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Chevelle Generation 1 SS396 396/350 L34 Hardtop 1967
The Chevelle was intended to compete with the Ford Fairlane, and to return to the Chevrolet lineup a model similar in size and concept to the popular 1955-57 models. Enthusiasts were quick to notice that the Chevelle’s 115-inch (2,900 mm) wheelbase was the same as that of the 1955-57 Chevy. Two-door hardtop coupes, and convertibles, four-door sedans, and four-door station wagons were offered throughout the entire run. In line with other Chevrolet series, the two-door hardtops were called Sport coupes. Four-door hardtops, dubbed Sport Sedans, were available (1966 through 1972). A two-door station wagon was available in 1964 and 1965 in the base 300 series. Various wagons were sold with exclusive nameplates: Greenbrier, Concours, and Concours Estate. Six-cylinder and V8 power was offered across the board. Chevelle were also assembled and sold in Canada. Although identical to their stateside counterparts, the convertible was available in the base Chevelle series, a model never offered in the U.S. The Chevelle was the basis for the Beaumont, a re-trimmed model sold only in Canada by Pontiac dealers through 1969. Originally conceived as an upsizing of the Chevy II with a unibody platform (similar to the Fairlane and the full-size Chrysler B-platform of the same era), GM's "senior compact" A-platform used a body-on-frame construction using a suspension setup similar to its full sized automobiles with a 4 link rear suspension (the differential has 4 control arms which are attached to the frame with rear coil springs sandwiched between the differential and spring pocket - this design was used with the B platform vehicles and later copied by Ford Motor Company with its FOX platform automobiles). The cars used proven standard Chevrolet drivetrains and proved to be both durable and reliable over the years.
The Chevelle SS represented Chevrolet's entry into the muscle car battle. Early 1964 and 1965 Chevelle had a Malibu SS badge on the rear quarter panel. Chevelles with the mid-1965 Z16 option, priced at US$1,501 in 1965, had the emblem on the front fender as well as distinct in-house style numbers: 737 for the hardtop and 767 for the convertible. The $162 Super Sport package was available on the upscale Malibu two-door hardtop and convertible models; the option added special exterior bright work with SS emblems and the 14-inch full-disc wheel covers from the Impala SS. Inside, the vinyl bucket-seat interior featured a floor console for models equipped with the optional Muncie aluminum four-speed-manual or Powerglide two-speed automatic instead of the standard three-speed manual. Malibu SS also got a four-gauge cluster in place of engine warning lights, and a dash-mounted tachometer was optional. The available 283-cubic-inch four-barrel V8 engine rated at 220-horsepower was the same rating as the 1957 Chevy Power-Pak 283 engine.
Starting in mid-1964, the Chevelle could be ordered with the division’s 327-cubic-inch V8, in either 250 or 300hp (224 kW). Both used a four-barrel carburetor and 10.5:1 compression, and could easily hold their own against 289 Ford Fairlane and 273 Plymouth Barracudas. But muscle fans would demand more, and get it. For 1965, Chevrolet also added the edgy 350-hp 327 V8 as Regular Production Option (RPO) L79. Still, for those “sensible” buyers, the Chevelle was also quite appealing, and Chevy built 294,160 the first year, including 76,860 SS models. After 1965, the Malibu SS badge disappeared except for those sold in Canada. A limited 201 Malibu SS396 'Z-16' big-block-equipped cars were also eventually produced starting in late 1965 to confront still mounting competition, with most being built between mid-March and mid-April. But, strangely, they were handicapped by lack of a factory-offered Positraction rear-end option to handle the 396's big torque. Of those original Z-16s, some 75 still exist and are accounted for.
The Chevelle SS396 became a series of its own in 1966 with series/style numbers 13817 and 13867. SS396 sport coupes and convertibles used the same Malibu sport coupe and convertible bodies with reinforced frames and revised front suspension: higher-rate springs, recalibrated shocks, and thicker front stabilizer bar, but with different exterior trim. They also had simulated hood scoops, red-stripe tires, and bright trim moldings. The performance engines available included three, 396 CID V8s – the standard, rated at 325hp (242 kW), an optional 360hp (270 kW), and an optional 375hp (280 kW), respectively (the mid-horsepower 396 was rated at 360hp (270 kW) for 1966 only and 350 hp (260 kW) thereafter). The SS396 series lasted from 1966 through 1968 before being relegated to an option package in 1969. The 1966 and 1967 model years were the only two years of the 'strut back' 2-door sport coupe with its own style number, 17.
In Canada, sporty Chevelles continued to wear "Malibu SS" badges for the 1966 and early 1967 model years. These Chevelles were available with the same equipment as non-SS Malibu models in the U.S., and did not get the domed hood or the blackout front and rear treatment. Redline tires were not available on Canadian Chevelles in 1966. A 1966 Malibu SS factory photo shows wheel covers on the car from the 1965 Impala. The Canadian Malibu SS got its "SS" name from the "Sports Option" package under RPO A51 and was primarily a trim option. This A51 option came with bucket seats, a center console (except when the three-speed manual transmission was ordered), standard full wheel covers, and the ribbed rocker panel moldings. The "Malibu SS" emblems were carried over from the 1965 Malibu SS series. This Canadian option could be ordered with any six-cylinder or V8 engine available at the time. Starting in January 1967, the Chevelle SS396 took over and became its own 138xx series, the same as in the U.S.
1966 saw a complete restyle of the Chevelle on the previous frame that included smooth contours, a broad new grille and bumper treatment, and curved side windows. Bulging rear fender lines and a "flying buttress" roofline (tunneled into the "C" pillar) were highlights of the '66 hardtops, shared with other GM "A" body models. The new body reflected the "Coke bottle" body shape that became the fad for American cars in the mid-1960s. A 4-door hardtop-styled Sport Sedan joined the Malibu series. It was an attractive car and was offered through 1972, but never achieved the high-production figures as the pillared sedan. Chevelles continued in 300, 300 Deluxe, and Malibu trim. Available engines were a 327-cubic-inch V8 instead of either of the sixes, or the mid-level option, a 220-horsepower 283-cubic-inch V8. Judicious attention to the options list could add a tachometer, mag-style wheel covers, and sintered-metallic brakes. Four-way power seats, a tissue dispenser, and cruise control were optional.
The 1967 models got some styling tweaks that resulted in a longer, more straightforward appearance. Large wraparound tail lamps went into a new rear end with standard backup lights. Otherwise, visible change was modest. "What you'll see inside," claimed the sales brochure for the 1967 Chevelle, "will probably bring on a severe compulsion to go driving." Front disc brakes were available on all models, and a new dual master cylinder brake system incorporated a warning light. Chevrolet also added 14" wheels and a three speed automatic transmission to their line of transmissions. An entire host of new safety equipment became standard, including a collapsible steering column making the 1967 models safer cars. The SS396 continued as its own series with both sport coupe and convertible body styles. The 375-horsepower 396-cubic-inch V8 was dropped from the options list until late in the model year and returned with little fanfare resulting in only 612 being sold. Buyers selected from no less than seven transmissions: two manual three-speeds, two manual four-speeds, an overdrive three-speed, and two automatics. The manual-shift feature of the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was touted in advertising. Options included Superlift air shock absorbers, Strato-ease headrests, and special instrumentation. Although Chevy's big news for 1967 was the introduction of the Camaro, Chevelle offered a more traditional sort of sportiness.
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