Chev Chevelle Generation 3
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The Colonnade Hardtop
The most extensive redesign in its 10-year history marked the 1973
Chevelle, and with it marked the end of hardtops as we knew them. The newly-named "Colonnade Hardtop" featured a semi-fastback roofline, frameless door glass and fixed, styled "B" pillars, structurally strong enough to contribute to occupant safety of a roll-over type accident. GM had anticipated Federal roll-over safety standards that ironically didn't materialize.
Distinctive rear quarter glass on 2-door coupes and new side windows with styled center pillars were featured on 4-door models. Rear windows on coupes no longer opened. In addition to the new roofline, front and rear ends looked markedly different this year as 1973
was the year of the federally-mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) front bumper, adding to the car's length. Additional new body features were an acoustical double-panel roof, tighter-fitting glass and flush style outside door handles.
Wheelbase dimensions were retained; a sporty 112 inches (2,800 mm) for coupes and 116 inches (2,900 mm) for sedans and station wagons, but bodies were five inches (127 mm) longer and an inch wider with a 1-inch (25 mm) wider wheel track. The station wagon, available in 6 or 9 passenger seating, featured a new counterbalanced liftgate which allowed for easier entry and loading up to 85 cubic feet.
models also introduced molded full foam front and rear seat construction, a flow-through power ventilation system, an inside hood release, refined Delcotron generator and sealed side-terminal battery
, a larger 22 gallon fuel tank, and "flush and dry" rocker panels introduced first on the redesigned 1971
full-size Chevrolets. Another structural improvement was a stronger design for the side door guard beams.
New options included swivel bucket seats (with console) for coupes and Turbine I urethane (backed by steel) wheels, as was the instrument gauge cluster. A power moonroof was an option 1973
. Interior roominess of the 1973
Chevelle was improved, particularly in the rear. Headroom was up slightly and shoulder room gains were by 1.6 inches (41 mm). Rear seat legroom was up 3.5 inches (89 mm) in sedans. Another was a 15.3-cubic-foot (430 litres) luggage capacity, an increase of 2.5 cubic feet (71 litres) over 1972
Still another benefit of the new body designs was greatly improved visibility, up 25% in coupes and wagons, and 35% in sedans. The unusually thin windshield pillars also contributed to much better visibility. The chassis design was as new as the bodies - with an all-new, sturdier perimeter frame, new chassis/body mounts, larger 8½ inch rear axle, wider 6-inch wheel rim width, refined rear control arm bushings, increased front and rear suspension travel, new shock absorber location, and improved front suspension geometry - The left wheel was adjusted to have slightly more positive camber than the right which resulted in a more uniform and stable steering
feel on high-crown road surfaces while maintaining excellent freeway cruise stability. Clearances for spring travel were also improved for a smoother ride over all types of surfaces; the coil springs
at each wheel were computer-selected to match the individual car's weight.
The 1973 Chevelles
Front disc brakes
were now standard on all 1973
Chevelles. John Z. DeLorean
, Chevrolet's dynamic general manager during the design phase of the new Chevelles, left just as they were being announced. He departed in late September 1972
to start a brief stint as vice president of General Motors's Car and Truck Group. DeLorean left the new Chevelle an important legacy, though. He and Alex Mair, then Chevrolet's chief engineer, championed great handling
. Like many new Chevrolet models of the era, the new Chevelles would be exceptional drivers' cars. Five power teams were available for 1973
Chevelle models; the 250 inline-six and 307 2-barrel V8 both rated at 110 hp (82 kW) were std. engines on Deluxe and Malibu.
The 350 2-barrel V8 of 145 hp (108 kW) was the base Laguna engine. Options for any Chevelle included a 350 4-barrel V8 of 175 hp (130 kW) and a 454 4-barrel V8 rated at 245 hp (183 kW). Hardened engine valve seats and hydraulic camshafts made these engines reliable for many miles, and allowed them to accept the increasingly popular unleaded regular gasoline. 3 speed manual transmission
was standard; 4 speed manual and Turbo Hydra-Matic 3 speed automatic
were optional. Crossflow radiators and coolant reservoirs that prevented air from entering the system prevented overheating.
alibu and the newly named Deluxe series base model featured the new 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumper system with a large chrome front bumper and a chrome rear bumper. Malibu series interiors included cloth and vinyl or all vinyl seat trim and deep-twist carpeting. Deluxe series interiors featured cloth and vinyl or knit vinyl seat trim. Floor coverings were colour-keyed in vinyl-coated rubber. The SS was now a trim option limited to the mid-level Malibu series. Shoppers could even get an SS station wagon this year - with the option of a 454-cubic-inch V8 engine, no less - but the mix of sport and utilitarian wagon virtues would last only a single season. Included was a black grill with SS emblem, lower bodyside and wheel opening striping, bright roof drip moldings, colour-keyed dual sport mirrors, black taillight bezels, SS fender and rear panel emblems, special front and rear stabilizer bars, 14x7 inch rally wheels, 70-series raised white lettered tyres, special instrumentation and SS interior emblems. The SS option required an available 350 or 454 V8 with 4-speed or Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.
