics. I ended up with a German-built Ford Fiesta in a funky peach color.
It just goes to show how influential the first generation Cadillac Seville was. Most sedans from G M for the next twenty years had that look.
I love when I spot a 80s Malibu station wagon at the drag strip.. with a huge Big Block chevy under the hood… badly twisting the body at every launch.
Alas, this article vastly plays down the horrible component designs and the poor build quality of these cars, particularly in the 1978 – 80 versions. The ‘V-6’ had no oomph at all, at load, with a/c, even with the new-fangled ‘AC-Cut-off’ design where the compressor turned off under heavy acceleration. Part of that was the poor quality of the vacuum switch for that feature which quickly began to leak, leaning out the mixture all the time…. and then permanently turning off the compressor so that you’d never be able to cool the rear seat with those silly little vent-windows. [That arm rest in the rear door was a recessed ledge INTO the door — it kept the rear seat open for three adults or four kids, but certainly prevented the installation of a window operator] Sadly, the number of plastic tubes used under the hood was great in those pre-electronic control days, yet these tubes could not take the harsh environment of the engine compartment. They, like the vacuum switches they were attached to, began to leak rather quickly, particularly after servicing the engine, furthering troubles with the iffy-engine controls, and the sapping the power of the engine even more.
Our ’78 went through two speedometer cables in the first year or so– nothing like that queer scraping sound of the cable tearing itself to bits behind the dash over the course of three months the give confidence to the motorist about the quality and safety of his new car. I can still hear it today, 35 years later…. along with the engine ping of the engine ‘designed’ to run on regular gas.
I can’t remember all the other problems, faults and issues that led to our getting rid of that beast in just a few years. When rolling along, it was a compliant drive, and a comfortable car. But everything that was needed to keep it going was awful.
When we couldn’t take it anymore, we went with a new 1982 Subaru sedan, which lasted the next 13 years….
Maybe your ’78 was an early car, leading to some of the quality control problems? Our ’79 certainly wasn’t perfect, especially in things like the quality of the interior trim, but that car gave our family 20 solid years of service, 174k miles, on the original engine and with the trans rebuilt only once.
Sadly I think the quality problems that were there, were typical of all the American manufacturers of the era.
Maybe it was the V-6. Ours had the 305 2bbl and with the exception of a pushrod that broke early on (fixed under warranty) and the leaky rear main seal late in its life (the car was in the family almost 11 years) it was quite reliable. Even the notorious THM200 on that car made it over 100K before it suddenly stopped shifting into 3rd one day. Quite a feat for a 200!
Dad had an 83, with the quad headlamps. Marine blue, with blue interior. Bought brand new, we picked it from the dealer. However, the instrument cluster was different, no horizontal speedo, no clock and lots of idiot lights.
If you got a Malibu Classic back then (81+), you got full instrumentation, clock, power everything, split front bench with headrests, cloth seats, radio cassette, dual bullet mirrors, vinyl roof, intermittent wipers and full wheel covers instead of the dog dish ones. Sort of a mini Caprice (GM’s top dog there).
I hated the vinyl rear seats, as they would scald your a$$ in a tropical country. However, I loved the ice cold A/C… for the few minutes it was on. Dad eventually reupholstered the thing in cloth (less than a year old) and life was much better.
He had a 78 before, but I don’t remember much about that one.
My uncle also had one, in two tone blue with light gray interior. That one had a story on its own.
The Malibu was THE car to have over there at that time, late 70’s/early 80’s. GM sold like 100K of them, making it the single most sold model in the country, a record it held for several years. Then the Chevette beat it, after that the Corsa and IIRC, the Corolla was on its way to claim the title.
Thanks for the memories.
what country are you referring to Athos?
LATAM, further (read way) down from the Rio Grande.
Yes the Malibu seems to have been very popular in Latin America.
Here is an old commercial
The irony is that most of these features on the Bu in the commercial, I have never seen on a Malibu here in the USA. Things like power rear vent windows and power antenna. Though they were an option on the USA market Malibu. Now my 1985 Olds Cutlass Supreme had power antenna and rear vent windows.
That must be a Mexican ad. Didn’t put the audio. We got Malibu Classic after the change to the formal roof.
The hubcaps are the same I saw. I didn’t remember the power antenna but it was probably there. The driver part of the split bench was definitely power and they were upholstered in velour. And yes, the rear door vents were electric.
Where I came from, the Malibu Classic was a luxury car, mind you not yet like a Caprice (top of the range car), but between 81 and 83 the need to have that option was there, as there were some economic and regulation developments that opened that gap: government introduced a no-V8 rule and the exchange rate collapsed.
I think the downsized Malibu took over where the Dodge Dart left, and by that time GM moved into what was the previous Chrysler site.
I remember now, antenna was printed in the windscreen as it was in the Caprice. Super cool, radio reception OTOH…
You’d think that they would have eventually figured out how to make an antenna set into glass work properly, and yet, no. I’ve had 3 cars set up that way (’79 and ’82 Malibus in the windshield, ’97 Crown Vic in the rear glass sharing the defroster grid) and it hasn’t gotten very good reception in any of the three.
At least you don’t have to spoil the profile with an antenna mast…
I had a 4Runner that had a second antenna in the passenger side rear cargo window. It was supposed to supplement the power antenna up front. I don’t know if it did much, but it was an interesting feature.
