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Downsized Survivor: 1978 Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet’s mid-size car, the Chevelle, would go through a metamorphosis in 1978. To begin with, GM downsized all its intermediates so the Chevelle would lose about 600 pounds. Then they would retire the name which had served the company for 14 years. The Malibu nameplate was promoted to represent the entire car line and would do so through 1983 and again from 1997 forward. This ’78 Malibu Classic is a sport coupe with a small V8 engine and performs as it should, or as the seller says, “no real problems”. Located in Portland, Oregon, this Chevy is available here on craigslist for $7,100. Another tip from Rocco B.!

The Malibu would be the second car to get downsized at Chevrolet, the first being the Impala and its variants the year before. These changes were designed to make the cars go farther on a gallon of gasoline as driving habits had changed since the OPEC oil embargo drove up prices a few years earlier (little did we know back then that 50-cent gasoline would become $5-petro in 2022). The basic series would simply be known as “Malibu” and turned out to be quite popular for fleet use, such as taxicabs and the like. Malibu Classic was more mainstream, like the Impala.

Because the autos were smaller, so were the engines. The biggest motor you could get in a ‘78 Malibu was a 305 cubic inch V8, which is what’s said to be under the hood of the seller’s car. A 3-speed automatic was the typical transmission, so these cars were at least capable of getting out of their own way. The seller provides some odd photos, none showing the whole car or the areas they’re trying to present. Instead of a shot of the V8, for example, we get a pic of the air conditioner and its belt that looks worn.

We assume the copper/bronze paint is okay, but the one close-up on the fender emblem shows scratches and dings. At 90,000 miles, we’re told the car runs and drives as it should and mentions nothing that will require any attention. The Rally wheels look nice, and we assume a satisfactory depth of rubber is left on the tires. If you were looking for a daily driver, a 1978 Malibu wouldn’t be your first choice given today’s market. But if the price is right, it could be a nice vehicle to show up with at Cars & Coffee that isn’t another SS 396.


  1. Moparman Member

    I like this, but the lack of full photos is disappointing; also the engine components look really crusty for a Portland car. Better pics and a detail job would really help with the presentation. GLWTS!! :-)

    Like 5
    • Michael Berkemeier

      Car looks really solid…not crusty in my opinion, at all.

      Like 3
  2. Dusty Rider

    These look a lot better if you pull the wheel well moldings off.

    Like 1
  3. Michael Berkemeier

    Nice car if someone is looking for one of these. Looks super solid and has a V8 so easy swap to a 383 stroker. Age and deteriorated soft parts are the only issues I see…which is much better than rust.

    Like 5
    • Geof

      I actually have a fresh built 383 stroker waiting on a roller project. I’d seen a couple of these but a little too much for me.
      Just as easy finding Camaros and Corvettes at driver prices similar to this. Or am I just off on these?

  4. Psychofish2

    Still good looking.

    Another underappreciated design from GM like the Monza/Sunbird notchbacks.

    ‘deteriorated soft parts are the only issues I see…’ So true, Michael.

    My 86 N Body Calais, factory supplied with the lowest quality hardware and fixtures, delivers on those issues 36 years later. Unobtanium.

    Like 2
    • Fordfan

      That’s a smog pump not an a/c compressor
      It should have the long Frigidaire unit
      Guaranteed the headliner is gone
      The plastic on the lower doors on my red interior turned pink
      They were nice cars but cheep parts

      • Tom

        That’s an AC compressor

        Like 2
      • Chris Webster

        A/C compressor. That style replaced the Harrison/Frigidaire A6.

        Like 1
      • Dusty Rider

        My ’79 Elco had the long type.

  5. Lothar... of the Hill People

    Nice car. I like the color too.

    No offense to the seller but a couple of the pictures remind me of the ones Rainman took in the movie… but I’ve seen worse! :)

    I spy with my little eye… a seatbelt use required in this vehicle sticker. This is a 2-door so it’s probably not a former cab or cop car but does that sticker usually mean company car or municipally-owned vehicle or something? Or maybe that it was just owned by careful parents?? :)

    Like 2
  6. Rw

    Need to check rear frame rails for rust, right rear quarter panels used to get rust hole from exhaust condensation.

    Like 1
    • CCFisher

      Yep! It wasn’t unusual for these A-bodies to have no rust at all in the body, yet have the rear fame rails completely rusted through. I remember looking at a sharp 1978 Grand Prix when I was searching for my first car. It was black and gold outside, had the snowflake wheels, a tan leather interior, and T-tops. A salesman came out and said, “sorry, can’t sell you that one. The frame is shot.” A few months later, my father’s 1978 Grand Prix failed inspection with a rusted frame.

      Like 1
  7. Jeff

    That interior has been exposed to a good bit of moisture. It still may be a good deal though with a little negotiating. The car is at a good starting price point if it is not plagued with rust.

    Like 1
  8. Willte

    If this was close to where I am I would be very interested in it. I had one back in the mid 80’s. Woman hit me head on and totaled it. Could never find another one like it, they were too popular around here as dirt track cars.

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