Chevelle Super Sport
The Chevelle Super Sport
The Chevelle Super Sport SS represented Chevrolet's entry into the muscle car fight. Early 1964 and 1965 Chevelle had a Malibu Super Sport SS emblem on the rear quarter panel, the sought-after Z16 option had the emblem on the front fender, where 201 Malibu SS 396s were produced, after 1965, the Malibu Super Sport SS emblem disappeared except for those sold in Canada. The Chevelle Super Sport SS, which became a regular series of its own in 1966 called the SS 396, was the high performance version and had its own line of engines and performance equipment. The performance engines available included 396 in V8s - rated at 325, 350 and 375 hp respectively. The mid horsepower 396 was rated at 360 hp for 1966 only and 350 hp thereafter. The Super Sport 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 Super Sport SS396 El Camino with its own series and model identification of 13880. Almost all the options, big block engine, suspension, transmission options, etc. of the Super Sport SS396 could be ordered on the 1966 and 1967 El Camino but, unhappily, the Super Sport SS396 series El Camino was not available until the 1968 model year and only that year. As with the 300 Deluxe and Malibu in 1969 and only the Malibu from 1970 to 1972, the Super Sport SS option could be ordered in the El Camino as well.
Two prototype Z16 Chevelles were built at the Baltimore assembly plant and all regular production Z16 Chevelles were built at the Kansas City assembly 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 Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen but is commonly called the 201st Z16 Chevelle. Regrettably there's no known documentation available on this car and to date no known photos of it have surfaced which leaves its existence in question. 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 models had silver trim painted on the lenses.
The Chevelle enthusiasts who wanted a high-performance mid-sized car but with a hot mouse small-block V8, rather than the Rat big-block found in the SS 396, the regular Chevelle and Malibu models were available with a 350-horsepower 327 cubic-inch V8 (option code L-79) in 1965 and 1966. That same engine was also offered for 1967-68, but down rated "on paper" to 325 horsepower the same as the standard 396 found in the Super Sport SS 396.
The 1969 model year, the SS396 series was dropped and the Super Sport became a performance option. In 1969 the Super Sport SS option could be ordered on the 300 deluxe 2-dr Sport Coupe and 2-dr sedan as well as the Malibu 2-dr Sport Coupe , convertible , and El Camino . In 1970 the Super Sport 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 Super Sport SS option could be ordered with any optional V8 and became more of a gussy up option than a performance option
Previously to 1970, GM had a limitation stating that no mid-size car could have an engine with a displacement over 400 in, but some resourceful people figured out ways around this through the dealership. The years of 1968 and 1969 were the times of the Central Office Production Order, (COPO ) 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 COPO displacement rule and that was when the bigger engines were available as regular production options, resulting in the addition of the SS 454 line option to the existing SS 396 option. The first change was that the 396 engine was bored out to 402 in, but the car kept the 396 emblem as so much advertising had been put into the 396 namesake that they didn't want to change it. Most notable was the 454 in LS5 V8 rated at 360 hp and the LS6 at 450 hp It was the 454 that made the Chevelle a legend. The LS6, with 450 hp and 500 ft-lb’s of torque, would rocket the Chevelle through the 1/4 mile in low to mid-13 second time at 105 to 108 mph.
In the year 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 expectation 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 of 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 Super Sport 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 Muscle Car sales following the insurance surcharge wrath of 1970, the Chevelle Super Sport SS, at least in base form, changed from a specific performance car to a trim package, much like the original 1964-65 Chevelle Super Sport SS models that pre-dated the introduction of the Super Sport SS 396 in 1966. For 1971, the base Chevelle Super Sport 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 preceding 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 Super Sport SS had a top engine rated at 270 net hp conforming to 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 Super Sport 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 "Super Sport 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.