posted on April 30th, 2019

Bowtie brawler

The Chevelle was the car that brought the Chevy roaring into the muscle car wars of the ‘60s. When they introduced it in 1963 to compete with the mid-sized Ford Fairlane, the Chevelle was an instant hit, selling over 330,000 units in its first year. Its big, boxy frame housed an array of stout V8s, which got more powerful with each model year. To this day, the Chevelle is one of the most successful nameplates to bear the bowtie, one of the defining models of the muscle car era, and indeed Chevy’s own history.

This 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu, our car of the month for April 2019, is a magnificent example from Chevy’s glory days. The Chevelle was built to bear huge engines and look the business, and not much else. Its simplicity lent to hot rodding like almost no other car of the era, which is why the Chevelle was a favorite then and remains one today.

Turo host Jack H. is the second owner of this 1971 Chevelle Malibu. A friend of his bought it new in Pennsylvania in 1971, then promptly drove it clear across the country to Los Angeles, where it has lived ever since. Though this is the top-line Chevelle Malibu, it does not have the sought-after SS package, which was the big daddy of its day. But it still gets looks, even in LA. “Almost every time I’m driving it, people are staring and waving,” says Jack.

Muscle cars tend to appeal that way. This slab-sided hardtop coupe has a perfectly muscley stance, and a simple, near-fastback silhouette. It can fit three people across each row of seats, handles as lazily as you’d expect, and absolutely commands the road (as long as no Super Sport Chevelles are around). And as you can see, this thing is green. Besides the green paint, inside there’s a green steering wheel, green dash, green floors, green headliner, green everything. If the sound of the carbureted V8 doesn’t catch your attention, the color certainly will.

Can’t fake original

This is no garage queen. Today the car has done around 90,000 miles — it’s what you would call a driver. But Jack keeps it covered when parked, so besides the expected sun damage on the roof, the car is in great condition.

The interior is similarly well-looked after. The upholstery shows just enough wear to give it the strong sense of character you want from a 40 year-old car. Except for the five-spoke wheels, which Jack put on himself, it’s completely original. Though, comfortingly, it also has upgraded disc brakes on all four corners. “I had to do the brakes because the car just wouldn’t stop,” says Jack.

This Chevelle has its original 350ci (5.7L) V8, which was rated at 175 horsepower from the factory for this year. Two versions of the 350 were available, with the SS package or without, and the Chevelle was offered with at least eight different V8 engines during the production of its second generation — Chevy’s range of engine options and packages is all a bit confusing for the uninitiated. Jack had the engine rebuilt two years ago, and says the lazy growl of the small-block Chevy is his favorite part of the car.

The Chevelle’s simple construction makes it easy to fix, and parts are near abundant for the old muscle car. As you might expect from an early-seventies American car with a three-speed automatic transmission, efficiency is not a standout feature with Jack’s Chevelle. “It’s really not too bad. I probably get between 12, maybe 15 miles per gallon.”

Jack has always been a car guy, and likes to take the Chevelle to shows, where it always gets a good reception. “To be honest I’m into European cars more, like Porsches and Alfas, but when I got this Chevy, I decided right away I would keep it.” His 16-year-old daughter has long looked forward to driving it, but she doesn’t yet have her license and Jack is in no rush to hand her the keys. “One day, for sure. I think I’ll make her wait a bit longer though.”

Steven is an avid car guy and content specialist at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.