By Patrick Smith
General Motor's most popular A-body hit the ionosphere in 1968 with a dazzling restyle that emphasized Coke bottle quarter panels, power domed hoods, and rocket ship speed with their potent V8 engines. Chevelle rode the crest all the way to the end in 1972 with smart updates of the shell. Today it ranks as a bona fide classic with serious collectors and casual enthusiasts alike seeking one to add to the garage. The market deflated in 2008 and remained flat until 2011. There's no better time to pick up a Chevelle before prices rise again. We present the guide you need to score a hot Chevy without getting burned.
1968 was the first year of the restyled Chevelle series. The car was available in coupe, hardtop, convertible and station wagon bodies including four doors. The range started at the 300 base model coupe, Malibu took mid level while Super Sport became the top trim with its own series enshrined that year with a code within the vehicle identification number. The grille was fine egg crate mesh in silver for the Malibu while the SS model was blacked out and featured the SS emblem in the center. For 1969, the Chevelle was merely cleaned up by removing the vent windows on all models except the stripper 300 and station wagons. The grille was given a large horizontal center bar with Chevrolet emblem in the middle. The SS grille was blacked out except for the center bar while an SS emblem took center stage. 1969 tail lamps were squared off and remained at the end of the deck lid. 1970 was a major revision of the body with brand new grille, deck lid, fenders and roof line. A fine horizontal finned grille was split in two layers with a Chevrolet emblem in the middle. The grille was blacked out for the SS and given an SS badge in the center. The rear bumper featured square finned tail lamps and a special black rubber strip with the SS logo was added for Super Sport models.
The 68 Chevelle SS is favored for its vent windows and emission control free power.
The 69 Chevelle is similar but has no vent windows and different tail lamps.
By 1970 the grille is split in two and the roofline is different.
The 1971 Chevelle had a simpler one piece finned grille and went back to two headlamps. The bumper was new with twin circular tail lamps. For 1972, the front parking lamp lenses were the major clue to the car's identity. 1972 Chevelles had solid signal lenses while 1971 lenses were one split lenses. Otherwise they looked identical to the 1971 model at first glance.
The only visible difference between 71 and this 72 are the solid turn signal housings.
The 1968 cars offered V8s in 307, 327, 350 and 396 cubic inch displacements. The inline six engines were available in 230 and 250cubic inch displacements. The transmissions included the Powerglide two speed automatic, a TH350 automatic and TH400 automatic were offered for the big 396 engine. The manual transmissions included a three speed, with four speeds by Muncie or Saginaw optional. Starting in 1970, the 396 engine was increased to 402 inches but the decals remained as 396 to keep the image intact. A new big bore V8 engine debuted with 454 cubic inches and became the top engine.
The 454 debuted in 1970 in hydraulic and solid LS-6 cam models.