Chevrolet’s midsize, rear-wheel-drive sedan from 1964 through 1977 was known as the Chevelle, with the Malibu name denoting either a top or mid-grade trim level (depending on year). For 1978, GM ditched the Chevelle name completely, while simultaneously putting the Malibu on a new, shorter platform. Here’s one of those first-year smaller Malibus, found in a Denver-area self-service yard last month.
This car’s VIN says that it was built at Leeds Assembly near Kansas City and that its original engine was a 305-cubic-inch Chevy small-block rated at 145 horsepower. This engine is a Buick V6, presumably a 3.8-liter. We can assume it was swapped in after the original 305 blew up. California buyers of ’78 Malibus could get a 105-horse Buick V6 from the factory, and maybe that’s what this is; 49-state buyers could get the 145-horsepower Chevrolet 3.3-liter V6 as the base engine.
Buyers of 1978 Malibus with the 305 engine could choose between a four-on-the-floor manual transmission or a three-speed automatic (the three-on-the-tree column-shift manual was no longer available in the Malibu by that time, though a three-on-the-floor manual was base equipment on the cars equipped with the 3.3-liter V6). Today’s Junkyard Treasure has the automatic. The 1981 Malibu was the very last new car available in the United States with a three-speed manual transmission of any sort.
This car had a functional hood scoop added at some point during its life, and that scoop might well have come from an early-1980s Z-28. More likely, though, it was purchased new from J.C. Whitney. Either way, the mid-1980s Z-28 wheels look right on this car.
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