Four-Speed Manual! 1978 Chevrolet Malibu Wagon

In the midst of the ’70s, things like a four-speed manual transmission started to disappear from many vehicles including the Chevrolet Malibu, a model that had sported just such an option since the mid-sized Chevelle’s 1964 introduction. Fuel economy woes, emission control regulations, and buyer’s general change in tastes eliminated the need for such an option. But, low and behold, things changed dramatically in ’78 and the four-speed was back. Surprisingly, here’s such an example but in the form of a ’78 Malibu Classic station wagon – how odd! Let’s look it over; it’s located in Ardmore, Oklahoma and available, here on craigslist for $19,500. Thanks to Gunter K for this most unusual tip!

I’ll admit that I was never a fan of the ’73-’77 Colennade Malibu. Yes, they did a lot of things well and sold in significant numbers but the styling left me high and dry. When the ’78 model was introduced it was like a return to yesterday – the ’65 Malibu lives again! Most surprising was the reintroduction of the four-speed manual transmission, available with the 305 CI V8 engine – sedan, coupe, or station wagon, it didn’t matter. And someone, way back when ordered this ’78 Malibu Classic station wagon so equipped. The seller claims that it is one of only twenty-seven built in this configuration.

Wow, talk about being straight, this Malibu wagon has nary a wrinkle, crease, ding, or dent. Having been disassembled after many years of storage, this wagon was repainted in its original shade of Saffron. With excellent trim and glass, on a very rust-free body, the exterior is finished off with chrome-plated rally wheels (the original steel wheels are included in the sale). The topside excellence continues underneath where there is no sign of corrosion or scale.

Under the hood is a 145 net HP, 305 CI V8 engine which is connected to the aforementioned four-speed manual transmission and a 2.73:1, limited-slip differential. With 73K original miles on its clock, this Malibu “runs and drives like day one, it is completely emissions legal with new factory exhaust from new converter back“, claims the seller. Heavy-duty F40 suspension with KYB shocks helps to keep this wagon’s four corners firmly planted.

The interior was a bit of a surprise, the seat upholstery looks like a Glen plaid suit that I had back in about ’78. The seller refers to it as original though the headliner has been replaced. A full array of gauges occupy the instrument panel binnacle and they are all operational except for the prominent clock – a typical problem that can be resolved with a quartz conversion. The camel-hued carpet is showing the slightest bit of wear but not the dash surfaces, they look like new. Frosty air blows from the R12 refrigerant-based A/C system.

We have covered many station wagons here on Barn Finds – most from an era well before 1978 so this is an especially nice find. And this Malibu Classic is further enhanced by its stellar condition, and of course, its four-speed manual transmission. When was the last time you saw one like this?


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    I like the car, and I like the four speed, but I would like it much better without the bench seat. What I don’t like is the price of 20K, which I think is just silly for what it is. A low HP Malaise era Malibu wagon with a stock driveline and a set of fancy new wheels and tires. It just isn’t worth that amount of money. I know that I am starting to sound like Howard A, but the prices of some of these ho-hum cars is just ridiculous. Not that long ago, this was a hobby that anyone could start out in and have fun at any price point, but not anymore! Unless you have 20 – 60K to spend, there is nothing out there but left over salvage yard crap, and that is starting out at 10K! Sheesh!

    Like 59
    • jnard90 Member


      Like 27
    • misterlou Member

      I still find it hard to believe that the rear door windows on these don’t go down.

      Like 16
      • Sam Shive

        I had a 83 the vent windows open.

        Like 5
    • Gary

      This is how our very successful system works. The market names the price.

      Like 9
      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        That system works with this sale because it is a fixed price Craigslist listing, either is sells or it doesn’t. Unfortunately, that system doesn’t always work with Ebay and other auction sites anymore because of the rampant shill bidding that has plagued our hobby. Over 70% of Ebay Motors auctions that I have seen lately have had either zero or very low feedback bidders countering every legitimate bid. So, for that reason I really don’t believe that the market price is really very accurate anymore, and that is where Haggerty and other valuation sites pull a lot of their data from. Ebay really needs to fix the shill bidding issue, but then again, they make more money if they ignore it.

        Like 13
    • Curt Lemay

      Are you just figuring this out now?

      Like 2
  2. Vance

    20 large for a 1978 Malibu wagon, you gotta be kidding me. How delusional does a person have to be ? Is there really a market for this type of vehicle? Just think about the cars we see here everyday that are priced appropriately . 3 things dictate price, miles, condition, and market value. This car has zero appeal, zero performance, and zero desirability. This is like putting lipstick on a dead pig, it looks and it smells pretty bad. There is a reason only 27 were made. This is about as boring as a vehicle could be.

