The SS Chevelle
The Chevelle was first introduced in August 1963 as a 1964 model year car. It was a mid-sized car available in 2-door, 4-door, wagon and convertible. Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Ford were all trying to build cars with lots of power, competing for the "baby boom" market who were reaching the driving age. Although, the base engine in 1964 was a 120hp 194ci engine, you could get a 300hp 327ci. A 365hp 327 was available for a short time before Chevrolet dropped it. From the beginning, Super Sport (SS) was an option. This added more chrome to the car, different wheelcovers, console, bucket seats, gauges instead of the "idiot lights", and sport suspension.
The Big Block Chevelles started in 1965 when Chevrolet decided they wanted to draw attention to their new 396-powered Chevelle. To promotion of the Z16 Chevelles, Chevrolet presented Z16s to high profile men like Briggs Cunningham, Phil Hill, A. J. Foyt, and Dan Blocker who played "Hoss" on "Bonanza," The Crocus Yellow Chevelle given to Blocker (Pictured below), featuring every option available. The list includes tilt steering, a wood steering wheel, bumper guards, power windows, tinted glass, and vinyl roof. Standard options on all Z16 Chevelles were power steering, power brakes, AM-FM multiplex radio, remote mirror, 160mph speedometer, in-dash tachometer, dash-top clock and all were four speeds. All Z16s were built on convertible frames and equipped with Impala 11 -inch drum brakes and axle tubes.
The Z16 option of $1501, added to the basic V8 SS price of $2590, plus the additional options priced these Chevelles out of reach for most people (My 1970 SS454 listed for $4,200). Only 201 were built, including one convertible apparently used as a company fleet car before it disappeared. Three colors were available; Regal Red; Tuxedo Black; or Crocus Yellow. Interior color choices included black, white, and red, with the latter not being available if Crocus Yellow was chosen as the exterior finish. The Z16's blacked-out grille would become an SS 396 tradition. The Z16's standard, mag-style wheelcover would become optional for SS 396 Chevelles from 1966 to 1968.
In 1970, there were two different SS packages available. One was the "Z25" SS-396 and the other was the "Z15" SS-454. There were only two engine choices for the SS-396: the 350 and 375 horsepower versions. A total of 18 Chevelles with the 375 HP 396 and the "L89" aluminum heads were produced in '70. The 396 engines now actually displaced 402 cubic inches, but were still called a "396" when installed in an SS.
There were two engines available for the '70 SS-454 : the 360 horsepower "LS5" and the 450 horsepower "LS6". The '70 LS5 Chevelle is actually rarer than the '70 LS6 Chevelle. The LS6 was only available in the '70 Chevelle, the '70 El Camino, and the '71 Corvette. It was never installed by the factory in *any* other cars. The '70 LS5 motor used in the Corvette was identical to the Chevelle LS5, but rated at 390 horsepower in the Corvette. There is purported to be one known genuine LS6 Chevelle with the L89 aluminum head option.
The SS dash is almost identical to the dash used in '70-'72 Monte Carlos. these can be used to the non-SS dash in a Chevelle. These switches can often be easily spotted since the Monte Carlo dash would have originally come with an imitation wood-grain facing. A genuine Chevelle SS dash would have a black painted face. Another thing to look for is the color of the letters on the instruments. 1970 instruments have letters with a green tint, while '71-'72 instruments have white letters. If there is a "Fasten Seat Belts" warning light, the dash is from a '72 SS Chevelle.
The '70 SS would have either "SS/396" or "SS/454" emblems on the fenders (and on the tailgate of the El Camino). The Chevelle SS had a white "SS" logo in the black rubber pad on the rear bumper. Both the Chevelle SS and El Camino SS had a large "SS" grill emblem (without any engine size).
The SS models also had a hood with a large bulge in the rear center. Hood stripes were an extra cost option with this hood. There was also a "Cowl Induction" option available. It had "Cowl Induction" emblems on either side of the bulge and a door on the top of the bulge that would open automatically when the engine needed extra air. The Cowl Induction option came with hood stripes. You could, however, delete the Cowl Induction stripes at no cost.
There was a 330 horsepower "LS3" big-block "400" engine option available for the Malibu and El Camino Custom. The Malibu "400" big-block was actually a 402, and was basically an overbored version of the 325 horsepower 396 motor that had been available on the '68 and '69 SS. The "Malibu 400" package, produced from '70-'72 on the Chevelle and El Camino is fairly scarce today. The reason is that many of these big-block vehicles have been converted to SS clones. In stock form, the Malibu 400 and El Camino 400 carried "400" emblems on the fenders.
I had seen many 70 Chevelles and all the LS6's built in Kansas City had Malibu door panels. While attending car shows, I noticed the number of LS6's claimed to be original with SS door panels. Some may have changed the emblems. I'd be real careful today in believing a Chevelle is original even with all documentation ( build sheet, protect-o-plate, original window sticker, etc. ), considering how easy it is to fake documents. I've even heard of VIN numbers on build sheets being changed. There are companies that can supply you with reproduction protect-o-plates, window stickers, and even cowl tags. I'm sure there are cars out there that have had their VIN plates switched. If you can, always look up under the dash for any signs of recent welding around the VIN plate. On my 70 Chevelles, the VIN is stamped on the firewall behind the heater plenum and also on the right rear frame rail. It is recommend that anyone looking to authenticate an SS get one of the Chevelle & El Camino ID books. There are also several restoration guides which can provide valuable information. Check casting numbers and casting dates, these can't be changed.
What is the history of the Chevrolet Bowtie, and how was it created?
In 1914, the now famous "bowtie' logo appeared for the first time on Chevrolets. Legend maintains ... and Billy Durant (Chevrolet founder) confirmed it ... that the bowtie shape was inspired by a pattern of wallpaper he saw in a Paris hotel room in 1908. He supposedly detached a small piece, folded it and placed it into his wallet, waiting for the day he'd put it to use. Durant's wife later refuted the story, saying the design was noticed in a newspaper Sunday supplement while they were on vacation in Virginia. Whateverthe source, the bowtie proved to be a recognizable winner, and is still the marque of today's Chevrolet.
Chevelle / El Camino Trivia
1970 Engine Specifications:
|L34||402||350 @ 5200rpm||415 @ 3400rpm||10.25:1|
|L78||402||375 @5600rpm||415 @ 3600 rpm||11.25:1|
|LS5||454||360 @ 5400rpm||500 @ 3200rpm||10.25:1|
|LS6||454||450 @ 5600rpm||500 @ 3600rpm||11.25:1|
1970 SS Production Numbers:
|RPO Z25 (SS 396), coupes, convertibles, & El Caminos||53,599|
|RPO Z1 5 (SS 454), coupes, convertibles, & El Caminos||8,773|
|RPO L34 (350hp) 396 V-8||51,437|
|RPO L78 (375hp) 396 V-8||2,144|
|RPO L89 (aluminum heads for L78)||18|
|RPO M22 four-speed transmission||5,410|
|RPO LS5 (360hp 454)||4,298|
|RPO LS6 (450hp 454)||4,475|
In the mid sixties I remember a selling point of the Chevelle was comparing its size to that of the 55 and 57 Chevy which was very popular.
|1955 Bel Air Sport Coupe||1964 Chevelle Sport Coupe|
|Length||195.6 in||193.9 in|
|Width||74.O in||74.6. in|
|Height||62.1 in||54.5 in|
Blocker's 1965 Z16 Chevelle
Ray Allen's 1970 Truppi-Kling Chevelle
Return to Dave's SS454 Chevelles
For Information, comments, contact David Ellis: ellis172@Macomb.com