1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu 4-Door Sedan
|Manufacturer||Chevrolet (General Motors)|
|Body and chassis|
The Chevrolet Chevelle is a mid-sized automobile which was produced by Chevrolet in three generations for the 1964 through 1978 model years. Part of the General Motors (GM) A-Body platform, the Chevelle was one of Chevrolet's most successful nameplates. Body styles include coupes, sedans, convertibles and station wagons. Super Sport versions were produced through the 1973 model year, and Lagunas from 1973 through 1976. After a three-year absence, the El Camino was reintroduced as part of the new Chevelle lineup. The Chevelle also provided the platform for the Monte Carlo introduced in 1970. The Malibu, the top of the line model through 1972, replaced the Chevelle nameplate for the redesigned, downsized 1978 models.
- 1 History
- 2 Second generation (1968–1972)
- 3 Third generation (1973–1977)
- 4 NASCAR
- 5 Gallery - Chevrolet Chevelle
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
First generation (1964–1967)
The Chevelle was intended to compete with the Ford Fairlane, and Plymouth Belvedere, and to return to the Chevrolet lineup a model similar in size and concept to the popular 1955-57 models. Enthusiasts were quick to notice that the Chevelle’s 115-inch (2,900 mm) wheelbase was the same as that of the 1955-57 Chevy. Two-door hardtop coupes, and convertibles, four-door sedans, and four-door station wagons were offered throughout the entire run. In line with other Chevrolet series, the two-door hardtops were called Sport coupes. Four-door hardtops, dubbed Sport Sedans, were available (1966 through 1972). A two-door station wagon was available in 1964 and 1965 in the base 300 series. Various wagons were sold with exclusive nameplates: Greenbrier, Concours, and Concours Estate. Six-cylinder and V8 power was offered across the board. Chevelles were also assembled and sold in Canada. Although identical to their Stateside counterparts, the convertible was available in the base Chevelle series, a model never offered in the U.S. The Chevelle was the basis for the Beaumont, a re-trimmed model sold only in Canada by Pontiac dealers through 1969. Originally conceived as an upsizing of the Chevy II with a unibody platform (similar to the Fairlane and the full-size Chrysler B-platform of the same era), GM's "senior compact" A-platform used a body-on-frame construction using a suspension setup similar to its full sized automobiles with a 4 link rear suspension (the differential has 4 control arms which are attached to the frame with rear coil springs sandwiched between the differential and spring pocket - this design was used with the B platform vehicles and later copied by Ford Motor Company with its FOX platform automobiles). The cars used proven standard Chevrolet drivetrains and proved to be both durable and reliable over the years.
The Chevelle Super Sport, or SS represented Chevrolet's entry into the muscle car battle. Early 1964 and 1965 Chevelles had a Malibu SS badge on the rear quarter panel. Chevelles with the mid-1965 Z16 option, priced at US$1,501 in 1965, had the emblem on the front fender as well as distinct in-house style numbers: 737 for the hardtop and 767 for the convertible. The $162 Super Sport package was available on the upscale Malibu two-door hardtop and convertible models; the option added special exterior brightwork with SS emblems and the 14-inch full-disc wheel covers from the Impala SS. Inside, the vinyl bucket-seat interior featured a floor console for models equipped with the optional Muncie aluminum four-speed-manual or Powerglide two-speed automatic instead of the standard three-speed manual. Malibu SS also got a four-gauge cluster in place of engine warning lights, and a dash-mounted tachometer was optional. The available 283-cubic-inch four-barrel V8 engine rated at 220-horsepower was the same rating as the 1957 Chevy Power-Pak 283 engine.
While the 1964 Malibu SS may have recalled past glories, the new 'musclecar' future was available over at Pontiac. There, Chevelle’s Pontiac Tempest corporate cousin had a 389-cubic-inch V8 to create the 325 horsepower (242 kW) Pontiac GTO, and further optional 348 hp, followed quickly by the 310-horse 330-cubic-inch Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. That was all it took for Chevy to think about breaking GM's 330-cubic-inch ceiling for intermediate-car engines. Starting in mid-1964, the Chevelle could be ordered with the division’s 327-cubic-inch V8, in either 250 or 300 hp (224 kW). Both used a four-barrel carburetor and 10.5:1 compression, and could easily hold their own against 289 Ford Fairlane and 273 Plymouth Barracudas. But muscle fans would demand more, and get it. For 1965, Chevrolet also added the edgy 350-hp 327 V8 as Regular Production Option (RPO) L79. Still, for those “sensible” buyers, the Chevelle was also quite appealing, and Chevy built 294,160 the first year, including 76,860 SS models. After 1965, the Malibu SS badge disappeared except for those sold in Canada. A limited 201 Malibu SS396 'Z-16' big-block-equipped cars were also eventually produced starting in late 1965 to confront still mounting competition, with most being built between mid-March and mid-April. But, strangely, they were handicapped by lack of a factory-offered positraction rear-end option to handle the 396's big torque. Of those original Z-16s, some 75 still exist and are accounted for.
