Bill J 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 2dr Sport Coupe

Always Wanted One

Like many Hagerty customers I am a baby boomer who grew up in the 1960's. I graduated High School in 1968 and grew up in a middle class family on Long Island, New York. After getting my drivers licensee in 1966 the only cars I could afford (stocking shelves in a local grocery store) were manufactured in the mid 1950's and cost between $50.00 to $100.00. At the end of 1967 when the 68 models came out from Chevrolet a major change took place to many of the body styles but the one I fell in love with was the 68 Chevelle.

From the day this body style was introduced I fell in love with it and had always wanted one, in fact my dad bought one at the end of the 68 model year as a left over after the 69's had hit the dealers. But being a dad, his car was a 6 cylinder automatic car purchased for the fuel economy. It was a beautiful silver with a black vinyl top but why a 6 cylinder when Chevrolet made all those great V-8's.

It seems like I'm rambling but these facts do lead up to something, The story of my 1968 Grotto Blue Chevelle Super Sport. Its a story about a Chevelle SS manufactured in Fremont California that ended up in Louisville Kentucky.

In 1968 a little old lady from Montecello (bet you were thinking Pasadena) California went into a Chevrolet dealer and purchased a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396. At the time of purchase she was in her mid 40's and I always kind of wonder why an SS? Must have been the beautiful grotto blue color with the black vinyl top and the rally wheels that caught her eye. The car was on the dealer lot and the salesman probably talked her into upgrading from her original plans (just a guess on my part).

This car was loaded with options that a middle age woman with two kids living in California would find practical for the California lifestyle including Power Steering, Power front Disc Brakes, Power Windows, Tilt Wheel, Air Conditioning, Turbo 400 automatic, shift lever on the column, AM Radio with with front and rear speaker and deluxe interior with bench seat. But not just any deluxe interior this car has a trim tag number of 765-158 Buick deluxe bench seat interior (which is a story in itself when you research how certain Chevelle's ended up with Buick, Olds and Pontiac interiors from the factory).

Our little old lady from California kept this Chevelle from 1968 until 1995 (27 years, into her mid 70's) which is amazing in itself. She must have been a very organized women because she saved every single piece of paperwork that came with this car when she purchased it from the dealer, I mean everything (window sticker, original sales contract, vehicle purchase order. owners manual, protect O plate, dealer cardboard licensee plate, temp California plate and window registration sticker, the envelope the original California black plates were sent to her house in and the Original California Black plates.

The family sold the car to the second owner in 1995 (all names have been omitted to protect the innocent) for a little more than the sticker price of the car new in 1968 (who says cars are depreciating assets). The second owner enjoyed the car from 1995 until 2011, during this time he moved from California, to Florida for some years and then moved it back to California again. In all this time the second owner saved all the original paperwork that had been passed on from the original owner in 95 including the original California black plates that were still on the car. So how did the car end up in Louisville Kentucky.

As most of your readers know California is like a time capsule for cars because of the great weather and lack of salt on the roads most classic cars from the west coast don't suffer some of the same oxidation problems (rusting away) problems that cars in the mid-west and north east suffer from making these cars very desirable to the rest of the country. Fortunately for me a good friend here in Louisville brings Chevrolet's from California into Louisville for resale or restoration and this was one of the cars he relocated to the great state of Kentucky in 2011. From the moment he unloaded it from the car hauler I feel in love with it. She was weathered from the California Sun but everything was basically in tack and for the most part still original. The radio had been replaced by the second owner but he saved the original. The car had Crager SS wheels on it (which are one of my favorite classic wheel styles) but the Original date coded rally wheels were in the trunk. The car still had its original numbers correct engine, trans and rear axle (all the important parts and ran, not good but it ran and drove)

I was able to purchase this wonderful car from my friend and began a complete frame off restoration project, my first and probably my last restoration to factory original project. I now understand why body shops say they will only quote a complete paint after the body is taken down to bare metal. Although cars in California don't rust like they do in other states they still dent and smash like other states. This car like many others had been hit and creased on both sides and been the subject of some less than quality repairs, i'm sure some of your readers have experienced this. Most of the sheet metal could be saved but the rear quarter skins and one of the front fenders had to be replaced. The engine had been bored 30 over at one time in its life (the car had 98,000 miles on it when I purchased it) and needed to be bored 60 over to get everything right. From early 2013 until mid 2015 I spent countless hours and more money on parts than I would like to disclose returning this Chevelle to it's original condition and took her out for the NSRA Street Rod Nationals here in Louisville in August of this year as her coming out party. I have put 700 miles on her going to car shows in Kentucky and just enjoying the ride.

I never spoke to the original owner of my Chevelle but have spoken to the second owner a few times, the stories he tells of driving the car in California and the enjoyment he and his family had with the car are what make these old cars so cool. I am so fortunate to have been able to find the car of my dreams that also had some great history and stories with it. Now the works done and its time to enjoy this ride.

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