I had forgotten about the windshield antennas. They weren’t great, but they were neat.
My sister had one of these in college, can’t remember the year exactly but it was a 2-door. I believe it was decently reliable. Didn’t have a lot of power with the V6 but it wasn’t any worse than other cars of the period. It was as comfortable and smooth as a full size B body and the front seats nearly as roomy. All around nice car but not really to my taste…or my sister’s.
I always disliked the ’81 restyle which replaced the lithe 6 window greenhouse with the plodgy formal roofline. This was probably somebody’s grandmother’s car, it has that look to it.
The same. Those Any Brand Corporation tail lights, roof line and of course the fixed rear windows kill it for me.
Nice to not have to look at, bump into or be hemmed in by a stupid oversize console, but the 78 would be the one to have. The re-style was a step backward. All the interesting details [grille, tail lights, quarter window] of the 78 were thrown out to build an anonymous and generic “Car”.
Yes! Especially since it was probably intended for Buick-Olds and should’ve stayed there. Done on the cheap, too – you can tell it was intended to use the existing wagon rear window frames.
My brother had the 2 door. What I remember the most was the sealed carb. He went thru 3 of them before he sold the car. The light weight made them good for late model stockers.
Which carb was that? I remember my Dad overhauling the carb on ours at some point in the mid ’80s. New seals, float, bimetal strip for the choke, the works. Rochester 2GC IIRC.
I’m not sure what exactly the “sealed carb” is either. What kind that was probably depends on the engine–both of mine (267 V8 ’79 and 229 V6 ’82) used Rochester Dual-Jet carbs, though of slightly different varieties. I found this out one day after trying to swap the carb off my stored ’79 onto the ’82 which needed a rebuild–several of the vacuum line connectors didn’t match, leading to predictably rough running and stalling.
I remember Car and Driver wrote up a brief, “sidebar” road test on a 1980 Malibu sedan, and concluded that it was better in many ways than a Citation. And this was before the bloom was off the X-car rose.
These cars had the right style and size. After the bloated Colonnades, these cars looked very neat and trim. They were certainly better-looking than the 1978-80 Monte Carlo.
Unfortunately, the vinyl and plastic interior trim pieces began to degrade after a few years, and the headliner was sure to begin sagging soon after that point. It was painfully apparent that eliminating the roll-down rear windows wasn’t the only way GM had cut costs on these cars.
The cost-cutting on the Malibu got so egregious that I’d go so far as to suggest it be considered for ‘Deadly Sin’ status. GM had always been a master at cutting costs but it went to ridiculous levels during Roger Smith’s reign (and, yeah, I know the Malibu was released before Smith became GM CEO).
The Malibu was one of those cars that seemed okay during the brief time a customer had to look it over before purchase, but afterwards, all the cheapness became apparent and was bad enough that the proud owner quickly started becoming convinced they’d been played for a fool.
There were surely many who switched to a much more solid Japanese car after owning a Malibu (although maybe not as many as former Citation owners).
A friend of mine who was a co-counselor at a camp we worked at had an ’82 Malibu sedan with the 231 V-6. At the time I had an old Volvo 240. I got to drive her car a few times.
Even though it had two fewer cylinders, the Volvo was noticeably faster off the line, and had way better top-end acceleration. (No joke)
The V6 cars actually got slower as the generations went on…probably had to do with saddling the cars with more emissions features and early computer control which came in with the ’81 models. Your comparison doesn’t surprise me at all–the one older 240 I’ve driven was peppier than I thought it would be, and my ’82 V6 Malibu was rather pokey.
The V8 cars were better, if not exactly stoplight drag terrors.
I owned two of those around 1988, both stationcars, both V6. Liked them a lot, roomy enough to sleep in after a party, and good enough drivers to go on a vacation to France with one of them. Never had any trouble with those.
I remember this generation Chevy Malibu. I loved the styling. I love the cars in this story. It’s refreshing to see a Malibu that hasn’t been “pimped” up or modified in any way. I’d buy one if the condition was right. I’d prefer either the 4 door sedan or the station wagon.
One notable thing about the rear vent window on the 78-80 vs the 81-83 cars was the newer style re-located the vent so it opened outwards enabling the air to be scooped in better than the older design that only opened from the rear part of the window by a slight amount. It was similar to the front vent windows that some Fords still used and many of the older cars. These worked well if you didn’t want air blasting in and just wanted some fresh air or removing some heat buildup. I prefer the 81-83 design, especially when they changed over to the Caprice like grille. It’s interesting to note that Chevy was going to move the Caprice name to the Malibu just as Pontiac did for the 1982 model year but B-body full size sales seemed to be picking up at Chevy so they kept delaying a model year until they realized that full size sales were actually picking up so the Malibu G-bod ywas dropped after 1983, the B-body Caprice kept until 1990 with a body re-designed planned to keep it fresh for several more years and the rest was history.
If I had to choose a G-body sedan it would be in the following order-
1) 1982-86 Bonneville
2) 1980-87 Cutlass
3) 1980-81 Century/1982-84 Regal
4) 1981-83 Malibu
We had a mint low mileage cream colored 1984 Regal sedan Limited with brown velour seats, loaded with all power options that I wanted real bad to keep at our former dealership. It had the rare 4.1 liter 4BBL V6 option tied to the 200R-4 transmission and 3.08 limited slip rear end. It also had automatic climate control which worked perfect, twilight headlamp sentinel, power seats on both sides and literally every option they offered. It was a NC car and we payed a pretty penny for it at the auction. That car drove like a dream, was super quiet on the highway, was really comfortable and the larger V6 felt like a V8 was under hood. We talk about that car to this day and really wished we didn’t sell it.
