Traditionally, Malibu was marketed primarily in North America, but the new Malibu model introduced in CY 2012 will be sold in most global markets.
First generation (1964–1967)
The first Malibu was a top-line subseries of the mid-sized Chevrolet Chevelle from 1964 to 1972. Malibus were generally available in a full-range of bodystyles including a four-door sedan, two-door Sport Coupe hardtop, convertible and two-seat station wagon. Interiors were more lavish than lesser Chevelle 300 and 300 Deluxe models thanks to patterned cloth and vinyl upholstery (all-vinyl in convertibles and station wagons), deep-twist carpeting, deluxe steering wheel and other items. The Malibu SS was available only as a two-door Sport Coupe hardtop or convertible and added bucket seats, center console (with optional four-speed manual or Powerglide transmissions), engine gauges and special wheelcovers, and offered with any six-cylinder or V8 engine offered in other Chevelles - with the top option being a 300 horsepower (220 kW) 327 in 1964.
For 1965, Malibus and other Chevelles received new grilles and revised tail sections and had the exhaust pipes replaced but carried over the same basic styling and bodystyles from 1964. The Malibu and Malibu SS models continued as before with the SS featuring a blacked-out grille and special wheelcovers. Top engine option was now a 350 horsepower (260 kW)327.
The Malibu SS was replaced in 1966 by a new Chevelle SS-396 series that included a big-block 396-cubic-inch (6.5 L) V8 engine, heavy duty suspension and other performance equipment. Other SS-396 equipment was similar to Malibu Sport Coupes and convertibles including an all-vinyl bench seat. Bucket seats and console with floor shift were now optional on the SS and for 1966 with the SS now denoting a car with a big-block engine, the bucket seats became a new option on the regular Malibu Sport Coupe and convertible, upon which any six-cylinder or small-block V8 could be ordered. Also new for 1966 was the Chevelle Malibu four-door Sport Sedan hardtop. Styling revisions on all 1966 Chevelles including more rounded styling similar to the full-sized Chevys with sail panels and tunneled rear windows featured on two-door hardtop coupes.
For 1967, the same assortment of bodystyles were continued with styling changes similar to all other Chevelles including a new grille and revised tail section with taillights that wrapped around to the side. New this year was a Chevelle Malibu Concours station wagon with simulated woodgrain exterior side panel trim. Front disc brakes were a new option along with a stereo 8-track tape player. The same assortment of drivetrains carried over from 1966 with the top 327-cubic-inch (5.4 L) V8 dropped from 350 to 325 horsepower (260 to 242 kW). It made 0- 60 in 6.2 seconds.
Second generation (1968–1972)
Malibus and all other Chevelles were completely restyled for 1968 with semi-fastback rooflines on two-door hardtops and wheelbases split to 112 inches (2,800 mm) on two-door models and 116 for four-door sedans and station wagons. Engine offerings included a new 307-cubic-inch (5.0 L) V8 rated at 200 horsepower (150 kW) that replaced the 283-cubic-inch (4.6 L) V8 that had served as the base V8 since the Chevelle's introduction in 1964. Inside was a new instrument panel featuring round gauges in square pods similar to what would appear in Camaros the following year. New for 1968 was the Concours luxury option for Malibu sedans and coupes that included upgraded cloth or vinyl bench seats, carpeted lower door panels, woodgrain trim on dash and door panels, and Concours nameplates. There was again a top-line Concours Estate wagon with simulated woodgrain trim that had the same interior and exterior appointments as the Malibu sedans.
New grilles and rear decks with revised taillights highlighted the 1969 Malibus and other Chevelles. Instrument panels were revised and front seat headrests were now standard equipment due to federal safety mandate. The ignition switch moved from the instrument panel to the steering column and also doubled as a steering wheel lock. The 307 continued as the base V8, but the 327 engines were replaced by new 350-cubic-inch (5.7 L) V8s of 255 and 300 horsepower (190 and 220 kW). GM's three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, previously only offered on SS-396 Chevelles, was now available on all models with all engines, including the six-cylinder and small-block V8s which in previous years were only available with the two-speed Powerglide.
For 1970, the Malibu was initially the only series of Chevelle offered, aside from the SS-396 and new SS-454, as the low-line 300 and 300 Deluxe models were discontinued, which also eliminated the two-door pillared coupes from the Chevelle lineup – which were never included in the Malibu series. New grilles, rear decks with taillights moved into the bumper and revised Sport Coupe roofline highlighted this year's changes. The standard six-cylinder engine was punched up from 230-cubic-inch (3.8 L) to250-cubic-inch (4.1 L) and 155 horsepower (116 kW), while the same assortment of V8s carried over with the addition of a 330 horsepower (250 kW), 400-cubic-inch (6.6 L) V8 on non-SS Chevelles. At mid-year, the Malibu was rejoined by lower-line Chevelle models that were simply called the base Chevelle in both four-door sedans and two-door hardtops.
