MOTOR MATTERS CLASSIC CLASSICS BY VERN PARKER
The black-vinyl convertible top on Stephan Paillard’s 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu goes down in April and up in October. The original owner was a woman (with obvious good taste in cars). She selected a car equipped with an all-black interior.
This particular Chevelle Malibu, with a civilized 307-cubic-inch, 200-horsepower V-8 engine mated to an automatic transmission, was built to be a cruiser with the gear selector mounted on the steering column. Models with manual transmissions were manufactured for the muscle car crowd.
After 20 years of easy cruising on the local boulevards, the first owner traded her red beauty in on another car at the Chevrolet dealership in Lansdale, Pa. The dealer, however, could not bring himself to put the outstanding 1971 Chevy on the used-car lot. He had it parked in one of the buildings on the property.
There it sat, in the dark, for the next three years. One of the men in the dealership’s body shop really liked the old Chevrolet. That attraction to the car was obvious to Paillard, at the time a teenager working as an office clerk in the body shop.
Unrelenting persistence by Paillard’s fellow employee finally persuaded the dealer to sell him the desired convertible. The young Paillard watched his fellow co-worker disassemble the Chevy, removing all of the trim pieces and stripping the original paint. c
Both front fenders were replaced. When the car was stripped down to bare metal it was sprayed with a color coat to match the original, followed by a clear coat. With all the trim replaced the car looked like a million dollars. Paillard had witnessed the total rejuvenation of the 1971 Chevelle Malibu, which was accomplished in less than a month.
A few years passed and Paillard noticed the co-worker had not been driving the restored convertible.
The car appealed to Paillard, especially since he had watched the restoration. He asked his co-worker to sell him the car.
“Give me a fair price and if I can meet it I’ll write a check right now,” Paillard said. The deal was done and Paillard drove his 1971 Chevrolet home in April 1999. The mileage on the odometer was 87,700.
His 3,390-pound convertible was one of 5,089 such models built during the 1971 model year. It had a base price of $3,260. Extra cost options on the vehicle included air conditioning, power steering and power brakes.
The black vinyl top is only the second one on the convertible, which is power-operated. And yes, the rear window is really glass. A black vinyl boot fits over the top when lowered. Paillard reports that raising the top is always a struggle.
“It works fine until the top is 2 inches from the windshield,” he says. At that point he begins wrestling the top down into place.
In addition to regular maintenance, Paillard has installed gas shock absorbers and heavy-duty springs. With the two-barrel Rochester carburetor feeding the V-8 engine the exhaust didn’t satisfy Paillard, so he installed a dual-exhaust system with a pair of California Turbo mufflers for a more pleasing exhaust note.
“When you get up to 60 or so,” Paillard says, “It’s like driving a cloud.” The total on the odometer has now reached 93,376.
While the outside of his car sparkles like new, Paillard is happy that the interior is all-original. “That is what makes the car smell like an old car.” — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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