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So that’s where all the colonnade-era Chevrolets have been hiding

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy VanDerBrink Auctions.

As a salesman traveling all over the country, Jim Jackson had plenty of seat time looking through a windshield out over vast ribbons of asphalt. By the mid-Seventies, he’d found what he believed to be the perfect car for that task — the 1975 Chevrolet Malibu — which is why he assembled a dozen-and-a-half colonnade-era Chevrolets in a collection slated to disperse at auction next month.

“He had four of them back then,” said Dan Jackson, Jim’s son and business partner. “The first two were company cars he wore out completely, then a third he bought from the company and later gave to my brother, Steve. The fourth he bought new and later gave to me.”

What Jim — and Steve and Dan — loved about the cars boiled down to their capabilities. The full-framed cars handled well, braked well, could easily cruise up to 100 mph on the highway, and could swallow up any size engine one could think of, Dan said. “They were like Buicks are today,” he said. “Good-sized and comfortable.”

Introduced for the 1973 model year, Chevrolet’s version of the A-body came in a trio of trim levels — Chevelle, Malibu, and Laguna — and a pared-down range of body styles. Gone was the convertible, and Chevrolet ditched the two-door post sedan and two-door hardtop coupe for the two-door colonnade coupe in preparation for federal rollover standards that never came to pass.

During the colonnade-era’s five-year run, Chevrolet sold more than 1,660,000 Malibus along with nearly as many Monte Carlos and almost 250,000 El Caminos. Despite their popularity when new, the car-collector community has largely shunned them since with almost nonexistent aftermarket support and only occasional appearances for sale or at auction.

Dan Jackson said that’s partly due to the cars’ popularity as demo derby fodder, though he and his brother wore out their own Malibus with upwards of 300,000 miles on their odometers well before the cars could enter the bullring. But Jim Jackson never forgot how much he liked those cars, so about three or four years ago he started collecting colonnade-era Chevrolets, among other cars and trucks.

“He got them from all over the country,” Dan said. “He started out with one car, then five, then 10. When it got to be 100, I really hoped he’d stop.”

Alongside the colonnade-era cars, Jim Jackson also bought plenty of Tri-Five Chevrolets (his first car was a 1956), a good number of 1964-’70 fullsize Chevrolets, and more than 50 fullsize Chevrolet trucks from the Seventies and Eighties. The collection of colonnade-era Chevrolets, mostly 1975-’77 Malibu coupes, also includes a couple wagons, a GMC Sprint, and a trio of 1973 Malibus. While most remain in original condition, one of the latter he asked Dan and one of their mechanics to restore. That restoration wrapped up just a couple weeks after Jim died earlier this year at the age of 81.

Dan — who described his father as a hardworking son of a gun and an old farmboy who started several businesses mostly related to oilfield equipment — said his father never intended to restore any of the 125-plus cars and trucks he collected over those four years. “He told me, ‘I’m buying all the cars I can, then I’ll keep ’em for 10 years, double my money, and make a fortune,'” Dan said.

For that reason — and due to the cost of gas, maintenance, insurance, and storage — Dan said he’s auctioning off the collection, saving no more than 10 cars for himself.

The auction will take place November 10 in Humble, Texas, with all of the vehicles selling at no reserve. For more information on the auction, visit VanDerBrinkAuctions.com.