In 1966 Chevrolet offered a full range of 396 cubic inch 'Porcupine Head' engines in the mid-size Chevelle line. With up to 375 bhp, the SS 396 put real power into the line that has come to epitomize Chevy's muscle car heritage. Dubbed 'Porcupine Head' because of its different stem angles for intake and exhaust valves, the 396 breathed well and was Chevrolet's response to the effectiveness of Chrysler's more complicated Hemi head engines. This engine series had been quietly developed in several years of racing and proven in production since 1965.

To back up the 396's power, and slightly greater weight than the standard 327 cu. in. Chevelle engine, the SS396 package included stiffer suspension. It also displayed the usual options and identification features that were de rigeur at the time to let bystanders know the driver of an SS 396 was the master of real power, at the stoplight or driven.

The SS 396 offered here has the hydraulic valve lifter 360bhp L34 engine and close ratio 4-speed transmission, a combination of serious muscle with excellent driveability. A center console separates the optional vinyl covered bucket seats, which are however more sporty looking than body hugging. A console mounted tachometer permits the driver to monitor both engine revs and the position of the 4-speed shifter simultaneously, while the road takes care of itself, not usually a problem on the SS 396's straight line quarter mile dashes. While the convertible body style's extra frame stiffening adds 100 pounds over the 2-door hardtop's curb weight, 360 bhp deals adequately with the increase in mass. Correct style red line tires complete this SS 396's presentation.

The engine bay, motor and interior are all in excellent condition, all showing virtually no wear or usage. The Chevelle has been well maintained and used sparingly since William Lassiter purchased the car in the mid 1980s. An older restoration to showroom condition, this SS 396 convertible is a delightful combination of 60's style and performance, an icon of the Muscle Car era.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS
Years Produced:1966
Number Produced:27,272 (coupes and convertibles)
Original List Price:$3,410
SCM Valuation:$18,000-$20,000
Tune Up Cost:$153.45 (but save the 396 distributor rotors, Delco discontinued them)
Distributor Caps:$16.30
Chassis Number Location:Left front door hinge pillar
Engine Number Location:Right front of cylinder block
Club Info:National Chevelle Owners Association, 7343 J.W. Friendly Ave, Greensboro, NC 27410
Alternatives:Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Satellite Hemi, Ford Fairlane 500XL 427

The car shown here sold at Christie’s auction of Bill Lassiter, Jr.’s collection in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 19, 1999 for $23,000 (including buyer’s commission). The 15-year-old restoration of this car appears to be holding up well. To many buyers, the combination of the 396 engine in a convertible body is the perfect blend. In the late ’60s, the SS 396 was ideal for street drags. Convertibles were at a slight disadvantage with their additional pounds, but they have an undeniable appeal to collectors today because of the pleasure they offer for warm-weather driving.

With GM’s successful styling and the power of the 396 engine, the Chevelle SS was the kind of car young buyers wanted in the ’60s. It still beckons to a slightly smaller audience today.

There are enough potential buyers to keep prices strong. This result at the Florida auction was slightly above our Price Guide, but still a reasonable figure for a popular symbol of the ’60s.

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