1981 Chevrolet Malibu Built Specifically for Saddam Hussain's Officer Corps

1980 Iraqibu

1981 Malibu, metric, 6 cylinder, 3 speed on the floor, heavy duty cooling and heavy duty undercoating, built specifically for desert country of Iraq.

In 1980, at a time when the United States was on good terms with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he ordered from General Motors, 25,000 Malibu's with unique specifications, a bit different than the Malibu's sold in the United States. The vehicles were manufactured in Canada (only), metric (speedometer in Kilometers), 6 cylinder, 3 speed stick shift (on the floor) and a heavy duty undercoating and cooling system as the cars were untented for use in the Iraqi desert, and heavy duty cloth interiors. To make a long story short, 20,000 were shipped to Iraq before Saddam Hussein canceled the remaining 5,000 due to a border conflict with Iran and he was running short on funds. The last 5,000 had already been put on-board a ship, ready to sail, in Oshawa, Canada. The vehicles were then off-loaded from the ship and literally sat on the dock warehouse for nearly a year until GM decided what to do with the Malibu's.

Because the vehicles were not originally intended for the North American market, it was decided by GM to sell the remaining 5,000 only in Canada for $6,500 a piece. Before they could be sold, they had to meet current standard. Seat belts were added, an adapter was added to the gas tank funnel to restrict on unleaded gas pump nozzles and a clear plastic label was added to the surface of the gages to should "Unleaded Only". The $6500 price was a tremendous bargain for families wanting a solid inexpensive sedan. Needless to say, it was one of the best sales jobs GM has done, as all 5,000 were sold within the first month.

Over the years, the cars lived out a good life and most seemed to vanish from the Canadian landscape. You can occasionally find one but they are few and far between. Nothing fancy (it did have a AM/FM radio and cassette deck, although the rear seat windows were set in place, with only a small air vent for circulation in the rear.

In researching the vehicle, I found multiple stories on the Internet of how many GM made and how many were shipped and number sold in Canada. Many were copies of somebody's blog, verbatim, which showed 35,000 originally ordered with 5,000 finally sold to Canadians. The figures were off. However, one of the articles I found among the documents which came with the car, is an article written by noted Canadian car columnist, Len Coates, for the Toronto Star. Since his was a review of the vehicle shortly after they became available, I tend to believe his figures more so than others. A reprint of his article is shown below. Further searches of earlier postings show only 25,000 were ordered with 5,000 sold in Canada.

Where did I get mine?

In 2015, one of my fellow workers in Bloomington, Illinois, was being transferred to a new position in Atlanta. I was helping him pack for the move and hauling off some items he didn't want to take with him. When it came to the garage, I noticed he had an older car which seemed to do nothing but collect dust. I asked it he was taking that with him too, at which point, he said no and asked if I wanted it. Apparently, his parents, in Toronto, had originally purchased the vehicle, but used it little. It sat in their garage for many years. He had brought it with him to Bloomington with the idea of fixing it up but never got around to it.

It wasn't until I drove it home and started going through all the documentation that came with it (original sales invoices, etc.), that I first discovered the true history of the Malibu, affectionately known as an "Iraqibu" or "Iraqi Taxi". The body had minimal rust, the engine ran, though a bit rough, and there were only 46,400 KM on the car. Convert that to mile and it amounts to approximately 27,000 miles! I've never really been a car nut in the past, but I figured it would be a good time to take up a new hobby.

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Original Condition - as received

The vehicle was in relatively good shape,but in need of some TLC. The original paint was cracked and faded in places; there were rust spots at the bottom of two doors; the bumper guards (uprights) were missing chrome and several rusted through. The interior was very clean and original but some of the plastic molding was faded along one side from sitting in a sunny side of a garage for too long. The engine was functioning, however, there was a radiator leak, many of the vacuum hoses were cracked or brittle. There was a slight crack on the front window. The ceiling liner was detached. Dashboard was clean, no cracks, radio and cassette deck were functioning. One seatbelt was non functional. It appeared that the rear seat had very little, to any use. No sign of any wear or tear. Upholstery on front and rear seats was in excellent condition, not bleached out, nor worn. Glove box was missing the retaining wire. Miscellaneous wiring at engine was cracked/aged in places. The valve cover paint was faded and the screws holding them on were only mildly tight. Oil leaks at valve covers. Brakes and wheels were in good condition. Air conditioning was very limited and barely blowing any cold air. All medallions, logos, trims were complete and in excellent condition. The trunk area was very clean, no wear shown. All lights were functioning.

Repair work completed as of July 1, 2016

A complete assessment of the car was done and the following was completed to return the car to original condition.

  • Thorough cleaning throughout
  • Both doors on drivers side removed. Rusted areas at bottom of doors was removed, re-welded as needed, body filler and sanded as needed.
  • Bumper guards removed, sanded down to metal, repaired sheet-metal, welded new retaining bolts in place, refinished (painted with chrome paint). Temporary fix. Would like to replace completely if I can find replacements.
  • Decals removed, body sanded and filled as necessary. Entire body was repainted. Reset all decals.
  • Minimal faded interior plastic molding around rear window and rear passenger side door removed and re-stained/repainted/reset.
  • Valve covers and air intake manifold, removed, sanded and repainted. Air filter replaced. Gaskets replaced.
  • Carburetor pulled, cleaned, replaced rusted springs.
  • Vacuum hoses replaced as necessary.
  • Points, plugs, plug wires distributor cap replaced.
  • Some of the miscellaneous bracing which was rusted was removed, sanded, repainted and reset.
  • Air conditioner was flushed of all R-13 refrigerant, replaced to current standard fluids.
  • Replaced door lock plastic pulls as they were faded.
  • Original hubcaps cleaned and minor dings removed. Valve caps replaced.
  • Radiator leak repaired.
  • Gas cap, oil cap replaced.

Before Condition

  • Frayed and brittle hoses
  • Paint chipped and faded
  • Paint faded and cracked
  • 3.8 Liter, 2 barrel carb, V-6  229 cu in
  • 3.8 Liter, 2 barrel carb, V-6  229 cu in
  • Bottom drivers side door
  • Bottom rear door
  • Bumper guards
  • img_1884Front Bumper
  • Rear Bumper
  • Heavy Duty Cooling System
  • Oil leaking at valve covers/rusted
  • Minor detail - hoses split or missing
  • Valve covers rusted
Frayed and brittle hoses1 Paint chipped and faded2 Paint faded and cracked3 3.8 Liter, 2 barrel carb, V-6  229 cu in4 3.8 Liter, 2 barrel carb, V-6  229 cu in5 Bottom drivers side door6 Bottom rear door7 Bumper guards8 img_1884Front Bumper9 Rear Bumper10 Heavy Duty Cooling System11 Oil leaking at valve covers/rusted12 Minor detail - hoses split or missing13 Valve covers rusted14

Work In Progress

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Restored to Its Original Glory

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