From the time Chevrolet entered the booming market for “intermediate” vehicles in 1964, the SS emblems on its raciest mid-size Chevelles were well recognized as denoting “Super Sport” performance. As a result of its expanded performance capabilities and the addition of bespoke aesthetic elements, the Chevrolet Chevelle SS coupe had earned a well-deserved place among the elite group of muscle cars produced throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
As a result of political and economic developments in the early 1970s, the auto industry’s appetite for such vehicles began to wane. Nonetheless, Detroit continued to produce sports cars, albeit in a more limited capacity. It’s possible that the SS package for the newly redesigned 1973 Chevelle was developed out of habit at the time.
A Look at the 73 Chevelle Super Sport
Every intermediate vehicle built by General Motors in 1973 was a completely new design after five years of using the same basic body shells. Wheelbases for two-door cars remained at 112 inches and for four-door cars and station wagons at 116 inches, although convertibles were deleted, and closed cars were given a new “Colonnade” makeover. Coupes, rather than the traditional two-door hardtops, were introduced in the late 1960s, with robust B-pillars and fixed rear side windows. The dual-headlight design was now standard on all Chevelles, which was nothing new for the company, which had abandoned four-lamp lighting in 1971. Heavy “crash bumpers” were installed at the front of the vehicle to comply with government regulations requiring five-mph speeds.
The mid-size Chevrolet was available in three trim levels: Deluxe, Malibu, and the more upmarket Laguna. Checking out option Z15 and handing up $243 will turn any Malibu coupe or – for the first time – station wagon equipped with a 350- or 454-CID V-8 into an SS model. A blacked-out grille, twin sport mirrors, color-keyed lower body striping, black-accented taillight bezels, black-rimmed round instrument dials, front and rear stabilizer bars, rally wheels, and G70 X 14 white-letter tires were all included in the package. Grille, front fenders, rear fascia, steering wheel, and inside door panels were all embellished with SS lettering. Since 1971, General Motors engines have been detuned to operate on low-lead gasoline. The 350-engine produced 145 net horsepower when equipped with a two-barrel carburetor and 175 horsepower when equipped with a four-pot carburetor. With the addition of the optional big-block 454, it now produces 245 horsepower. With the SS engines, automatic gearboxes were standard, although four-speed manual transmissions could be purchased for the 454 and the more muscular of the two 350 engines. The Chevelle SS was available with either an automatic or a four-speed manual transmission, depending on the dealer.
As it happened, the letters SS came to stand for “Swan Song” in 1973, even though 28,647 aircraft were ordered, an increase of about 4,000 aircraft above the previous year’s totals. Twenty-five years later, the label could be interpreted as “Seldom Seen,” given the fact that the majority of collectors and component suppliers are focused on Chevelles built before 1973. The Chevelle SS quickly established itself as one of the best muscle cars of its day. The SS is powered by a small-block engine that produces 175 horsepower. Swiveling bucket seats, a center console, air conditioning, and a gauge package with a tachometer are all available as options.