Rare 4-Speed: 1979 Chevrolet Malibu

By the time the fourth generation of the Chevelle would come out, the Malibu nameplate had taken over duties. The downsized cars would run from 1978-80 and replace the Colonnade style that had come before it. The Malibu was your ordinary family-type automobile and yet it could be equipped with an interesting option not seen since the days of the Super Sport: a 4-speed manual transmission. The seller’s 1979 Malibu appears to be one of those cars, with little more than 1,900 of them built in the U.S. that year out of 378,000 cars. Located in Bronx, New York, this car is available here on eBay and waiting for the next bidder to go past $3,170. Thanks, Larry D, for this tip on this one.

We don’t know if the 4-speed could come with anything other than a 305 cubic inch V8, but that’s the engine that’s in the seller’s car, which we believe was acquired from the original owner. Hardly a fire-breather, the 305 was reported to put out 160 hp. While that’s with a 4-barrel carburetor, the compression ratio is set low at 8.4:1 for lower emissions. Counting production in all North America, 1,748 Malibu’s had the 4-speed in 1978, 2,045 in 1979 and just 326 in 1980. That’s only 4,119 installations in three model years combined.

This 1979 Malibu coupe wears faded and mismatching dark green paint with a corresponding vinyl top. The seller refers to “common rust for its age” but that can mean most anything as does “common G-body rail rust/rot.” That implies that everyone is familiar with where G-bodies rust. What we do know is that the last 12 inches of the body on each side where the body mounts to the frame is rusted through. Which doesn’t exactly sound minor. The weather-stripping is cracked most anywhere you look, but we’re told all the glass is intact. There is also rust reported in the tail section of the car at the rails.

This car’s odometer reading is about 89,500 and the passenger compartment is wearing each one of those miles. While the back seat looks good, the front seat is largely held together with black duct tape. And the dash pad has cracks from being exposed to sunlight and the headliner is sagging. Fortunately, the car is said to be a good runner, although it’s a noisy one since the exhaust from the catalytic converter back is said to have rusted off. We’re told the manual tranny is goes smooth through all the gears.

A few bucks have been invested in a new set of tires and we’re told the brakes work fine. This was a non-factory A/C car to begin with, so none of that kind of plumbing is there. Current resale values on these cars are not high, priced in used car territory. A rather nice Malibu from 1979 would go for maybe $8,000 according to NADA and this one is not in that kind of condition. The 4-speed probably adds a premium, but perhaps more as a novelty because collectors may not be seeking them out.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Moparman Member

    Every time I come across one of these desirable (to me) Malibu’s, they invariably are infected with cancerous rust! Rust is like an iceberg, what you can’t see is always there!

    Like 16
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    I always thought that was a really clean design.They used to use
    these (4 doors,of course) in our local police department.
    I acquired a set of rear seat belts/window hardware from a
    ’79 Malibu police car.I realized that they were never used,as you don’t
    have those in a police car.If anyone’s interested in them,I’d sell them,
    & donate a decent part of the money to Barn Finds.

    Like 5
    • Rustytech Member

      That’s getting to be some expensive rust! Somebody’s going to be quickly under water if keeps going. I like the car, it would be a great project, and there are some great upgrades available for them. But this one lost me at $3k.

      Like 4
  3. Mal boo

    These were sadly the continued box 📦 cutter design effect cars.

    I like the four speed !

    Like 3
  4. X11Fan

    According to the 1979 sales brochure, a 3 speed manual was standard with a 3.3L V6. The four speed manual was an extra cost option with either the 4.4L or 5.0L V8’s.

    Like 5
  5. nestor

    My neighbor had a Malibu. His young daughter called it Mah-boo-loo.

    Like 9
  6. Mike

    The Malibu sedan and wagon ran through 1983. The coupe ended production after 1981.

    Like 2
  7. DON

    The coupes were not very popular , being completely overshadowed by the New Monte Carlo, Cutlass, Regal and Gran Prix designs, which shared the same same frame as the Malibu. They sold a lot of these in 4 door and wagons . Hard to find a nice one today ; all of these were known for rear frame rot , and many had the 231 V6 which was problematic . It became a popular platform for local stock car racing, which took care of a lot of them

    Like 6
  8. morrisangelo

    I’ve always found these appealing and I can’t really put my finger on why.

    I guess these remind me of the simpler designs like the early 70’s Novas and Venturas, with the manual being a huge bonus.

    It would be neat to play with this one, but the rust is of significant concern.

    Like 7
    • Steve S.

      The same basic shape is shared by the Bitter SC, Fiat 130 Coupe, and the Ferrari 400i.

  9. steve

    The only thing wrong with a 305 is that it’s not a 350. These cars all went to the salvage yard running and driving. If you lived somewhere out of the rust belt, people got rid of them simply because they got tired of them. Saggy headliner, torn up seats and that square 70’s “styling”. They checked all the boxes for “Car, one, each” . If you found the road, even now you could drive that car to Mars. When manufacturers build really, really good transportation, people yawn. It’s a “Meh-libu”. Gimme something EXCITING! Who cares if the wheels fall off it! I still recommend these to people who NEED transportation. As a bonus, you can leave the keys in it overnight and it WILL be there in the morning.

