The Chevelle was one of the few muscle cars that Chevrolet put into production between 1964 and 1973. In its last year of production, it received a major makeover that did not sit well with muscle car fans and due to the race to produce more economy efficient cars they also received a well power downed motor which would eventually lead it to being discontinued. But before 1973, Chevelle enjoyed eight long years as one of the more popular muscle cars on the road and even in its retirement, it still enjoys the recognition of some of the most popular muscle cars that was available for purchase from Chevrolet.
So, what made the Chevelle so popular among consumers and muscle car fans? The price, the size and the power. As a mid-size car, you could put your whole family in one and head to the grocery store, go shopping, come home, drop the family and the grocery off and head to the drag strip for some race time. You can do all this, for what at the time, was a very reasonable price.
In 1964, when the Chevelle made its way in to production for the first time, it came with a couple of different motors, but the larger and the most powerful of them all was a 300 horsepower 327 cubic inch motor. This really didn’t hit the nail on the head for consumers for it was a little under powered for the weight of the car. But in 1965, Chevelle up the ante with 396 cubic inch motor that produced the type of power that the public was waiting for. The new Z-16, 396 V8 produced 375hp and could go 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds and drop a quarter-mile time in 14.66 sec. at 99.8mph. This was impressive for 1965.
In 1966, the Chevelle would see some body modification and although the power rating stayed the same the times at the track would be cut from a 14.66 sec. ¼ mile time down to a 14.40 sec. ¼ mile time due to a solid lifter cam and bigger values given to the 396 motor. In 1967 Chevrolet would stick with the same body style for the Chevelle but would make some sufficient changes. Front wheel disc brakes would be implicated to help stop the wider tires and new 14 inch rims, a new reworked bumper and blacked out rear panel were all part of the new features the ’67 had to offer. Unfortunately, because of GM curb weight standards, it would experience less power and slower times at the track. The L34 396 would only produce 350hp and do 0-60 mph in 6.5 sec. with a ¼ mile time of 15.3 sec. at 94mph .
For 1968, Chevrolet would try something new with the Chevelle . A new body style would make its way off the production lines. With this new look brought about a shorter wheelbase, a longer front end and a shorten rear deck lid giving it a fast back look. Although, the 1968 got a new look, it received the same power sources as the previous year, the Chevelle’s suspension would still be a sore spot, lot’s of body roll and slow shifting from the Muncie four-speed left a lot complaints from consumers. But the one thing did change was the rear-end. The axle ratios ranged from 2.73:1 to a dealer installed 4.88:1 drag cogs gear ratio.
With consumers still having complaints about power, Chevrolet would up the ante again for 1969 . Although the badges and the build sheets would say the Chevelle was built with a 396 cubic inch motor with 375 hp, it was well known that the motors were bored out to 402 cubic inches, mainly to meet emissions standards and to gain some horsepower.
This was also the year Chevrolet brought about one of the most rarest Chevelles to date, the ’69 COPO . The COPO was designed pacifically for the drag strip. With a 427 cubic inch motor producing 425 horsepower that was capable of producing numbers like 0-60 mph in 5.1 sec and a 1/4 mile time of 13.3 sec at 108mph, it became the fastest production Chevelle that Chevrolet ever produced. The COPO wasn’t only the fastest produced, but with only 323 made for sale, it still holds today as one of the rarest.
For the year of 1970, Chevelle would see the most sufficient changes towards being a major contender in the muscle world. For starters, it would receive the first functioning cowl induction hood with racing hood pins. A newly styled front end would be implicated along with some new style rally five spoke rims. But, the biggest change came in the size of the motor. General Motors lifted the band against producing any motors over 400 cubic inches, giving Chevrolet the ability to build and produce a Chevelle with what would become one of the most popular motors ever made, the LS6 454. Along with the functioning cowl induction hood the huge motor also came with much better performing engine components that help produce 450 hp and left plenty of room for up grades.
Unfortunately, for 1971-72 the Chevelle would see some extremely harsh decreases in power. In response to GM’s new rules that all engines ran on unleaded fuel and to meet ever restrictive emission standards, the muscle car era was starting to be come a thing of the past. There was one good thing about the years of ‘ 71-’72 , even though the big 454 motor’s power was lowered due to restrictions, you still could order them and if you knew what you were doing, you could take that motor and fix it up to get the power out of it that it once had in 1970.
For the last year of the Chevelle’s existence, it got a completely new body style and the motors had even less power. These cars would be the least liked among the 9 year production and even till this day are not a big hit at drag strips, car shows, or auctions.
Even though the Chevelle was canceled after 1973, it was not the only muscle car that got the ax. The GTO, Oldsmobile 422, the Plymouth Roadrunner and many other cars would see the same fate right around the same era due to the pursuit to find more fuel-efficient and economy friendly cars. But the Chevelle and all of its muscle car brothers and sisters still to this day are extremely popular to car enthusiast.