The rarest big block was the L78 360 horsepower SS 396.
Desirable Options: Chevelles were available in base 300, middle 300 Deluxe , luxury Malibu and performance Malibu SS trim. The desirable models are Malibu and SS versions. Generally, the coupe bodies command less money and interest than hardtops and convertibles unless it is a rare high performance V8 powered coupe. A few of these were made. Prior to the full availability of the SS in 1966, the Malibu was the top option and a convertible was the premium model in that series. Aside from the SS package, desirable options include radios, tinted glass, padded dashes and power windows. For 1964-65 era Chevelles, good options to seek include the F40 special suspension, J56 power brakes, wood grained steering wheel, Z04 heavy-duty chassis and your choice of hot small block and four speed transmission. The 1965 SS 396 model was a special, one year only package car that came loaded with goodies including an AM/FM stereo radio and a console, tinted glass and a boxed frame as standard equipment. By 1966 you had to pay extra for the good stuff like stereos, consoles, power windows and a full boxed frame.
Before the SS package was mass produced, a Malibu convertible was top dog. This one has power steering, top, AM radio, tinted glass and automatic transmission.
For 1966-67 era Chevelles, look for power disc brakes, power windows, and F41 suspension. For engines, the hottest big block to get is the L78 360 horsepower job. They are very rare and you'll encounter more backyard conversions than the real deal. It wasn't a regular production option and few were made. Certain colors are very desirable over others. You'll pay a bit more for a factory Black, Lemonwood Yellow, Regal Red or Marina Blue car. Other popular options include the "knee knocker" console mounted tach, pedal dress up, teakwood steering wheel and wheel well trim. Though you see few cars with them today, the simulated mag wheel hubcaps were factory options. Most have been substituted with 1968 or later era Rally Wheels.
Many SS cars were basic, this '67 has pedal dress up, console and clock.
Things to Watch For: Chevelles were another early muscle car favorite and many were restored over twenty years ago. You want to pay attention to the frame on these cars because unless it's a 1965 SS model, the frame will be open channel ladder construction, making the SS cars too flexible for the amount of power available. On four speed big block cars, frame twist damage is possible, especially if drag raced with slicks and no reinforcements added.
The lower control arms are open channel on original cars which allows some flexing under severe loads. Fully boxed lower control arms are a worthwhile upgrade on manual transmission cars. Check for out of round bushings on control arms and rear axle mounts. When it comes to rust damage, the Chevelle has a couple of weak spots. The rear window area joining the trunk lid and sill is known for rust out from water leaks. If the car has a vinyl roof, this area could be in very poor shape underneath. Check the entire parcel tray area from inside the trunk for rust stains and eroded metal. A quickie fix could just mean a spray of primer and paint over a thin layer of bondo. Check it with a magnet and include the speaker and blower motor holes as well.
This is a good time to check for replacement quarter panels as well. A full panel is welded high on the body, the new seam will meet at rear quarter fender tops. You'll have to feel it with your fingers if the trunk splatter paint has been applied because it'll hide a decent welding job. Modern restorations may have complete panels that include the lower B pillar section up to the lead seam area. These can be difficult to detect when installed well. A good check is to slip some envelope stock between the wheel well housing and inner quarter panel. A factory original panel will jam the envelope. Replacement panels often are too loose to do this. Properly done quarter panels aren't cause for concern unless the car is advertised as factory original sheet metal with the price to match.
This desirable black SS's new quarter panels were expertly installed. Check the trunk area carefully for work.