The Chevelle SS396 became a series of its own in 1966 with series/style numbers 13817 and 13867. SS396 sport coupes and convertibles used the same Malibu sport coupe and convertible bodies with reinforced frames and revised front suspension: higher-rate springs, recalibrated shocks, and thicker front stabilizer bar, but with different exterior trim. They also had simulated hood scoops, red-stripe tires, and bright trim moldings. The performance engines available included three, 396 CID V8s – the standard, rated at 325 hp (242 kW), an optional 360 hp (270 kW), and an optional 375 hp (280 kW), respectively (the mid-horsepower 396 was rated at 360 hp (270 kW) for 1966 only and 350 hp (260 kW) thereafter). The SS396 series lasted from 1966 through 1968 before being relegated to an option package in 1969. The 1966 and 1967 model years were the only two years of the 'strut back' 2-door sport coupe with its own style number, 17.
In Canada, sporty Chevelles continued to wear "Malibu SS" badges for the 1966 and early 1967 model years. These Chevelles were available with the same equipment as non-SS Malibu models in the U.S., and did not get the domed hood or the blackout front and rear treatment. Redline tires were not available on Canadian Chevelles in 1966. A 1966 Malibu SS factory photo shows wheel covers on the car from the 1965 Impala. The Canadian Malibu SS got its "SS" name from the "Sports Option" package under RPO A51 and was primarily a trim option. This A51 option came with bucket seats, a center console (except when the three-speed manual transmission was ordered), standard full wheel covers, and the ribbed rocker panel moldings. The "Malibu SS" emblems were carried over from the 1965 Malibu SS series. This Canadian option could be ordered with any six-cylinder or V8 engine available at the time. Starting in January 1967, the Chevelle SS396 took over and became its own 138xx series, the same as in the U.S.
Only 200 regular production 1965 Z16 Chevelles were built at the Kansas City plant. The Z16 option included the convertible boxed frame, a narrowed rear axle and brake assemblies from the contemporary Impala, heavy-duty suspension, plus virtually all Chevelle comfort and convenience options. The Z16 standard big-block 396 Turbo-Jet V8 (fitted with hydraulic lifters instead of the solid lifters of the same motor used in the Corvette) came only with the Muncie wide-ratio four-speed manual transmission. The rear panel of the Z16 had unique black and chrome trim which framed untrimmed Chevelle 300-style taillights (Malibu and Malibu SS models had bright silver-painted lens trim).
The prototype Z16 Chevelle was built at the Baltimore plant. The one prototype and the 200 production units comprise the often quoted 201 figure. One convertible was reportedly specially built for Chevy General Manager Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen, but is understood to have been destroyed. This Z16 conv for Z16-equipped Chevelles means this is one of the rarest, most coveted Chevrolets ever produced. Of the few that remain, prices run in six figures. Although some regular 1965 Chevelle owners have attempted to fake the Z16, this is a most difficult task due to the unavailability of the unique Z16 equipment and trim, although much of the external trim pieces are now being reproduced in the aftermarket.
Approximately 75 Z16s are presently accounted for.
New Body 1966–1967
1966 saw a complete restyle of the Chevelle on the previous frame that included smooth contours, a broad new grille and bumper treatment, and curved side windows. Bulging rear fender lines and a "flying buttress" roofline (tunneled into the "C" pillar) were highlights of the '66 hardtops, shared with other GM "A" body models. The new body reflected the "Coke bottle" body shape that became the fad for American cars in the mid-1960s. A 4-door hardtop-styled Sport Sedan joined the Malibu series. It was an attractive car and was offered through 1972, but never achieved the high-production figures as the pillared sedan. Chevelles continued in 300, 300 Deluxe, and Malibu trim. Available engines were a 327-cubic-inch V8 instead of either of the sixes, or the mid-level option, a 220-horsepower 283-cubic-inch V8. Judicious attention to the options list could add a tachometer, mag-style wheel covers, and sintered-metallic brakes. Four-way power seats, a tissue dispenser, and cruise control were optional.
The 1967 models got some styling tweaks that resulted in a longer, more straightforward appearance. Large wraparound taillamps went into a new rear end with standard backup lights. Otherwise, visible change was modest. "What you'll see inside," claimed the sales brochure for the 1967 Chevelle, "will probably bring on a severe compulsion to go driving." Front disc brakes were available on all models, and a new dual master cylinder brake system incorporated a warning light. Chevrolet also added 14" wheels and a three speed automatic transmission to their line of transmissions. An entire host of new safety equipment became standard, including a collapsible steering column making the 1967 models safer cars. The SS396 continued as its own series with both sport coupe and convertible body styles. The 375-horsepower 396-cubic-inch V8 was dropped from the options list until late in the model year and returned with little fanfare resulting in only 612 being sold. Buyers selected from no less than seven transmissions: two manual three-speeds, two manual four-speeds, an overdrive three-speed, and two automatics. The manual-shift feature of the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was touted in advertising. Options included Superlift air shock absorbers, Strato-ease headrests, and special instrumentation. Although Chevy's big news for 1967 was the introduction of the Camaro, Chevelle offered a more traditional sort of sportiness.