I distinctly remember my father renting one of these from Ugly Duckling sometime in the early 80s; I would have been 6-7. Faded GM yellow paint, and while pouring over the owner’s manual I was amazed to discover that the Malibu shared a similar dashboard as the (Sporty! Luxurious!) Monte Carlo. It was a simpler, more naïve time…
Back in 1981 my government ride was an ’81 base Malibu with the 9C1 police package and the 305 4 bbl. Fairly plain with auto, A/C, Am radio, but also had a full gauge cluster, rally wheels and whitewalls. No roll down rear windows though. I wrongly assumed the police package deleted them. I had no idea they all came that way.
Handled surprisingly well and fairly peppy for its time – far, far better than the 1978 LTD II it replaced. That LTD II was perhaps the worst handling car I’ve ever driven, but that’s a story for another day.
Lots of owners of big 71-76 Impalas traded in for 78-81 Malibus, including family members. Also, the Colonnade Chevelle Malibu was overstyled and smallish inside. The new A/G’s had room, mpg, and crisp 1964 Impala style that some missed at the time.
As mentioned, the G body personal lux coupes took more sales from the plainer Malibu and BOP 2 doors. Some of it was piricing. Why get the plain one when the Monte/etc can be had for a bit more?
Also, notice in the above ad for ‘new car liquidation’, there is a 1980 Caprice, offered for $2500 off, a lot then. Buyers shunned B bodies for a short time, 1980-81. But a year or two later, they came back.
My folks traded a ’72 LTD for our Malibu. I was nine years old and was along for the ride while they shopped for a new car in the fall of ’78. I don’t remember them even looking at a B-body even though they could afford a Caprice or a basic Bonneville. Biggest thing I remember them looking at was a hideous peach-colored LTD II.
I do remember them test driving several A-bodies. A drive in a V6 LeMans was all it took to sell Dad on a V8.
Anyone else remember the Iraqibu? Saddam Hussein ordered a pile of these equipped with the V6, 3spd and A/C that were built in Oshawa, Ont. I think they were supposed to be taxi cabs. He backed out of the deal and GM Canada had a glut of these things they unloaded on Canadian dealers. I imagine they had a pretty good discount, would have been a pretty good deal if you could handle the 3spd on the floor.
I remember a buddy bought one as a beater in the early 2000s, I thought it was a weird options combo until I got the Iraq story. The clutch pedals were highly prized by hot rodders, they facilitated swapping in a manual tranny to any G body. They never lasted long in the junkyard!
Here’s a link to a CC on the Malibu Iraqi Taxi. Pretty interesting, particularly that many of the comment contributors know the story, knew someone that had one, or outright owned one themselves:
We had an ad car 1981 Lemans sedan, beige with beige seats, 3 speed on the floor, no radio,no options of any kind….finally sold to a woman who came in for a T1000. Pretty unique car. Of course then we stocked all kinds of unique items :Grand Prix Diesels, Bonneville Diesels 🙂 , V-6 Formula Firebirds etc.
If you had been around back then you wouldn’t have said “unloaded on Canadian dealers”–every car was sold very quickly because they were discounted heavily–we called them Iraqi taxis–I had a nieghbour that had one as recently as 10 years ago. I really don’t understand anyone being critical of the downsized A Bodies, our family had a couple, they were perfect sized and none of them caused any trouble. As for the back windows going down this got me thinking–for 20 years minivans didn’t have roll down windows and we never missed them. I’ve had a Freestyle and Journey the last 10 years and I can’t remember my kids ever rolling down the rear windows.
Ya I’m not surprised they would have been snapped up pretty quick. I guess “unloaded” isn’t quite accurate.
I wouldn’t kick this one out of the driveway. It’s in good shape and will get okay mileage on a roadtrip. Might need to replace ALL the rubber hoses under the hood, tho – that would be a sucky weekend project.
I replaced all the vacuum hoses on my ’77 V8 Monza sometime back. Tedious and time-consuming, but not bad. I downloaded and printed the vacuum diagram from Autozone’s website, which made it a relative snap.
Right now I’m replacing all the vacuum hoses on my recently acquired 1990 300SEL. I’m taking my time, replacing all those brittle plastic vacuum lines with standard rubber hoses and covering them with split loom and thermo sleeve.
oooh. HEre’s one for, “if we’d only had the internet then! And a you tube video.”
Imagine looking at that mass of wires and tubes and trying to
trace out where a leak was from cold — ’cause who could afford anything
like the factory service manuals!!!!
Yeah no kidding. Things like that are so much easier today. If you are working on something that has a strong following almost anything is possible.
Me neither, but I’d certainly kick the 3 speed auto and the V6 out and source a 305 or 350 with an overdrive auto behind it.
