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The 5 best Chevy muscle cars that are Not Camaros
It is still mind blowing off that Pontiac jumped in front of Chevrolet and devised the muscle car (according popular notion, at least). The 1964 GTO, made by Pontiac Chief Engineer John DeLorean and two of the senior assistants, Bill Collins and Russ Gee, basically captured their opponents at Chevrolet and the rest of the business asleep in their merchandise planning meetings. Those men realized the 389-cubic-inch engine from Pontiac’s full-size model would fit in the new smaller and lighter 1964 Tempest. They then added a title stolen from Ferrari and united performance with picture.
Chevy, naturally, had the Corvette, but it required some time for its Bowtie Boys to catch up in the muscle car wars, initially using all the big-block Chevelle and then with the Camaro, which didn’t arrive before 1967. For all, the Camaro is regarded as the quintessential American muscle car. Heck, it is probably the most popular muscle car of all time, so popular that it overshadows Chevy’s many other muscle building 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 are not Camaros:
1. 1965 Chevy Chevelle Z16
A year following the GTO debuted, Chevy still did not have a serious mid-size muscle car, even though its new Mark IV big-block motor was about to change that. It first appeared on the choice sheet of the Corvette. For $292.70 (roughly $2313 today), choice code L78 provides you a 396-cu-in engine using 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 then, late in the design year, Chevy put it at the Chevelle. Choice code RPO Z16 comprised a stronger boxed frame from the Chevelle convertible and a slightly detuned version of the 396, given the code L37. Its 11:1 compression ratio was retained, but it obtained a milder hydraulic camera that dropped its peak electricity to 375 hp at 5600 rpm and 420 lb-ft torque at 3600 rpm. That is still 15 hp over a tri-power 1965 GTO.
Only 201 of them were built, mostly in crimson. Except for one convertible, all were hardtops with four-speeds. It was Chevrolet’s first true big-block muscle car, and it was a sign to the world that Chevy was ready for war.
2. 1968 Chevy Impala SS427 L72
By 1967, mid-size muscle cars were everywhere. Every American manufacturer brief of Cadillac and Lincoln were now betting on street performance. But full-size muscle was still a thing. In’67, the Impala SS 427 was RPO Z24 and contained the L36 big-block using a hydraulic cam rated at 385 hp, five horsepower less than it had been rated at 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 to the Impala. It was the same engine which powered the newest 1966 Corvette and it’s the same engine that would go to power COPO Camaros in 1969. In the Impala, the engine 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 bright red 427 badges to each fender and red and white SS 427 badges to its grille and its own decklid.
Based on Hemmings, Chevy constructed almost 711,000 Impalas in 1968. Just 1778 were SS427s, and of these, 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. Chevy would also sell you a 427-powered Chevelle. You just had to know it existed. Many Chevy dealers didn’t.
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 in mid sized or smaller automobiles. The Corvette was the exception, of course. Basically, COPO became Chevy’s back door.
These 427 Chevelles are infrequent, and like COPO Camaros they do not wear SS badging. They’re plain Jane, with only a blue Chevy Bowtie at the middle of the grille. According to hemmings.com, Chevy built 323 of these, with 99 visiting Don Yenko’s Pennsylvania dealership for Yenko S/C badging.
4. 1968 Chevy Nova SS396 L78
The 1967 L79 Chevy II was a sexy little car. 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 street and strip. But Chevy had more serious performance plans for its cheap economy car, and Chevy debuted the redesigned Nova at 1968. It was larger and shared its front clip with the Camaro. And that supposed Chevy’s mean ol’ big-block engine could fit.
The Nova SS 396 was born, and it remains one of the best high-performance deals of all time. The Nova wasn’t as hot since the Camaro, but it had been cheaper, lighter and less expensive to cover. 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 offered the 350-hp L34 396.)
Even though the L79 remained available for one more year, L78 Nova’s were street beasts–sleepers which may creep up on unsuspecting 440 Mopars and 428-powered Fords. And they’re rare. Chevy only constructed 667 in 1968, though manufacturing jumped to nearly 5000 in 1969 and more than 3700 in 1970, according to novaresourse.org.
5. 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6
In 1970, GM raised its internal ban on installing motors bigger than 400 cubic inches in midsize versions. That same year, Chevy’s big-block climbed from 427 cubic inches to 454, along with the Chevelle model got a complete redesign which comprised more muscular lines. The SS version 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, new 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 LS6, packing 450 hp, became the most effective muscle machine of the 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: An Automotive Journalist’s Muscle-Car Memoir, he writes,”The Chevelle SS 454 championed the assault with 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 favorite Chevelle SS. All 3 cars, particularly when fitted and tuned with all headers, were effective at delivering low-to-mid-thirteens in 105–107 mph terminal rates .
Chevy really offered four distinct big-blocks in the 1970 Chevelle SS, including the 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 as it got. The motor featured four-bolt mains, an 11.5:1 compression ratio, rectangle port heads, an aluminum intake manifold, and a big Holley carburetor. And the car was downright common in comparison to several other exotic muscle cars. In accordance with americancarcollector.com, Chevy constructed 4475 LS6 Chevelles in 1970.
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