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by Jay Traugott
Before Chevrolet allowed for the Malibu name to go to waste, it was attached to a car that had great styling and plenty of horsepower.
As I sit down to write this, an email press release appears in my inbox stating that fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi has just revealed a limited-edition clothing collection inspired by the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. These "accessories" include items such as Malibu Driving Moccasins, Malibu Blouse and Malibu Skinny Jeans. The list goes on but it's too painful for me to continue typing it out. My point is that there was a time when the Malibu wasn't used as a marketing tool for looking fabuloussss.
No, the Malibu's history is worth much more than designer skinny jeans and it's a shame that such a great nameplate has been reduced to cheesy promotions such as this. First launched in 1964, the Malibu name was used for the high-end Chevelle trim level, and was available in various body styles such as a sedan, coupe, convertible and a small station wagon. The middle of that decade saw the beginning of the muscle car era and Chevrolet jumped into the game with the Malibu SS. The differences between the Chevelle and Malibu were only based on features as the Malibu was slightly more upmarket with its nicer interior and other improved features.
Due to internal corporate competition from the likes of the Pontiac Tempest and Oldsmobile Cutlass 442, Chevy decided to break General Motor's rule not allowing for engines to be larger than 330 cubic inches. Beginning in mid-1964, Malibu buyers could get their cars with a 327 cu in V8 with either 250 or 300 horsepower. For the next few years, Chevrolet continued to increase power output with even larger V8s. A completely redesigned second generation Malibu/Chevelle came out in 1968 and, going with the styling of that time, it featured the semi-fastback roofline on coupe models.
The same body styles as before were available and there were also a number of interior upgrades that included carpeted lower door panels and wood grain trim throughout the dash. There was also a new instrument panel that had round gauges located within square-shaped inlets - a signature trait that soon appeared on the Camaro. At the time, the base engine was a 307 cu in V8 and a 350 cu in V8 was optional. So while the performance factor was still in play, Chevrolet marketed the Malibu as more of a "gentleman's hot rod." However, the muscle car era was quickly coming to an end due to rising fuel prices and new emissions standards.
The redesigned and larger 1973 model soon had its debut but its resemblance to the first and second generation models deviated even further away in both style and substance. By the time the fourth gen model debuted in 1978, the Malibu was nothing but a sorry excuse of cheap badge engineering. From 1984 until 1996, the Malibu nameplate was retired but even when GM revived it in 1997, the car it was attached to was little more than a failed Toyota Corolla/Honda Civic competitor. It wasn't until 2008 did Chevy launch a car that was worthy to carry the Malibu name, although it was mid-size family sedan.
Though the new Malibu (and its 2013 MY successor) aren't exactly high on performance, they're still solid family cars that stack up well against domestic and foreign competitors. But this 1970 Malibu 400 is more to our liking and we imagine your's too. Currently up for grabs on eBay, this red on red 1970 Malibu semi-fastback coupe is powered by a 400 cu in V8 mated to a TH400 automatic transmission. It's had a full restoration and comes with power steering, power disc brakes and a/c. With around 89,000 miles on the clock, the seller claims there are no major mechanical issues and it drives great.