In 1970, my wife and I decided to trade in our 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible with just 68k miles for a Chevrolet convertible ! I was dealing with an old friend of mine from my old home town (Bill Wentworth, today owner of Wentworth Chevy/GMC in Dansville NY) from the former Mulkin Chevrolet in Brockport NY. As the wife and I were planning a family, our thought was to get just a standard Chevelle convertible and not an SS ! What I originally wanted was a 350ci motor with a 4 speed and a decent posi rear end gear ! Unfortunately with a small block at that time, I couldn’t get a 4 speed and some of the other equipment I wanted, namely heavy duty suspension, cooling, battery, etc. Bill suggested I move up into an option called a Malibu 400 where I could get all these items but I would have to get a big block Chevy motor (402 ci) to get them. We decided this was ok ! My wife picked out the color, mulsanne blue. We ordered the Chevelle in August of ‘70 and because GM went on strike shortly after our order, we waited 17 weeks for the car. I almost cancelled the order a couple of times but stuck it out !
January 11th, 1971 we took possession of our new 71 Chevelle Malibu 400 convertible. We live in a snow belt but the day we picked up the car, the roads were dry and only some snow on the ground. We drove the Chevelle home and into the garage it went. I told my wife I hated to drive a brand new convertible in the snow and I asked her if we could share her car [a 70 Chevy Nova] till the weather got better and she agreed. In April 71, GM said they were going to stop making convertibles in the intermediate class so we made the decision to drive the Chevelle in the good weather as pleasure only. And that is how the car was driven all these years, pleasure only ! Our son Chris was born in August ‘73 and his first ride home from the hospital when born was in the back seat of this Chevelle (top up of course). I worked [and retired] at a former division of GM (Rochester Products Division of GM now Delphi Automotive Systems). Back in the late 80’s I had a friend relocate to Chevrolet Motor Division. I asked him to do a check on the production number of the Malibu 400’s and although he had a tough task getting back into the archives, he did manage to come up with a number which included all models and transmission types, 308 but couldn’t tell from the records how many were convertibles or 4 speeds.
I started insuring with Hagerty when the car was 25 years old, now 22 years. It wasn’t till about 20 years or so ago that I was informed just how rare our Chevelle was. According to the Malibu 400 website, a 71 convertible with a LS3-402ci motor and a standard transmission (wide ratio 4 speed in our case), supposedly only 15 were produced ! Through the years the Chevelle has remained only a pleasure car; no winters and rain only when caught in it [maybe 10 times]. Other than normal maintenance, gauge package and some chrome stuff under the hood, the car has remained pretty much stock ! I have attended a lot of car shows and classic car cruise ins over the years and the car always gets it share of attention ! Last year the car just turned 30k miles ! It is a fun car to drive in the summer time !
My son Chris [age 44], who today lives just 5 miles from us with his family, is part owner of the Chevelle primarily as a function of my age ! He has a 72 Chevelle he’s owned since ‘89 and it is presently going through it’s 3rd iteration, a pro street car conversion ! Chris takes the 71 Chevelle every so often and loves the car as much as we do. I have been offered some big dollars for the car from those who know how rare the car is but I would never sell it, couldn’t even if I wanted too; Chris would never let me sell it [too much sentimentality being his first ride home when born] !
There is so much more I could say about this car saga but the important information has been stated ! Over the years I have had some decent performance cars (2 GTO’s, SS 396 Chevelle, home built 55 Chevy and 64 Chevelle, 72 & 87 El Camino’s, etc.) but all have been sold or traded. But not my 71. That car will stay in the family indefinitely !