1976 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3
8-cyl. 350cid/165hp 4bbl
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The 1973 Chevelle was big news for Chevrolet. While the muscle car era had suddenly ground to a halt, the new Chevelle, Malibu, and Laguna lines carried the torch of America’s best-selling manufacturer’s best-selling model. Rather than being the performance benchmark for Chevrolet, which was a difficult proposition given new emissions and safety regulations, the new Chevelle sold on style. The model carried both traditional and “colonnade” styling that was swoopy and attractive, and was applied to four-door sedans, two-door coupes, and four-door stations wagons, with no convertible available this year. The Chevelle line was also outfitted in Deluxe, Malibu, and Laguna trims.
The 1973 Chevelle Laguna sub-series included a body-colored flexible plastic front end with distinctive styling as well as other trim changes, and the car carried a standard V-8. The stalwart 250-cid inline six-cylinder motor was standard on the base Deluxe Chevelle, and the famous small-block Chevrolet V-8s of 307 and 350 cid were optional, as was the big-block 454-cid V-8. An interesting and unusual option was swing-out front high-back bucket seats.
By the time 1974 came along the OPEC fuel crisis had hit Detroit hard, but the mid-sized Chevelle actually sold better than it did the previous year, largely due to its small-block V-8s. Some name changes were made this year, with the Deluxe name being dropped, the Malibu gaining a luxury Classic variant, and the Laguna seeing the addition of the S-3 coupe. The S-3 Laguna carried sporty touches, special instruments including a tachometer, and unique exterior graphics. The venerable 307-cid V-8 was dropped this year, leaving buyers to choose between a 250-cid six, a 350-cid V-8, a new-to-Chevelle small-block 400-cid V-8, and the big-block 454 V-8.
Catalytic converters were added to all General Motors vehicles sold in the U.S. and Canada in 1975, and these devices allowed the engines to be tuned for better performance and fuel efficiency. This changeover also marked the switch to unleaded gasoline. The basic Laguna was dropped, and the Laguna S-3’s front end was restyled, giving the car a new aerodynamic look. For 1976, the Malibu Classic obtained exclusive stacked headlights. Mileage ratings along with engines were further improved (now 20 mpg on the highway and 14 mpg in the city for the six-cylinder), and a new 305 V8 was introduced.
The 1977 cars were largely carried over in anticipation of all-new downsized cars for 1978. The one big change was that the big-block 454 V8 was now relegated to trucks, and no longer available on any Chevrolet car.
Mid- to late-1970s Chevrolet Chevelles have yet to receive much attention from collectors, which means that prices are still fairly low. The sportier Laguna and Malibu models have the most potential, though station wagons tend to attract nostalgic buyers. Any Chevelle of this era is fairly easy to live with, as parts are plentiful and mechanicals are straightforward. Rust, as on any older car, can be a serious issue, so seek out a car from a dry climate whenever possible.