When the Chevrolet Chevelle was released in the mid-1960s, it was GM’s most adaptable brand. By the second generation, the A-body platform had given birth to sedans, coupes, wagons, the El Camino truck, and convertibles, and would later underlie the personal luxury Monte Carlo coupe.
From a performance standpoint, the 1968–72 group was the best ever built. It comprised not only the SS 396 but also the LS6 SS 454, a car that would conclude GM’s big-block era with a bang. The Chevrolet’s lasting appeal is due in part to its ease of repair and mass production; it makes an excellent street rod, cheap cruiser, or specialized drag platform.
Because there are so many Chevelle models, pricing for the second-generation car varies widely. A concours-quality restoration of a 1968 with a V-8 costs under $25,000 whereas a concours-quality restoration of a 1972 SS 454 convertible costs over $16,000. SS automobiles can typically sell for $50,000 and above for a good original driver.
The Chevrolet Chevelle was GM’s “bread and butter” automobile. It was produced from 1968 to 1972 in two-door sedan, coupe, hardtop and convertible body styles and four-door sedan and wagon body styles.
That’s a lot of cars, and there’s a lot of trim levels to go with them. We want the SS, which only allows two-door coupes, hardtops, and convertibles. The El Camino and Monte Carlo, which were part of the Chevelle series, had SS trim.
Just about 192,000 SS models were built, or roughly 8% of the total. Those cars can be further divided as follows: 23,568 SS 454s (1970–72, 4475 LS6 models), 53,599 SS 396s (1970), 86,307 Z25 SS vehicles (1969), and 62 785 Super Sport versions (1968, also known as the SS 396). From 1969–72, the SS option on a Chevelle needed the Malibu trim level, with 1968 models allowing access to 300 Deluxe and sport coupe variants, and 1967 having its own Super Sport line.
The VIN tag, visible through the windshield on the driver’s side of the dashboard from 1968–71, is not usually enough to identify an SS model. Six numerals denote the vehicle’s body style, a sixth character for the year of production, a seventh character for the plant that built it, and finally a six-digit serial number.
So what? While 1968 Super Sport vehicles had their own line, the rest of the SS production from 1969–71 was incorporated as a bundle.
The VIN pattern changed for 1972, including one that helps SS seekers. In the second character slot, a single letter, C, D, or H for SS eligible models, denotes the series, while the next two numbers represent the body type. A W signifies the 454-cubic-inch engine, which was unavailable without the SS option package.
To document a 1969–71 SS. Finding the Fisher Body Plate number isn’t easy, and it starts with cross-referencing your vehicle’s equipment, features, and appearance with the Fisher Body Plate number.
Paint codes and model years can be useful indicators. The paint code is located under the six-digit unit number on the Fisher tag. Colors of the lower and upper bodies are represented by two-digit numbers. For 1969, the SS came in two distinct colors: 72 (Monaco Orange) and 73 (Daytona Yellow).
There was no such thing as a true SS unless you ordered a big-block with bucket seats, a 12-bolt rear end, and F41 suspension, according to Roger Ausley. “If someone takes a Malibu with all the gear and adds the appropriate hood and emblems, you can’t tell unless you look at the side trim and holes. Paperwork is vital. A Malibu with a matching-numbers big-block could be a clone.
If you suspect a car is a copy and you’re about to spend a lot of money on it, get a Chevrolet expert to check it out or ask the seller for proof of ownership.
“There’s a tremendous difference between a clone and an original car.” “You need papers to command huge money, even if people are cloning paperwork.”
The 396-cuin L35, 350-cuin L34, and 375-cuin L78 engines were available for 1968. Each car had unique badging, two hood air induction inlets, a blacked-out grille, and a black lower body. In addition to the three-speed manual gearbox, the Super Sport came with an open rear differential, bucket seats and D96 stripes, as well as Posi traction and a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission.
In 1969, Chevrolet introduced a new ordering method, square taillights in place of the long above-bumper version, and a new horizontal bar in the grille. You had to request the Z25 SS 396 package to turn your Chevelle or Malibu into a muscle car. The engine and interior options are identical to 1968, but the black lower body has been replaced by bright chrome trim around the front parking lights. Optional rear sway bar and boxed rear control arms were new.
The SS 396 designation continued in use in 1970, but the base L34 engine had been enlarged out to 402 cubic inches. It still had 350 hp, with 375 from the L78.
The Z15 order code was put on top of the Z25 to provide another SS wrinkle. Choosing the lesser number offered you a bigger engine—454 cubic inches with 360 hp and a four-speed Muncie manual or three-speed automatic. The LS6 was a 450-hp, 500-lb-ft torque version of the 454 with a manual transmission. It was half the price of the Z15 combo.
In addition to the drastic design modifications for 1971, Chevrolet would also redefine the meaning of the SS badge. This meant that the Z15 SS Equipment option didn’t come with its own drivetrain, as the 396 and 454 LS6 were no longer available. Instead, it was an optional package that could be utilized with any of the Malibu’s V-8 engines, except the base 307-cuin unit. An LS5 454, a 350 V-8, and a 402-cubic-inch 300-hp engine. The latter was SS-only and required the Z15 package. In 1972, the second generation Chevelle will come to an end.
Corrosion occurs in most of these cars, especially those with vinyl tops. “The back window rusts and drips into the trunk, destroying the speaker deck. It’s common to see water in the trunk, but it’s actually from the back window. To change it, you have to remove the quarter panels, which is a hassle. If you acquire an automobile that has been repaired, you won’t know.
“Look at the fender bottoms, door corners, and behind the back wheel,”. “The bottoms of northern cars, especially the flooring, get bad.”
Remember that corrosion in one spot, like the back glass issue, can necessitate a more complicated repair operation than its position would suggest.
“Pay attention to the inside rockers, especially on convertibles,”. “On the back are the floor braces and the frame. To replace the inner rocker, you must remove all bracing and refinish the floor.”
Heavily replicated components, including sheet metal, are now available for the Chevelle SS. Because companies now make a whole 1970 body, parts for 1970–72 are readily available. However, decent replica steel can be hard to come by. Many imported panels require trimming to fit properly out of the box.
“A lot more sheet metal is sold now because people are rebuilding harsher cars,”. “The good automobiles are gone. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to put a $7000 order just to get started.”
There are plenty of Chevelle SS for sale, but when deciding which year and engine combination is best for you, take in mind a few points. Rarely are these automobiles original. Most have been tweaked, refined, and updated over nearly 50 years.
“Nearly none of these autos are stock,”. “Even the 396/375 automobile I bought from the original owner in 1991 had undergone several alterations. You have to sift through the mess to see what was done well and what was bungled. Too many consumers forego a pre-purchase check that would catch both these faults and corrosion issues. You need as much information as possible before committing to a vehicle.”
For value, the 396 or 454 automobiles from 1970 are preferable. “The second generation loves the ’69 and ’71 years. Affordability is certainly the main reason to target the 1972s and 1968s.”
While certain features, engines, and body styles are unusual, don’t get caught up in chasing unicorns.
“There’s no official count on the varieties, and even some of the body style counts are impossible to verify. It’s not uncommon for me to stumble into such statements that don’t match what has been registered.