In 1971, Malibus and all other Chevelles got a new grille surrounded by single headlamps replacing the duals of previous years, and four round taillights similar to Camaros and Corvettes were located in the bumper. All engines were detuned to use lower-octane unleaded gasoline this year per GM corporate policy as a first step toward the catalytic converter-equipped cars planned for 1975 and later models which would require no-lead fuel.
Only new grilles highlighted the 1972 Malibu and other Chevelles. All bodystyles were carried over from 1971, but 1972 would be the final year for hardtops and convertibles as the redesigned Chevelles originally planned for this year, but delayed until 1973, would feature Colonnade styling with side pillars and frameless door windows.
Third generation (1973–1977)
The Malibu was redesigned for the 1973 model year. Models included the base Chevelle Deluxe, mid-range Malibu and the top-line Laguna.
For 1974, the Deluxe was dropped, and the Malibu became the entry-level Chevelle. The Laguna trim package was replaced with the Malibu Classic that had the unusual arrange for that time of 4 square headlights and made its way to the dealers in 1977 year model, offering the Chevy built inline six 250 CID as the base engine. The Laguna S-3 model was introduced to replace the SS, and continued through 1976.
Fourth generation (1978–1983)
For the 1978 model year, the Malibu name, which had been the bestselling badge in the lineup, replaced the Chevelle name. This was Chevrolet's second downsized nameplate, following the lead of the 1977 Chevrolet Caprice. The new, more efficient platform was over a foot shorter and had shed 500 to 1,000 pounds (230 to 450 kg) compared to previous versions, yet offered increased trunk space, leg room, and head room. Only two trim levels were offered - Malibu and Malibu Classic. The Malibu Classic Landau series had a two-tone paint job on the upper and lower body sections, and a vinyl top.
Three bodystyles were produced (station wagon, sedan, and coupe). The sedan initially had a conservative six-window notchback roofline, in contrast to the unusual fastback rooflines adopted by Oldsmobile and Buick divisions. To reduce cost, the windows in the rear doors of 4-door sedans were fixed, while the wagons had small moveable vents. No doubt this design contributed to the number of factory air conditioning units sold with the cars, to the benefit of General Motors and Chevy dealers. In 1981, sedans adopted a four-window profile and "formal" pillared upright roofline. The 2-door coupe was last produced in 1981. The 1982 Malibu was facelifted with more squared-off front styling marked by quad headlights with long, thin turn signals beneath them. The look was very reminiscent of the recently facelifted Chevrolet Caprice. For 1983, Malibus gained a block-style "Malibu" badge on the front fenders to replace the cursive-style script located on the rear quarter panels of previous model years.
The 4-door Malibu was also used in fleets, especially for law enforcement usage. After the Chevrolet Nova ceased production in 1979, the mid-size 9C1 police option (not to be confused with the full-size Chevrolet Impala 9C1 which was also available) was transferred to the Malibu, filling a void for mid-sized police vehicles. A 9C1-equipped Malibu with an LT-1 Z-28 Camaro engine driven by E. Pierce Marshall placed 13th of 47 in the 1979 Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, better known as the Cannonball Run.
There was no factory Malibu SS option available from 1980. The SS only came in the El Camino. The very rare 1980 Malibu M80 was a dealer package for only North and South Carolina in an effort to revive the muscle car era. It was, however, mostly aimed at NASCAR fans who regularly traveled to Darlington Raceway. To this day, the number actually produced is unknown; estimates place this around 1,901 cars. All M80s had to be white with dark blue bucket seats and center console interior. The base of the M80 was a 2-door sport coupe equipped with the F41 Sport Suspension package and the normal V8 (140 hp) drive train. The M80 option added two dark blue skunk stripes on top and a lower door stripe with the M80 identification. The package also added front and rear spoilers and 1981 steel rally wheels.
In Mexico, General Motors produced this generation in the Ramos Arizpe plant, which was sold during three years (1979 to '81). Mexican versions came in three trim levels (Chevelle, Malibu and Malibu Classic) and two body styles (sedan and coupe) with the 250-cubic-inch (4.1 L) I-6 as basic engine and the 350-cubic-inch (5.7 L) 260 hp (194 kW) V-8 as the optional; this engine was standard on Malibu Classic models during those three years. This was possible because the Mexican regulations about emissions were more flexible than in the U.S.A.
