Chevrolet Chevelle

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Chevrolet Chevelle
1972 Chevrolet Chevelle — last year of this bodystyle
Parent companyGeneral Motors
SuccessorChevrolet Malibu
LayoutFR layout
ManualsService Manual
First-generation Chevelle
Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Coupe
AssemblyArlington, Texas
Atlanta, Georgia
Baltimore, Maryland
Flint, Michigan
Framingham, Massachusetts
Fremont, California
Kansas City, Kansas
Van Nuys, California
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, Canada
Body style(s)2-door hardtop
2-door coupe
2-door convertible
2-door sedan
4 door sedan
4-door hardtop
4-door station wagon
2-door station wagon
Engine(s)194 CID Inline-Six I6
230 CID Inline-Six I6
250 CID Inline-Six I6
283 CID Small-Block V8
307 CID Small-Block V8
327 CID Small-Block V8
350 CID Small-Block V8
396 CID Big-Block V8
400 CID Small-Block V8
402 CID Big-Block V8
427 CID Big-Block V8
454 CID Big-Block V8
Wheelbase116 in (2997 mm) 1968 Sedan
112 in (2845 mm) 1968 Coupe/Convertible
Curb weight3520 lbs (1600 kg) for 1968
= 3256 (1476.9 kg)for 1965 3260 lbs (1482 kg) for 1970 SS 454
RelatedChevrolet Monte Carlo
Pontiac Grand Prix
Chevrolet El Camino
Oldsmobile 442
Buick Special
Beaumont Acadian

The Chevrolet Chevelle (pronounced "shev-el") is a mid-sized automobile from Chevrolet debuting in 1964. It was produced from 1964 through 1977 and was one of General Motors' most successful cars. Chevelle models ranged from economical family cars to powerful coupes and convertibles. The Malibu, at first the top trim level in the Chevelle line, replaced the Chevelle name entirely after 1977. The Chevelle chassis (based on the reengineered GM A platform) provided the platform for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a very successful model itself.

The Chevelle was intended to compete with the similarly sized Ford Fairlane, and to return to the Chevrolet lineup a model similar in size and concept to the popular 1955-57 models. Early design photos show what would eventually be the Chevelle wearing Nova nameplates, the name then being used for the top trim level in the smaller Chevy II series. The Chevelle was the basis for the Beaumont, a re-trimmed model sold only in Canada by Pontiac dealers.

Four-door hardtop sedans, dubbed Sport Sedans, were available from 1966 though 1972. A two-door station wagon was available in 1964 and 1965 in the bottom-line Chevelle 300 series. Two-door hardtop coupes and convertibles were produced from 1964 to 1972, while four-door sedans and four-door wagons were offered throughout the entire run. Various models of wagons were sold with exclusive nameplates: Nomad, Nomad Custom (1968), Greenbrier, Concours, and Concours Estate. In line with other Chevrolet series, the two-door hardtops were called Sport Coupes.

A utility pickup, the El Camino, was part of the lineup and, depending on the year, was available in 300/300 Deluxe trim level, Malibu trim level and the one-year only SS396. The El Camino outlived its passenger car counterpart until its demise in 1987.

Chevelle SS

The Chevelle SS represented Chevrolet's entry into the muscle car battle. Early 1964 and 1965 Chevelles had a Malibu SS badge on the rear quarter panel (the sought-after Z16 option had the emblem on the front fender, where 201 Malibu SS396s were produced); after 1965, the Malibu SS badging disappeared except for those sold in Canada. The Chevelle SS, which became a regular series of its own in 1966 called the SS396, was the high performance version and had its own line of engines and performance equipment. The performance engines available included 396 CID V8s - rated at 325, 350 and 375 hp (280 kW) respectively (the mid horsepower 396 was rated at 360 hp (270 kW) for 1966 only and 350 hp (260 kW) thereafter). The SS396 series only lasted three years from 1966 through 1968 before being relegated to an option status just like air conditioning or a radio. The 1966 and 1967 model years also saw the limited run of the 'strut back' 2-dr sport coupe with its own model number, 17, as opposed to model number 37 used on previous and later 2-dr sport coupes. The 1968 model year was the first and only year of the SS396 El Camino with its own series/model identification of 13880. Almost all the goodies (big block engine, suspension, transmission options, etc.) of the SS396 could be ordered on the 1966 and 1967 El Camino but, sadly, the SS396 series El Camino was not available until (and only in) the 1968 model year. As with the 300 Deluxe and Malibu in 1969 and only the Malibu from 1970 to 1972, the SS option could be ordered in the El Camino as well.

