The Chevelle 'SS' Synopsis

Data on this page pertains to the Malibu SS of 1964 and 1965, the SS396 of 1966 through 1968 and the SS options available on the 1969 through 1972 Chevelle.

First a very brief snapshot.
* The 1964/1965 Malibu SS were a separate series from the standard Malibu and consisted of trim upgrades and bucket seats.
* The 1966/1967/1968 SS396 were a separate series from the standard Malibu and consisted of performance as well as trim differences.
* The 1969/1970 SS option was available on the standard Malibu sport coupe, convertible, and sedan pickup in 1969 and 1970 as well as the Deluxe 300 2-door sedan and 2-door coupe in 1969 only and consisted of performance as well as trim options.
* The 1971/1972 SS option was available on the standard Malibu sport coupe, convertible, and sedan pickup and consisted of primarily a trim option.

We'll take it year by year below.

1964:

The Malibu SS was a separate series (57/58) as opposed to the Malibu (55/56) and consisted of bucket seats, gauges, and special Malibu SS trim pieces. The Malibu SS could be ordered with either a 6-cyl or 8-cyl engine in both the sport coupe and convertible models. The VIN plate (NOT the trim tag) will tell you which engine type the car came with. The VIN will not indicate any of the many optional engines, only the base type.
45737 is a Malibu SS sport coupe with the base 6-cyl engine
45837 is a Malibu SS sport coupe with the base 8-cyl engine
45767 is a Malibu SS convertible with the base 6-cyl engine
45867 is a Malibu SS convertible with the base 8-cyl engine

1965:

Like the 1964 model year, the 1965 Malibu SS was a separate series (137/138) as opposed to the Malibu (135/136) and consisted of essentially the same features such as bucket seats, gauges, and Malibu SS trim pieces. The Malibu SS could be ordered with either a 6-cyl or 8-cyl engine in both the sport coupe and convertible models. The VIN plate (NOT the trim tag) will tell you which engine type the car came with. The VIN will not indicate any of the many optional engines, only the base type.
13737 is a Malibu SS sport coupe with the base 6-cyl engine
13837 is a Malibu SS sport coupe with the base 8-cyl engine
13767 is a Malibu SS convertible with the base 6-cyl engine
13867 is a Malibu SS convertible with the base 8-cyl engine
The short production run of the Malibu SS396 (RPO Z16) included many 'mandatory' options with the 396 cubic inch, 375hp V8 being the most obvious.

1966:

The first year for the SS396 series. The SS396 was again a separate series (138xx) from the Malibu (136xx) and was entirely a performance option.  The 396 cubic inch engine was now standard equipment and no 6-cyl SS was offered. The SS396 Chevelle could be ordered in the new 'strut back' sport coupe or convertible versions. The 'strut back' sport coupe received a new model designation of '17' as opposed to '37' like the 64/65 Sport Coupes. Aside from the base 396-inch/325hp engine two optional 396-inch engines were available, a 360hp version and a 375hp version. Contrary to popular belief, bench seats were standard equipment (bucket seats were optional), a 3-speed manual floor mounted transmission was standard equipment, 4-speed and Powerglide were optional although the Powerglide could not be ordered with the 375hp version. The Special Instrumentation gauge/tachometer options were not standard and, in fact, were not SS396 specific as they could be ordered in any V8 Malibu. Although any 396-inch engine was available as optional equipment on the sedan pickup, there was not an SS396 El Camino until 1968.

1967:

The 1967 model year SS396 was essentially the same as 1966 with a couple of exceptions. The 396-inch 360hp engine was replaced with a 396-inch 350hp version and the TH400 3-speed automatic transmission was first offered in the SS396. Again, the bench seat and 3-speed manual transmission was standard equipment. Bucket seats and other transmissions were optional.

1968:

The 1968 version of the SS396 continued to be a separate series like the 1966 and 1967 model years, again with a couple of changes. The Sport Coupe model changed from the 'strut back' 66/67 design to a more conventional hardtop and returned the model number type to '37'. Engines and transmissions remained unchanged. The El Camino was finally offered in an SS version with a 138 series designation like the sport coupe and convertible. This is the only year an SS396 sedan pickup (El Camino) can be identified by the VIN. Again, the bench seat and 3-speed manual transmission was standard equipment. Bucket seats and other transmissions were optional.

