Cars > Iconic

A trip down memory lane with the Chevrolet Malibu

It can get emotional when you see the new iteration of your old car

The new-generation Chevrolet Malibu looks nothing like its 1970s predecessor. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

My childhood was filled with memorable travels with my late parents. I remember how Dad would make it a point to take us on long road trips as often as he could. The scent of fresh upholstery and leather of his third-generation 1976 Chevrolet Malibu remains vivid in my mind to this day, including how Mom’s nausea-inducing perfume would overwhelm the cabin on Sundays when we attended Mass. Aside from that car taking us to many destinations, it taught me a lot of life’s lessons. To say this car wasn’t an extension of the family is like denying one’s existence.

Thanks to Chevrolet Philippines’ display during the recent Manila International Auto Show, I found myself face-to-face with the 2018 Malibu. The car has seriously gone through quite a metamorphosis. There’s absolutely nothing about it that’s reminiscent of the old car I knew—except the badge. That isn’t a bad thing, in this case. The car looks great in my opinion, to think I am not too fond of new American cars. The best part about seeing this iteration is how it reconnected me with my past.

All of us will always have a soft spot for the car we grew up with. ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTOPHER LACSON

The white 1976 Malibu—which we kept in our home garage for many years—was equipped with a 105hp in-line-six mill mated to a three-speed automatic gearbox that Chevrolet used for some decades on many of its models. Apparently, this Malibu was a trim level of the popular Chevelle line. Although our midsize sedan wasn’t a sports car, it radiated elegance that made it stand out. Well, to begin with, it was a rare car in the Philippines during its time.

After my father had taught me how to drive in a beat-up Volkswagen Sakbayan and I had finally received my driver’s license, I eventually won his confidence to chauffeur him in the Malibu from our La Union home to his development project site in Pangasinan on an almost daily basis. This made me appreciate the refined characteristics of this car that lived up to my father’s standards for a family vehicle (though I wish he hadn’t let go of his beastly Pontiac GTO). It was also a great way to bond with my old man as he was battling cancer at the time.

Our midsize sedan wasn’t a sports car, but it radiated elegance that made it stand out

After Dad had passed away and I had temporarily moved abroad, I received a letter from my mother stating how she could no longer keep the Malibu due to repair and maintenance costs since parts were extremely difficult to source. She had sold it to a funeral parlor in the adjacent town, whose business name was the same as mine (Manuel’s Funeraria). I totally laughed at the thought.

Deep inside, however, I felt rather emotional. It was as if a big brother had gone forever. Flashbacks of my father teaching me how to wax a car for the first time when I was a little boy, and me helping him with repairs by being his garage apprentice at some point flew through my mind. It was not just a family car but a relevant part of my life, especially considering where I find myself today.

The last time I saw our Chevy was about 17 years ago, doing its duty of delivering the deceased to a final resting place. Perhaps it, too, has gone to its grave. The 2018 Malibu—in all its modern, sporty glory—feels like a reincarnation of a once-loved member of our family. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to spend some quality time with this beauty, and see if it connects the dots from the past to the present.

Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.