Chevrolet got a lot of mileage out of the Chevelle series in the 1960s, offering everything from soup to nuts under the name Chevelle. In a very real sense, the Chevelle line could have been a brand in and of itself capable of meeting the needs of most consumers with one car or another. Let’s look at the 1968 model year as an example. They made the Chevelle 300, which was a two-door coupe; the 300 Deluxe, offered as a two-door coupe and either a two or four-door sedan; the Nomad and Nomad Deluxe wagons; the Chevelle Concours Estate wagon; the Chevelle Malibu in five different variations; the Chevelle Malibu Sport; and the muscular Chevelle Super Sport, or “SS.”
The Chevelle SS made its debut for the 1964 model year as the Malibu SS, and became a model in its own right for the 1966 model year. The success, and power, of the Pontiac GTO inspired Chevy to beef up the Chevelle SS, and the ’66 models came with a 396 cubic inch 325 horsepower V8 as the standard engine. But one could choose the Chevelle Z-16 with the L-34 V8 that was rated at 375 horsepower. The SS L-78 was released later in the model year with even more performance upgrades.
The Chevelle SS was one the most popular muscle cars of 1960s, and though they have always been a favorite of muscle car fans they were produced in pretty large numbers. The lowest production year for the Chevelle SS during the sixties was 1968 when about 60,000 rolled off the assembly line; the highest selling year was the following one, 1969, when over 86,000 Chevelle SS specimens were manufactured.
The 1970 Chevelle SS was the most muscular of all, featuring the 454 cubic inch LS5 engine as the standard, capable of 360 horse power. But if you wanted to step it up, the top of the line was the LS6 which was rated at an incredible 450 horsepower, which is the record for mass produced factory vehicles. Sales of the 1970 Chevelle SS reached 53,599.
Production of the Chevelle SS continued through the 1973 model year, but the beginning of the end was in 1971 when impending federal emissions standards forced GM to issue the edict that all of their cars be able to run on unleaded fuel. This effectively put an end to the true era of the American muscle car as engines got smaller and less powerful rather than the other way around. The standard engine on the 1971 Chevelle SS was a 350 cubic inch 165 hp V8. Sales plummeted to 19,992, and by the last year, 1973, SS sales stood at just 2,500 units, signaling the end of an era.