GET TO KNOW: CHEVELLE!
Drive!|December 2020
A continuing series that gets you behind the wheel of automotive history

The Chevrolet Malibu was introduced to American drivers in 1964 and was touted as an “intermediate” car, but it was destined to become much more. Released as an upscale submodel of the Chevrolet Chevelle, it quickly became clear that the Malibu could be considered a contender in its own right during the muscle car ‘wars’ of the 1960s. In short order, a powerful ‘Super Sport’ (SS) version was produced, representing an official acknowledgment of the Malibu’s street performance.

Oil shortages and increasingly stringent federal crash standards saw the third generation Malibu grow larger in size, yet gain more efficiency in power. For a brief period of time, the SS version of the Malibu was dropped in favor of a “Laguna” model. The fourth iteration of the Malibu model saw the “Chevelle” name removed, and a distinctly smaller platform was introduced.

First and Second generation: 1964-1972

After the fourth generation of Malibu came to an end in 1983, the model went on hiatus until 1997, where it entered its fifth generation. This Malibu represented a fundamental shift in its design and powertrain. Instead of being a front engine and rear-wheel drive car (FR), the Malibu became a front-engine and front-wheel-drive car (FF)— pitting it in direct competition with other FF sedans of its day. The Malibu has continued with this layout ever since.

Some things remain unchanged; the Malibu name conjures images of the beach life upon which it was inspired. Families across America continue to enjoy the Malibu as an affordable sedan that can moonlight as a performance vehicle.

First generation (1964–1967)

The automobile marketplace became highly competitive in the smaller-sized car segments in the early 1960s. The “Big Three” automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) responded to the success of American Motors’ compact Rambler that made AMC the leading maker of small cars for several years. Chevrolet responded with the 1964 Chevelle based on a new “A” platform design. The Chevelle was the U.S. auto industry’s only all-new car for 1964 and was positioned to fill the gap between the small Chevy II and the full-sized Chevrolet models. Introduced in August 1963 by “Bunkie” Knudsen, the Chevelle filled the gap for Chevrolet with sales of 338,286 for the year.

Two-door hardtop coupes and convertibles, four-door sedans, and four-door station wagons were offered throughout the entire run. This also included a coupe utility (El Camino) which was a derivative of the two-door wagon. In line with other Chevrolet series, the two-door hardtops were called Sport coupes. Four-door hardtops, dubbed Sport Sedans, were available (1966 through 1972). A two-door station wagon was available in 1964 and 1965 in the base 300 series.

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