(Image of a Chevelle Malibu)
The Chevrolet Chevelle was one of GM's most successful model lines ever, and was created in 1964 to compete with the Ford Fairlane. The Malibu name was used as the top trim level option, and in 1978 Malibu was used as the name of the model instead of Chevelle. With the introduction of the SS line, the Chevelle became Chevrolet's main muscle car. The Chevelle was successful because of it's low price, and many available engine options. The 1970 Chevelle SS had one of the biggest engines of all muscle cars, the LS6 454.
The 1964 Chevelle would be underpowered with a 327 V8 with only 300 horsepower. Pontiac released the GTO that year with a 389 ci engine, and that left Chevrolet scrambling to keep up. The base 327 V8 engine was improved to 350 horsepower, and a limited edition 396 engine package was now available, named the Z-16 package. This included the 396 engine (L79) with 375 horsepower, stiffer frames, better suspension, anti roll bars in front and back, and better power steering. Although this was a true competitor in the muscle car arena, it was not widely available. Only 201 Z-16 Chevelle's were built, 200 standard and one convertible.
For 1966, Chevrolet renamed the Chevelle SS to SS396, to represent the base engine, and was technically a new model line. It had a different bumper, new roof line, and two non functional hood scoops. The Z-16 option with the 396 V8 with 375 horspower was still available, but mid model year the new L78 engine was available which had solid lifters, new exhaust manifolds, and larger valve heads. Few changes were made for the 1967 Chevelle, and the (L78) 396 w/ 375 horsepower was dropped as a factory option. 612 were still produced as a dealer installed option. The hood scoops were still not functional, and a three speed automatic transmission was now available.
The 1968 Chevelle SS went through some major design changes, including the shortening of the wheelbase, the hood being stretched, deck shortened, and the rear of the car gained a fastback design. The 396 engine was available in 325 or 350 horspower vesrions, and the L78 returned as a factory option. For 1969, the SS396 became an option package on any Chevelle, including the El Camino. Late in the model year, the 396 ws bored out to 402, but the SS396 name stayed. Also of limited release was the COPO 427, which had a L72 427 V8 with 425 horsepower. 323 of these were built, and did not include any badging, which hid the raw power under the hood on the race strip.
Chevrolet introduced the highest rated horsepower factory engine ever in the 1970 Chevelle, the 454 V8. The LS5 version had 360 horsepower, and the LS6 produced 425 horsepower. The hood was available with an optional cowl-induction hood, which was rear facing, close to the windshield. The writing was on the wall for muscle car performance, and in 1971 engine performance was dropped significantly due to skyrocketing insurance premiums and new emission standards. Engines were detuned to run on unleaded fuel, and the LS6 was dropped. THe LS5 was still available, and put out 5 extra horspower. By 1972, the SS badging was available on any model, even the base 307 V8, and the same for 1973. It was odd, but the station wagon chevelle could be ordered with the SS package. The SS model would be gone for 1974, and the last year of the Chevelle was 1977. The model would continue with the Malibu name through 1983.