Live Auctions

Classic Restoration: 1978 Chevrolet Malibu Classic

Sometimes a person runs across a car that really stands out in a particular, or peculiar, way. This is one of those times. This 1978 Chevrolet Malibu Classic is listed on eBay with a $3,495 buy-it-now price or you can make an offer. It’s located in Montgomery, New York.

This car almost looks like it’s in perfect condition, how can that be? We’ve seen some amazing survivor vehicles here over the last few years and this Malibu only has 22,000 miles on it, no wonder it looks so nice. Wait, what?! The seller says that it has had a “full restoration”? Really? A four-door Malibu sedan with only 22,000 miles on it has been “restored from the frame up”!? How the? Who the? What the? Why the?..

Someone must have really loved this car, and that’s great. We’ve all had that one vehicle that we would have loved to keep forever and if it would have been possible, to have it restored. But, a four-door 1978 Malibu? And, then to sell it for just over $3,000? The paint alone would have cost that amount or more. This one is a head-scratcher. I wonder if it has anything to do with the title status listed as being “Rebuilt, Rebuildable & Reconstructed”?

There aren’t any fancy velour seats in this one, these are vinyl both front and rear but they look like they’re as perfect as everything else looks. This is a fourth-generation model and with this generation Chevy dropped the Chevelle name and went with Malibu. It was a slightly-smaller design, coming after GM’s big push to downsize their “big” cars in 1977.

This car does look like it’s either in outstanding original condition or it has been restored. It’s an easy one to choose from since the seller tells us that it has been restored. I’m just trying to figure out why someone would go through so much time and money to restore a four-door Malibu just to sell it for a fraction of the restoration price. This car has the smaller of the two V8s offered in the Malibu in 1978, a 305 cubic-inch V8 with 140 hp. A 350 V8 with 165 hp would be the other V8 choice. Have you ever spent much more on a restoration than the particular vehicle would ever be worth? If so, what was it, and why?


  1. Chebby Staff

    This is a curious case. At first glance, $3500 for a reliable car you can drive everyday is a no-brainer.

    This Malibu looks great in a good color. The 305 is a decent engine. Add a set of Chevelle Magnum 500s and the F41 suspension and this would be a very nice driver.

    The restoration claim is baffling, though people have different meanings for terms, like “survivor”. ‘Restoration from the frame up’ could simply mean bare metal paint job and engine or transmission rebuild.

    Lastly, the seller has only one previous transaction on eBay, so I would not be surprised if this was a scam. eBay also has it listed twice?

  2. Brian

    Full restoration? No…look at the rusty master cylinder and the brake fluid stains on the brake booster. Rusty bolt heads on the fan shroud. The filler panels between the rear bumper and tail lights have the paint falling off. It likely had a fresh paint job and that’s about it. I’ve been around a few of these Malibus when they were newer. Interior looks good as it should with only 22,000 miles on it.

  3. Fred w.

    No restoration here, just a good looking low mileage car. El Camino version would be twice the price, if not more, with that mileage.

  4. Steve R

    “Restored” means different things to different people, especially when money is involved. In this case, it could mean the rust was dealt with and the car was repainted. Who knows.

    The low entry point is interesting, but shouldn’t blind a potential buyer from thoroughly inspecting the car. It would be nice if the car is as good as it looks, but in today’s market place you can’t take things for granted.

    Steve R

  5. Nrg8

    I’m gonna say a bodyman bought this on the cheap. It is a 22 k garaged car, as that color interior usually doesn’t fair well with long term uv exposure. Basic model with ac originally brown. Real ugly brown, you can see the masking line at the bottom of the back seat pic as well as inner fenders under hood. That burgandy does really make it pop. But looking at it, i don’t think any of the trim was pulled. Probably why the price is right. So you don’t get there and go wtf is this?

  6. Mike B

    Call me a hater, but it was nothing special when new & age hasn’t made it better. Looks like a winter, beater candidate to me: use it up. Preservation time & materials are better spent elsewhere.

    Like 1
    • ccrvtt


  7. Lindsey Johnstone

    The wife and I had a 1982 Malibu Classic V6 (3.8) I called it our plastic car. The windows in the rear area did not roll down and the thing was so gutless it barely made it a up a hill we used every day.I was not sad to to see that one go.

  8. Miguel

    These cars were fitted with inline sixes in Mexico. I am not sure why they didn’t use the V6 they used in the states.

    These cars are still everywhere and cheap to buy.

  9. Mark in WNC

    Restored? The title says “… Reconstructed” Something doesn’t seem right.