Second generation (1968–1972)
The 1968 Chevelle got an all-new distinctly sculpted body with tapered front fenders and a rounded beltline. The car adopted a long-hood/short-deck profile with a high rear-quarter "kick-up". While all 1967 Chevelle models rode a 115-inch (2,900 mm) wheelbase, the 1968 coupes and convertibles now rode a sporty 112-inch (2,800 mm) wheelbase. The sedans and wagons turned to a 116-inch (2,900 mm) span. Tread width grew an inch front and rear. Hardtop coupes featured a semi-fastback, flowing roofline. Top-trim models (including the SS 396 and new luxury Concours) featured GM's new Hide-A-Way wiper system. Lesser Chevelles would get that change later. The Super Sport (SS396 sport coupe, convertible, and El Camino pickup) became series on its own. Chevrolet produced 60,499 SS 396 sport coupes, 2,286 convertibles, and 5,190 El Caminos; 1968 was the only year the El Camino body style would get its own SS396 series designation (13880). Black-accented Super Sports rode F70x14 red-stripe tires and carried a standard 325-horsepower 396-cubic-inch Turbo-Jet V8 engine below the special twin-domed hood; 350 and 375-horsepower 396 engines could be substituted at additional cost. The SS 396 sport coupe started at $2,899 - or $236 more than a comparable Malibu with its 307-cubic-inch V8. All-vinyl bucket seats and a console were optional. Three luxury Concours options became available in March 1968 for the 4-door sedan, the 4-door sport sedan and consisted of special sound insulation, and a deep-padded instrument panel with simulated woodgrain accents and all-vinyl color-keyed interiors. These Concours options (ZK5, ZK6, and ZK7) should not be confused with the two Concours station wagons. Also new for 1968 was the elimination of the term "sedan" for the 2-door pillar body style. This was now called a coupe (or pillar coupe) while the 2-door hardtop remained a sport coupe. These coupe/sport coupe designations would continue into 1969 as well. The Concours Estate Wagon was one of four distinct Chevelle wagon models. A one-year Nomad, Nomad Custom was offered. Regular Chevelle engines started with a 140 horsepower (100 kW) Turbo-Thrift six or the new 200 horsepower (150 kW) Turbo-Fire 307 V8, but stretched to a 325 horsepower (242 kW) version of the 327-cubic-inch V8. Manual transmission cars got GM's "Air Injection Reactor (A.I.R)" smog pump, which added complexity under the hood. New Federal safety-mandated equipment included side marker lights, as well as shoulder belts for outboard front seat occupants on cars built after December 1, 1967. There were 1968 SS427 chevelles sold on Indian Reservation's territory to bypass the GM rules that prevented a car from having more than 1 H.P. per 10 pounds of weight limit (exception was the Corvette).
Design Changes 1969–1972
1969 Chevelles were billed as "America's most popular mid-size car." They showed only minor changes for 1969, led by revised front-end styling. A single chrome bar connected quad headlights (which became a familiar Chevrolet trademark with its concurrent light duty pickup trucks) with a revised front grille, now cast in ABS plastic, and a slotted bumper held the parking lights. Taillight lenses were larger and more vertical, flowing into the quarter panels. Front vent windows began to fade away now that Astro Ventilation (first introduced on the 1966 Buick Riviera which was used a year earlier on the Camaro and Caprice) was sending outside air into several Chevelle models. The Chevelle lineup slimmed down to Nomad, 300 Deluxe/Greenbrier, Malibu/Concours, and Concours Estate series, and the base 300 series was history. No longer a series of its own, the SS 396 turned into a $347.60 option package for any two-door model. That meant not just a convertible, sport coupe, or pickup, but even the pillared coupe and sport coupe in the lower-rent 300 Deluxe series (except the base 300 Deluxe El Camino pickup). Fewer SS396-optioned 300 Deluxe coupes and sport coupes were built than their Malibu counterparts and they are solid gold for collectors. The Super Sport option included a 325-horsepower 396-cubic-inch V8 beneath a double-domed hood, along with a black-out grille displaying an SS emblem and a black rear panel. More potent editions of the 396 engine also made the options list, developing 350 or 375 horsepower (280 kW). Chevelle station wagons came in three levels: Concours, Nomad, and Greenbrier—the last a badge formerly used on the Corvair van. A new dual-action tailgate operated either in the traditional manner or as a panel-type door. Wagons stretched 208 inches (5,300 mm) overall versus 197 inches (5,000 mm) for coupes. New round instrument pods replaced the former linear layout. Chevelle options included headlight washers, power windows and locks, and a rear defroster. Chevy's midsize production rose this year, with Malibus far more popular than their less-costly mates. Fewer than seven percent of Malibus had a six-cylinder engine, while more than 86,000 got an SS 396 option. All '69 Chevelles got a new locking steering column one year ahead of the Federal requirement, and headrests required for all cars sold in the U.S. after January 1, 1969.
In addition, in 1969 Chevrolet developed a steam powered concept vehicle, designated the SE 124 based on a Chevelle fitted it with a 50 hp Bresler steam engine in place of its gasoline engine. The Bresler was based on the Doble steam engine.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
In 1970, sheetmetal revisions gave the bodies a more squared-up stance following the coke bottle styling, interiors were also redesigned too. The 1970 Chevelle shared many sheet metal body parts with the 1970 Buick Skylark GSX, both are GM automobiles and have interchangeable sheet metal. They're also the only 2 high performance muscle cars to share the same roofline. The 1970 Chevelle came in sport coupe, sport sedan, convertible, four-door sedan, a couple of wagons, and coupé utility (the El Camino) body styles. Only 3 of these (Malibu sport coupe, Malibu convertible and El Camino pickup) were available with a choice of one of 2 SS options; RPO Z25 with the SS 396 (402 cid) engine and RPO Z15 with the new 454 cid engine. The base model was now simply called Chevelle (which causes confusion) in lieu of the former base 300 Deluxe, and was only as a Sport Coupe or four-door sedan. Up in Canada however, the base series retained its 300 Deluxe name, with appropriate badging on each front fender just behind the front wheel well. The hardtop, convertible, and sedan received the upgraded sheetmetal but the station wagons and El Camino retained the previous year sheetmetal panels (which went on for the next 2 model years).
