The third-generation Chevrolet Chevelle, built from the 1973 through 1977 model years, was bigger and plusher than its predecessors. Even in the wake of the 1973 Oil Embargo and resulting gasoline shortages, North American car shoppers still bought these sensible midsize cars by the hundreds of thousands each year. The era of the absurdly powerful big-block Chevelle SS was long past by 1976, but cars like today’s Junkyard Gem still offered good-enough horsepower and plenty of comfort per dollar of purchase price.
The Malibu name started out as a trim level for the Chevelle, way back in 1964, and its use gradually expanded over the years until most Chevelles were Malibus. By the 1976 model year, all Chevelles were Malibus (with the exception of the rococo Chevelle Laguna Type S-3). Starting in 1978, the Chevelle name got the axe and the midsize Chevrolet became just the Malibu, an arrangement that continues to the present day.
The Classic was the mid-level Chevelle for 1976, between the bargain-basement regular Malibu and the Laguna. Later on, in our current century, GM separated the Classic name from the Malibu in order to create a fleet-only model of the aging N-Body Malibu for the 2004 and 2005 model years: the Chevrolet Classic.
This car is the sporty Landau Coupe version of the Malibu Classic, a car that wasn’t quite as snazzy as its Monte Carlo sibling but cost quite a bit less. The MSRP on a ’76 Chevy Malibu Classic Landau Coupe started at just $4,124 (about $19,300 in 2020 dollars). If you didn’t need the padded landau roof, the Malibu Classic Coupe could be had for a mere $3,636.
However, those prices were for the cars with straight-six engines (rated at 105 horsepower) and three-on-the-tree column-shifted manual transmissions. This car has the 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8 engine, rated at 145 horses with a two-barrel carburetor and the three-speed automatic transmission. Those options would have pushed the price up to $4,670, very close to that of the $4,673 Monte that year. Other available small-block V8s included the 140-horse 305, the 165-horse four-barrel 350 (only in California), and the 175-horse 400. I’ve never seen a third-gen Chevelle with either a straight-six engine or three-on-the-tree manual, but some must have been sold.
Inside, the Malibu Classic came with a standard cloth bench seat and fold-down center armrest (buckets in a variety of petroleum-derived coverings were optional) and “simulated rosewood” accents.
The 1976 Malibu Classic came with no standard radio of any sort, with even just a scratchy mono AM-only unit setting you back 75 bucks (that’s about $350 in today’s money). That radio would have been fine for listening to bad news broadcasts, but if you wanted to hear the latest hit songs you’d want at least this Delco AM/FM stereo unit. The price? $226, or about $1,060 today. Ouch! I’m a bit surprised that this car still has its original factory radio, since thieves targeted these radios well into the 1980s.
1968-1972 Chevelle coupes still command hefty prices these days, and these 1973-1977 cars have acquired more respect over the decades. This one has some icky rust in the usual spots, unfortunately— maybe not too bad by Illinois standards, but the value of a nice ’76 Chevelle coupe doesn’t justify the cost of this much body repair. Most Front Range regions in Colorado don’t use road salt during the winter, but they did back when this car was young.
The dealership badge got pried off before I could read it, but we can see enough of its shadow to discern that this appears to be a car originally sold in Fort Lupton, about 30 miles northeast of Denver.
The kind of car you want to drive!