  10. Blueprint

    I don’t recall the 350 being offered in these, The 305 was the largest engine option, most had the V6 or a smaller V8 of 4.4 litres IIRC.

    • jw454

      The 4.4 (267 cu. in.) was in production from 1979~1982. I think the 305 was the smallest V8 in 1978.

    • Mike

      The 350 was available on the wagon version only

  11. Adam T45 Staff

    I’ve had a close look at the photos of this and am going to suggest that this car may have served some time as a submarine. For me the photo of the engine bay is a big giveaway. There is a lot of white oxidation on a number of alloy components in there, but especially on the body of the alternator. That is usually a sign of things being VERY wet.

  12. Kev

    I would consider restoring a humble 4 door any day. Its not an investment but it sure would get a lot of attention. I remember these new and never really thought much of them however now many years later its nice to see. About 6 years ago I saw a 1984 Caprice Classic with basic trim (nothing special) however everything looked new on it even the silver paint strips on the tail light lens. I still fondly think about that car being so nice. Most cars are not an investment unless you can do most of the work yourself and get great deals on parts. When I go to car shows I see the usual amount of Camaros, Mustangs, Gto’s etc which are very nice. However like most people what a car like this shows up people gravitate to it as its no longer just a common car. It brings back memories of a different time. I would proudly drive, show , and keep it in perfect shape. As nice as muscle cars are a car show should be much more than Mustangs, Corvettes, and Cuda’s. Cars from Pinto Runabouts to Country Squires draw a great deal of attention as they are indeed rare. Maybe not worth much however most restored cars are not worth the money invested. I have never thought of any car as an investment. Kev

  13. Jerry Brentnell

    had one of these for a rental car when my car was in the dealers for a recall at the end of the week couldn’t wait to git rid of it! ugly interior ,gutless wonder, wouldn’t trade my dodge for it anyday! another forgettable g.m heap!

  14. Pat A

    Car & Driver wrote about these as maybe the best American car of the period.

  15. Car nut from Wpg Member

    To answer Scotty’s question (sort of) I did once spend about $1600 CDN in January 1988 to have the 2.6 Silent Shaft engine rebuilt for my 1982 Plymouth Sapporo. I thought the price of the rebuild was not bad, as it also included sourcing and rebuilding a used head. Unfortunately those cars were not highly sought in the used market and I was only able to get $1300 for it 1 1/2 years later when I sold it to get a 1985 Prelude. Years later I read that those Mitsubishi engines were fairly bulletproof IF you ignored the recommended oil change interval and did it twice as often.

  16. Pete Phillips

    I believe “Blueprint” is correct. I don’t recall the 350 V-8 ever being offered in the mid-size Chevrolets after 1977. The 305 was it. My employer in 1977-78 had a small fleet of these as company cars, with the 305 V-8 and automatic. I remember my first impressions when I saw one of these down-sized intermediate Chevrolets at my workplace in late 1977. I thought, “They’re no bigger than the compact Chevy Nova of that year–how can they call this a mid-sized car?”. I was disgusted that GM wouldn’t even put windows that would roll down in the rear doors, meaning that the air conditioner had to be used almost all the time in warm weather, especially if you had back seat passengers. I also found it impossible for an adult to sit in the middle of the front seat, given the dumb design of the pod that holds the radio and the HVAC controls–it protrudes right into the foot room and shins of the person sitting there–only a small child could sit there. On the positive side, the car was absolutely fabulous to drive, with its quick handling, light weight, and V-8 power! It was extremely responsive and quick, in the few times I got to drive one.

  17. Rustytech Member

    Where I live that “R” on the title means it was an insurance write off. Wrecked, flooded, stolen, or something like that. There’s no way a 22k car would need a full off frame restoration, unless it were wrecked and the body was removed to repair/replace the frame.i’d look it over carefully, if repairs were done professionally the “R” wouldn’t bother me. They were great cars, I put over 300k on one before it got wrecked.

    • Del

      Ugly and not worth the asking price

  18. kenzo

    Did anybody check the VIN for colour and build? Just curious after comments about not perfect taping.
    Maybe 122K with a parts car helper

  19. John Member

    I drove Malibu 4 dr. Police packaged W350 4B, great car’s handled well, fast
    held up well, the only problem we had is the Firestone Police tires, replaced every one in the fleet as they separated

  20. Utes

    Had an ’83 9C1 w/the LG4 305…it was a “4-dr. Z28″…really scooted & handled like it was on rails!

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