Station wagons were the entry level Nomad, the Chevelle level Greenbrier, the Malibu level Concours and an upscale Concours Estate. New options included power door locks and a stalk-mounted wiper control. Engine choices ranged from the standard 155 horsepower (116 kW) six-cylinder and 200-horsepower 307-cubic-inch V8, to a pair of 350 V8s and a pair of 402 engines. RPO Z25 SS equipment option included one of these 402 cid engines but was still marketed as a 396. The second 402 cid engine was available under RPO, rated at 330 hp with single exhaust, and was available in any V8 series except an SS optioned Malibu or El Camino. 1970 also saw the introduction of the 454 cid engine and was only available with the RPO Z15 SS Equipment option. The base 454 cid engine was rated at 360 hp (which was also available with cowl induction) and the optional LS6 version at 450 hp. There were 4,475 LS6 Chevelles produced, of which 137 are currently registered on the National Chevelle LS6 Registry.
The SS 396 Chevelle included a 350 horsepower (260 kW) Turbo-Jet 396 V8, special suspension, "power dome" hood, black-accented grille, resilient rear-bumper insert, and wide-oval tires on sport wheels. Though a 375 horsepower (280 kW) cowl induction version was available, few were sold in favor of the newly introduced 454 engine in the October/November 1969 timeframe. The LS5 454-cubic-inch V8 produced 360 horsepower (270 kW) in standard form and a cowl induction version was also available. The LS6 produced a claimed 450 gross HP in solid-lifter, high-compression guise. It has been suggested that the LS6 was substantially "under-rated" and actually produced something on the order of 500 horsepower (370 kW) as delivered from the factory. Recent engine dyno tests have proven that the 1970 LS-6 engine makes over 450 hp and 500 lb/ft torque in stock configuration (stock compression ratio, stock camshaft, stock intake and exhaust manifolds). Super Chevy Magazine conducted a chassis dyno test of a supposed production-line stock 1970 Chevelle and recorded 282 peak HP at the wheels. This test that was not done under SAE standards. The engine was said to be correct but is not confirmed. Current 1/4 mile times and MPH of a 1970 Chevelle equipped with 100% factory stock LS-6 engines and modern tires are turning very low 12 second times (13.07) with trap speeds of 112+ mph.
"You can make our tough one even tougher," the brochure explained, by adding Cowl Induction to either the SS 396 or the SS 454. Step on the gas, and a scoop opened "to shoot an extra breath of cool air into the engine air intake....like second wind to a distance runner." Neither functional hood lock pins nor hood and deck stripes were standard with either SS option, but were part of the optional ZL2 cowl induction hood option. The 454 cu in (7.4 L) LS5 V8 was rated at 360 hp (270 kW).
New Sheet Metal Front/Rear design
The 1971 Chevelles got fresh front-end and rear-end styling that included large Power-Beam single-unit headlights, a reworked grille and bumper, and integral park/signal/marker lights. New dual round taillights were integral with the back bumper. Because SS models suffered heavy insurance surcharges, Chevrolet introduced the "Heavy Chevy" at midyear, which was based on the base Chevelle, and was available with any V8 engine except the 454, which was exclusive to SS models. The Heavy Chevy (RPO YF3) was ONLY available with the base Chevelle sport coupe (13437) and was primarily a dress up option and even it was limited to options available on the standard Chevelle sport coupe; vinyl carpeting, front bench seat, no center console shift, etc. For 1971, the SS option was reduced to one RPO code, RPO Z15, and was only available for the Chevelle Malibu. This RPO code required any optional engine and transmission available in the Chevelle lineup. Since the 307 V8 was the standard base V8 in 1971, it could not be ordered with the SS option; one had to order one of the two 350 V8 engines (L65 or L48 - which reintroduced the small block to the SS option since the 1965 model year for USA market Chevelles), the LS3 402 or the LS5 454.
The minimum Chevelle SS engine was a two-barrel 350-cubic-inch V8 rated at 245 gross (165 net) horsepower. Optionally available was a four-barrel carbureted version of the 350 V8 rated at 275 gross (200 net with dual exhaust and 175 net with single exhaust) horsepower. The 402 cid big-block engine continued to be optional as the SS 396 but was only available in one horsepower rating, 300 gross (260 net) horsepower, and was not available with cowl induction. The base LS5 454 V8 produced 365 gross and 285 net horsepower, but cowl induction was available that produced more power because of the air induction and louder exhaust system. The LS6 had been planned for 1971, but was dropped before production. As a result, the LS6 was only available in the 1971 Corvette. Similarly, the high performance 455 cid engine that was in the 1970 Buick Skylark GS/GSX Stage I had been planned for 1971, but was dropped before production. The parts that would have been used for the 1971 Buick engine were sold to buyers as spare parts delivered in the trunk for the buyer to use and was called the Stage II option.
Chevrolet specifications for 1971 included both "gross" and "net" horsepower figures for all engines. The SS option could be ordered with any optional V8 and became more of a dress-up option than a performance option. GM mandated all divisions design their engines to run on lower-octane regular, low-lead or unleaded gasoline. To permit usage of the lower-octane fuels, all engines featured low compression ratios (9:1 and lower; well below the 10.25-11.25:1 range on high-performance engines of 1970 and earlier). This move reduced horsepower ratings on the big-block engines to 300 for the 402 cubic-inch V8 but surprisingly, the LS5 454 option got an "advertised" five-horsepower increase to 365. The LS6 454 option, which was originally announced as a regular production option on the Chevelle SS for 1971, was dropped early in the model year and no official records indicate that any 1971 Chevelles were assembled with the LS6 engine.
