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Classics Junkyard Find: Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M80 Filled a Muscle-Car Gap

05:31  29 may  2020
05:31  29 may  2020 Source:   motortrend.com

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We get a junkyard look at the Chevy M 80 muscle car package, created by frustrated Chevrolet dealers down south, for the 1980 Chevy Malibu . Rare Metals What You Missed Did You Hear? Walk the Shop Furtive Touches Coming Soon to MTOD.

Junkyard Find : Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M 80 Filled a Muscle - Car Gap . Totally stock on the outside, a modern muscle powerhouse underneath.

When General Motors downsized its A-body platform in 1978, Oldsmobile and Buick immediately launched muscular versions of the shrunken platform in the form of the 4-4-2, Hurst/Olds, and Regal Sport Coupe. Powered by Oldsmobile's 350 (4-4-2) and Buick's 3.8-liter turbo V-6, they gave performance shoppers something to grasp at during some of Detroit's darkest days.

But what about Chevrolet, GM's core high-performance division? Was there a souped up version of the newly downsized Malibu or Monte Carlo ready for 1978? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Chevrolet put all of its high-performance eggs in the Camaro/Corvette basket, leaving midsize A-body customers high and dry. And, surprisingly, things stayed that way until 1983, with the arrival of the Monte Carlo SS (as a 1984 model).

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Chevrolet Malibu on MSN Autos. See the latest models, reviews, ratings, photos, specs, information, pricing, and more. Request a dealer quote or view Junkyard find : Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M 80 filled a muscle - car gap . Motor Trend. Better deal: 1970 Chevrolet Malibu or 2020 Chevrolet Malibu ?

Old American Cars American Muscle Cars Classic Chevrolet Chevrolet Malibu Chevy Nova 3000 mile, '80, factory 4 speed Malibu . | GBodyForum - '78-'88 General Motors A/G-Body Community. 1980 Chevy Malibu - this was my first car. I had it painted burnt orange. I would love to find another

What's a Chevy Malibu M80?

While Chevrolet dealers jealously watched as brand-new 4-4-2s and Turbo Regals sold in fairly healthy numbers, the Malibu and Monte Carlo languished as basic people movers. Or did they? During a recent trip to Shelby, North Carolina, home of Sundell Automotive Specialties, we stumbled onto a 1980 Chevy Malibu M80. Never heard of one? Neither had we.

According to the Sundell guys, the M80 was not a product of GM stylists working at Chevrolet's Warren, Michigan, headquarters. Rather, the Malibu M80 was a regional model conjured by several of the more powerful Chevrolet dealers in the southeastern sales zone and built at GM's Lakewood Heights, Georgia, factory to be sold in NASCAR country. Further research is needed, but it seems that a group of Chevrolet dealers collaborated to design and bring the M80 to market. After all, with a claimed output of 1,901 M80s, it is highly unlikely that a single dealership would—or could—commission a project like this.

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US News & World Report - Cars. Junkyard find : Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M 80 filled a muscle - car gap . Motor Trend. Better deal: 1970 Chevrolet Malibu or 2020 Chevrolet Malibu ?

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Possible COPO Involvement in the Malibu M80

All Malibu M80s were built to the same specification, as solid-white two-door coupes with F41 heavy-duty suspension and the 155hp LG4 305 four-barrel V-8. Essentially, they were 9C1 Malibu police cars with two-door bodies. GM's COPO (Central Office Production Order) system was likely activated to get this "fleet" of nearly identical Malibus built efficiently.

From there, special M80 details included blue stripes for the hood and trunk, body-side graphics, specific chin and trunk spoilers, and dual-exit exhaust with chrome tips. The only option seems to have been the transmission, either the TH200 automatic or Saginaw four-on-the-floor.

Sundell's research isn't yet certain whether the complex graphics and fiberglass aero bits were installed on GM's Lakewood Heights, Georgia, assembly line or at some second-tier completion shop. Our guess is that the graphics and spoilers would have been an unwelcome complication on the regular Malibu assembly line. We'd bet an as-of-yet-unidentified second-tier shop (perhaps Choo-Choo Customs of Tennessee) handled the M80 conversion before the cars were shipped to the participating dealer network—all of them in Southern states. This highly observant writer grew up in Massachusetts and never spotted an M80 in the Northeast.

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See Chevrolet Malibu color options on MSN Autos. Request a dealer quote or view used cars at MSN Autos. Junkyard find : Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M 80 filled a muscle - car gap .

