The great thing about cars shows is that you get to see similar models often sitting door handle to door handle, giving you the perfect opportunity to examine the plethora of details that make each version unique. I had just such a chance at this past weekend’s Cars and Coffee meet-in in Montrose CA where a pair of 1966 Chevys – one a plain jane Chevelle, and the other its fancy pants sister the Malibu – were on display.
Both cars were pristine examples, and while back in the day the Malibu might have been the one you’d choose, for reasons made evident after the jump, I think I’d take this poorer relation in this case.
It seems remarkable today that a manufacturer would offer two so similarly positioned products with such strikingly expensive bodywork differences. In the case of the Chevelle for ’66 and ’67, the base car – here this is a 300 deluxe, although there was an even baser 300 available – came with a flat back window and fully framed side lights and doors. My grandmother used to have a car with this body, although hers was of the 120-horse straight six/Powerglide persuasion. This one, in spectacularly presented beige pumps things up with a 450-horse 427, backed up with a four speed stick. It should be noted that the 427 was never a factory option in the ’66 Chevelle, the largest mill offered that year being a 360-horse 396 in the SS model.
This is the inception of the muscle car, the lightest body possible, married to the biggest, meanest motor that could be crammed under the hood. Adding to the weight loss, this car has dog dish wheel caps, radio delete, and benches for both the back and front seats. There’s not much froo-froo going on here.
The Malibu on the other hand, while looking at first glance verity similar to the base Chevelle is in fact quite different. Perhaps most noticeable is the inset rear window, bookended by a pair of flying buttresses.
The rest of the greenhouse, including all the glass save for the windscreen, is also unique to the Malibu and includes frameless glass on both the doors and second light, creating a totally different feel from the base car. Other differences include trim pieces, and of course badging, which replaces the institutional nameplate of the Chevelle with Malibu in script.
Inside, this Malibu has the optional pair of buckets – actually loveseat like mini-benches compared to today’s seats – and a column shift for its automatic transmission. Under the hood here is 327.
The Chevelle eventually say its Malibu trim take over the marque entirely, and of course that nameplate serves to this day as a single 4-door model sold to people who liked the one they rented on their last business trip. Back in the day the Chevelle lineup was far broader, and served a wider audience. These two examples show just how different even the similar ones could be.
Images: ©2014 Hooniverse/Robert Emslie, All Rights Reserved
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