Or a 400 🙂
This is a car close to my heart, as I have a ’79 that’s been in the family its entire life, and owned an ’82 for two years also. This one splits the difference, with the two-lamp nose of the ’78 to ’81 cars and the formal roofline of the ’81 to ’83 models. My personal preference was the six-window earlier roofline–the faster C-pillar made it look less stuffy and formal, and as mentioned by an earlier commenter, also looked lighter and airier. I also prefer the older nose styling; the mini-Caprice look of the quad-lamp grille wasn’t bad but it also seemed quite derivative.
This one does seem remarkably well preserved. Perhaps Grandma’s car, now in the hands of a younger relative or estate buyer who takes good care of it? We can hope. Nice original color too. My two were “yellow beige” on the ’79 and “light metallic blue” on the ’82. I ended up repainting both but that’s another story, and less than ideal in retrospect. So many choices back then; the early cars even had the option of a light blue interior! Probably not one commonly ordered, but I did come across a ’79 coupe in the junkyard with light blue vinyl seats and dash. So very, very ’70s.
Very nicely written article altogether though! One minor detail error–the caption of the full front view states “Both the ’80 and ’82 models featured a crosshatch design grille.”. Not quite–the ’82 and ’83 were crosshatch, as was the ’79. The ’80 grille was a vertical bar design, and the ’78 looked like crosshatch from afar, but upon closer inspection it was actually a “floating block” design that recalled certain 60’s cars including one year of the early suicide-door Continental.
Thanks for catching the grille error! I missed that the 1980 models had a vertical-bar grille. Pretty amazing though that the Malibu had 5 grille designs over 6 years of production.
No problem–I specialize in useless Malibu trivia. 🙂 Also had a friend in high school who had a dark red ’80 Malibu Wagon so it was a “face” I saw frequently
The Malibu, as well as its A-body platform mates and the ’77 to ’79 B- and C- bodies, were really perhaps the last hurrah for yearly changes. Not only did they have 5 grille designs in 6 years, but 4 taillight designs. The only 2 years without a styling change were the final years of ’82 and ’83, and those two can be differentiated by the Malibu scripts (font and placement change)..
If anything when the Malibu 4 Door Sedan was redesigned in 1981, it has a bit of a superficial resemblance with the 1979 Nova 4 Door Sedan especially with the new grille as well. The 1978-81 Malibu 2 Door Coupes always had that resemblance with the 1975-79 Nova 2 Door Coupes in styling.
Kind of funny how the Nova, Granada, and Volare/Aspen went to rectangular lamps in their final years on the market, presumably to give a dated design a more modern look. In my personal opinion it didn’t work too well on the Nova–the very square and mostly flush grille/lamps are not harmonious with the mid 70’s curves of the rest of the car. Worked somewhat better on the Granada (though the way the indicators were framed made it look rather like stacked duals) and actually was most successful on the Volare, whose straight-lined body design suited itself to squares.
I love the grille of both the 1979 Nova, and of the 1981 Malibu. Both are conservative in their styling, which I like.
THX Jason, here are the Two Door Coupe versions of both cars, both looked great as well.
Nice looking cars. Frankly, I don’t see any resemblance between the two cars.
Actually the way the rear roof pillars slant on both cars. It was more pronounced on the Nova which almost gives it a semi-fastback design. In the Malibu, it was more closer to a sedan type slant. In addition the way both sides of the panels and trunk lines on both cars, both slanted at almost the same angle.
Ah-ha! Ok. I’m more of a 4 door sedan guy or a station wagon. Two doors are nice, but I’ve always preferred 4 doors. 🙂
isnt it interesting that sometimes the blandest of cars seem to be secretly holding the softest of spots in our hearts?
Great article for a mostly ignored car that led a thankless life seeing rough service. When I was small, I remember our neighbors had a Malibu Classic wagon of this vintage – silver metallic with a burgundy maroon interior. I thought it was a cool car. Even though the rear windows did not roll down, I remember my sister and I having fun opening and closing the rear power vent windows. The motors for them made a strange, whistley sound like some kind of bird was inside the door making them work. Days before electronic gadgets – we were easily entertained :-p
. . .O.k., thought that one over and power windows would most certainly be considered electronic gadgets. Modern, mobile computing technology has gotten to my head!
I don’t know — I’d consider power windows to be electric, rather than electronic… regardless, your point about being easily entertained is so true. Ironically, my kids now are amused by manual roll-up windows, on the rare occasion when they actually see them!
I loved mine, although the AC was toast and the vent windows stuck shut when I got it. The car was maroon with red interior and it was obnoxious in a Tennessee summer.
It had its maladies but it was an old car. It had great vibes. The happiest car I’ve ever had. The Malibu lost its charm when reverse gave out.
This generation of Malibu sired a very nice El Camino. When these Malibu’s first came out, some stripper versions had the Chevy 200 inch V-6, one of the first cut down Small Block V-8’s. Others had the Chevy 229 (which I think was a 305 V-8 minus 2 cylinders), and most destined for California had the 3.8L Buick V-8. This car also made a fairly decent police car.
At the other end of the spectrum in ’78 was the 350 available on El Caminos and Malibu wagons. The 2bbl 305 was the most you could get on the coupe and sedan. The 350 was also available on the 9C1 in the early years, but it was replaced by a 4bbl 305 on the later Malibu cop cars.