Chevrolet honored California beach resorts once again by naming the top Chevelle series Laguna with the Malibu taking the middle spot while the base series was called simply Deluxe. In addition to the standard 350 2 barrel V8, Laguna models featured specific front and rear styling including a body-coloured urethane front end concealing the new 5 mph bumper system. On minor impact the urethane nose cone, backed up by shock- absorbing cylinders, deflects and rebounds; Laguna models also featured a specific diecast chrome grille with bowtie emblem, a body-coloured (steel) rear bumper, front and rear bumper rub strips, bright roof drip moldings, bright wheel opening moldings, chrome taillight bezels, full wheel covers, and Laguna fender nameplates.
Two Laguna station wagons were introduced, including a Laguna Estate. Laguna interiors were pattern cloth and vinyl or optional breathable all-vinyl upholstery, distinctive door trim with map pockets, deep-twist carpeting, woodgrain vinyl accents, and Laguna nameplates. Consumers continued to snap up Chevelles: 327,631 of them in the 1973 model year, plus 59,108 station wagons. The Malibu versions of the Chevelle continued to sell best by a wide margin, but the costlier Laguna coupe and sedan made a respectable showing, with 56,036 going to customers. Super Sport options went on 28,647 Chevelles of which 2500 held the big 454-cubic-inch engine. The SS option was dropped at the end of the model year. Yearly design changes to the front and rear mark the aesthetic differences as in previous years. The Chevelles were top sellers for GM as was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, which used the same corporate A-body platform.
The 1974 Chevelles
Chevelles featured new grilles, new taillights and 5 mph (8.0 km/h) rear bumpers (in addition to the 5 mph (8.0 km/h) front bumper added in '73) The Laguna name had debuted on the 1973
Chevelle as the top-line series in all body-styles, but the 1974
Laguna Type S-3 came only as a coupe, which combined Laguna luxury with the superior road manners of the SS which it replaced. Handling
was further enhanced with the addition of new GR70-15 radial-ply tyres. The new Laguna S-3 sported the urethane front end with a revised grill and new parking lamps, augmented at the rear by new taillights. A federally-mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) chrome rear bumper replaced the body-coloured steel 2.5 mph (4.0 km/h) version from 1973
Standard equipment included a console, a vinyl roof, opera-type vertical rear quarter windows which could be covered with horizontal ribs for a few dollars extra; body side striping, Laguna S3 badging, rally wheels, 4 spoke steering
wheel as well as firmer shocks/springs
, a front stabilizer bar, and fat HR70x15 tyres
on Rally wheels. Front occupants rode in swivel bucket seats, and the driver faced a six-dial instrument cluster. Production totaled 15,792 cars, with prices starting at $3,723 - but with plenty of options to send the bottom line past $5,000. Engine offerings included a standard 145 horsepower (108 kW) 350 two-barrel V8, with optional powerplants including a 150 horsepower (110 kW) 400 two-barrel V8, 180 horsepower (130 kW) 400 four-barrel V8 and 230 horsepower (170 kW) 454 four-barrel V8, except in California where a 155 horsepower (116 kW) 350 four-barrel V8 was standard and the 400 and 454 engines were optional.
The 454 was available with the Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic 400 or Muncie 4 speed manual transmissions
. 3-point seat belts with integrated shoulder belts were introduced as on all Chevrolet models. With the Laguna nameplate now bearing the sporty model in the Chevelle line, the top-line series for 1974
was the new Malibu Classic series, offered in sedan, coupe and station wagon models. Unlike the 1973
Laguna, the Malibu Classic used the same front end and chrome bumper as the lesser (Malibu) models, but the smaller vertical rear quarter "opera" windows and a spring-loaded hood ornament were featured.
