1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan

In early 2014, the Hemmings Daily blog had an entry that mentioned that the Chevrolet Malibu was turning 50 years old, so I thought a post about the last of the 1980s Malibus would be appropriate. Five years later, I’ve modified this post enough to consider it completely changed.

“… a beautiful and practical choice …”

The 1983 Malibu was the final rear-wheel-drive Malibu and the last Malibu of any kind until the 1997 model year. For 1983, Chevrolet eliminated the Malibu Classic designation and reverted to Malibu as the single trim level, which you could get in either a four-door sedan or a five-door wagon.

Standard motivation for the 3,100 to 3,200-pound sedan (weight largely depended on engine choice) was provided by the evergreen LD5 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor hooked up to a three-speed automatic transmission, making 110 bhp and getting 20 city/29 highway by the standards of the day. Power options included two different diesels (a $500 V6 and a $700 V8 that just about no one purchased) and the LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a Rochester E4ME four-barrel carburetor rated at 18 city/26 highway. With an 18.1-gallon fuel tank, the owner of a V8 Malibu could expect a range of 325 to 360 miles. Performance was not exactly sparkling: 0-60 took a little over 11 seconds with the V8.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $8,084 Malibu V6 sedan (about $20,700 in today’s dollars or a little under what a 2019 Malibu L costs) included quad rectangular headlamps, high-energy ignition, a Delco Freedom II battery, power front disc/rear drum brakes, power steering, and P185/75R14 glass-belted radial tires (a size currently available thanks to Hankook) on 14-inch wheels. Inside, a base Malibu came spare—highlights were a vinyl bench seat, a cigarette lighter, a locking glove compartment, and a day/night rearview mirror.

Moving to the V8 brought the Malibu sedan’s base price up $225 to $8,309 (about $21,300 in 2018 dollars). Options that were ordered in more than 50% of 1983 Malibus included air conditioning (the most expensive option at $725), tinted glass ($105), remote left-hand side-view mirror ($22), and rear window defogger ($135).

1983 Chevrolet Malibu brochure cover, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Interestingly, you could still order some performance-oriented options for the Malibu even in its final year. A limited-slip differential ($95), performance rear axle ($21), gauge package with trip odometer ($95), heavy-duty battery ($25), heavy-duty cooling, rally wheels ($108), and the F40 heavy-duty suspension ($26) were all available, though I’m not convinced they found a lot of buyers among the total of 117,426 Malibus purchased in 1983.

This generation of Malibu does come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, but there were no reasonably stock examples available when I updated this blog entry in February 2019.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic, please.

Other rear-wheel drive G-platform (designated A-platform before 1982) cars I have written about include the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe, the 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe, and the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe, and the 1987 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe.

Updated February 2019.

1983 Lotus Esprit Turbo

“Low, sleek, ultra-competitive.”

The 1983 Lotus Esprit Turbo finally brought the performance that the original Esprit’s supercar looks had promised over half a decade before.

Horsepower was up to 205 bhp from the 140 bhp that had come with the debut of the Esprit in 1977. The engine was still the type-910 2.2 liter carbureted inline 4 cylinder but a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger making 8.0 psi of boost was attached. Other engine technology included an aluminum block, aluminum heads, and four valves per cylinder.

Performance for the almost 3,000 pound exotic was substantially improved: a 0-60 time of about 6.5 seconds was about 1.5 seconds quicker than the original naturally aspirated car. The Esprit Turbo’s top speed was about 140 mph.

From the perspective of 2013, mileage wasn’t so great for a small turbocharged four (14 city/25 highway by the standards of the day) but the 22.7 gallon gas tank helped with range.

The Esprit’s looks were updated in the same way that many 1970s designs were as they headed into the 1980s. Ground effects were added to the original Giorgetto Giugiaro design and of course there were huge Esprit Turbo logos on the rear quarters.

Car and Driver recently reprinted their story on the Esprit Turbo from November 1983 and it is interesting and instructive to read (though it is notable that they put the Nissan/Datsun 300ZX Turbo on the cover that month instead of the Lotus). They believed that the car would find a hole in the exotic market even at a relatively dear price of $47,984 (about $112,000 in 2013 dollars). For reference, according to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1983 Esprit Turbo in #1 condition is $30,700.