Although late to the heart of the intermediate market, General Motors soon ruled the roost in mid-sized car offerings. Of course, Chevrolet held the reputation of offering a sensible, stylish way to step into new car ownership. Once the segment of the market was discovered, it took no time for Chevrolet to field an entry. No doubt, the Chevelle Malibu Hardtop proved to be a familiar favorite almost from the beginning.
After all, the Chevelle Malibu fit into a size slot vacated by one of the most popular used cars of the early 1960’s: the 1955-56-57 standard Chevrolet. For many a buyer graduating from used cars to their first new cars, the Chevelle proved to be a perfect choice.
It wasn’t just dimensions, size or maneuverability that recalled some old faithful favorite Chevrolets. For better or worse, some old powertrains served as old faithfuls to new Chevrolet buyers. The quite proven Chevrolet Small Block still served in 283 cubic inch guise, far happier in the lighter Chevelle than it had been in any big Chevrolet since 1957. One could step up to the 327 version, as in our subject car for more zeal and zest before really going whole hog for a Big Block bruiser.
One area of sorely needed improvement was the available automatic transmission however. General Motors rested on their laurels, and buckets of torque, offering two different two speed automatics on their intermediate offerings through the end of the 1960’s.
Chevelles mostly came with the time proven, tank like but none-too-flexible Powerglide Automatic. Larger V8’s started to see a trickle of the far superior Turbo-Hydra Matic trickle into the option list by 1967, however. In a field of Three-Speed Automatics being the norm, this was one vintage item that held Chevelles and their rev-ready V8s from being complete class all-stars against the Ford Fairlane, Plymouth Belvedere-Satellite and AMC Rebel.
Chevrolet had always banked on bargain basement style to woo buyers though. In a number of ways that worked brilliantly for the medium machine on the lowest rung of the Sloan Ladder.
Although not the style leader that Pontiac proved to be throughout the 1960’s, the Chevelle Malibu had gone from graceful, if generic, to something smart for mild mannered middle class buyers to grab onto for its 4th season.
The Chevelle (and all GM A-Bodies) paralleled or picked up design trends from the fluffier full sized B-bodies. 1967 was no different. The rise of hips and glitter of trim that bestowed the latest Chevelles with a costume jewelry charm made them seem like junior 1963 Impalas. Although the semi-fastback follow ups leapfrogged and redefined what mid-sized motoring would become next year, there’d always be an appreciation for playing dress up in Mommy & Daddy’s clothes for these not so big, not so small Goldilocks cars.
It proved exceedingly popular. Chevrolet found nearly 167,000 buyers for the Chevelle Malibu 2 Door Hardtop alone, in a total production sweep of over 400,000 mid sized Chevrolets that year. As Chevrolet’s line-up diversified as the sixties would down, the Chevelle would have to fend for territory from the Camaro, nearly mid-sized Nova, the bigger Impala and then, its own luxury variant, the Monte Carlo as the decade turned.
Despite all of the in home self sabotage, the Malibu, even as just a sedan these days, stands out as a sensible, stylish choice more than 50 years after it relayed another way to see the USA.