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The 5 best Chevy muscle cars that aren’t Camaros
It’s still mind blowing off that Pontiac jumped in front of Chevrolet and devised the muscle car (according popular opinion, at least). The 1964 GTO, created by Pontiac Chief Engineer John DeLorean and two of the senior assistants, Bill Collins and Russ Gee, essentially captured their opponents at Chevrolet and the remainder of the business asleep in their merchandise planning meetings. Those guys realized the 389-cubic-inch engine from Pontiac’s full-size version would match in the new lighter and smaller 1964 Tempest. Then they added a name stolen from Ferrari and united performance with image.
Chevy, of course, had the Corvette, but it required time for the Bowtie Boys to catch up at the muscle car wars, initially using all the big-block Chevelle and with the Camaro, that didn’t arrive until 1967. For all, the Camaro is regarded as the quintessential American muscle car. Heck, it’s probably the most popular muscle car of all time, so hot that it overshadows Chevy’s many other muscle building machines.
And we celebrate them today. These are our picks for the five best Chevy muscle cars which aren’t Camaros:
1. 1965 Chevy Chevelle Z16
Annually after the GTO debuted, Chevy still did not have a serious midsize muscle car, even though its new Mark IV big-block motor was going to change that. It appeared on the choice sheet of this Corvette. For $292.70 (roughly $2313 today), choice code L78 provides you a 396-cu-in engine with a good camera, an aluminum intake manifold, and large 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. Choice code RPO Z16 included a more powerful boxed framework from the Chevelle convertible and 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 cam that dropped its summit power to 375 hp at 5600 rpm and 420 lb-ft torque at 3600 rpm. That’s still 15 hp more than a tri-power 1965 GTO.
Just 201 of them were constructed, mostly in crimson. 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 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 manufacturer short of Cadillac and Lincoln were now betting on street performance. There were 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 something. In’67, the Impala SS 427 was RPO Z24 and contained the L36 big-block using a telescopic camera rated at 385 hp, five horsepower significantly less than it had been rated in the Corvette. Chevy sold 2124 that year.
Subsequently, in 1968, Chevy cranked it up, falling the 425-hp, solid-lifter, iron-block L-72 427 into the Impala. It was the same engine that powered the hottest 1966 Corvette and it’s the exact same engine which goes to power COPO Camaros in 1969. In the Impala, the engine cost an extra $542.45 ($3945 today), and it had been accessible 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 also added bright red 427 badges to each fender and red and white SS 427 badges to its grille and its decklid.
According to Hemmings, Chevy constructed nearly 711,000 Impalas in 1968. Just 1778 were SS427s, and of these, only 568 obtained the L72.
3. 1969 Chevy Chevelle COPO 9562
In 1969, in the event that 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. Many Chevy dealers did not.
COPO stands for Central Office Production Order, and it was made so Chevrolet could build especially equipped cars and trucks for fleets like fire, police, and taxi services. However, the program was prostituted during the muscle car era and enabled Chevrolet to develop 427-powered Camaros and Chevelles, even though GM’s self-imposed ban on motors bigger than 400 cubic inches in mid sized or smaller cars. The Corvette was the exception, naturally. Basically, COPO became Chevy’s door.
These 427 Chevelles are infrequent, and such as COPO Camaros they don’t wear SS badging. They’re plain Jane, with just a blue Chevy Bowtie at the middle of the grille. Based on hemmings.com, Chevy constructed 323 of these, 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 was 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 known as a giant killer on the road and strip. It remains popular with collectors today. However, Chevy had more critical performance programs for its cheap economy car, and Chevy surfaced the redesigned Nova in 1968. It was bigger 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 has been born, and it remains one of the best high-performance bargains of all time. The Nova wasn’t as sexy since the Camaro, but it was cheaper, lighter and less expensive to insure. And it was available with the identical 375-hp solid-lifter L78 396 since the Camaro and the Chevelle, with either a Turbo 400 automatic or a Muncie four-speed. (Chevy also offered the 350-hp L34 396.)
Even though the L79 remained accessible for yet another year, L78 Nova’s were street beasts–sleepers which may sneak up on unsuspecting 440 Mopars and 428-powered Fords. And they’re rare. Chevy only built 667 in 1968, although manufacturing jumped to nearly 5000 in 1969 and over 3700 in 1970, based on novaresourse.org.
5. 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6
In 1970, GM raised its internal ban on installing engines bigger than 400 cubic inches in midsize versions. 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 included more muscular lines. The SS model now featured two broad racing stripes across its hood and decklid, and cowl induction has been offered for the first time. The planets aligned and the sexy, fresh 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6, packaging 450 hp, became the most powerful muscle machine of the era and among the most desirable muscle cars of all time.
Author Martyn L. Schorr was an automotive journalist in 1970. |} In his new book, Day One: A Automotive Journalist’s Muscle-Car Memoir, he writes,”The Chevelle SS 454 championed the attack with an optional 454/450, giving the LS6 Chevelle pavement-pounding power. Few cars, other than Mopar Street Hemis and Buick Stage I Skylarks, could hold their own against the favorite Chevelle SS. All 3 automobiles, especially when fitted and tuned with headers, were effective at delivering low-to-mid-thirteens in 105–107 miles terminal speeds.
Chevy actually offered four distinct big-blocks from the 1970 Chevelle SS, including the 375-hp L78, as well as the 365-hp LS5 454, which had less compression and a hydraulic camshaft. The engine featured four-bolt mains, an 11.5:1 compression ratio, rectangle port heads, an aluminum intake manifold, and also a large Holley carburetor. And the automobile was downright common compared to several other exotic muscle cars. According to americancarcollector.com, Chevy constructed 4475 LS6 Chevelles in 1970.
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