    Like 6
    • Djjerme

      But that engine bay does swallow up a big block without much difficulty.

      Like 4
  10. Bill

    Gm lost money on these cars most went to Iraq 🇮🇶 to be taxi cabs

    Like 4
    • Allen L

      Eventually there was an embargo to sell them to Iraq.
      So a whole boatload of four speed, four door, Iraqibus became available in Canada.
      Most were a light sand brown.
      Then when the RCMP started selling the high mileage police interceptor versions of this generation of Malibu, they got snapped up pretty quick. The RCMP also ran 2dr Fairmonts, with their small V8 as unmarked highway cars. I used to bid on them, sealed bids, Crown Asset Disposal auction. Never won a bid.

      Like 9
      • jeff

        Yes the Iraqi Taxis were standards but they were three speeds, not four.

        Like 1
  11. man ' war

    I look at this 305 engine, and look at my 350 in my 81 El Camino which came out of a K5 as the prior owner had said when I purchased it a couple of years ago, and I wonder why they look so much alike? How to tell the difference?!
    I like this Malibu, but would not pay – no way, no how – 4,050 current bid in its rusted and busted condition.

    Like 2
  12. karl

    The seller says it has the “usual” rear frame rot and its in New York. Very common for the metric chassis GM cars , at least here on the East coast. Unless you have a frame from out west and want to do a lot of swapping I’d steer clear of this. Replacement Interior parts for these about non existent , and black was a very uncommon color back when tan, green ,red, blue interiors were available.
    We raced one of these back in the mid 90s and even then the two doors were hard to find , let alone a manual .

    Like 3
    • Miguel - Mexican Spec

      If there is a market for these I can start sending them north from Mexico. A lot of them had manuals and 6 cylinders.

      I am sure the V8 will drop right in.

      They are still cheap here.

      Like 2
      • Raymond

        How cheap? Im looking for a 2 door 4 speed

  13. Uncle buck

    My neighbor and buddy had one of these except it was a 4 door 265? V8 anyway had posi and no rear window cranks red vinyl interior the quarter glass was a hinged vent window. Had super low miles when he got it. We used to be able to chirp the tires going into 3 if you hammered on it. As fast and fun as most other cars in high school. He had no reverse for 3 years. It was fun to drive that car.

  14. jerry z

    I had my share of these Malibu’s and yep all had rot issues. My wagon had the rear body mounts rot away. This thing would make slapping noise going down the road.

    Like 1
  15. Jack Member

    My dad brought a new 1981 4 door Malibu with the 229 engine and automatic when there was talk about gas going sky high in 1981. He drove it for 14 years and really never had any trouble with it. This car got a heavy undercoat job when it was new and didn’t have a rust problem. My dad often would have 6 people in it and it had a a very good ride with the four coil springs. It also had heavy duty springs and shocks which were a low cost option in 1981.

    The only problem I had with the car when I got it was that I couldn’t find a mechanic who wanted to fix the leaky valve cover gaskets which I had replaced twice. They were somewhat difficult and very expensive to replace and some people didn’t want to tackle it. I let the car go in 2016 with 123K miles and running with current inspection for $600. It needed about $500 of work and I had too many cars at that time. The current owner fixed it up and really seems to like it. This car was very light with the 229 engine at about 3050 lbs and the current owner said it was the only vehicle that seemed to be able to make it to his place of work doing some bad snows. I imagine the fact that 120 hp 229 cu inch engine with equal weight distribution had a lot to do with it’s excellent traction in snow. It was probably difficult to spin the tires even on ice.

    • gary rhodes

      Whats so hard about changing the valve cover gaskets? Used to do them in less than an hour on non a/c cars, hour more on a/c cars. If yours was a notorious leaker then you had bad valve covers (warped lips or bent)

  16. Gene

    Had a 79 back in 1992 shoehorned a 454 with turbo 400 4500 stahl converter and 3:90 gears never got beat on the street man it was fast for the time. I miss it 😢

    Like 1
  17. gary rhodes

    A rotted 305, 4speed Malibu for $4500.00? Not me. You need a frame to start with, good luck finding a good one. You need floorpans, no repo’s available, or buy a whole western parts car and have it shipped to you. For what, a $8000.00 restored car you will have $20,000.00 plus in?

  18. Jack Pruett Member

    Gary, I could have used your know-how when I needed a mechanic. It was a very good dependable car, and you could not see the blue valve covers like you do in that picture of the 305. The 229 cu was very short as GM cut off the two front cylinders. The A/C equipment was over the valve covers especially on the driver’s side. I had wondered if getting the valve cover gaskets into the proper position might have been a factor why they leaked so bad causing a smoking problem. I don’t have a decent picture showing what the engine compartment looked like. The compressor seemed to cover most of the short valve cover on the driver’s side.

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