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The 5 best Chevy muscle cars Which are Not Camaros
It’s still mind blowing that Pontiac jumped in front of Chevrolet and devised the muscle car (based popular opinion, at least). The 1964 GTO, made by Pontiac Chief Engineer John DeLorean and among the senior assistants, Bill Collins and Russ Gee, essentially caught their rivals in Chevrolet and the rest of the industry asleep in their product planning meetings. Those men realized the 389-cubic-inch engine from Pontiac’s full-size version would match in the new smaller and lighter 1964 Tempest. They then added a title stolen from Ferrari and united performance with image.
Chevy, of course, had the Corvette, but it required time for its Bowtie Boys to grab up at the muscle car wars, initially with the big-block Chevelle and with the Camaro, which didn’t arrive before 1967. For many, the Camaro is considered the quintessential American muscle car. Heck, it is possibly the most popular muscle car of all time, so hot that it overshadows Chevy’s numerous other muscle building machines.
Truth is, Chevy created some of the best muscle cars of this era well beyond the Camaro’s legendary models like the Z/28, SS 396, and 427-powered COPO. And we celebrate them here today. These are our picks for the five finest Chevy muscle cars that are not Camaros:
1. 1965 Chevy Chevelle Z16
A year after the GTO debuted, Chevy still didn’t have a severe mid-size muscle car, even though its brand new Mark IV big-block engine was about to change this. It first appeared on the choice sheet of this Corvette. For $292.70 (roughly $2313 today), option code L78 got you a 396-cu-in engine using 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 then, late in the design year, Chevy place it in the Chevelle. Choice code RPO Z16 included a more powerful boxed frame from the Chevelle convertible and a slightly detuned version of the 396, provided the code L37. Its 11:1 compression ratio was kept, 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 more than the usual tri-power 1965 GTO.
Just 201 of these were constructed, mostly in red. Except for a single convertible, all have been hardtops with four-speeds. It was Chevrolet’s first authentic big-block muscle car, and it was a signal to the entire world that Chevy was ready for war.
2. 1968 Chevy Impala SS427 L72
By 1967, midsize muscle automobiles were everywhere. Every American manufacturer short of Cadillac and Lincoln were now gambling on road performance. You will find Pontiac GTOs, Oldsmobile 442s, Buick’s Skylark GS-400, 440-powered Dodge R/Ts, and Plymouth GTXs, and Chevy was selling a ton of big-block SS Chevelles. 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 less than it had been rated in the Corvette. Chevy marketed 2124 that season.
Then, in 1968, Chevy cranked it up, dropping the 425-hp, solid-lifter, iron-block L-72 427 into the Impala. It was the same engine which powered the newest 1966 Corvette and it’s the exact same engine that would go on to power COPO Camaros in 1969. In the Impala, the motor cost an extra $542.45 ($3945 today), and it was 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 white and red SS 427 badges to its grille and its own decklid.
Based on Hemmings, Chevy built almost 711,000 Impalas in 1968. Only 1778 were SS427s, and of those, just 568 obtained the L72.
3. 1969 Chevy Chevelle COPO 9562
In 1969, if you wanted the hottest big-block Chevelle you purchased an L78 powered Chevelle SS 396 with 375 hp. Right? Wrong. You simply had to know it existed. Most Chevy dealers did not.
COPO stands for Central Office Production Order, and it had been made so Chevrolet could construct specially equipped cars and trucks for fleets like fire, police, and taxi services. But the program was prostituted during the muscle car era and allowed Chevrolet to develop 427-powered Camaros and Chevelles, even though GM’s self-imposed ban on engines larger than 400 cubic inches from mid-size or smaller cars. The Corvette was the exception, naturally. Basically, COPO became Chevy’s back door.
These 427 Chevelles are infrequent, and such as COPO Camaros they do not wear SS badging. They’re plain Jane, with just a blue Chevy Bowtie in the center of the grille. According to hemmings.com, Chevy constructed 323 of them, with 99 visiting Don Yenko’s Pennsylvania automobile for Yenko S/C badging.
4. 1968 Chevy Nova SS396 L78
The 1967 L79 Chevy II was a hot little car. With the 350-hp 327 small-block in the Corvette, it had been drag raced by Bill Grumpy Jenkins and became known as a giant killer on the road and strip. However, Chevy had more serious performance plans for its inexpensive economy car, and Chevy surfaced the redesigned Nova in 1968. It was bigger and shared with its front clip with the Camaro. And that supposed Chevy’s mean ol’ big-block engine could match.
The Nova SS 396 was born, and it remains one of the best high-performance deals of all time. The Nova was not as sexy since the Camaro, but it was thinner, lighter and less costly to insure. Plus it was available with the same 375-hp solid-lifter L78 396 since the Camaro and the Chevelle, using a Turbo 400 automatic or a Muncie four-speed. (Chevy also provided the 350-hp L34 396.)
Even though the L79 remained available for one more year, L78 Nova’s were road beasts–sleepers which could sneak up on unsuspecting 440 Mopars and 428-powered Fords. And they are rare. Chevy only constructed 667 in 1968, although manufacturing jumped to almost 5000 in 1969 and over 3700 in 1970, based on novaresourse.org.
5. 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6
In 1970, GM raised its inner ban on installing engines larger than 400 cubic inches from mid-size models. That exact same year, Chevy’s big-block grew from 427 cubic inches to 454, along with the Chevelle model got a complete redesign that comprised more muscle lines. The SS model now featured two wide racing stripes across its hood and decklid, and cowl induction was offered for the very first time. The planets aligned and the alluring, fresh 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6, packaging 450 hp, became the most effective muscle machine of this era and among the most desirable muscle cars of all time.
Writer 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 attack having an optional 454/450, giving the LS6 Chevelle pavement-pounding power. Few cars, besides Mopar Street Hemis and Buick Stage I Skylarks, could hold their own against the popular Chevelle SS. All three cars, particularly when fitted and tuned with all 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, as well as the 365-hp LS5 454, which had less compression and a hydraulic camshaft. But the LS6 454, which also cranked out 500 lb-ft of torque, was a radical as it got. The motor featured four-bolt mains, an 11.5:1 compression ratio, rectangle port heads, an aluminum intake manifold, and a large Holley carburetor. And the automobile was downright common in comparison to many other exotic muscle cars. According to americancarcollector.com, Chevy built 4475 LS6 Chevelles in 1970.
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