As the leader of Chevrolet’s all-new midsize platform introduced in 1964, the Malibu would quickly be associated not only with the Los Angeles-area beach enclave for which it was named, but the American spirit of adventure that drew thousands to that city along the sand in the Sixties.
The Malibu was launched as the top trim line for the Chevelle, with more features and bright work. The first three generations of the Malibu were based on GM’s landmark A-body platform, which used a strong perimeter frame and coil-spring suspension, when many other midsize cars of the era were transitioning to unitized structures.
The muscle car thing was just starting to blossom when the Malibu first rolled off the assembly line and a 300-hp 327 in the Malibu SS was as hot as it got. Not wanting to be left behind in the tire smoke of the wildly successful GTO, Chevy quickly upped the Malibu SS’s output in 1965, with the now-legendary 350-hp L-79 327 and 396 big-block-powered Z-16 packages.
Shifting marketing strategies took the SS badge off the Malibu in 1966, leaving the pure performance mission to the Chevelle. Malibu continued as the luxury model of the lineup, with tremendous sales that reverberate today with the thousands still on the road – and countless more waiting to be restored.
A Generational Thing
The first-gen (1964-67) cars rode on a 115-inch wheelbase, but the second-generation shifted to a shorter 112-inch wheelbase for coupes and convertibles, and a slightly longer 116-inch wheelbase for sedans and wagons. The 1973 introduction of the third-generation Malibu brought a new A-body frame that retained the 112-/116-inch wheelbases, but to accommodate new crash standards, the bodies grew about 5 inches in length. They also got about an inch wider.
The basic A-body platform underpinning the Malibu continued as the foundation for a variety of models, including the Chevelle and the all-new Laguna, which pushed Malibu off the top of the Chevelle hierarchy chart when it was introduced in 1973. The Seventies were muddling for the Malibu, as it soldiered on in the middle of the pack, between the Chevelle and Laguna – but also vied for Chevy shoppers’ attention against the similarly positioned yet more stylish Monte Carlo.
Chevrolet discontinued the Chevelle after 1977, but the next-generation of downsized A-body cars would stick strictly with the Malibu name from 1978 onward. They were a foot shorter and more than 500 pounds lighter, offering V-6 and V-8 engines. There was even a dedicated police car package that was a surprising performer for its day. After a five-year run in that fourth generation, the sun would set on the Malibu in 1983, rising again in 1997, when it was re-launched as a front-drive sedan.
The name Malibu immediate calls up visions of cruising the California coastline with the top down and a surfboard rising into the sweet sea air. It may not have been the hardest-charging muscle car of its day, but it remains synonymous with style, optimism and the lure of the open road. In that regard, it just may be the best-named car ever.
As one of the industry’s largest A-body restoration suppliers, Original Parts Group offers thousands of 1964-83 Malibu parts and accessories, with new parts added daily. Our extensive catalog offers nearly everything from sheet metal, chrome and upholstery to engine parts and the hard-to-find details to finish a restoration with show-winning attention to detail. Shop online or order your OPGI Malibu parts catalog today.