By Angelo Van Bogart
General Motors intended 1972 Chevelles to look like 1973s, but a strike at Chevrolet plants in 1971 stalled production and GM’s planned styling cycle, which called for entirely new Novas, Monte Carlos and Chevelles to be introduced for 1972. Due to delays caused by the strike, the Chevrolet models that were to be new for 1972 became new for 1973.
When the thoroughly new Chevelles did reach showrooms for the 1973 model year, they sported a new hierarchy and new attitude. With a look best described as Americanized European styling, the Chevelles hit with a new line, starting with the base Chevelle, Chevelle Malibu, Chevelle Laguna and Chevelle SS. All were available in every available body style: four-door sedan and wagon or two-door coupe, with the exception of the Chevelle SS, available only as a Colonnade coupe or station wagon. The convertible was discontinued from the series, and the coupe’s hardtop roof styling was replaced by a semi-fastback roofline with a fixed B pillar that formed the leading edge of the triangular rear side window. This styling was bequeathed the name Colonnade coupe on all GM A-bodies.
Oddly, 1973 Chevelles and Buick Centurys were the only GM A-body to receive large, 5-mph bumpers in 1973; the Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix would not receive them until 1974. However, Laguna Chevelles masked the energy-absorbing bumper feature behind a urethane nose piece painted to match the body color, which also comprised the grille and headlamps.
All 1973 Chevelle body types were larger than their 1972 counterparts, and they looked it. Compare the coupe figures: At 202.9 inches for an overall length, the 1973 Chevelle coupes were more than 5 inches longer than 1972s; overall coupe width grew by more than 1 inch; and the 1973 coupes were nearly half an inch taller than in ’72. However, the wheelbase on coupes remained the same from 1972 to 1973 at 112 inches, and the front and rear tread figures were the same between years at 60 and 59.9 inches, respectively.
Four V-8 engines and one six-cylinder engine were available in Chevelles for 1973: a 250-cid six-cylinder with 100 hp using a single-barrel carburetor (L22); a 115-hp, 307-cid V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor; a 145-hp, 350-cid V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor (L65); a four-barrel, 175-hp 350-cid V-8 (L48); and a 245-hp 454-cid V-8, also with a four-barrel (LS5).
The featured car carries the L65 350-cid V-8 with 145 hp.
Available transmissions included a three-speed manual, M21 close-ratio four-speed manual and the M40 Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic. Nearly 97 percent of 1973 Chevelles were fitted with the automatic transmission, including our featured car.
Despite the fresh look, Chevelle sales were down during the 1973 calendar year from 374,448 in 1972 to 264,594 in 1973. The Chevelle Malibu featured here is one of 42,941 such V-8 coupes built in 1973.
1973 Chevelle collectibility
Popularity of the 1973 Chevelle lags behind its 1972-and-earlier predecessors. Several 1973 Chevelle models do have a cult following of their own, and at the top is the Super Sport model, especially with the LS5 454-cid V-8 and M21 four-speed manual transmission, a particularly rare combination. The “love ’em or leave ’em” Lagunas are a distant second, a position shared with the more traditionally styled standard Chevelles and Chevelle Malibus. Chevelles of this model year hail from the introductory year of Chevrolet’s novel swiveling Strato bucket seats, and any car equipped with them is more desirable among collectors.
As with any other mid-size car from this period or earlier, performance options increase value and desirability. A 454-cid engine, dual exhaust, swiveling bucket seats, console, Positraction, rally wheels and sway bars remain among the most desirable options, along with such comfort features as power steering, power brakes, power windows and power locks.
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