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. 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. Station wagons were marketed 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. While similar to their Stateside counterparts, the convertible was available in the base Chevelle series, a model never offered in the United States. The Chevelle was the basis for the Beaumont, a retrimmed 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 used by Ford Motor Company with its FOX platform automobiles).
The Chevelle Super Sport, or SS represented Chevrolet’s entry into the muscle carbattle. 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 came with 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.
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. For 1965, Chevrolet also added the 350-hp 327 V8 as Regular Production Option (RPO) L79. A total of 294,160 Chevelles were built 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, with most being built between mid-March and mid-April.
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.