It's interesting to note that both 350 V8 engines, as well as the dual exhaust 402 cid V8 engine, were available without the SS option; only the LS5 454 V8 required the SS option. A single exhaust version of the 402 cid engine existed in 1970 with 330 gross hp and in 1972 with 210 net hp. In 1971 the single exhaust version of the 402 cid engine produced 206 net hp, but only appeared in the full size Chevrolet brochure. Although not appearing in the 1971 Chevelle and Monte Carlo brochures, no doubt it could have been available as a special order.
1972 Chevelles wore single-unit parking/side marker lights on their front fenders, outside of a revised twin-bar grille. All Malibus had concealed wipers. The SS equipment option requirements remained the same as those in 1971, any optional V8. The 1972 Chevelle series had wide enough appeal to qualify as America's second-best-selling car. Base versions again included a four-model wagon series. Upscale versions were Malibus including the convertible models. More than 24,000 Malibu Sport Sedans were built, with a standard 307-cubic-inch V8 rated at 130 (net) horsepower. With that V8, the Malibu Sport Coupe was the top seller by far starting at $2,923. The six-cylinder version ran $90 less. Powertrain options included the 175-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V8 and 240-horsepower 402-cubic-inch (still known as a 396), as well as a 454 that managed to put out 270 horsepower (200 kW) under the net rating system. Chevelles sold in California could not get the 307 V8 but carried a 350-cubic-inch engine instead. Through the 1970s, California cars often had different powertrains than those marketed in states with less-stringent emissions regulations. 1972 is the last year popular for Chevelle car collectors.
The 1972 Chevelle SS had a top engine rated at 270 net hp (201 kW) conforming with GM's decree that all engines were to be rated at their net engine ratings. Despite the lower rating there was no evidence that power had actually changed on production cars of that year. All other engines on the SS roster were unchanged from 1971. 1972 was the last year for the cowl induction option for the 454 cid engine and was not even mentioned in the 1972 Chevelle brochure.
Chevelle wagons measured 10 inches (250 mm) shorter than full-size wagons and weighed about half a ton less, but sold much slower. Model-year output totaled 49,352 Chevelles and 290,008 Malibus—plus 54,335 station wagons.
The Yenko Chevelles
Retired Corvair and Corvette race car driver Don Yenko (a Pittsburgh-area Chevrolet dealer) developed his own line of signature Chevelles, Camaros and Novas, marketed as Yenko Super Cars. At the time, the largest engine being installed in Chevelle SS's was the 396 cid V8. Yenko decided to equip his acquired models with the Chevrolet 427 cid V8. While being an extremely limited edition of Chevelles, they nonetheless proved very popular among Chevy lovers across the country. Today at auction, the Yenko Super Cars can bring as much as $2.2 million. Don Yenko used the Central Office Production Order system, which normally filled special-equipment fleet orders, to create a special COPO that included the L72 427 cubic inch 425 hp (317 kW) engine and the needed drive train upgrades. A few other dealers ordered the package Yenko created and sold them as their own supercars. (Nickey, Berger, Scuncio, etc.)
Third generation (1973–1977)
The most extensive redesign in its 10-year history marked the 1973 Chevelle, eliminating convertible models due to concern over proposed Federal rollover standards. This move was somewhat controversial with the buying public as soft-tops had been a staple of American cars for over 20 years and their presence almost taken for granted. Once the initial surprise was overcome however, the Colonnade models became a huge sales success. The Monte Carlo coupe was the biggest seller of the Chevrolet A-body line, although the bread-and-butter sedans and station wagons also sold well. The newly named "Colonnade Hardtop" featured a semi-fastback roofline, frameless door glass and fixed, styled "B" pillars, structurally strong enough to contribute to occupant safety of a roll-over type accident. Distinctive rear quarter glass on 2-door coupes and new side windows with styled center pillars were featured on 4-door models. Rear windows on coupes no longer opened. In addition to the new roofline, front and rear ends looked markedly different this year as 1973 was the year of the federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) front bumper, adding to the car's length. Additional new body features were an acoustical double-panel roof, tighter-fitting glass and flush style outside door handles. Wheelbase dimensions were retained; a sporty 112 inches (2,800 mm) for coupes and 116 inches (2,900 mm) for sedans and station wagons, but bodies were five inches (127 mm) longer and an inch wider with a 1-inch (25 mm) wider wheel track. The station wagon, available in 6 or 9 passenger seating, featured a new counterbalanced liftgate which allowed for easier entry and loading up to 85 cubic feet.
1973 models also introduced molded full foam front and rear seat construction, a flow-through power ventilation system, an inside hood release, refined Delcotron generator and sealed side-terminal battery, a larger 22 gallon fuel tank, and "flush and dry" rocker panels introduced first on the redesigned 1971 full-size Chevrolets. Another structural improvement was a stronger design for the side door guard beams. New options included swivel bucket seats (with console) for coupes and Turbine I urethane (backed by steel) wheels, as was the instrument gauge cluster. A power moonroof was an option 1973-75. Interior roominess of the '73 Chevelle was improved, particularly in the rear. Headroom was up slightly and shoulder room gains were by 1.6 inches (41 mm). Rear seat legroom was up 3.5 inches (89 mm) in sedans. Another was a 15.3-cubic-foot (430 L) luggage capacity, an increase of 2.5 cubic feet (71 L) over 1972 models. Still another benefit of the new body designs was greatly improved visibility, up 25% in coupes and wagons, and 35% in sedans. The unusually thin windshield pillars also contributed to much better visibility.
