Friday, August 15, 2014

Variations of a theme

Nothing flashy to start off the day today folks, just a good, honest beater veteran of the NYC street life. I present to you a 1980 Chevrolet Malibu in either Light Blue Poly or Light Blue Metallic depending on which reference you use. This is a seriously yawn-inducing car whose most remarkable feature is that it is still driven daily a full 34 years after it was born.
Yesterday I featured a 1970 Chevelle in all its muscled glory. Well a mere 10 years later this is what it became; a neutered box meant to haul 5 adults around who were destined to miss out on the fortunes of the go-go '80s. The Chevelle even lost its name in stages, becoming the Chevelle Malibu before losing its original moniker and ending up simply as Malibu. Doesn't this car remind you of a wealthy Southern California beach town?
Identifying the vintage of the 1978-1983 Malibu comes down to the shape and arrangement of the small square (or in this case rectangular) openings of the grill.
All ribbing aside I have to give it up for the fact that this car seems to have been on the Brooklyn streets since birth and continues its loyal service to this day. The fact that someone installed mighty taxi-style bumper guards to the front was obviously a good idea as one has been broken off completely and the remaining one is bent and hanging on for dear life.
The passenger side is sporting a half set of hubcaps that are mid-'70s vintage Mopar, probably from a Dart or Valiant. The sad black plastic replacement mirror is a shout-out to function over form. By the way; those rear door windows are fixed and have no way to be rolled down! In summer the back seat would be a HOT place to be.
There is a legendary footnote of this body style from 1981 called the Iraqi Taxi (not kidding!). Saddam Hussein ordered 25,500 of these plain 4-door Malibus for taxi service in Iraq. They were special order cheapos with the base 6 cylinder engine and a 3 speed manual shifter that was floor mounted. As a regular schmo you couldn't order one like that if you tried in '81. However, only 13,000 of them made it to Iraq before the order was cancelled. The remaining 12,500 already-built taxis were dumped on the Canadian public in a fire sale at almost half price. Today they pop up at car shows as curiosities recognizable by their bench seat/stick shift combo, as well as unique tweed upholstery.
Again with the 1 sided bumper guard! The trunk tells us that yes indeed Park Slope used to be a different place with the sort of lock replacement you get when someone used a crowbar as a key. Well good for this Malibu for staying alive. I'm impressed!
Now for something different. . .
Over in Greenpoint I found this 1979 El Camino which shares a front clip with the Malibu. This one has obviously been loved and probably came from another part of the country due to its condition. The color of this looks to be the factory choice Medium Blue.
These car/trucks were pretty useful actually with their large-enough beds and car comfort. The owner of this one has elected to install a bed cover which serves 2 functions; first of all it's required to be able to drive any pickup on the Parkways of New York (no commercial vehicles are allowed and the law still perceives any truck to be commercial), and secondly because it would quickly and repeatedly be filled up with garbage and/or sleeping people who would rather lie down in a space elevated from the rat population. Hey, its the big city people!
I once had a housemate in college who owned a special edition of this era El Camino called CONQUISTADOR. He let me use it to pick up 2 full-sized arcade games in exchange for a VW Beetle motor (Donkey Kong and Tempest for you curious vintage gamers out there). While driving I was about to make a left into a Wendys parking lot, but went straight at the last minute when I saw they were closed. Unfortunately someone was already whipping around us on the right shoulder so I earned a big dent in the passenger door, and for that I hereby apologize to the El Camino Community.

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