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Chevy Malibu M80: Taking a Closer Look

Let's take a closer look at the hopped-up Malibu M80; Chevrolet's inaction on the muscle-car front forced its Southern dealer network to build.

a car parked in front of a truck © Motor Trend Staff

The second-gen 14-inch Rally wheels are incorrect on this Malibu M80. Original equipment would have been 14x6 stamped steel rims with five, six-sided slots painted blue to match the body graphics and snap-on trim rings. A broken remnant of the M80-specific wraparound chin spoiler is seen dangling between the front tire and bumper. Modern reproductions are available from Motor City High Performance.

a sign on the side of the street © Motor Trend Staff

The blue vinyl M80 side graphics suggest explosive fun while reminding viewers it's a Malibu-for-1980. Unlike some Detroit body graphics packages, there are no signs of copyright markings. Thanks to at least one source of reproduction graphics kits, several restored M80s (and likely a few clones) exist.

  Junkyard Find: Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M80 Filled a Muscle-Car Gap © Motor Trend Staff

The finger points to one of several mounting holes drilled into the trunk lid to attach the M80 fiberglass spoiler. Unlike the vinyl horizontal door graphics, the M80's trunk and hood stripes are painted. Note how the stripes are a lighter shade of blue where the spoiler protected them from exposure.

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a close up of an old building © Motor Trend Staff

This M80 was apparently sold new by Bill Turner Chevrolet of Forest City, North Carolina, deep in NASCAR country. It is possible this dealer was one of several that collaborated on the M80 project. If any readers have more info on who did what during the M80 assembly process, please reach out to hemimagneto@aol.com.

a boat sitting on top of a grass covered field © Motor Trend Staff

Though dual tailpipes were part of the Malibu 9C1 police package (fed by a single pellet-bed catalytic converter), the factory tailpipe routing exited behind the rear tires. For extra look-fast points, the M80's got the straight-back tailpipe extensions and chrome tips seen here. It is highly unlikely these items were installed by Chevrolet assembly line workers, further begging the question, what entity put them there?

a dirty old car © Motor Trend Staff

Inside, the clutch pedal and open transmission tunnel trigger dreams of factory four-speed status. Then the home-brewed pedals and rough-cut shifter passage pop the balloon. Closer inspection reveals a factory column-shifted automatic transmission. Remaining bits of M80 glory include the passenger-side racing mirror and mechanical gauge package (hiding behind the frosted instrument panel face). The M80 arrived just in time for Federal laws limiting speedometers to just 85 mph.

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a car engine © Motor Trend Staff

The 155hp LG4 305 and Turbo 200 automatic have been scavenged, but the quick-ratio power steering box, thick antiroll bar, high-rate coil springs, and shock absorbers from the 9C1 police package are still present. The same RPO LG4 305 engine was installed in all 1980 Corvettes sold in California where it rated 180 hp, thanks to stainless steel headers. Non-California Corvette buyers got a $50 credit for choosing the 305 instead of the base L48 350. A total of 3,221 Corvettes with the  305 were built in 1980.

  Junkyard Find: Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M80 Filled a Muscle-Car Gap © Motor Trend Staff

A small chunk of the 1,901 M80s built got GM's Saginaw four-speed manual transmission, seen here in a non-M80 1979 Malibu. With its iron case, wide-ratio gear spread, and 300hp durability limit, the Saginaw plays a distant second to GM's favored Muncie four-speed. At least Chevy was trying. At Buick, the hot 170 hp turbo V-6s were strictly automatics. Over at Oldsmobile, the 1978-1979 4-4-2 could be had with the same Saginaw four-speed (with Oldsmobile 307 V-8) or—an Oldsmobile first—a five-speed manual with overdrive (only with Olds' 260 V-8).

a car parked on the side of a dirt field © Motor Trend Staff

In stark contrast to the bold, brash Malibu M80, Chevy's hottest official A-body offering for 1980 was the extremely understated Monte Carlo turbo. Not a specific model, turbocharged Montes could be had with the same fake wire-wheel hubcaps and thick vinyl tops seen on the most luxurious Monte Carlos. Smart turbo buyers went with base models for less weight. This 1980 turbo Monte Carlo is one of 13,839 sold. Chevy gave the Monte Carlo a squared-off restyle for 1981 and offered the turbo V-6 one last time when just 3,027 were sold.

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  Junkyard Find: Rare 1980 Chevy Malibu M80 Filled a Muscle-Car Gap © Motor Trend Staff

Losing its "turbo" emblem somewhere along the line, the Monte Carlo turbo's offset hood blister was the only external detail touting the presence of Buick's romping, stomping 170hp turbo 3.8 underneath. The blister is a simple bolt-on item, it serves no functional purpose. Inside, the only other "turbo" marking is a 1-inch-long plastic emblem affixed to the dashpad over the A/C blower vent.

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Though everyone whined at the time, GM's 1978 downsizing campaign breathed new life into the Malibu … and Buick's Century/Regal, Olds' Cutlass, and Pontiac's LeMans/Grand Am/Grand Prix. If government CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards hadn't been imposed on Detroit—forcing carmakers into shedding weight to meet CAFE standards or face hefty fines—today, we wouldn't have the excellent A- and G-bodies to play with. On average, GM's midsize cars lost 550 to 750 pounds and 12 to 18 inches of length in 1978 versus 1977.

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