1969:

This year saw the 396 engine and the SS package return as an option instead of a separate series. This is also the only year the SS396 option (RPO Z25) would be offered in the 300 Deluxe (134xx) series 2-door sedan and 2-door sport coupe as well as the Malibu (136xx) series sport coupe, convertible, and sedan pickup. Still a performance option as the SS396 package included the 396-inch 325hp engine as the base V8 with a 350hp and 375hp versions still available. Again, the bench seat and 3-speed manual transmission was standard equipment. Bucket seats and other transmissions were optional. Because the SS396 was now an option on the 300 Deluxe and Malibu, there is nothing on the trim tag nor VIN that indicates the car was ordered with the SS396 option package. There were two special paint colors offered on SS396 optioned Malibus and 300 Deluxe, paint code 72 or Monaco Orange and paint code 76 for Daytona Yellow. While there are other ways to possibly identify an SS optioned 1969 Chevelle, there's nothing on the trim tag or VIN except for the above mentioned paint codes. Towards the end of the production year the 396-inch engine was increased to 402-inches but for marketing purposes remained a 396.

1970:

This year saw the SS396 option (RPO Z25) dropped from the 300 Deluxe (now simply called 'Standard' Chevelle) and was available only on the Malibu (136xx) series sport coupe, convertible, and sedan pickup. The SS396 option now saw the 402-inch 350hp engine as the base V8 for the option. The 402-inch 375hp engine was available as an option but was dropped early in the model year (around December) in favor the new 454 engine. The 454-inch engine came in two horsepower ratings, 360hp and the mighty 450hp (RPO LS6) versions.

The base 454-inch engine was included with the SS454 option (RPO Z15). The 450hp engine was an additional option on top of the SS454 (RPO Z15) package. While the 360hp entry level SS454 did have a regular production option code, LS5, the LS5 was never technically an option itself. This engine could only be obtained by ordering the SS454 option which included other 'standard' items for the overall option. The LS5 engine was not optionally available in any instance just as the 402 (L34) engine was not available as an option.  Chevrolet's annual report on sales did not include these two engines just as the 307 engine was not included since all were base engines and not options.

The 402-inch engine option (RPO Z25) included other performance options and SS badging on the fenders. The 454-inch engine option (RPO Z15) used SS454 badging. Again, nothing on the trim tag or VIN will indicate the car was delivered with any SS option. The SS option DID mean a different dash assembly, round instrument pods in place of the sweep instrument pod. Caution should be used here for identification purposes. First, the SS round instrument pod DID NOT include gauges as standard equipment. The Special Instrumentation (amp and water gauges plus tachometer) option was available on any Malibu V8 and included a round instrument pod. So, you could have an SS optioned Malibu with a round gauge pod with or without instruments or a Malibu without the SS option but with a round gauge pod with instruments.

Like late 1969, the 396-inch engine was replaced with a 402-inch version but the SS396 marketing was so popular that Chevrolet decided to retain it and not confuse the public with a new SS402 theme.

1971:

The 1971 model year was the beginning-of-the-end for the Muscle Car era and the SS option reflected this. For 1971 and 1972, the 1970 SS454 (RPO Z15) option became simply the SS (but still RPO Z15) option and was more of a trim package than a performance option. Gone was the 402-inch engine as the base engine with the option. For 1971 and 1972 the SS option could be ordered with any 'optional' V8 engine on any Malibu (136xx) series sport coupe, convertible, or sedan pickup. This meant the base 307-inch V8 did not qualify for the SS option, but any of 4 optional V8 engines could be ordered with the SS option. The 350-2bbl (RPO L65), the 350-4bbl (RPO L48), the 402-inch (RPO LS3) and one 454-inch (RPO LS5). As before, nothing on the trim tag nor the VIN indicates the SS option. One bright note is the 454 engine required the SS option to be ordered. The 350-2bbl, 350-4bbl, and 402-4bbl engines could be ordered with or without the SS option. Like 1970, the SS option included the round gauge pod but not the amp/water/tach gauges as standard equipment; and a non-SS Malibu could be ordered with the optional gauges and still receive the round gauge pods.

1972:

The 1972 model year was much the same as 1971 concerning the SS option and engines that the option could be ordered with. Beginning in 1972 the VIN format was changed to identify the specific V8 engine that was installed in the car by using a letter in the 5th character position.
D - 250-inch L-6 1-bbl (L22)
F - 307-inch V8 2-bbl (L14)
H - 350-inch V8 2-bbl (L65)
J - 350-inchV8 4-bbl (L48)
U - 402-inch V8 4-bbl (LS3)
W - 454-inch V8 4-bbl (LS5)
One could now tell what size engine the car was delivered with. As was the case in 1971 the SS option could be ordered with any 'optional' V8. With the 307-inch still being the base V8, the SS option could not be ordered with it. Again, like 1971, the two 350-inch engines, the 402-inch engine, and the 454-inch engine could be ordered with the SS option. The 454-inch engine still required the SS option as in 1971 but now the VIN would indicate a 454-inch engine with the letter "W" and thus proving the car was ordered with the SS option.

The trim tag remained the same basic format as previous years and did not reflect the changes found on the VIN format.