Our time in an original 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Sport Sedan
No summertime car show is complete without a row of Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sports, but when was the last time you've seen a four-door pillarless Sport Sedan? Not a four-door sedan, mind you, but a four-door hardtop without a B-pillar? Ron Bousquet, the owner of this wonderful example from 1970, confessed to us that this is the first one he had seen despite the fact that he was a mechanic for many years and worked on all Chevrolet models of the 1960s and 1970s.
Bousquet acquired this 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu just a couple months ago with only 91,000 miles on the clock, and has been enjoying it since. He has four other classic Chevrolets in his garage, but finds that this one really turns heads due to its rare body style.
We got a chance to take a ride in Bousquet's Chevelle, and found that that car very much fits its time capsule billing, and not just because it is a rare body style that seems to have disappeared almost entirely. The car is in stock condition, only having been treated to a respray in its original color about 10 years ago.
The 1970 model year Chevelles arrived on the scene with plenty of options to choose from. The second generation of this popular car received and facelift for the 1970 model year, adding a bit of “boxyness” to the original shape. The model was available in a total of seven body styles, ranging from a two-door coupe to the El Camino.
In addition to the obvious two-door and four-door sedans as well as a couple wagons, there was the Sport Sedan -- around 20,000 examples of which were made and fewer than 500 of which are estimated to remain from this model year in any kind of usable shape.
"I'm 66, I've been into cars all my life, I went to school as a mechanic. I graduated in 1966, worked on cars my whole life, and never seen one like this," Bousquet says.
Sedans have always been shortchanged when it comes to preservation and restoration. Compared to the four-door hardtop, everyone and their neighbor has a Chevelle SS or knows someone who does. And for good reason -- in V8 form they were quite the bruisers in their day. With horsepower figures in the V8 models ranging from 200 horsepower in the 307-450 hp in the LS6 version, it was one of the most popular cars in America.
But better-than-new Super Sports with engine bays that are clean enough to prepare sushi are not why we're here today, as hardly a classic-car auction goes by without an SS that is too clean to be driven on the street. Not that there is anything wrong with sushi with a slight aftertaste of Armor-All. Or muscle cars that can't even be shown at concours events because they'd get grass clippings on their undersides and necessitate or full day's worth of cleaning. But we would just prefer to see once-common cars kept in their original condition.
And this rare Malibu Sport Sedan definitely fills that bill, as it is a rather modestly optioned 307 V8 model that doesn't even list power brakes or air conditioning on its build sheet. Not because the Earth was slightly cooler in 1970 (which is probably was), but because this was a no-frills sedan with just an AM stereo in the infotainment department.
"I was a mechanic, and this is how I used to work these old cars," Bousquet says. "No electronics, you know. Everything you could do. You could take the carb apart and fix it, take the distributor out and fix it, it was just easy. You didn't need much of any tools or computers."
As we settle in and Bousquet starts the car, the condition of the original interior immediately tells us that this Malibu has been garaged all its life. It's not just the dash that is in great shape, not having been scorched by the sun; the seats don't really show too many signs of use for a 43-year-old car.
Likewise, the exterior gives no clue that this car spent its entire life in Amherst, Mass. If we didn't know better, we would have said that the car spent years in northern California or some place in Arizona, carefully driven to church on Sundays -- and certainly never coming into contact with anything that even remotely looks like salt. This car has probably never even ferried a bag of groceries from the supermarket that contained a bag of table salt.
Bousquet took possession of this car just a couple months ago, purchasing it from an uncle's friend. "He used to work with my uncle, as a carpenter," Bousquet tells us. "He's 87, his wife's 86, and she couldn't drive it anymore."
We asked what he liked most about driving this car.
"It just rides smooth, the whole car is easy to steer. Just nice-driving," Bousquet replies.
"Three-speed automatic in there?"
"Three-speed," Bousquet nods. "The wheelbase is 3 inches longer than the two-door coupe. I've got a '72 two-door as well."
An observation which will surprise exactly zero readers is that the Malibu has a soft ride. But it doesn't feel overly floaty in the way that Cadillacs of the era do. The back end of the car doesn't fidget over imperfections in the road, and during our ride in Ron's car we did quite a bit of off-roading.
While the Malibu Coupe was very much a sport-oriented car, the sedan is a bit more ponderous; comfort is what these sedans were all about. Though Ron's Malibu has the 3-speed Hydra-Matic autobox, an optional 4-speed manual transmission was available.
The 306.6 cubic inch engine produces 200 hp, but it's the 300 lb-ft of torque on tap here that makes all the difference, according to Ron (see above blue note). With a curb weight of 3,534 pounds, it seems the 307 engine is just right for this car. A manual gearbox would have certainly spiced things up, some would say, but we'd venture that for the body style and the trim level, an automatic is just fine.
After all, if one's goal was to shred some tires, a beefier version of the V8 would be on the menu anyway. We wouldn't be surprised if someone, or hundreds of someones, hasn't tried to shoehorn the LS6 V8 into a Malibu sedan, but we haven't come across one of those examples.
As we take a look under the hood, it's immediately apparent that the freshening this car received a decade ago didn't extend to the engine bay itself.
"So it's pretty safe to say that nothing been done under here for a while," we say to Bousquet.
"Nothin'. All original," he replies. "When I buy cars, I'd rather buy them like this. 'Cause if they put the wrong kind of paint on it, then you can't just paint over it."
Bousquet plans to replace the radiator in the car, as the original is still in place. Perhaps a restoration of the engine compartment is also in this car's future. That should be easy to do as Ron has quite a collection of Chevrolet parts, having been a mechanic and worked on three other Chevys that share garage space with the Malibu Sport Sedan.
In addition to this car, Ron also has two Novas and one other Chevelle. Though he prefers to keep his cars stock, tinkering has been a hobby of his for a long time, and back in the 1970s he even put a 350-hp Corvette motor into a Chevy van that he used to provide transportation for bands in his spare time. This was during a time when the VW Bus was the latest word in MPVs, so a Corvette-engined Chevrolet van with a completely reworked suspension and exhaust certainly attracted quite a bit of interest.
We won't go into details on just which agency expressed interest and amazement at a Chevrolet van with those performance figures, but let's just say that they were astounded at the concept and spirit of such a build and spent more time talking engineering with Ron than being unappreciative of the way in which the vehicle was being driven.
"I had a job as a truck driver for many years," Ron says. "I just sold my dump truck and I'm retired now, I'm just working on cars. This is my retirement."
With seemingly endless rows of coupes from the muscle-car era filling cruise-ins and car shows all over North America, it's a special treat to see bread-and-butter sedans for a change. Especially when they turn out to be a rare variant like this Malibu Sport Sedan.
Even though rarity does not equal collectibility, the everyday cars of yesteryear are bringing more and more attention from the collector community. And it's nice to see that it's still possible to find original examples like this one.
Source: Auto Week