Design Notes Lite: 2008 Chevrolet MalibuThe ‘Bu that could have been

I’m calling some of my Design Notes posts β€œLite” because they are a little light on material.

In this case, General Motors provided me with a few pictures of a styling clay that was created during the development of the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu.

More exclusive pictures!

2004 Chevrolet Malibu LT front leftFor 2004, Chevy introduced their sixth-generation Malibu. To me it looked a little frumpy, partly due to its short wheelbase, but still it looked like a solid-built machine. They must be because I still see that generation of Malibu often and, more times than not, they look well maintained.

During the course of its modest lifespan, through 2007 (although, if I’m not mistaken, there was a “Classic” carry over model for 2008), it was improved in small but noticeable ways but never really made the all-stars.

It may interest you, as much as it did me, to know that the following three pictures of a single clay model are dated from 2004; late August, to be more precise… the 26th, to be exact.

Anyway, I hadn’t realized work was this far underway on the seventh-generation, so soon. To get to this stage, the sketching stage was completed (which no doubt included a screening process), scaled models were possibly created; and then at least this one full size clay was built.

2008 Chevrolet Malibu (GMX386) clay 2004-08-26 profile

The first thing that popped out at me in this picture is the hooked C-pillar. (The C-pillar is the third roof-support pillar back from the windshield pillar, which is the A-pillar.) On the production model, it is an unbroken line standing up at a very formal angle.

In the shot above, you can see something is amiss at the rear but not exactly what.

Also, that’s not a blurred or double exposure over the roof line or along the trunk line. This clay is one of those double-sided models which, if I’m understanding things correctly, means it is probably from an earlier stage of full size modeling.

The left side of the clay has a lower height at nearly every point along the body’s length. (I am referring to “left” and “right” side, from the driver’s perspective.)

2008 Chevrolet Malibu (GMX386) clay 2004-08-26 front left

The front end of the denied half appears more sculpted than what was produced. I should know, I have a 2009 and I’ve waxed that thing dozens of times. One gets to know a vehicle’s contours well with that kind of exposure.

Check out that sculpting below the headlight, presumably where the fog lamps would go. More aggressive than what made the cut. The hood line and grille are more raked which makes me curious how this would have looked in finished form.

The one real complaint I have about the seventh-generation Malibu’s design is that the grille is too large (more specifically the crossbar) and too upright. This design would possibly have avoided that, in my eye.

2008 Chevrolet Malibu (GMX386) clay 2004-08-26 rear left

Okay, this is where most of the differences lie. The right side looks pretty darn close to what was produced; the lenses aren’t shown but the overall shape is there.

On the left, things slant forward toward the top and the tail light lenses are obviously quite different than what was on the production model. However, the dual lens setup is also obviously not foreign to Chevrolet.

2008 Chevrolet Malibu tail lightBesides Corvette, being the root of the reference, the Cobalt coupes used a very similar rear end. In fact, for a while, I thought the brand was going to start tying their designs to the Corvette, but then the Camaro sensation happened. It’s actually turned out to be a good thing for Chevy, I think.

The other thing I see that is marginally different is the lower body sculpting. It’s more defined and I like how it lines up around the entire design.

Below, I’ve shown a profile picture of a production 2008 Malibu LS. There are additional angles in the gallery.

2008 Chevrolet Malibu LS profile

Some of the points I’ve made above will be more apparent after looking at the gallery-sized pictures.


Continue below to the photo gallery.

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