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The 5 best Chevy muscle cars that aren’t Camaros
It’s still mind blowing that Pontiac jumped facing Chevrolet and devised the muscle car (according popular notion, at least). The 1964 GTO, created by Pontiac Chief Engineer John DeLorean and among his senior assistants, Bill Collins and Russ Gee, essentially caught their rivals at Chevrolet and the remainder of the industry asleep in their merchandise planning meetings. Those guys realized the 389-cubic-inch engine from Pontiac’s full-size model would match in the new smaller and lighter 1964 Tempest. They then added a title stolen from Ferrari and united that performance with picture.
Chevy, of course, had the Corvette, but it took time for the Bowtie Boys to catch up in the muscle car wars, first with all the big-block Chevelle and then with the Camaro, which didn’t arrive until 1967. For many, the Camaro is considered the quintessential American muscle car. Heck, it’s probably the most popular muscle car of all time, so popular that it overshadows Chevy’s many other muscle machines.
Truth is, Chevy created some of the greatest muscle cars of the era well beyond the Camaro’s legendary models like the Z/28, SS 396, and 427-powered COPO. And we celebrate them today. These are our choices for the five best Chevy muscle cars which aren’t Camaros:
1. 1965 Chevy Chevelle Z16
A year following the GTO debuted, Chevy still didn’t have a severe midsize muscle car, although its brand new Mark IV big-block engine was about to change this. It first appeared on the option sheet of the Corvette. For $292.70 (about $2313 today), choice code L78 provides you a 396-cu-in engine with a solid cam, an aluminum intake manifold, and big port heads, rated at 425 horsepower. The motor was also available at the full-size Impala SS.
And after that, late in the model year, Chevy put it in the Chevelle. Option code RPO Z16 included a stronger boxed frame from the Chevelle convertible plus a slightly detuned version of the 396, provided the code L37. Its 11:1 compression ratio has been retained, but it got a milder hydraulic camera that dropped its peak power to 375 hp at 5600 rpm and 420 lb-ft torque at 3600 rpm. That’s still 15 hp over a tri-power 1965 GTO.
Just 201 of these were built, mostly in crimson. Except for a single convertible, all have been hardtops with four-speeds. It was Chevrolet’s first true big-block muscle building, and it was a sign to the entire world that Chevy was prepared for war.
2. 1968 Chevy Impala SS427 L72
By 1967, mid-size muscle cars were everywhere. Every American producer brief of Cadillac and Lincoln were currently betting on road performance. But full-size muscle was still a thing. In’67, the Impala SS 427 was RPO Z24 and contained the L36 big-block with a telescopic camera rated at 385 hp, five horsepower significantly less than it had been rated in the Corvette. Chevy marketed 2124 that year.
Subsequently, in 1968, Chevy cranked it up, falling the 425-hp, solid-lifter, iron-block L-72 427 to the Impala. It was the same engine that powered the hottest 1966 Corvette and it’s the exact same engine that goes on to electricity COPO Camaros in 1969. In the Impala, the engine cost an extra $542.45 ($3945 today), and it had been available with all the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic or a Muncie four-speed. The 1968 Impala hardtop was a fastback stunner, to which Chevy additionally added glowing reddish 427 badges to each fender and red and white SS 427 badges to its grille and its decklid.
Based on Hemmings, Chevy built almost 711,000 Impalas in 1968. Only 1778 were SS427s, and of these, only 568 got the L72.
3. 1969 Chevy Chevelle COPO 9562
In 1969, if you wanted the hottest big-block Chevelle you bought an L78 powered Chevelle SS 396 with 375 hp. Right? Wrong. You simply had to know it existed. Many Chevy dealers did not.
COPO stands for Central Office Production Order, and it had been made so Chevrolet could construct especially equipped trucks and cars for fleets like police, fire, and cab services. But the application was prostituted during the muscle car era and enabled Chevrolet to build 427-powered Camaros and Chevelles, even though GM’s self-imposed ban on motors larger than 400 cubic inches from mid-size or smaller cars. The Corvette was the exception, of course. Fundamentally, COPO became Chevy’s door.
These 427 Chevelles are infrequent, and such as COPO Camaros they do not wear SS badging. They are plain Jane, with just a blue Chevy Bowtie at the middle of their grille. Based on hemmings.com, Chevy built 323 of them, together with 99 visiting Don Yenko’s Pennsylvania automobile for Yenko S/C badging.
4. 1968 Chevy Nova SS396 L78
The 1967 L79 Chevy II has been a hot little car. Together with the 350-hp 327 small-block in the Corvette, it was drag raced by Bill Grumpy Jenkins and became famous as a giant killer on the street and strip. It remains popular with collectors today. However, Chevy had more serious performance plans for its cheap economy car, and Chevy debuted the redesigned Nova at 1968. It was larger and shared with its front clip with all the Camaro. And that supposed Chevy’s mean ol’ big-block engine would fit.
The Nova SS 396 was born, and it is still one of the best high-performance deals of all time. The Nova wasn’t as sexy as the Camaro, but it had been cheaper, lighter and less costly to insure. Plus it had been available with the same 375-hp solid-lifter L78 396 as the Camaro and the Chevelle, using a Turbo 400 automatic or a Muncie four-speed. (Chevy also offered the 350-hp L34 396.)
Although the L79 remained available for yet another year, L78 Nova’s were street beasts–sleepers that may sneak up on unsuspecting 440 Mopars and 428-powered Fords. And they’re rare. Chevy only built 667 in 1968, though production jumped to almost 5000 in 1969 and over 3700 in 1970, according to novaresourse.org.
5. 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6
In 1970, GM lifted its inner ban on installing motors bigger than 400 cubic inches from mid-size models. That same year, Chevy’s big-block grew from 427 cubic inches to 454, and the Chevelle model got a complete redesign which included more muscle lines. The SS model now featured two wide racing stripes across its hood and decklid, and cowl induction has been offered for the first time. The planets aligned and the alluring, new 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6, packing 450 hp, became the most powerful muscle machine of this era and one of the most desirable muscle cars of all time.
Author Martyn L. Schorr was an automotive journalist in 1970. |} In his new novel, Day One: A Automotive Journalist’s Muscle-Car Memoir, he writes,”The Chevelle SS 454 championed the assault having an optional 454/450, providing the LS6 Chevelle pavement-pounding power. Few automobiles, other than Mopar Street Hemis and Buick Stage I Skylarks, could hold their own against the favorite Chevelle SS. All three cars, particularly when fitted and tuned with headers, were effective at delivering low-to-mid-thirteens at 105–107 miles terminal rates .
Chevy really offered four distinct big-blocks from the 1970 Chevelle SS, for instance, 375-hp L78, in addition to the 365-hp LS5 454, which had less compression and a hydraulic camshaft. However, the LS6 454, which also cranked out 500 lb-ft of torque, was a radical since it got. The engine featured four-bolt mains, an 11.5:1 compression ratio, rectangle port heads, an aluminum intake manifold, and also a big Holley carburetor. And the automobile was downright common compared to several other exotic muscle cars. According to americancarcollector.com, Chevy built 4475 LS6 Chevelles in 1970.
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