I am still driving the ’79 coupe I bought new. It has been a very good car and now has 166,000 miles. It’s an oddball, though, since I ordered it to fit my tastes. It is black with the red bucket seat interior, sunroof, rally wheels, F41 suspension, 267 V8 ( I was going from a 4 cyl and figured the mileage would be better than a 305) and factory 4 speed. I had a lot of fun with it when it was new and it really stood up to the abuse. We have been a lot of places and done a lot of things with it. It has gone from family car to vacation only car with 3 kids in the back to sometimes driver to toy. No major engine troubles, but the transmission needed a major repair in 1988 which I learned to do myself. The body is still in good shape and the paint looks good from about 20 feet. And, yes, I am on the third headliner.
My favourite year for the Malibu was the 1981 model year. I like the horizontal grille over the crosshatch design used on the 1980 and 82 yrs.
Yeah, I like that grille treatment too. One thing about these cars that I don’t like is the lack of interior trim parts, at least the ones that are not shared by the El Camino. Some of my side window trim is getting very fragile and there are no new replacements. The fit and finish on this car, while not up to today’s standards was better than the ’81 Buick Regal company car I later had.
If this was a Mustang like my ’66 I could get any part I needed.
I’ve always been more of a B-O-P man than a Chevy man, but there are always exceptions: the 75-79 Nova and 77+ Caprice, for example, are so cleanly styled and the Nova, in particular, is the most attractive of its platform-mates. But these Malibus, even the more attractive 77-79 sedans, leave me cold. They just look so plain and dowdy, and yet somehow not as charming as the similarly plain Fairmont. The Granada would have been a much worse drive, but it would have felt more special. But I’d just take a LeMans over either.
I prefer the roofline of the 1978-80 Malibu’s over the 1981-83 Malibu’s, I rank the 1978-80 Chevy Malibu’s to be my one of my favorite vehicles built during the 1978-83 period, I only wish Olds and Buick would have made their 4 door’s the same style as Chevy and Pontiac did with their immediates during the 1978-79 run.
Same here. I also like the grille of the 81 Malibu. 🙂
This is like finding a 2005, 2008, or 2013 Chevy Classic 30 years on down the road.
“At first, GM was unsure whether buyers would accept a front-wheel drive mid-size sedan, so the Malibu was kept in production as a ‘safe choice’ alongside the more pioneering Celebrity.”
I think that was definitely a consideration. Two more that may have also played a role:
–Because the vehicle the new FWD A-bodies had been derived from (the X-bodies) didn’t come as a station wagon, the A-body wagon wouldn’t be ready until the 1984 model year. Keeping the RWD A/G-body wagon in production for another year or two kept GM’s hand in the midsize wagon market until the new FWD A-bodies were ready. All four divisions dropped their RWD A/G-body wagons as soon as the FWD A-body wagons were ready.
–In the post-energy crisis world of the early ’80s, it was assumed that traditional full-size RWD sedans like the GM B-bodies weren’t long for the world, and that cars the size of an A/G-body would be considered full-size in the future. Depending on how fast cars like the B-body faded away, I think there was some thought that the RWD A/G body sedan had to be kept around in case GM needed to repurpose it as a stopgap replacement for the B-body sedan a year or two down the line. Pontiac actually pulled the trigger on this in 1982, before deciding they had gone too far and bringing back a B-body for 1983. Chrysler also did something similar with its M-bodies.
“by 1982 the coupe was dropped from the Malibu line altogether (sales were likely lost to its fellow Chevy G-body coupe, the Monte Carlo). ”
GM completely dropped the “regular” (non-personal luxury) RWD A/G coupe body after 1981. Olds and Buick had dropped their versions after 1980, never replacing the unpopular slantback body, then Chevrolet and Pontiac followed after 1981. Sales of coupes of this size were in serious decline, the more stylish Monte Carlo was capturing the lion’s share of what was left, and the new 1982 FWD A-bodies were planned to come as a coupe. I think GM felt there just weren’t enough midsize coupe sales to support three different coupes and of the three, the Malibu had the least sales potential.
“Oddly, most other G-body cars had considerably longer life spans. The nearly identical Buick Regal sedan continued until 1984, the Pontiac Bonneville survived until 1986 and Oldsmobile’s Cutlass Supreme soldiered on through 1987. Meanwhile the G-body coupes (Monte Carlo, etc.), as well as the El Camino, all made it through to 1987.”
It’s interesting how every GM division followed its own timetable in phasing out the G-body sedan. The personal luxury coupes and El Camino/Sprint hung on longer because, unlike the RWD A/G-body sedan, wagon, and non-personal luxury coupe, the FWD A-bodies didn’t include any body style intended to replace them.
I love this car. Growing up, two aunt’s owned Chevrolet Malibus and, hate to say this, but as a young passenger at the time, this car seemed to have far superior dynamics than our family’s various Chrysler F and M Bodies. Although I have a weird love for the Chryslers (still can’t explain to myself why), the 77-83 Malibu’s had that flowing sheerness, nimble peppiness, and overall isolation characteristics of the BOF the 318 monocoque/torsion-bar Caravelle/Diplomat/Volares of my world couldn’t offer. Maybe it was the tallish 2:1 axle ratios of the Mopars that ultimately did them in, I don’t know.
I never actually drove an M body, but was old enough to drive one of my aunt’s G’s, so I’m really speaking with bias here. I believe it had a 305. Anyway, when I read and hear other people’s stories about the M cars, it somehow aligns with my perceptions of its general inferiority. I do remember the G car having steep throttle tip-in (not necessarily a good thing), good directional turn-in, as well as the much talked about “guided missile” effect of that solid, confident, straight-ahead motion when cruising down the highway that GM cars are known for.