The chassis design was as new as the bodies - with an all-new, sturdier perimeter frame, new chassis/body mounts, larger 8½ inch rear axle, wider 6-inch wheel rim width, refined rear control arm bushings, increased front and rear suspension travel, new shock absorber location, and improved front suspension geometry - The left wheel was adjusted to have slightly more positive camber than the right which resulted in a more uniform and stable steering feel on high-crown road surfaces while maintaining excellent freeway cruise stability. Clearances for spring travel were also improved for a smoother ride over all types of surfaces; the coil springs at each wheel were computer-selected to match the individual car's weight. Front disc brakes were now standard on all '73 Chevelles. John Z. DeLorean, Chevrolet's dynamic general manager during the design phase of the new Chevelles, left just as they were being announced. He departed in late September 1972 to start a brief stint as vice president of General Motors's Car and Truck Group. DeLorean left the new Chevelle an important legacy, though. He and Alex Mair, then Chevrolet's chief engineer, championed great handling. Critics compared the GM Colonnade line favorably to Ford and Chrysler intermediates which had unattractive styling and less interior room.
Five power teams were available for 1973 Chevelle models; the 250 inline-six and 307 2-barrel V8 both rated at 110 hp (82 kW) were std. engines on Deluxe and Malibu. The 350 2-barrel V8 of 145 hp (108 kW) was the base Laguna engine. Options for any Chevelle included a 350 4-barrel V8 of 175 hp (130 kW) and a 454 4-barrel V8 rated at 245 hp (183 kW). Hardened engine valve seats and hydraulic camshafts made these engines reliable for many miles, and allowed them to accept the increasingly popular unleaded regular gasoline. 3 speed manual transmission was standard; 4 speed manual and Turbo Hydra-Matic 3 speed automatic were optional. Crossflow radiators and coolant reservoirs that prevented air from entering the system prevented overheating.
Revised model lineup
Malibu and the newly named Deluxe series base model featured the new 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumper system with a large chrome front bumper and a chrome rear bumper. Malibu series interiors included cloth and vinyl or all vinyl seat trim and deep-twist carpeting. Deluxe series interiors featured cloth and vinyl or knit vinyl seat trim. Floor coverings were color-keyed in vinyl-coated rubber. The SS was now a trim option limited to the mid-level Malibu series. Shoppers could even get an SS station wagon this year - with the option of a 454-cubic-inch V8 engine, no less—but the mix of sport and utilitarian wagon virtues would last only a single season. Included was a black grill with SS emblem, lower bodyside and wheel opening striping, bright roof drip moldings, color-keyed dual sport mirrors, black taillight bezels, SS fender and rear panel emblems, special front and rear stabilizer bars, 14x7 inch rally wheels, 70-series raised white lettered tires, special instrumentation and SS interior emblems. The SS option required an available 350 or 454 V8 with 4-speed or Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.
Chevrolet honored California beach resorts once again by naming the top Chevelle series Laguna with the Malibu taking the middle spot while the base series was called simply Deluxe. In addition to the standard 350 2 barrel V8, Laguna models featured specific front and rear styling including a body-colored urethane front end concealing the new 5 mph bumper system. On minor impact the urethane nose cone, backed up by shock- absorbing cylinders, deflects and rebounds; Laguna models also featured a specific diecast chrome grille with bowtie emblem, a body-colored (steel) rear bumper, front and rear bumper rub strips, bright roof drip moldings, bright wheel opening moldings, chrome taillight bezels, full wheel covers, and Laguna fender nameplates. Two Laguna station wagons were introduced, including a Laguna Estate. Laguna interiors were pattern cloth and vinyl or optional breathable all-vinyl upholstery, distinctive door trim with map pockets, deep-twist carpeting, woodgrain vinyl accents, and Laguna nameplates.
Chevelle sales remained strong: 327,631 of them in the 1973 model year, plus 59,108 station wagons. The more upmarket Malibu continued to sell best by a wide margin and many Chevelles went to the fleet market, but the costlier Laguna coupe and sedan made a respectable showing, with 56,036 going to customers. Super Sport options went on 28,647 Chevelles of which 2500 held the big 454-cubic-inch engine. The SS option was dropped at the end of the model year.
Yearly design changes to the front and rear mark the aesthetic differences as in previous years. The Chevelles were top sellers for GM as was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, Buick Regal, and Pontiac Grand Am which used the same corporate A-body platform.
