Curbside Classic: 1983 Chevrolet Malibu – Claustrophobics Best Ride Up-Front


(first posted 12/12/2013)     While it may be expected that the rearmost windows in a coupe, SUV, or minivan won’t roll down, is it too much to ask for windows that roll down in a sedan? Apparently, because rear windows of all 4-door 1978-83 Chevrolet Malibus (and its A-/G-body siblings) were fixed. Microscopic vent windows were the only way rear passengers could get fresh air in an A-/G-body Malibu – much to the dismay of many tail-wagging dogs I imagine.


I have no official information from General Motors, but fixed rear windows were no doubt a cost-saving measure. Visually, no other design elements would interfere with the functionality of roll-down rear windows. And considering the relatively low amount of safety features by today’s standards on early-’80s American cars, I doubt this move was for safety reasons. That said, I can’t imagine eliminating window roll-down mechanisms saved that much money per vehicle, especially considering that the majority were sold without power windows in the first place.


So maybe it didn’t save GM many pennies per car, but it’s very possible that the decision to eliminate an inexpensive feature prompted buyers to purchase a much more expensive option – air conditioning. It was an evil trick to get customers to buy more, but no less a clever one, and automakers are still using similar packaging tactics today.


Malibus originally came in base and up-level Custom trims. However by the time ’83 rolled around, this Malibu’s final year, choice was reduced to just the base model with a number of available options. Judging from the interior, this one was pretty sparsely optioned. This flat, non-split cloth bench would appear to be the standard seat choice.


Here’s a lovely view of the rear seat confines; at least there’s plenty of glass to see out. I guess a lack of opening rear windows made the Malibu a good choice for police departments. Thankfully GM thought of its smoking patrons when it provided rear seat occupants with an ashtray. If not they’d have to sit with their arm over their shoulder to flick ashes from their cigarettes out those tiny vent windows.


The look of our featured car first appeared in 1978, replacing the Colonnade Malibus. In the process, they lost 8 inches in wheelbase and nearly a foot in overall length, as well as 4 inches of width, and depending on the model, as much as 1,000 lbs. The “Chevelle” prefix was also lost in the redesign.

Malibu old roof

Malibu sedans originally had a more steeply-raked roofline design. Thankfully, the Malibu wasn’t cursed with the nightmarish fastback roofline its Buick and Oldsmobile cousins were infected with. In 1981, the Malibu sedan did adopt these cars’ more upright notchback roofline, which first appeared one year earlier.


I much prefer the redesigned roofline. It provided a dose more of formality that was right in step with the onward and upward culture of the eighties. Equally welcomed updates in your author’s opinion, included 1982’s redesigned front clip with quad headlights and egg-crate grille. With these new styling features, the Malibu was starting to look like a mini Impala – certainly not a bad thing though.

1982 Bonneville G

It could just be because this one’s in white, but this car aches for a vinyl Landau roof. It just looks so plain. This is why out of all the flavors of the A-/G-body, my favorite is the Pontiac Bonneville. I think it’s styling elements best accentuated the simple three-box design.


Now I should probably address something I’ve eluded to several times earlier, that this generation Malibu was both an A-body and G-body. When it debuted as a 1978, it rode on the RWD A-body, as it had in the past. GM having to confuse things of course, decided to name its new FWD midsize platform “A-body”, requiring the former’s name change to “G” in 1982. Our ’83 Malibu here is thus a G-body.


As mentioned, 1983 was the last year for this generation Malibu. Chevrolet put the nameplate on hiatus until it graced another very plain car, the 1997 N-body Malibu. At least its rear windows rolled down.