I reluctantly admit these things about the Chevy as I was in denial for the longest time growing up thinking that the slightly larger Chryslers were better than the G bodies. However, I’m at peace with it now and can comfortably say it like it was. At least in my opinion, anyway.
One day, I hope to drive an M body for myself just to see what it is actually like, but for now, I suppose, I’ll just have to imagine what it would’ve been like to actually drive a lean-burn, 5 cylinder-working, rough-idling, non torque converter, rust bucket that actually was our 1979 Plymouth Caravelle. I still have such fond memories travelling in the Caravelle sharing family reunion road-trips with my aunt’s G car.
At least our car had a/c and roll-down rear windows, though. Take that Chevy…
My dad had this exact car when i was a kid. He bought it used in 1983. He had the V6 and AC. I remember how great it was to have AC, but the back windows did not open, so when the AC was off there was no air in the back seat. This Malibu replaced a 72 nova 4 door with a 6 cylinder and no ac. I was 10 and i thought the Nova was so much cooler and faster than that Malibu. I hated that Malibu. Another great Malibu memory was when the catalytic converter failed, the car’s weak acceleration became non existent. The carburetor had to be adjusted in the summer so the car would not stall with the AC on and then had to be adjusted in the winter the idle would slow down. The whole car felt “half baked”. My dad replaced the Malibu in 86 with an 82 Toyota Cressida, it was a better car but started rusting by 1988. I was not a fan of the cars from the 80s. I drove early 70s Mopars till the early 2000s. The current crop of cars are absolutely amazing, this is truly the golden age of performance.
Although I don’t know anyone personally who had a Malibu, I did see a lot of them when I was a boy. I love the conservative styling of this generation Malibu.
I drove a rental Malibu in the Bahamas in the mid 80s, it had a suspension like a truck ideal for the pot holed back roads, but very smooth. I thought it was chunky and big on outside but smallish inside. Very much a work horse and I got to like it for the comfort ride. We will soon need this build quality on Britain’s deteriorating roads. The hire firm said the Malibu was used a lot by the police in the USA – it was an import from Florida.
Specifically a suspension like a Chevy S-10 truck, since GM borrowed heavily from the A/G platform to develop their first generation of compact pickups.
I know this post is 6 years old but I did a double take when I read that there was no sport version of this, my favorite of all GM intermediates. What, no SS? But of course that’s true, for this generation the SS was relegated (or is reserved a better term?) for the Monte Carlo and El Camino. An SS based on the police 9C1 package would have been nice. The 9C1 Malibu along with the police Nova’s were the first of the GM police cars that became popular in my part of California; before that it was mostly Plymouth/Dodge.
And no Brougham? That really seems out of step with the market.
Okay for GM, you could move up to a Pontiac, Olds or Buick, but Chevy dealers must’ve been hurting. Or were you supposed to ‘move up’ to an Impala or Caprice?
No wonder so many buyers went Japanese, where luxury feature availability wasn’t proportional to car size.
Obviously this plain old ordinary Malibu got a huge ovation from the commentariat.
I personally found the 1981 President’s Day sale ad at Dick Stevens Chevrolet interesting.
A year earlier, Feb 1980, my dad let me join him, provided I kept quiet, on his search for a new car.
Those Dick Stevens prices look good—maybe destination charges were extra? As Eric noted, Citations we’re going for more than Malibus.
But it’s the financing deals that caught my eye. The truck is $5595 delivered, cash price. But a 48 month loan… $6744 in payments plus $595 down, that’s $7340 total! 15.58% interest…
The Dick Stevens ad caught my eye too. I was wondering why Regis Philbin was posing next to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
I drove one of these (in Medium Brown Metallic) for Driver’s Ed in 1981. It was a nice car to drive around town, and an easy, forgiving car to learn to drive with. On the highway, it was still nice to drive but the V6 was absolutely gutless. Overall, though, not a bad effort from GM for that time period.
From today’s vantage point, the tires seem ridiculously small, but is that just because they are all now enormous? We had a Pontiac Lemans. Was a reasonably comfortable car but the light rear end made it tricky in snow.
I understand the reasons why these Malibus looked and performed as they did (or didn’t), but even so –
As a young adult in college when these came out, I viewed them as evidence that GM had completely lost its way. Having been a child who drooled over the C2 Vette, the early iterations of the Riviera, and the beautiful b-bodies of the 65 to 67 midsize cars, these were nothing more than boxes on wheels. I was convinced that the accountants had co-opted the styling department. I couldn’t understand how anyone could write a check for one of these.
Even the colors. Granted there were fourteen choices, but other than the light blue, they were different shades of drab, and the blue looks good only by comparison. It was as if the color selectors were looking to create a paint chip card that could cure insomnia.
It’s amusing to see this article run again – this was the first CC I wrote, and I was astonished by the number of comments six years ago.
Back in 2015, I had been reading CC for quite a while and thought it might be fun to write an article, so I kept my eyes open for any suitable car. I saw this Malibu one day, and at first thought “no, that’s just a plain Malibu”… and kept driving. A minute or two later it occurred to me that the “plain Malibu” is just the sort of car that folks here would like. So I turned around, drove back to the Malibu, and took my first set of CC pictures. It was enjoyable to write it up, as it has been for all (well, most) of the articles I’ve written since.
