Monday, August 4, 2008

Chevy Malibu Classic

I walked outside today on a typically beautiful San Francisco summer day — fog, drizzle and 55 degrees — and discovered a mid-seventies Chevy Malibu Classic parked on my street. I talked to the owner and it only has 51,000 original miles on it. But the transmission and the drive train had to be replaced, a testament to G.M. quality in the seventies.

I'm not sure if it was made it Flint, but it sure brought back a lot of memories of Flint rides. My brother had a canary yellow 1976 Buick Century that looked a little like this Malibu.

UPDATE: A few readers have pointed out it was probably the San Francisco hills that doomed the tranny, not G.M. quality control. Point well taken.


  1. I'm guessing that car is parked in the Sunset or the Richmond. Yet you said it was a beautiful summer day so that would cancel out my first guess. Now I'm thinking Noe Valley or the Haight. Am I close?

  2. You're getting warmer with Noe Valley.

    It's Bernal Heights and, unlike the Sunset or the Richmond, I might get some sun by this afternoon.

  3. i am sure that parking on those hills had no ill affect on the transmission

    it is certainly thrilling not to see any rust on the sheet metal or pitting on the chrome

    thanks for the cool pix

  4. I overlooked the "fog, drizzle and 55 degrees..." As Bernal Heights is one SF neighborhood I didn't live in, I wouldn't have guessed it. Perhaps the hills of SF did in the transmission of the Malibu.

    Do you remember the white Impala parked across the street on Bassett? I think it was too big for our driveway. Those were monster cars. I remember when I moved to SF, I thought the cars looked miniature. That was my very first impression as I stepped out from the airport. I didn't see any american made cars.

    When I returned to visit Michigan in the very early 80's, I borrowed my sister's foreign made car to go to Flint and was told to remove it from a GM employee's driveway. What was I thinking?

  5. It is pretty stunning to see a car that old in such pristine condition just sitting on the street. Especially in SF, which has a large percentage of beat up old cars, including my 1990 Camry, a car totally devoid of style.

  6. And this post illustrates the blessing and curse of blogging. Namely, you think something and it's "published," which is the exact opposite of how real journalism works.

    I just realized that I don't really have any facts to back up my swipe at G.M. quality in the seventies. That's certainly a perceived fact, but is it true?

    To be honest, I'm not even sure how "quality" is measured in the auto industry. It's time for a call to my friend Sparky who works at the Fords.

  7. GM quality in the 70's....let me think.....i beleive the metality was ship worked to keep up the numbers

    one thing for sure the sheet metal was extremely prone to rusting and back then the mechanics was far less than it is today

    i can remember when a car got close to the 50k mark my dad would get nervous and get rid of that car

    today GM cars go 200k with relatively few problems for the most part....sheet metal holds up quite well also

    every once in a while a customer will say they sure don't build cars like they used to and one of our guys favorite response is "they sure don't, thank god"

    also we get people who come in to look at the new cars and remark at how nice they are and how well built they seem to be....i haven't looked at american made cars in 20 years....well they answered their own questions

    i will agree in the hey day and that toward the mid to late 70's cars such as the malibu pictured were produced when the mentality was f it ship it if they don't like it tough shit

    then in the early 80's through the late 80's GM was nervous and even the workers on the line were starting to realize....hey if we don't put out some quality regardless of how strong the union is we are toast

    this led to one of the best production runs in the history of GM as far as quality goes...the LeSabre and Park Avenue built at Buick City had world class quality and we still see it today on the mid to late 80's and 90's examples of these cars, especially the ones with the 3.8 liter engine that gets 30+ mpg on the highway imagine that a full size sedan with a relatively large v6 engine acheiving 30+ mpg on the highway

    i am confident that the cars will keep getting better and Flint is poised to take a lead role in the future of extremely fuel efficient vehicles.....there is a tremendous amount of talent in the area and I think GM realizes it's going to take car guys and gals to pull it off, not bean counters

    wow....caffeine is a wonderful thing

  8. ohhhh, if only it had the landau roof!!! there is a true WTF? styling craze! cover part of the roof with vinyl. Why did anyone pay extra for that???? what were we thinking?

  9. I think it's so the roof matches the seats.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at