One of the most successful nameplates of Chevrolet, the Chevelle is right on top of the list of America’s most influential cars. Produced for three generations from 1964 to 1977, the Chevelle was supposed to fill the gap between the small Chevy II and all the other big and ornate Chevrolet full-size models.
This was the 60s, so everything was a bit OTT. On the other hand, the Corvair was now losing ground, and to increase the stress, Ford had released the Fairlane to a warm reception. The Chevelle became all the eggs in the basket for Chevrolet in 1964, and luckily for Chevy, the eggs did hatch. Here are 10 things you may not have known about the Chevrolet Chevelle.
9 It’s A Movie Star
Today, the one popularity meter you can bank upon to know how good a car is, or was, is when it comes in the movies. Consequently, the Chevelle has been featured, in roles both big and small, in over 1,600 movies including the all-car ensemble franchise of The Fast and The Furious, and even in the Tom Cruise starring Jack Reacher. With classy lines and that big-ass presence for what was supposed to be a mid-size car of the 60s, the Chevelle still shines. The most oft-seen model in the movies is the Chevrolet Chevelle SuperSport 454, a limited edition that was all muscle and pure heart and limited to just the 1964-65 and 1970.
8 It Took On Ford Fairlane
Introduced in 1955 as a full-sized car, the Ford Fairlane became a mid-sized car in 1962, positioned between the full-size Ford Galaxie and the smaller Ford Falcon. The name came from Henry Ford’s estate in Fair Lane located in Dearborn, Michigan. To combat the growing popularity of the all-new 1962 Fairlane, Chevrolet unleashed the Chevelle in 1964 – and in the very first year, sales were almost 340,000.
One reason could be that for 1964, the Chevelle was the only new car released to the public, so interest was automatic. With good and sturdy Chevy inline sixes and later V8s powering this car, the performance was more than adequate.
The Malibu Was A Chevelle Trim
If you find a lot of people referring to the Malibu as part of the Chevelle line-up, they are not wrong. The Chevrolet Malibu did become a separate nameplate later in 1978, technically replacing the Chevelle nameplate. It moved as a Chevelle trim too – from being one of the top and most powerful trims of the Chevelle, it later became an entry-level one post-1972. Introduced in 1964 and 65, the Chevelle SS also bore Malibu badging in the rear quarter panels. While the Chevelle nameplate disappeared in 1978, the Malibu stopped in 1983 but was revived in 1997. It is still going strong today.
7 The Chevelle Engines Were People Pleasers
Despite the mid-size segment of the Chevelle, it introduced a host of engine options over the years. A total of six power mills went under its hood, and these included inline-six, small-block V8s, and a big-block V8. The inline-six engines came in displacements of 3.2-liter, 3.8-liter, and 4.1-liter while the small blocks were offered in 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter options.
The big-block V8 was what gave the Chevelle its SS454 badge because this came in massive 6.5-liter displacement and spewed 450 horses to make the Chevelle fly. A Chevelle SS396 option was also available for people who liked power but in a more controlled setting.
6 The Chevelle Was A Multi-National
The Chevelle was all-American in roots, an offering from one of Detroit’s Big Three. That said; it did become a bit of an MNC when it was made in both the US and Canada. In its thirteen-year lifespan, the Chevelle was built and assembled in ten GM plants, in the two countries. In the US, the Chevelle was built in GM plants of Arlington, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Flint, Michigan; Framingham, Massachusetts; Fremont, California, and Kansas City, Kansas. For Canada, it was the GM plants in Oshawa, Ontario, and Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec. Why this diversity? Either the Chevelle was too easy to make, or too tough.
5 Chevelle in NASCAR
From 1973 to 1977, the Chevelle proved to be a very capable Nascar champ. The cars were light, the perfect size and the steering was an utter dream. The Chevelle Laguna, in particular, become Carl Yarborough’s favorite and helped him win 34 races as well as get the first two consecutive Grand National titles.
Sadly, after 1977, the Chevelle Laguna S-3 was barred from racing by NASCAR due to its aerodynamical nose designed for racing. But by that time, this nifty car had already won two Winston cups and plenty other titles and points. It was so fast, NASCAR wanted it to be fitted with speed restrictor plates to give the other cars a chance.
4 A Collector’s Battlefield
You’ll find a Chevelle changing hands for a big amount every now and then, and the rarer the model, the dearer the price. There were only 20 Chevelles made with an LS6 427 (7.0-liter) engine, so this one is a definite rarity. The Chevelle nameplate is alive and well in the collector’s battle as well, which is why in 2013, someone made a killing at a Mecum auto auction. A 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 427 LS6 was sold for $1.15 million and made both the seller and the deep-pocketed Chevelle crazy buyer pretty happy. Of course, the cars build sheets are always verified first.
3 The Chevelle Was A Sharer
The Chevelle’s platform wasn’t a Chevelle only one. The Chevrolet El Camino was first a standalone car that existed between 1959 and 1960. In 1964, they re-launched the El Camino based on Chevelle’s platform only – this time as a utility vehicle with no powerful engine. Technically a pickup truck that looked more like a car, the El Camino lasted till 1983, being successful in its own right. In 1970, Chevrolet introduced the Monte Carlo and this was also based on the very successful Chevelle platform. The Monte Carlo managed a long innings as well, lasting from 1969 to 1987 and then from 1994 to 2007.
2 The Canada Specific Model
For a time, GM and Ford both used to name their American and Canadian models differently. Even today, in many parts of the world, this system remains in place – Ford and GM models are named differently in America, Australia, and Asia. And Japanese cars also do the same, except with renowned nameplates like the Toyota Supra or the Nissan GT-R Skyline. For the Chevelle too, there was an all-Canadian version called the Acadian Beaumont. To better appeal to the Canadian buyers, this sported a different grill and had different trims as well. Pretty rare, and a bit of a mystery, not many US-based Chevelle fans are aware of the Canadian counterpart of the same.
1 Gone But Not Forgotten
The Chevelle was Chevy’s idea of repeating the success of the famous Bel-Air tri-series – 1955, 1956 and 1957 ones. And the Chevelle not only met Chevrolet’s expectations but also surpassed them. There were a lot of similarities between the Bel-Air and the Chevelle, including the 115-inch wheelbase, and the same body styles. Offered in a two-door coupe, a four-door, a convertible, as well as two-and-four-door wagon styles; the Chevelle has been gone for a while but not forgotten. Fans still hope Chevrolet would relaunch this famous and iconic nameplate, as it has the others. Of course, it’s a wait-and-watch to see if the Chevelle graces the American roads again.