Thursday, January 16, 2014

Found in the Wild: The Zenith of Malaise


The muscle car era was defined by excess. Excess power to match outrageous graphics and a complete lack of sufficient brakes and suspension to keep the whole 425 horsepower mess pinned down. The Malaise era which followed the muscle car era was defined by excessive qualities too; though horsepower was not one of them. Welcome to 1979 and the absolute peak of malaisey goodness. Welcome to the Pontiac Parisienne Brougham Landau.



The Malaise era lasted from 1974 to 1983 and 1979 was arguably it's malaiseyest peak year. Defined by generous helpings of fake luxury and overwrought neo-classical features, the Malaise era was one most car people would like to forget. But to hell with the naysayers because we've found the definitive Malaise chariot. If you look closely, every hallmark of the Malaise era can be found on this Pontiac if you look closely. The name even has brougham and landau in it! How luxurious does that sound?


A peek through the windshield reveals button tufted velour seats in a lovely shade of sandstone taupe. It's not fine Corinthian leather, but it will do nicely. These stack-o-pillows seats look a little silly but they're surprisingly durable and comfier than grandma's couch. Performance driving is for punk kids!


Unsurprisingly, performance is not really the Parisienne's strong point as there's nothing but disappointment under that airplane runway length hood. Four engines were offered in the Parisienne ranging from 301 to 403 cubic inches and the most power the big 403 could muster was a feeble 185 horsepower. Acceleration with the 301 would be best described as lethargic. Bring a sundial to measure 0-60 times with that engine on board.


But acceleration was neither the point of these malaise cruisers. They were meant to swathe their occupants in boudoir-esque luxury and waft them to and from their home. The fact that this brougham is still commuting to work nearly 35 years later is a testament to the longevity of under-stressed drivetrains. 

Note the tell-tale soot mark from the single exhaust
In a world without front bench seats, it's hard for many to imagine the charm for a car like this. But malaise cars offer a relaxed driving experience like few other cars. And they can be bought cheaply, offer dorky cool vintage style parts are still pretty easy to find. If you want a unique winter beater, it's hard to go wrong with a malaise barge.

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