Posts Tagged ‘396’

1967- Pontiac and Chevrolet

March 7, 2011

 For regular readers of my blog, I apologize for having to repost this article.  I will try to vary my wording so as not to repeat myself too much.  The “WordPress” site has a couple of quirks where new pages are not part of a sequence and cannot be simply placed where you want them, so I have to rewrite to try to keep the posts in a chronological order.

The GTO was by 1967 an American Icon and John DeLorean was setting his sights on going after even bigger fish.  He was developing the Banshee prototype to give Pontiac a true “sports” car similar to the Chevrolet Corvette.  Because of the stir he caused with the GTO, this did not sit well with the Executives at Chevrolet who basically shut down any challenge to their only “Ace-in the hole”.

What was offered instead was the new Camaro and Pontiac was told to develop a version of that.  The Banshee was dead as far as Pontiac was concerned, however in a rather slap of the back of the hand, it would resurface as the base for the next generation Corvette.

Because of the elimination of multi-carb setups, Pontiac decided to bore out the 389 and came up with the maximum 400 cubic inch engine allowed by GM for the GTO.  This at least made them head to head competitors with Buick and Oldsmobile as far as engine size.  So now everyone but Chevrolet had 400 motors.

The Firebird was the car Pontiac designed from the Camaro platform.  The base engine was a 6 cylinder with the 326 being the standard for V-8 engines.  The 400 from the GTO was the top engine option from the factory.  Several dealers around the country found that the newly enlarged 428 fit in the car and did some engine swaps to further upgrade the power ratio.  This was the former 421 that was used in full size vehicles at Pontiac.  As the corporate bigwigs came up with rules to keep the engineers from exploiting engine size and power ratios, the Division Heads came up with new tricks to open loopholes.

In future years the biggest loophole would be the COPO orders where engines were used in vehicles that did not show up on a dealers option sheet.  This was mostly done in response to what some of the Dodge and Plymouth Dealers were doing with regards to engines and transmissions.  More on that in future posts.

Pontiac even got their Grand Prix into the fray to some extent.  Although it was based on the full size chassis lines, it got styling cues from the intermediates with louvered tail lights similar to the GTO.  Even the front turn signals carried the louvered look.  And with its hidden headlights, the look was stunning to say the least.  Since it was a personal luxury vehicle, the name plates and exterior styling was kept relatively low-key.  The engine for the GP was a 428, which was as big as it got for 1967 at Pontiac.

Over at Chevrolet the Chevy II or Nova was now just called the Nova.  Its styling was smoothed out somewhat, but the designers still felt the time was at hand to restyle the car into a less boxy shape so the plan was just one more year for the body.  The cars narrow front end meant the top engine was a 327, which was now increased to 350 CID.

This Butternut Yellow beauty was the then “New for 1967” Chevrolet Camaro.  It was built to not only compete with the Ford Mustang, but to beat it.  The base 6 cylinder was normally optioned out for the 350 or all the way up to the Chevelle’s 396 if someone checked the proper boxes on the order sheet.  One of the “flaws” in the ordering system was that you could order the SS and the RS on the same vehicle.  This occurred quite often and gave the dealer the opportunity to put almost every available option on a lot of Camaros.  The dealers had maximum profit potential if a vehicle left the lot fully loaded.  For the dealers who wanted to really make a profit,they put the 427 from the Corvette into the Camaro to create a vehicle that was just on the edge of insanity.  Since it was the dealers doing this there was no breaking of “Corporate” rules.

The Chevelle was designated with the 138 body series when ordered as an SS396.  Chevrolet now was the only division with less than the 400 cubic inch maximum engine in their “Muscle Cars”.  All intermediates were being redesigned for the following year, so styling changes were basically just minor sheet metal reworking.  Creases were smoothed out and tail lights and grilles were restyled.

So for the people keeping track, I used the same photos, and I think I did a good job of reworking the information.  Kind of like the factory when they rework a model for a new year.