Two prototype Z16 Chevelles were built at the Baltimore plant and all regular production Z16 Chevelles were built at the Kansas City plant. Whether these 2 prototypes and the 1 reported convertible are included in this 201 figure isn't known. The 1 convertible was reportedly special built for Chevy General Manager Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen but is commonly called the 201st Z16 Chevelle. The original Z16 convertible has yet to surface and it is suspected the car has long since been destroyed.

The Z-16 option included a convertible boxed frame (even on the hardtop Sport Coupe), a shortened rear axle and brake assembly from the contemporary Impala, heavy-duty suspension, plus virtually all Chevelle comfort and convenience options. The Z-16 standard big-block 396 Turbo-Jet V8 came only with the Muncie close-ratio four-speed manual transmission. The rear of the Z-16 had a unique black and chrome trim panel which framed untrimmed Chevelle 300-style taillights (Malibu and Malibu SS models had bright metal trim attached to the lenses).

For Chevelle enthusiasts who wanted a high-performance mid-sized car but with a hot small-block V8, all Chevelle models (not including the Z16 of course) in 1965 were available with a 350-horsepower 327 cubic-inch V8 (option code L79) in 1965. That same engine was also offered in downrated form at 325 hp (242 kW), in all 1967 and 1968 models not including of course the SS396 which was tied solely to the 396 engines.

For the 1969 model year, the SS396 series (138xx) was dropped and the Super Sport became a performance option. In 1969 the SS option could be ordered on the 300 Deluxe 2-dr Sport Coupe (13437) and 2-dr sedan (13427) as well as the Malibu 2-dr Sport Coupe (13637), convertible (13667), and El Camino (13680). In 1970 the SS option was limited to the Malibu series (2-dr Sport Coupe, convertible, and El Camino). In both 1969 and 1970 the SS option included the 396/402 as the base engine keeping the option alive as a performance-oriented choice. This changed in 1971 when the SS option could be ordered with any optional V8 and became more of a dress-up option than a performance option.

Prior to 1970, GM had a restriction stating that no mid-size car could have an engine with a displacement over 400 CID, though some inventive people figured out ways around this through the dealership; 1968 and 1969 were the times of the COPO (Central Office Production Order), in which a car was ordered by the dealer with a larger than allowed engine in it for racing purposes.

In 1970 GM dropped the displacement rule, and that was when the bigger engines were available as regular production options, resulting the addition of an SS454 line option to the existing SS396 option. The first change was that the 396 engine was bored out to 402 CID , but the car kept the 396 badging as so much advertising had been put into the 396 namesake that they didn't want to change it. Most notable was the 454 CID LS5 V8 rated at 360 hp (270 kW) and the LS6 at 450 hp (340 kW). It was the 454 that made the Chevelle a legend. The LS6, with 450 hp (340 kW) and 500 ft·lbf (680 N·m) of torque, would rocket the Chevelle through the 1/4 mile in low to mid-13 second times at 105 to 108 mph (174 km/h). In fact, the stock LS6 at 450 hp (340 kW) produced more power than any other stock production engine offered by any manufacturer during the golden age of muscle cars (which most people consider to be from 1965 to 1972).