I’ve seen this car driving around several times since this writeup, but have never been able to catch up with its owner. When I last saw it, maybe a year ago, it still looked to be in good condition. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to talk to the owner and get more of the car’s story.
We had a ’78 Buick Century Aeroback with the 305 V8 4 bbl in an ugly pale blue. Dad always got the most powerful engine. It was pretty quick, and when the speedo said 60, you were going 65, which got me my first speeding ticket. We both liked the Regal styling much better. The rear seat was used only a handful of times before he gave it to his church pastor in 87, so he should have gotten it. The restyle moved the rear vents forward a bit, which probably helped rear seat comfort and access for dog noses.
The ’73 Century 3 seat wagon we had also had vents at the D pillar and fixed tailgate glass. Not very effective in summer, but better than nothing.
This is one of those cars that made me realize what I thought I wanted to drive and what I actually wanted were different things.
I was raised with full size Ford trucks. Manuals, at that. I always wanted something light, agile, and efficient. Fox-bodies were an affordable way to get that. I saw myself as the Road Ninja, able to react quickly and expertly in any situation that required putting the car into a massive controlled drift, or dancing my way around a barrage of obstacles.
A situation that has still never occurred to me, or if it has I’ve forgotten it.
I had the chance to drive a friend’s dad’s ’79 Malibu coupe, with the small V8. I wasn’t expecting to like it, dumb old-fashioned car like that. This was in 1990, and it had been kept up well.
I really liked how it drove. Very smooth. Nice comfortable ride but not too isolated. Nice seats.
I had an “AE86” type Corolla at the time and actually preferred the Chevy. This caused much mental confusion as I couldn’t accept that I liked the “old guy” type of car more than the nimble Toyota.
Something similar happened in my 40s when I came to realize I’m more of a cat person than a dog person, though I do love both of ours.
Turns out I’m not as cool as I thought I was or should be.
Eventually I may embrace all the CUVs with their touchscreens, tiny windows and aggressive grilles.
But I ain’t there yet.
I looked to see if I had previously posted on this thread and I had. When I decided to buy a new Malibu in 1979 I was disappointed that there was no sport model so I made my own. I ordered it with a V8, four speed manual transmission, F41 sport suspension, bucket seats, gauge package, sunroof, and rally wheels.
I still own the car and drive it a lot more now than I was in 2015 after fixing a few things, mostly in the interior. It had to set out one winter, otherwise it has always been garaged, but that winter was pretty rough on the paint. It looks pretty much like it always has except I lost the boy racer raised white letters the last time I bought tires. I am now on headliner number 4.
Like you, I’m surprised I never responded to this post either. Back in 79, I went to my local Chevy dealer and filled out an order form for a 79 Landau Coupe with the 305/4 speed combo and sunroof. I’d never had a loan before so needed a co-signer. Took my Dad down to co-sign and he refused because the car was almost 9k. Fast forward to 2004 and my partner found a 79 equipped almost exactly as I had specified back in 79. I have since found the second owner of my car and he told me the original owner order the car to resemble the Black Sterling showcar. Mine is equipped much like yours, 305/4speed, sunroof, power windows locks and trunk release, buckets, A/C tilt wheel, bumper strips and guards but oddly, doesn’t have the gauge package. I’ve only heard of two other 79’s with both the sunroof and 4 speed so there can’t have been many.
Nice car! Mine has the 267 V8 because I was looking for a little better gas mileage. It has been a great engine with almost no issues but I wish I had ordered the 305 and tilt and cruise.
Your car is the only other one I have ever seen with both sunroof and four speed. The four speed alone is quite rare. People are really surprised when they see that shifter sticking out of the floor.
One problem I encountered when trying to get prices from different Chevy dealers before I ordered was convincing the salesmen that you could get a four speed. I had to show them in the literature.
I actually like the all black paint on yours. When I went to order one in 79 I wanted all black but this car was two tone from new. If I remember correctly, one of the other four speed sunroof cars is up in Ontario, Canada. The other was scrapped sometime in the late 80’s. I remember reading a post on a Chevy website where Someone said they had one and it was scrapped. Last I knew, the one in Canada was still in existence. I know what you mean about people not believing they see a four speed. I’ve even had people tell me that I put it in because they never made them from the factory. Fortunately I have all the original paperwork from when it was ordered new plus the original window sticker. By the time I bought my first new car, Malibu’s were out of production so I special ordered the closest thing I could get, an 86 El Camino. I still have it and it has only 6,600 miles on it. Unfortunately a four speed wasn’t available. But it is black over silver so I have a matching set.
Here’s my El Camino.
I’ve only seen 2 other four speeds. I don’t remember much about the first one but the second one was tubbed and now had an automatic, but the pedals were tucked away under the dash.
That two tone looks real nice on your car. You probably can’t tell from the picture but mine has the carmine red interior ( likes to fade) and a red pinstripe. It has really been a great car and was good for family vacations with our 3 girls, although they hated being cooped up in the back seat.
I’m glad they are finally making reproduction interior parts for these. I replaced the windshield post trim last year when the headliner was put in. Over the years I have had countless people trying to buy it. I have it in my will to go to my son in law.