 Davey Boy

Advertisements

1965 – The Big Blocks Come Out To Play

January 9, 2011

 This would be a 1964 Impala SS.  This is the car that the Beach Boys wrote the song “She’s Real Fine, My 409” about.  It has the 409 cubic inch big block motor.  While not a dual carb setup, it was and still is a potent performer and worthy of its own song.  The 1964 Impala has the distinction of being the “Best Selling” car model ever made as it sold 1,074,925 copies in 1964 alone.  This feat is even more amazing when you consider that they totally redesigned the Impala in 1965 and that car holds the number 2 spot at 1,046,500 copies.

 This was one of the facts behind the Chevrolet Division at General Motors being slow to respond to the introduction of the GTO model over at Pontiac.

The GTO in 1964 caused a stir in the automotive community and the car manufacturer’s scrambled to come up with their own performance models.  But Chevrolet, through its own arrogance as the #1 division at General Motors felt their Impala with its Super Sport model had already established the Muscle image they needed.  And better yet they did it with the heavyweight class, not the welterweight division.  After all, why would the car buying public want to drive a “Prince” when they could have the “King”?  And as a company, why would they want to earn a couple hundred dollars when they could earn double on a “full-size” vehicle.  Chevrolet had the Corvette model which was a true sports car, and they had the Corvair which was designed to compete against the European sports cars.  With the full size Impala carrying the Performance torch for the division with the American family, why would they need to claim the title for the junior league as well?

 The 1965 Chevelle Malibu SS 327 had the engine from the standard model Corvette although slightly detuned it was the venerable 327 from it’s “sports” car.  Oldsmobile responded to the 389 powered GTO in 1965 by upping the ante with its 345 horsepower 400 cubic inch power plant being installed in the 442.

 The 442 model now stood for 400 cubic inches, four barrel carb, and dual exhaust.  Despite in my opinion a rather stodgy design it was a good performer and put the Oldsmobile division on par with Pontiac in the new Muscle Car marketplace. 

  In 1965 Buick finally came into the marketplace with its Buick Skylark Gran Sport.  This was the version of the Special model with the Buick “Nailhead” 401 cubic inch motor.  Due to new rules limiting the engine size to 400 CID for midsize vehicles, Buick simply listed the engine as a 400 on its literature. 

  For the sake of clarity the GS as these cars would come to be known did not stand for Grand Sport, it was Gran Sport.  Buick made GS or Gran Sport versions of almost all its models, partly because the management did not want to miss the boat for the next wave of performance buyers.  They had a Riviera GS as well as the Wildcat GS which moved them into the 425 CID “Wildcat” engines since they were larger vehicles and the displacement restrictions did not apply.

With Pontiac laying claim to being the “Original” muscle car and both Oldsmobile and Buick now pushing big block engines and their massive power, it was finally time for Chevrolet to either throw in the towel or answer the bell.

 So answer they did.  It was the Chevelle Malibu SS396.  It would go on to become a true legend.  The original 1965 versions were built on the stiffened convertible chassis because of concerns over the engines massive torque compared with the small block engine.  This was a lesson picked up from the Pontiac division since all GTO’s were also built on different frames than the Tempest and LeMans models.  This also meant these cars had their own VIN number and as a result makes them “easier” for collectors to identify as such today.  In the case of the GTO there is also a frame identification to use for verification.

 The 1965 Chevelle Z16 SS, as it was known due to the engine designation, was however limited its first year of production.  A handful of prototypes such as the one pictured here and another 201 were all that was made in 1965.  They are among the rarest and most valuable muscle cars today.  This prototype sold a couple of years back for around $375,000.  Not bad for a car costing around $3500 new.

 This covers the General Motors end of the 1965 model year as pertains to the “Muscle Car” segment, and there are more than just GM vehicles to show you, but the others will have to wait for the next installment.  After all, I need you to keep reading this blog.  So, later all.  Thank-you for stopping by and more in about a week.

Davey Boy