For 1971, GM mandated that all divisions design their engines to run on lower-octane regular, low-lead or unleaded gasoline due to tightening emission requirements and in anticipation of the catalytic converter that would be used on 1975 and later models, necessitating the use of unleaded fuel. To permit usage of the lower-octane fuels, all engines featured low compression ratios (9 to 1 and lower; well below the 10.25-11.25 to 1 range on high performance engines of 1970 and earlier). This move reduced horsepower ratings on the big-block engines to 300 for the 402 cubic-inch V8 but surprisingly, the LS-5 454 option got an "advertised" five-horsepower increase to 365. The LS-6 454 option, which was originally announced as a regular production option on the Chevelle SS for 1971, was dropped early in the model year and no official records indicate that any 1971 Chevelles were assembled with the LS-6 engine.

In the face of declining musclecar sales following the "insurance surcharge" wrath of 1970, the Chevelle SS - at least in base form - changed from a specific performance car to a trim package, much like the original Chevelle SS models that pre-dated the introduction of the SS396 in 1966. For 1971, the base Chevelle SS engine was a two-barrel 350 cubic-inch V8 rated at 245 gross (165 net) horsepower and optionally available was a four-barrel carbureted version of the 350 V8 rated at 275 gross (200 net) horsepower. The big block engines of previous years were now extra-cost options including the 402 V8 rated at 300 gross/270 net horsepower; and LS-5 454 V8 with 365 gross and 285 net horsepower. Chevrolet specifications for 1971 included both "gross" and "net" horsepower figures for all engines to ease the transition to 1972 and later years, when Chevy and other manufacturers only listed the "net" horsepower ratings.

The 1972 Chevelle SS had a top engine rated at 270 net hp (201 kW) conforming with GM's decree that all engines were to be rated at their net engine ratings. Despite the lower rating there was no evidence that power had actually changed on production cars of that year. All other engines on the SS roster were unchanged from 1971.

In mid-1971 and continued through 1972, the base Chevelle Sport Coupe was offered as the "Heavy Chevy" model featuring special striping and other appearance items. The "Heavy Chevy" was available with any V8 engine offered in the Chevelle roster ranging from the 307 two-barrel to the 402 four-barrel. However, the 454 big-block was only offered with the "SS" package and not available with the "Heavy Chevy" option.

Many customers, however, chose the Chevelle as an economical family car that, while not as expensive to operate as larger models (including the Chevrolet Impala), had enough room to seat a family of five in reasonable comfort. Popular convenience items ranged from power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, air conditioning and stereo radio; plus appearance items including vinyl top, full wheel covers and whitewall tires.

The Yenko Chevelles

Retired race car driver Don Yenko, (at the time making a living as a Chevrolet dealer), developed his own line of signature Chevelles, along with his own models of Camaros and Novas, which became the Yenko Super Cars. At the time, the largest engine being installed in Chevelle SS's was the 396 cid V8. Yenko decided to equip his acquired models with the Chevrolet 427 cid V8. While being an extremely limited edition of Chevelles, they nonetheless proved very popular among Chevy lovers across the country. Today at auction, the Yenko Super Cars can bring as much as $2.2 million.


Second generation
1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
Body style(s)2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4 door sedan
4-door station wagon
Engine(s)250 CID Inline-Six I6
305 CID Small-Block V8
307 CID Small-Block V8
350 CID Small-Block V8
400 CID Small-Block V8
454 CID Big-Block V8
Transmission(s)3-speed automatic
4-speed manual

The Chevelle underwent a redesign for the 1973 model year. The so-called "colonnade hardtop" styling featured frameless door glass and fixed "B" pillars. Rear windows on coupes no longer could be opened, no doubt encouragement from GM to purchase the increasingly popular optional air conditioning. Front suspension was based on the Camaro/Firebird which greatly enhanced handling. Engine choices ranged from the 250 I6 to the venerable 454 V8. Hardened engine valve seats and hydraulic camshafts made these engines reliable for many miles, and allowed them to accept the increasingly popular unleaded regular gasoline. Crossflow radiators and coolant reservoirs that prevented air from entering the system prevented overheating. Swivel bucket seats and center console for automatic and manual shift cars were offered in every model as was the instrument gauge cluster. Power front disc and rear drum brakes were standard. Power accessories, air conditioning and AM/FM tape stereo were more prevalent these years and provided a pleasing drive. A power moonroof was an option in 73-75.