1974 Chevelles featured new grilles, new taillights and 5 mph (8.0 km/h) rear bumpers (in addition to the 5 mph (8.0 km/h) front bumper added in '73). The Laguna name had debuted on the 1973 Chevelle as the top-line series in all body-styles, but the 1974 Laguna Type S-3 came only as a coupe, which combined Laguna luxury with the superior road manners of the SS which it replaced. Handling was further enhanced with the addition of new GR70-15 radial-ply tires. The new Laguna S-3 sported the urethane front end with a revised grill and new parking lamps, augmented at the rear by new taillights. A federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) chrome rear bumper replaced the body-colored steel 2.5 mph (4.0 km/h) version from '73. Standard equipment included a console, a vinyl roof, opera-type vertical rear quarter windows which could be covered with horizontal ribs for a few dollars extra; body side striping, Laguna S3 badging, rally wheels, 4 spoke steering wheel as well as firmer shocks/springs, a front stabilizer bar, and fat HR70x15 tires on Rally wheels. Front occupants rode in swivel bucket seats, and the driver faced a six-dial instrument cluster. Production totaled 15,792 cars, with prices starting at $3,723 - but with plenty of options to send the bottom line past $5,000. Engine offerings included a standard 145 horsepower (108 kW) 350 two-barrel V8, with optional powerplants including a 150-horsepower (110 kW) 400 two-barrel V8, 180 horsepower (130 kW) 400 four-barrel V8 and 230 horsepower (170 kW) 454 four-barrel V8, except in California where a 155-horsepower (116 kW) 350 four-barrel V8 was standard and the 400 and 454 engines were optional. The 454 was available with the Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic 400 or Muncie 4 speed manual transmissions. 3-point seat belts with integrated shoulder belts were introduced as on all Chevrolet models.
With the Laguna nameplate now bearing the sporty model in the Chevelle line, the top-line series for 1974 was the new Malibu Classic series, offered in sedan, coupe and station wagon models. Unlike the 1973 Laguna, the Malibu Classic used the same front end and chrome bumper as the lesser (Malibu) models, but the smaller vertical rear quarter "opera" windows and a spring-loaded hood ornament were featured. Early '74 Classic coupes required the vinyl roof option; apparently inserts were used to cover part of the big rear quarter window. Later '74s were available with a standard painted roof that included the smaller "opera" window. Inside, the Malibu Classic featured luxurious interiors with notchback bench seats upholstered in cloth or vinyl, carpeted door panels and woodgrain instrument panel trim. Optional on Malibu Classic coupes were swivel bucket seats (with console) in cloth or vinyl. The base Deluxe series was dropped for 1974, making the Malibu the base model. Base engines were the 250-cubic-inch six and the 350-cubic-inch V8. For 1975 although the basic body styling was unaltered, the Colonnade designation was dropped. The lineup was marked by fresh front and rear styling including a vertical grid-patterned grille and new bright trim around the headlights were highlights. Rectangular taillights sat flush with the body surface, connected by a brushed chrome panel. Malibu Classic coupes had distinctive opera windows. Landau coupes came with a vinyl roof, full wheel covers, whitewall tires, color-keyed body striping, and dual sport mirrors. Engines ranged from the standard 250-cubic-inch six and 350-cubic-inch 2-barrel V8 to V8 options of 400 and 454-cubic-inch size, the last with a 235-horsepower rating. Variable-ratio power steering was now standard with V8 models, and all 1975 models rode steel-belted radial tires. A new "Chevrolet Efficiency System" introduced a High-Energy Ignition (HEI). This electronic ignition system provided minimal maintenance and increased power. Speedometers were now calibrated in both miles per hour and kilometers per hour. Following its debut as a 1974 model, the sporty Laguna Type S-3 left the lineup briefly, then reappeared in January 1975. This time, it wore a rakishly slanted, urethane-covered aero-style nose designed for NASCAR (first use on a Chevrolet vehicle - later to show up on the 1983-88 Monte Carlo SS), louvered opera windows, and could be ordered with a vinyl half-roof. The 454 engine option was available for the first half of the model year after which the 400 engine became the top engine. Options included an Econominder gauge package, affirming again that the age of muscle was long gone.
1976 Chevelles earned a billing as "a size whose time has come." With square headlights now legal, the top-shelf Malibu Classic got a crosshatch grille and stacked quad headlights while lower models had a waterfall grille and single headlights. Three V8s were available: a new 305-cubic-inch version rated at 140 horsepower (100 kW), a 165-horsepower 350-cubic-inch, and a 400-cubic-inch engine that developed 175 horses. Options included the Econominder gauge package. In its third and final season, the 1976 Laguna Type S-3 was little changed. It again featured quarter-window louvers and a sloped, body-color urethane front end. Lagunas shared their round-gauge instrument panel with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and could be ordered with a four-spoke sport steering wheel as well as swivel front bucket seats and a center console. Lesser models made do with a more conventional dashboard and a linear-readout speedometer. Production of the Laguna edged up to 9,100 cars as the base price went to $4,621.
The 1977 Chevelles got new grilles. The lineup consisted of Malibu and Malibu Classic models in coupe, sedan, and station wagon body styles. Estate Wagons and the Laguna Type S-3 were gone. Malibu Classics, again the top model, switched to a vertical grille pattern and six-section taillights but kept their twin stacked headlights and stand-up hood ornament. Malibu grilles changed little. Fewer engine selections were available though the engines that remained gained a few horses. In standard form, Chevelles had a 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine or a 145 horsepower (108 kW), 305-cubic-inch V8. The sole option beyond that was a 170 horsepower (130 kW), four-barrel 350-cubic-inch V8 (this engine was standard in the Malibu Classic station wagon) Malibu Classics had a luxurious cloth/vinyl split-bench front seat, color-keyed steering wheel, and woodgrain-accented instrument panel. Malibu options included a $46 Exterior Decor group, $54 tinted glass, and $33 full wheel covers. A total of 37,215 Malibu Classic Landau coupes were produced, as opposed to 73,739 Malibu Classic coupes and 28,793 Malibu coupes. In four-door sedan form, too, the Malibu Classics outsold base models by a substantial margin. The 350 V8 was the top engine.