    Like 18
    • Steve R

      Wagons have been popular in parts of the country for the last 20 years. Midsized 1960’s wagons haven’t been cheap for a long time. Add a 4spd and the equation changes even more. If there are no hidden surprises it’s asking price should be close enough to get a deal done.

      Steve R

      Like 14
      • Dusty Rider

        The hidden surprise is the tranny, it’s a Saginaw, they are not very strong, I replaced several in my ’79 El Camino before I put in a B. W. T-10. You have to move the hump though, the shifter is in a different place.

        Like 7
    • Jcs

      Actually, the desirability, performance, and appeal are all three significantly high, especially given the context of its contemporaries – these cars have a huge fan-base.

      Add to that the unicorn status of this particular example and I would have to agree with Steve R, the ask is not pie in the sky at all. Someone is going to score a killer little wagon here.

      Like 22
  3. Tony Primo

    It wouldn’t take much to turn this thing into the perfect sleeper to silence all of the Howards of the BarnFinds world.

    Like 18
  4. Gary

    This has got to be rare, worth the asking price.

    Like 9
  5. Mike Hartman

    And then there are us weirdo wagon lovers/owners who appreciate these cool GM wags. I’ve owned a few wags over the last 50 years

    Like 8
  6. Bob-O

    In 1979 I bought a new 79 Malibu Classic two-door with the 305, 4 speed and F41 suspension. The dealer had several equipped like this and a couple more with the 267 V8 and 4 speed. Bucket seats, console, white letter tires and the factory wire wheel covers. It was a cool car and I wish I still had. I’d definitely consider paying $20k for this 4 speed wagon.

    Like 8
  7. Terrry

    “With the ’78, it’s the ’65 Malibu all over again”??? Uh..not quite. However, this car has the only engine that could make these cars get out of their own way, the 305. And a 4-speed wagon at that! If only that drive-train was in the ’80 Camaro i used to have, I’d still have that car today.

  8. Howie Mueler

    No doubt if this had a automatic it would be way less, very cool!! Not crazy about the cloth seats. Hope it sells.

    Like 2
  9. Jake

    My parents got a blue ‘78 Malibu wagon with the new-for-78 200cid V6 back in 1981. Automatic and the only option was A/C. The car was so ridiculously underpowered – 0-60 was measured with a calendar. And going up a small hill proved to be an adventure. Not to mention those damn stationary windows in the back seat…it was torture for me, since I would get car sick frequently and those vent windows were useless for fresh air. I was thrilled when my parents traded that thing in.
    I will say it’s interesting to see one kept this nice for 43 years. Not $20k nice IMO, but nice nonetheless.

    • Chunk

      I had two, one with the Chevy 229 V-6 and one with the Buick 231 V6. One ran pretty hard; the other was a gutless pig – and I don’t remember which!

  10. Cushmoney

    Everything is worth what someone will pay for it

    Like 5
  11. Will Owen Member

    If the asking price were more, ummm, realistic, I could do some salivating here. I love the way these wagons look, and for my semiannual car camping this would be a huge (literally!) improvement over my elderly Forester, given my even more elderly bod. But, as is apparently a unanimous opinion, the asking price will be attractive only to folks for whom $20K is everyday walking-around money. I ain’t one of them … and if I were I’d still go find my wagon elsewhwere.

  12. A.G.

    The seller may be correct with the ‘one of’ chatter considering the instrumentation. The 305 2V isn’t a surprise because the 350 was only available with the M-20 4-speed in the El Camino. The quick and dirty paint job makes me wonder what’s underneath the shiny surface. The shifter boot is another concern. If the car went through the Ziebart rust-proofing process where are the (used to be yellow) plugs?

    Just too many questions for an ask of $20k.

    Like 3
  13. chrlsful

    I like these as a bit ofa solo in the GM dept (ford guy here). Nice frnt end any of the 3rd or 4th gen camino, sedan, wagon, 4 dor, etc. All chevelles. Not much B4 or after but the Chevy II (all models) and ’56/60 C-1 (some w/the cove in the side?).Oh yeah: 1gen Riveria’n Toranado.

  14. nlpnt

    Needs the stock wheels installed – preferably with white-stripe tires and original full wheel covers – some period correct plastichrome-and-red-vinyl body side moldings, and a more reasonable price.

  15. Bhowe Member

    Some say its boring but that’s what intrigues me. I’ve seen enough chevelle, Camaro, and all the other “interesting ” cars to last a lifetime. As a kid my friends dad bought a new 78 Malibu wagon with a 4 speed. Thought it was neat because everyone around here drove full size ford and gm cars all of which were automatic. Cara like this are why I subscribe to BF and read the reviews every day

    Like 2
  16. jose

    Somebody needs to tell the owner that for that money there are way better real collectibles out there.

  17. nycbjr Member

    I like it! That 305 should be easy to wake up!

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