Actually, I’m not even a Chevy guy even though I once owned a ’75 El Camino. Those sure are handy trucks. I’m a Mustang fan and have a ’66 and an ’09. You can see my ’66 and another shot of the Malibu in my avatar .
What part of the country are you located in? My car and I have both resided in the same small Southern Indiana town since it was new.
I really like that two tone. I’ve never seen it on a coupe before. My interior is carmine red and it has a small tape stripe ( factory). I have only seen 2 other four speeds and one had been tubbed and turned into an automatic with the clutch pedal still there. I have had many offers to buy it over the years but it isn’t going any place. It is going in my will to one of my son in laws. I also owned an El Camino but it was a ’75. Great all around vehicle. What part of the country do you live in? My Malibu and I have both lived in the same small Southern Indiana town since the car was new.
“If you think we’ll be undersold…
You don’t know Dick!”
I’ll accept banishment now.
I like that two tone. I’ve never seen it on a coupe before. What color is your interior? Mine is carmine red. It also has a red tape stripe. After I had owned it a couple of weeks I noticed for the first time that the bottom of the speedometer had a PRNDL at the bottom. The dealer had to order the cover plate that was missing. The F41 suspension has saved me from some bad situations caused by other drivers a few times. I have only seen 2 others that had the factory four speeds and one of them had been tubbed and had an automatic, but still the clutch pedal. The car has been a lot of fun over the years and has seen me through a lot of bad times and good times. I have had a lot of people try to buy it over the years, but it is not going anywhere. In fact it is in my will to one of my son in laws. What part of the country do you live in? Both the Malibu and I have lived in the same small Southern Indiana town since it was n
Wow I can’t believe I never responded to your questions after a few years! Mine has the black bucket seat interior. I live in Tucson but when I bought the car I lived in Ohio, an hour northeast of Columbus. I bought the car in Indianapolis from its third owner. I just replaced the rear license pocket and rear bumper fillers. The license pocket was pretty brittle and the fillers had been painted and the paint cracked on them. I’m now on headliner number two.
I like that two tone. I’ve never seen it on a coupe before. What color is your interior? Mine is carmine red. It also has a red tape stripe. After I had owned it a couple of weeks I noticed for the first time that the bottom of the speedometer had a PRNDL at the bottom. The dealer had to order the cover plate that was missing. The F41 suspension has saved me from some bad situations caused by other drivers a few times. I have only seen 2 others that had the factory four speeds and one of them had been tubbed and had an automatic, but still the clutch pedal. The car has been a lot of fun over the years and has seen me through a lot of bad times and good times. I have had a lot of people try to buy it over the years, but it is not going anywhere. In fact it is in my will to one of my son in laws. What part of the country do you live in? Both the Malibu and I have lived in the same small Southern Indiana town since it was new.
I found the discussion about the absence of rolling rear windows to have been very interesting. Another thing that long fascinated me is the fact that Chevy and Pontiac had sedan versions of this mid-sized car in 1978 while Olds and Buick did not put their versions on sale until 1980. (All four marques had the wagon version of this car available for sale in 1978, however.) Based on doing some research, I believe that the chronology of Olds’ and Buick’s mid-sized offerings from 1978-81 was as follows:
*In 1978 & ’79, two- & four-door fastbacks were offered under the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon and Buick Century names.
*In 1980, two-door fastbacks were offered under the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon and Buick Century names. However, the four-door versions were dropped.
*The Olds and Buick mid-size fastbacks were dropped entirely for 1981.
*In 1980 & ’81, as a response of the disappointing sales of the fastbacks, Oldsmobile and Buick belatedly offered their 1978 Chevy Malibu sedan equivalents. Buick continued to use the Century name, whereas the Oldsmobile simply used the one-word Cutlass name for its mid-sized sedan.
Looking at the above chronology above leads me to question what on earth was GM thinking when it failed to offer the mid-sized sedan versions of these automobiles for sale as Oldsmobiles and Buicks in 1978 and instead sold cheap-looking fastback versions of these cars. It would have made way more sense for Olds and Buick to sell the sedans while Chevy and Pontiac sell the fastbacks (though the fastbacks were so ugly I wouldn’t have sold them as Chevys or Pontiacs, either).
While GM’s botching of this particular situation may not have rose to the level of Deadly Sin, I think that this entire incident is emblematic of the two Deadliest Sins GM ever committed, namely:
1. A blurring of the Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick marques.
2. A cheapening of the Oldsmobile and Buick marques
Regarding Deadly Sin # 2 mentioned above, cheap-looking mid-sized fastbacks–along with the compact cars of the 1980s–should NEVER have been sold as Oldsmobiles or Buicks. All Oldsmobiles should have conveyed a sense of entry-level luxury, and Buick should have stuck to solely offering cars that were more upscale and conservative versions of what Oldsmobile was offering. And to elaborate on Deadly Sin # 1, Pontiac should have had a relatively narrow focus, selling either sporty vehicles or more upscale versions of compact Chevys. Had all this occurred, it would have been OK for Chevy to have been GM’s “something-for-everyone” marque (with, of course, an emphasis on value car models).
P.S. I have not read all the comments posted above, so my apologies if this is a topic that was already discussed.
Based on the first paragraph, I believe so strongly that the 1997-2004 Malibu/Classic carried on this tradition of fading into the background. Good read as always.
is it for sale ?