The station wagon, available in 6 or 9 passenger seating, featured a rear hatchback door which allowed for easier entry and loading. The Chevrolet El Camino and GMC Sprint were based on the Chevelle. Yearly design changes to the front and rear mark the aesthetic differences as in previous years. The Chevelles were top sellers for GM as was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, which used the same corporate A-body platform.

1973 model offerings started with the top luxury Laguna series with its distinct urethane nose, followed by Malibu and then Deluxe models. An SS package was available for Malibu coupes and for the only time, station wagons. The SS option included a black front grille, SS badging on the interior and exterior, body side striping, rally wheels with white letter tires, F41 sport suspension with front and rear sway bars, and a 350 or 454 V8. A 4 speed Muncie transmission was available with 350 or 454 equipped cars on any model.

For 1974 the Laguna S3 coupe replaced the "SS" as the sporty/performance option on the Chevelle. The nomenclature S3 referred to sport and 3rd generation Chevelle. It sported a special urethane nose, body side striping, Laguna S3 badging, rally wheels, 4 spoke steering wheel and F41 sport suspension with front and rear sway bars. Radial tires on 15" wheels and radial tuned suspension provided road grip and retractable 3 point seat belts were introduced and still used in new cars today. A 400 engine was new this year. The 454 was the top engine and available with the Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic 400 or Muncie 4 speed manual transmissions.

With the Laguna nameplate now bearing the sporty model in the Chevelle line, the top-line series for 1974 became the Malibu Classic, offered in sedan, coupe and station wagon models. Unlike the '73 Laguna, the Malibu Classic used the same grillework as lesser Chevelle models but added a spring-loaded hood ornament. Inside, Malibu Classic featured luxurious interiors with notchback bench seats (or optional Strato bucket seats) upholstered in cloth or vinyl, carpeted door panels and woodgrain instrument panel trim, and vertical opera windows on coupes or exterior wood trim on station wagons. Also for 1974, the base Chevelle Deluxe series was dropped, leaving the plain Malibu as the low-end series.

The 1975 Laguna S-3 debuted as a 1/2 year model in February and sported a new sloped front nose designed for Nascar. H.E.I. or High Energy Ignition provided spark to the spark plugs with minimal maintenance and increased power. The larger distributor cap also provided better high RPM performance by decreasing the likelihood of the spark conducting to the wrong terminal. The 454 and Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission was available for the first half of the model year and then the 400 was the top engine choice.

For 1976, Chevelle was available with the new 5.0 liter 305 V8 the 350 and the 400.

1977 offered the Malibu Classic as the top model and the 350 was the top engine. A Chevelle S.E. or special edition was available and provided front and rear spoilers, rally wheels, special graphics and sport suspension. Only 50 or so were built.

NASCAR The 73-77 Chevelle was the top car in the Nascar circuit in the 1970s. The car was so popular and successful on the track that Chevrolet developed a new front nose in 1975 that lead to the aerodynamic cars of today. The car dominated the field so much that Nascar imposed a carburetor restrictor plate for all Lagunas. Drivers that raced 73-77 Chevelles include: Darrell Waltrip, Junior Johnson, Benny Parsons, Cale Yarborough, Bobby and Donnie Allison, Bobby Isaac, Lennie Pond, A.J. Foyt, Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt and female racer Janet Guthrie.

When GM downsized its intermediate models for 1978, the Chevelle name was dropped and all models took the Chevrolet Malibu name.

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