In 1969, the marketing gurus were telling Detroit's "Big Three" that American consumers were getting in the mood to break loose and spend. Like its competitors, General Motors heeded the advice and planned accordingly, and one legacy is the 1973-1977 Chevrolet Chevelle.
Sedan and coupe views from February 1969 provide
little hint of the "Colonnade" roof styles that would
characterize the new Chevelle. See more classic car pictures.
The launch of massive more-than-full-size models in all five GM car lines for 1971 was to be followed up with new intermediates for 1972 -- cars larger and more luxurious than their predecessors. No one could imagine how quickly this rosy scenario would become clouded.
A United Auto Workers strike against General Motors in mid-1970 cast the first long shadow over the product plans. The strike's impact pushed the launch of the new mid-size General Motors cars, including the Chevrolet Chevelle, back a full model year, to 1973. Distractions such as 1971's corporate switch to engines designed to run on low-lead fuels and emerging safety concerns also impacted development.
Then 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.
The Laguna Type S-3 Chevelle bowed out after
9,100 of the 1976s were made.
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.
The 1973-generation Chevelle shared its new Fisher A-body structure with the Oldsmobile Cutlass, Buick Century (a replacement for the Skylark), and Pontiac LeMans. The upscale Chevrolet Monte Carlo personal-luxury coupe, which had been introduced in 1970, was also based on the General Motors A-body and featured new styling for 1973.
Like the new Monte Carlo, the 1973 Chevelle featured a full perimeter frame, newly refined "Full Coil" suspension, and standard front disc brakes. These features not only improved ride and handling, but were three reasons Chevelle could claim it offered standard-sized features with mid-size value.
The 1977 Chevelle Malibu Classic station wagon
was the top hauler on the Chevelle roster.
The new Chevelles were 5.4 inches longer (6.5 for wagons), more than an inch wider, and a bit lower (except for wagons) than the 1972 models. The "Wide-Stance Chassis" had a wider tread, but the 116-inch wheelbase of earlier Chevelle sedans and wagons was carried over, as was the 112-inch wheelbase used on two-doors in the 1968-1972 period.
The A-bodies were all new inside and out. All models shared new "Colonnade" rooflines, which combined frameless hardtop-style door glass on all models with strong B-pillars that helped the new body structures meet federal rollover standards. Fixed rear quarter windows were used on the coupes, which had a semi-fastback roof line. Four-door sedans had six-window styling. Gone, however, were convertibles and true two- and four-door hardtops.
Learn more about the 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle's styling on the next page.
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