The Chevrolet Chevelle was a mid-sized automobile from Chevrolet debuting in 1964. It was produced from 1964 through 1977 and was one of General Motors' most successful cars. Chevelle models ranged from economical family cars to powerful coupes and convertibles. The Malibu was at first the top trim level of the Chevelle line, and it replaced the Chevelle name entirely after 1977. The Chevelle chassis (based on the reengineered GM A platform) provided the platform for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a very successful model itself.
The Chevelle was intended to compete with the similarly sized Ford Fairlane, and to return to the Chevrolet lineup a model similar in size and concept to the popular 1955-57 models. Early design photos show what would eventually be the Chevelle wearing Nova nameplates, the name that was used for the top trim level in the smaller Chevy II series. From 1964-69, the Chevelle was the basis for the similar Beaumont, a re-trimmed Canadian model sold by Pontiac dealers.
Four-door hardtops were available from 1966 though 1972. A two-door station wagon was available in 1964 and 1965.
A utility version of the Chevelle station wagon, the El Camino, was part of the lineup. The El Camino outlived its passenger car counterpart until its demise in 1987.
The Chevelle SS represented Chevrolet's entry into the muscle car battle. Early 1964 and 1965 Chevelles had a Malibu SS badge on the rear quarter panel (the sought-after Z16 option had the emblem on the front fender, where 201 Malibu SS 396s were produced); after 1965, the Malibu SS badging disappeared except for those sold in Canada. The Chevelle SS, which became a regular series of its own in 1966 called the SS 396, was the high performance version and had its own line of engines and performance equipment. The performance engines available included 327 in³, 350 in³, and 396 in³ V8s - rated at 325, 350 and 375 hp respectively.
Previous to 1970, GM had a restriction stating that no mid-size car could have an engine with a displacement over 400 in³, though some inventive people figured out ways around this through the dealership; 1968 and 1969 were the times of the COPO (Central Office Production Order), in which a car was ordered by the dealer with a larger than allowed engine in it for racing purposes.
In 1970 the COPO dropped the displacement rule, and that was when the bigger engines came out, resulting the addition of an SS 454 line to the existing SS 396 series. The first change was that the 396 engine was bored out to 402 in³ , but the car kept the 396 badging, as so much advertising had been put into the 396 namesake that they didn't want to change it. Most notable was the 454 in³ LS5 V8 rated at 360 hp (low compression)and the LS6 at 450 hp(high compression). It was the 454 that made the Chevelle a legend. The LS6, with 450 hp and 500 ft·lbf of torque, would rocket the Chevelle through the 1/4 mile in low to mid-13 second times at 105 to 108 mph.
1972 would be the last of the great Chevelle SS models with the top engine rated at 270 net hp (201 kW) conforming with GM's decree that all engines were to be rated at their net engine ratings. Despite the lower rating there was no evidence that power had actually changed on production cars of that year. After 1972, the engine ratings declined quickly due to increasing strangulation of emission controls and lowered compression ratios.
Many customers, however, chose the Chevelle as an economical family car that, while not as expensive to operate as larger models (including the Chevrolet Impala), had enough room to seat a family of five in reasonable comfort. Popular convenience items ranged from power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, air conditioning and stereo radio; plus appearance items including vinyl top, full wheel covers and whitewall tires.
Chevelles in Nascar
The Chevelle was a Nascar stock car. Mechanics such as Smokey Yunick built them and Drivers such as Curtis Turner drove them.
The Chevelle underwent a major redesign for the 1973 model year. The convertible was discontinued, and pillarless hardtops were replaced with "colonnade hardtop" models which featured frameless door glass but thick "B" pillars. Front suspension was based on the Camaro, which greatly enhanced handling, but the styling was bulkier and less sporty. Although collectors generally do not appreciate the 1973 to 1977 models' styling, these cars were extremely popular when new. The Chevelle nameplate became superfluous for 1974, as all models from then on also carried the Malibu name, and it was retired after the 1977 model year.
1973 model offerings started with the luxury Laguna series, followed by Malibu and then Deluxe models. An SS package (which ended in 1973) was available for Malibu coupes and (interestingly) station wagons. The SS options included bucket seats (some swiveled rather than folded forward), blackout trim, SS emblems, and either a 145,175,250 net hp 350 in³ V8 or a 240 net hp 454 in³ V8. Starting with the 1974 model year, the Laguna replaced the SS, the Malibu Classic became the luxury model, and the Malibu became the bottom-line model. 1974 was also the last year for the 454 big block in the intermediate body style. In 1976, the Laguna S-3 coupe was available. It carried different front end styling, but was a slow seller. This was the Nascar Chevelle; drivers such as Dale Earnhardt drove them. These cars were available with a wide choice of engines, starting with a 250 in³ OHV six-cylinder all the way up to a 350 in³ small block V8.
When GM downsized its intermediate models for 1978, the Chevelle name was dropped and all models took the Chevrolet Malibu name.
Appearances in pop culture
- In Tales from the Crypt episode "King of the Road" (Season 4, Episode 9), Brad Pitt's character Billy is a ruthless street racer who drives a Corvette Yellow 1969 Chevelle SS 396.
- Chevrolet Chevelles appear in the background of a number of Dirty Harry films including The Enforcer and Magnum Force.
- There was rumor that a 1970 Chevelle SS454 would be featured as one of the main cars in next The Fast and the Furious movie, following The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift instead was replaced by a Ford Mustang.
- A 1964 Chevelle Malibu appeared in Quentin Tarantino's cult movie Pulp Fiction. It is the car owned and driven by character Vincent Vega.
- In The Fast and the Furious a short scene occurs after the end-credits, showing Vin Diesel's character Dominic Toretto speeding through Baja, Mexico in a 1970 Chevelle SS 454.
- A 1964 Chevelle Malibu sedan was in the movie Repo Man, starring Emilio Estevez.
- In the movie S.W.A.T., Officer Jim Street drives a blue 1972 Chevelle.
- In Dazed and Confused a 1970 Chevelle SS with a 454-ci LS-5 (390-hp, 500-lb/ft) V8 appears, driven by Matthew McConaughey's character Wooderson.
- In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Reese Bobby, Ricky's dad, drives a black and gold #13 1969 Chevelle Malibu, an apparent homage to Smokey Yunick who campaigned similar Chevelles with driver Curtis Turner in NASCAR in the mid 60's.
- In Gran Turismo 4 for the Playstation 2, one of the available cars is a 1970 Chevelle SS454.
- Rapper The Game's "Put You on the Game" music video features the rapper riding in a 1970 Chevelle SS454.
- In Need For Speed: Carbon, one of the available cars is a 1970 Chevelle SS454.
- In Sega GT2002, one of the available cars is a 1970 Chevelle SS454 LS-6 spec.
- In Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix, one of the available cars is a 1970 Chevelle SS454.
- In L.A. Rush, one of the available cars is a 1970 Chevelle SS454.
- Rapper Mannie Fresh's music video "Real Big" features a 1970's Chevelle SS 454