1969 Chevelle SS 396: Not your run-of-the-mill Chevelle

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green chevelle 300 front three-quarter Diego Rosenberg

The 1969 Chevelle SS 396 is unique among all Super Sports but for one reason: it was the only year the Chevelle SS 396 was available as a post coupe. In all other years, a hardtop and convertible were the only body styles available, but in ’69, Chevrolet made the SS 396 an option package for the Chevelle (previously, the SS 396 was its own model) and allowed it to be ordered on the low-line 300 Deluxe Coupe (with B-pillar). 

At the Post Sedan Invitational at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) late last year, the Coupe got its space in the spotlight.

Chevrolet also allowed the SS 396 package available on the low-line 300 Deluxe Sport Coupe (hardtop), as well as the usual Malibu Sport Coupe and Convertible. Why did Chevrolet do this? A hunch would suggest the Plymouth Road Runner was responsible. The 1964 Chevelle Super Sport had fancy trim with buckets and console, as it was when the 396 made regular production status in 1966. But by offering SS 396 equipment in a low-line model, Chevrolet had an instant Road Runner-fighter. Alas, sales were not strong (guesstimates are 1400), so Chevrolet dropped the idea the following year. This has led to a cult following of SS 396 Coupes, with Dan Vasic leading the charge (if you own one, email him at abodymuscle@aol.com as he runs a registry). Here’s several that he assembled for display at the 2019 MCACN: 

LeMans Blue SS 396

LeMans Blue SS 396 front three-quarter
Diego Rosenberg

A Super Sport with rubber floor mat and blue cloth bench may elicit a “they never made that!” comment from know-it-alls, but that’s what was available when the “Z25” SS 396 package was ordered on the 300 Deluxe. This LeMans Blue example was originally sold in the Chicago area where it was raced both on the streets and at Great Lakes Dragaway near Union Grove, Wisconsin. 

Formerly owned by Dan Vasic, he says, “It’s one of those cars that I had the most fun with—a car that was perfect for the street. She has lots of nicks and bruises, perfect patina with all those war wounds from all the street racing back in the day.” 

Current owners Kurt and Karen Burdick say the motor once was chained to the frame, with the driver’s side shock ripped out of the shock tower and a hole cut in the trunk to access the shock tower. All that abuse scattered the original drivetrain (a 402 currently resides), so the Burdicks went the “Day 2” route with aftermarket rims, headers, ignition, and gauges, plus vintage tires.

Tuxedo Black SS 396

Tuxedo Black SS 396 front three-quarter
Diego Rosenberg

Imagine being a newlywed couple saving for a house and, without notice, the husband fails to alert his wife about the purchase of a 375-horsepower Chevelle. Dena DeBolt certainly was not happy with the new car payments her husband incurred. Nonetheless, she learned to drive the four-speed and, when her husband was in basic training, she and her brother took the Chevelle out on occasion. When winter arrived, she took the Chevy to get appraised and liked what she heard, so she sold it; whether her husband knew is unknown; he was killed in Vietnam in March 1970. Through successive years, the L78 Chevelle was used and abused, eventually becoming a drag car by the late 1970s with little left to its originality. However, hero Rick Pauley came to the rescue and brought this car to its current condition. 

Tuxedo Black SS 396 with B90 Side Window Molding

Tuxedo Black SS 396 with B90 Side Window Molding front three-quarter
Diego Rosenberg

Black was not a popular color for Chevelles—in fact, according to the GM Heritage Center, it was the third-rarest color. Yet here we have another one, a Canadian car with solid GM of Canada documentation. What differentiates this one from the one above is that this one was ordered with “B90” side window molding, which added a bit of dazzle to an otherwise plain exterior. Other options for this SS 396, which sold new at Central Chevrolet Olds Ltd. in London, Ontario, included the L78 396, TH400 automatic (the first appearance of a slushbox for the solid-lifter engine), rear window defogger, power front discs, AM radio with manual antenna, auxiliary rear speaker, Positraction, and F70-14 tires on Super Sport rims.

Green 300 Deluxe Chevelle

green chevelle 300 front three-quarter
Diego Rosenberg

This one is different than the rest. No, it’s not an SS 396. The best engine you could order in a pedestrian 300 Deluxe was the 300-horsepower 350 “L48,” but something else is brewing underneath the hood. Albert Galdi already owns a COPO 427 Chevelle but isn’t too keen on driving it, so he decided to build something different. He elected to find the cheapest, lightest 1969 Chevelle out there and install Chevrolet’s strongest engine from the same year. MCACAN class curator Dan Vasic found a solid, 38,000-mile example, stripped it, and rebuilt the whole thing with tons of NOS parts, including an SS hood. Albert sprayed the flanks in his garage with a color called Alien Green and, for the pièce de résistance, he installed a GM Parts aluminum ZL1 427 block with several modifications for drivability, including a custom-ground Chris Straub camshaft with 0.561/0.553 lift.

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