A Chevelle SE (special edition) was available and provided front and rear spoilers, turbine II wheels, F60x15 tires, special graphics and decals, quarter window trim, front and rear sway bars, F41 sport suspension and a deluxe interior. Three colors were available. 50 of these rare cars were built. In 1978, GM downsized its intermediate line and decided to apply the Malibu name to the whole range as it had higher recognition among buyers than Chevelle.
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Speed and Supercar magazine said in a June 1974 "Street Test": "Chevy gets it right on." "Enough is plenty, that's how we feel about the 350 Laguna. "... We couldn't pass up the opportunity to tell you what a groovy all around car it is even if it can't smoke the quarter-mile in 13 seconds. And what car in '73 can." "It's not overpowering but it's enough - and so comfortable that the editor bought the car." "The Laguna is the type of car you want to own for fast, comfortable transportation in quiet luxury."
Motor Trend - 1973 Buyers Guide said: "Chevrolet is fielding an all-new intermediate Chevelle series at a time when competitive lines from Ford and Chrysler are one or more years old...when you look at what the stylists have done with what we used to call the pillar coupe, you might want to rush out and buy some stock in General Motors."
Motor Trend said: "The Grand Am and the Laguna are large "small" cars. Nimble, quick and responsive." "The cleanly styled Laguna has a lot to recommend it. The car has a very tight feeling, a by-product of the heavily ribbed underbody and double paneled roof. Strongly in the Laguna's favor is the integrated, body-colored urethane bumper-front end. It's a lot better looking out-front than the big bumper approach."
Car and Driver said: "Directional stability is so strong on the highway that the Laguna seems locked on some guidance-beam radiated from your destination." "The Laguna's urethane nose cap allows the front end to be flat and free of gaps in this day of jutting bumpers; its block-cut fenders are chauvinistically masculine, and no sheet metal is wasted cloaking its tires from view...so the Laguna looks like it could bowl over most of the cars on the road."
The third generation Chevelle was an extensively used body style in NASCAR competition from 1973 to 1977. The Chevelle Laguna in particular was extremely successful allowing Cale Yarborough to win 34 races and earn the first two of three consecutive Grand National championships. Considered a limited edition model by NASCAR, the Laguna S-3 was ineligible for competition following the 1977 season.
Motor Trend said in 1973: "While neither Chevrolet or Pontiac are back in racing, the new crop intermediates out of GM's styling studios are curiously aerodynamic. They are also curiously competing on the NASCAR circuit tracks, and selling as fast as they can be hauled to the dealerships."
October 21, 1973: American 500-Benny Parsons pits for repairs after an early crash. The help of several teams allow him to get back into the race and finish 28th. Parsons and his Chevelle hold on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship. Parsons took the points lead with a third-place finish at Talladega Speedway in early May and never gave up the lead. He held off a late rally by Cale Yarborough to win by only 67.15 points.
August 1976: Cale Yarborough drove his #11 Junior Johnson/Holly Farms Chevelle to the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship. Yarborough won nine races along the way to the first of three consecutive titles. He finished last in the Daytona 500, but assumed command of the points chase in August. Yarborough beat Richard Petty by 195 points.
February 20, 1977: Daytona 500-Cale Yarborough Chevelle pulls away from Benny Parsons Chevelle in the final laps to win in his second Daytona 500. Cale Yarborough was running at the finish in all 30 NASCAR Winston Cup races as he dominated the 1977 season to wrap up his second consecutive title. Yarborough won nine races in 30 starts in his #11 Chevelle and finished 386 points ahead of runner-up Richard Petty.
Gallery - Chevrolet Chevelle
In popular culture
- Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna
- Chevrolet Malibu
- GM A platform (RWD)
- Mid-size car: The United States
- Chevrolet El Camino
- "Directory Index: Chevrolet/1966_Chevrolet/1966_Chevrolet_Chevelle_Brochure". oldcarbrochures.com.
- Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960–1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), p.354.
- All Chevelles were 13000 series). Flory, p.356.
- The Editors of Consumer Reports
- Flory, p.434.
- "Directory Index: Chevrolet/1966_Chevrolet/1966_Chevrolet_Chevelle_Brochure". oldcarbrochures.com.
- "1967 CHEVROLET CHEVELLE Information Specifications Resources Pictures". oldride.com.
- 1967 Chevelle brochure
- "The Popular Science Anti-Car-Theft Device Competition" Popular Science", July 1969, p.70.
- "GM Takes Its Wraps Off Its Steam Cars." Popular Science, July 1969, p. 84-85.
- "Chevrolet Muscle Car Dyno Wars". Super Chevy. 1 February 2011.
- Motor Trend 1973 Buyers Guide
- 1973–1977 Chevrolet Chevelle brochures
- Chevrolet engineering report-73 Chevelle
- The Editors of Consumer Guide
- 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Brochure
- Cars of the 70's - By the Editors of Consumer Guide
- Speed and Supercar-June 1973: Driving impression 350 Laguna
- 1973-77 NASCAR recap by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide
- Preston, Benjamin (May 19, 2015). "Don Draper, Mad Men, the Chevrolet Chevelle, and the End of Innocence". Auto World News.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chevrolet Chevelle.|
- Chevrolet Chevelle SS - MuscleCarClub.com
- 1964–1972 Chevelle Reference Information - ChevelleStuff.net
- Chevrolet Chevelle at The Crittenden Automotive Library (media, stories & recalls)
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