Early '74 Classic coupes required the vinyl roof option; apparently inserts were used to cover part of the big rear quarter window. Later '74s were available with a standard painted roof that included the smaller "opera" window. Inside, the Malibu Classic featured luxurious interiors with notchback bench seats upholstered in cloth or vinyl, carpeted door panels and woodgrain instrument panel trim. Optional on Malibu Classic coupes were swivel bucket seats (with console) in cloth or vinyl. The base Deluxe series was dropped for 1974
, making the Malibu the base model. Base engines were the 250-cubic-inch six and the 350-cubic-inch V8.
The 1975 Chevelles
although the basic body styling was unaltered, the Colonnade designation was dropped. The lineup was marked by fresh front and rear styling including a vertical grid-patterned grille and new bright trim around the headlights were highlights. Rectangular taillights sat flush with the body surface, connected by a brushed chrome panel. Malibu Classic coupes had distinctive opera windows. Landau coupes came with a vinyl roof, full wheel covers, whitewall tyres, colour-keyed body striping, and dual sport mirrors. Engines ranged from the standard 250-cubic-inch six and 350-cubic-inch 2-barrel V8 to V8 options of 400 and 454-cubic-inch size, the last with a 235-horsepower rating. Variable-ratio power steering
was now standard with V8 models, and all 1975 models rode steel-belted radial tyres.
A new "Chevrolet Efficiency System" introduced a High-Energy Ignition (HEI). This electronic ignition system provided minimal maintenance and increased power. Speedometers
were now calibrated in both miles per hour and kilometers per hour. Following its debut as a 1974 model, the sporty Laguna Type S-3 left the lineup briefly, then reappeared in January 1975
. This time, it wore a rakishly slanted, urethane-covered aero-style nose designed for NASCAR (first use on a Chevrolet vehicle - later to show up on the 1983-88 Monte Carlo SS), louvered opera windows, and could be ordered with a vinyl half-roof. The 454 engine option was available for the first half of the model year after which the 400 engine became the top engine. Options included an Econominder gauge package, affirming again that the age of muscle was long gone.
The 1976 Chevelles
1976 Chevelles earned a billing as "a size whose time has come." Malibu Classics adopted a diamond-pattern grille and stacked rectangular headlights, while regular Malibus kept a single-light setup and plainer grillwork. Three V8s were available: a new 305-cubic-inch version rated at 140 horsepower (100 kW), a 165-horsepower 350-cubic-inch, and a 400-cubic-inch engine that developed 175 horses. Options included the Econominder gauge package. In its third and final season, the 1976 Laguna Type S-3 was little changed. It again featured quarter-window louvers and a sloped, body-colour urethane front end. Lagunas shared their round-gauge instrument panel with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and could be ordred with a four-spoke sport steering
wheel as well as swivel front bucket seats and a center console. Lesser models made do with a more conventional dashboard and a linear-readout speedometer
. Production of the Laguna edged up to 9,100 cars as the base price went to $4,621.
The 1977 Chevelles
Chevelles got new grilles. The lineup consisted of Malibu and Malibu Classic models in coupe, sedan, and station wagon body styles. Estate Wagons and the Laguna Type S-3 were gone. Malibu Classics, again the top model, switched to a vertical grille pattern and six-section taillights but kept their twin stacked headlights and stand-up hood ornament. Malibu grilles changed little. Fewer engine selections were available though the engines that remained gained a few horses. In standard form, Chevelles had a 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine or a 145 horsepower (108 kW), 305-cubic-inch V8.
The sole option beyond that was a 170 horsepower (130 kW), four-barrel 350-cubic-inch V8 (this engine was standard in the Malibu Classic station wagon) Malibu Classics had a luxurious cloth/vinyl split-bench front seat, colour-keyed steering
wheel, and woodgrain-accented instrument panel. Malibu options included a $46 Exterior Decor group, $54 tinted glass, and $33 full wheel covers. A total of 37,215 Malibu Classic Landau coupes were produced, as opposed to 73,739 Malibu Classic coupes and 28,793 Malibu coupes. In four-door sedan form, too, the Malibu Classics outsold base models by a substantial margin. The 350 V8 was the top engine.
A Chevelle SE (special edition) was available and provided front and rear spoilers, turbine II wheels, F60x15 tyres, special graphics and decals, quarter window trim, front and rear sway bars, F41 sport suspension
and a deluxe interior. Three colours were available. 50 of these rare cars were built.When GM downsized its intermediate models for 1978
, the Chevelle name was dropped. Malibu became the nameplate for all models.