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The Chevy Chevelle was one of Chevrolet's most successful nameplates. The Chevelle Super Sport, or SS represented Chevrolet's ticket into the muscle car battle. It began as the ultimate working stiff’s muscle car and remained so from 1964 through its peak in 1970 fading out to the last model Chevelle SS in 1973.
After Chevrolet introduced their small-block V8 in 1955, they were virtually unchallenged on the street. Up until 1964, when the 389 cubic-inch GTO appeared. General Motors had a corporate policy which stated intermediate-cars could not have engines larger than 330 cubic inches, but it did not seem to apply on options.
Chevy decided to join in on breaking the rules of GM's policy for A-body series engines when Oldsmobile offering a 400-cid 442 and Buick a 401-cid Gran Sport in early 1965.
The new Chevy big-block motor, at 396 cubic-inches, was scheduled for release in full-size Chevys and Corvettes. It would also be offered in the Chevelle with the Super Sport package. The motor was starting production late in the season, hence the decision to make a very limited run of SS396 Chevelles. Z16 was born.
Random Sightings and Shows
My winter blues include not seeing this baby when everyone's toys are put away for the cold weather. My definition of fishing in spring, summer and fall is to get in the car and drive down back country roads or just about anywhere scouting for old cars (sometimes a girl just has to find her own car show). Eyes always on the look out for this one for sure. (Going actual fishing isn't that bad either.)
Here are some Chevelles I have seen out driving or at car shows this past year. Illegal U turns, turning around in driveways and late to where I was going on occasion were all worth it.
In addition to the two-year-only styling, Chevelle SS 396s are popular because they are comfortable to drive and drag race. With the exception of the stock brakes, the Chevelle's road manners are surprisingly modern. Chevelles can be made to launch smoothly with the help of aftermarket traction aids due to wheel hop possibly being an issue at the drag strip when in factory trim.
The 1966-'67 SS was available only with the 396, but it came in a few different flavors. For 1966 and 1967, the base SS 396 engine was the 325hp 396. Standard fare for this engine included a two-bolt main block, hydraulic lifters, 10.25:1 compression, a cast-iron manifold and typically a Rochester four-barrel. The optional L34 396 was rated at 360hp in 1966 and 350hp in 1967. This engine also used a two-bolt-main block with a more aggressive hydraulic cam and a cast-iron manifold topped with a 4160 Holley carburetor. An open-element air cleaner replaced the standard closed unit used on the 325hp engine.
Not listed in the brochures, there was a third 396 offered during the 1966 model year: the L78 375hp engine. The L78 was based on the four-bolt main 396 block and had a solid-lifter camshaft with .520-inch lift, 11:1 compression, rectangular-port heads with 2.19-inch intake valves shared with the Corvette 427, an aluminum intake manifold and a 780-CFM Holley carburetor.
The 1966 model year brought several changes to the Chevelle; most notably, a complete redesign of the body. The SS became its own separate model that year. The Z16 package was dropped, along with the 283 and the 327 in the SS trim level, but the 396 remained, and in a much larger quantity with horsepower levels ranging from 325-375hp, respectively.
The following year, the updated body of ’66 would receive revised front and rear fascias, available front disc brakes and a new dual master cylinder for 1967. The restyled Chevelle also received a few safety enhancements, like a collapsible steering column and a warning light in the gauge cluster, in the event of brake failure.
The summer of love saw the ’69 Chevelles roaming the streets. No longer a model of its own, the SS was reduced to a $347.60 option package. Engine choices remained firm, in the form of the 350hp and 375hp 396. The vent window had been removed, and a chrome, vertical bar stretched the entire width of the grille.
Most dealers didn’t even know about it and only a couple of hundred were made, but with the muscle car wars heating up, the gear heads inside GM borrowed a handful of the 425hp/427ci L72s from the Corvette and snuck it between the Chevelle’s frame rails.
It was a hush-hush program left out of the sales brochures and was offered as the COPO (Central Office Production Order).
Quarter-mile times in the low-13 second range were the norm for 427-equipped Chevelles. Don Yenko of Yenko Chevrolet sold a total of 99 out of his Canonsburg, Pennsylvania dealership. Branded as the “Yenko S/C,” the performance of the rare Chevelle set the stage for what was in the works for the 1970 model year.
The 1970 was by far the most powerful factory rated muscle car to date, but I will take a 65-67 any day of the week.
Of course, I stop to look at a lot more than just Chevelle's when I am out scouting. Just wanted to dedicate this to my favorite jaw dropper.