In 1981, General Motors of Canada in Oshawa produced a special order of 25,500 4-door Malibu sedans for Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government. The deal was reportedly worth well over $100 million to GMCL. These special-order Malibus carried the unusual combination of GM's lowest-power carburated V6, the 110 hp (82 kW) 229-cubic-inch (3.8 L) engine mated to 3-speed transmission with a unique on-the-floor stick shifter. All of the cars were equipped with air conditioning, heavy duty cooling systems, AM/FM cassette decks, front bench seats, 200 km/h speedometers, tough tweed and vinyl upholstery and 14-inch (360 mm) stamped steel wheels with "baby moon" hubcaps.
However, only 13,000 units ever made it to Iraq, with the majority of the cars becoming taxis in Baghdad (once the cab-identifying orange paint was added to the front and rear fenders). With the remaining balance of about 12,500 additional Malibus either sitting on a dock in Halifax or awaiting port shipment in Oshawa, where they were built, the Iraqis suddenly cancelled the order in 1982. Excuses reportedly included various "quality concerns", including the inability of the local drivers to shift the finicky Saginaw manual transmission. This issue was eventually identified as being due to an apparent clutch release issue that eventually required on-site retrofitting by a crew of Canadian technicians sent to Iraq to support the infamous "Recall in the Desert". Later speculation was that the Iraqis were actually forced to back out for financial reasons, due to their escalating hostilities with Iran requiring the immediate diversion of funds to support the Iraqi war effort. Then GM of Canada President Donald Hackworth was initially quoted as stating GMCL intended to still try to sell the Malibus overseas in other Middle East markets; however in the end, the orphaned "Iraqi Taxi" Malibus were all sold to the Canadian public at the greatly reduced price of about C$6,800. Over the years, they have acquired a low-key 'celebrity' status, sometimes being colloquially referred to as "Iraqibu".
The Malibu was an extensively used body style in NASCAR competition from 1973 to 1983. The Laguna S-3 variant, in particular, was extremely successful during the 1975-77 racing seasons, allowing Cale Yarborough to win 20 races in those years as well as winning the NASCAR championship one year. As it was considered a limited edition model, NASCAR declared it ineligible for competition following the 1977 season, even though (given NASCARs three-year eligibility rule) it should have been allowed to run through 1979. Beginning in 1981, the downsized Malibu body style was eligible to run, but given its apparent boxy shape, only one driver Dave Marcis ran it in 1981 and 1982, with one victory in a rain-shortened race at Richmond Fairgrounds in 1982.
The base 200-cubic-inch (3.3 L) V-6 engine for the 1978 Chevrolet Malibu developed just 95 horsepower (71 kW) with optional upgrade to a 105 horsepower (78 kW) V-6, or 145 horsepower (108 kW) V-8. The largest 170 horsepower (130 kW) 350-cubic-inch (5.7 L) V-8.
Year Model Available Engines
78 = 200 V6 (95 hp), 231 (3.8 L) V6 (105 hp), 305 V8 (140 hp), 350 V8 (165 hp)
79 = 200 V6 (95 hp), 231 (3.8 L) V6 (115 hp), 267 V8 (125 hp), 305 V8 (140 hp), 350 V8 (165 hp)
80 = 229 V6 (110 hp), 231 (3.8 L) V6 (110 hp), 267 V8 (115 hp), 305 V8 (140 hp), 350 V8 (170 hp)
81 = 229 V6 (110 hp), 231 (3.8 L) V6 (110 hp), 267 V8 (115 hp), 305 V8 (140 hp), 350 V8 (170 hp)
82 = 229 V6 (110 hp), 231 (3.8 L) V6 (110 hp), 4.3 L V6 Diesel (85 hp), 305 V8, 350 V8 Diesel (105 hp)
83 = 229 V6 (110 hp), 231 (3.8 L) V6 (110 hp), 4.3 L V6 Diesel (85 hp), 305 V8, 350 V8 Diesel (105 hp)
Beginning in 1982, the Malibu shared GM's redesignated rear-wheel drive G platform with cars like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Buick Regal. The Malibu Classic was last marketed in 1982; Malibus were produced as 4-door sedans until 1983, and as station wagons until 1984, at which time it was fully replaced by the front-wheel drive Chevrolet Celebrity. Although the sedan and wagon were phased out, the El Camino utility, which shared styling with the Malibu, remained in production until 1987.
GM commissioned a 1/25 scale plastic promo of the El Camino from MPC, which was updated annually from 1978 to at least 1982. Kit versions of it were also made, and the tooling was later modified to an El Camino SS. Monogram also produced a '78 El Camino in their then-usual, slightly larger 1/24 scale, as well as a '79 police package sedan as a simplified 1/32 scale snap-together kit. Both have been reissued multiple times.
While the second generation body was widely replicated in many scales as die cast models and toys, this downsized generation was rarely represented, with Maisto producing an El Camino with quad headlights.