5 Reasons the 1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS is legend

A movie star, a blue collar hero, an experimental test bed and the most popular muscle car of its day

By Shahzad Sheikh

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

It’s one of Chevrolet’s most successful nameplates, but the Chevelle is not a car that will register on most people’s autoexotica radar when you first mention it. In fact the ‘shavell’ was a hit for GM between 1964 and 1977 in a variety of body styles ranging from the mundane four-door, to the now legendary two-door car-like pickup, the El Camino, during its second, third and fourth generations.

Whilst the El Camino’s are attractive in a contrary sort of way, and the four-door versions do appeal should you want to imagine you are a hard-boiled Police Detective in a 1970s cop show, if you really want style, it has to be the two-door.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

And of those it’s the SS (Super Sport) that maintains a special place in the heart of muscle car lovers everywhere, representing as it did Chevrolet’s official entry into the power wars that had erupted in the 1960’s between US car makers.

This particularly iteration of the second generation Chevelle (the best generation) is the 1968-1969 version which, with its distinctive forward-raked front end, quad headlights and flowing likes, is in my view the most aggressive and handsome of the lot.

Here are 5 things that make this iconic muscle car a legend.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

1. Styling oozes Testosterone

A major redesign for this the first second gen car, saw the wheelbase shortened by nearly eight centimetres on the two door Chevelles (though of course it’s still a big car by today’s standards) with a stubbier fastback rear, thanks to a shorter rear deck. That was complemented by a longer bonnet or hood, plus it had tapered front fenders, rounded beltline and a rear-quarter kick-up to give it that ‘riding-high at the back’ poise – subtle but effective.

The semi-fastback design, flowing roofline and sculpted rear panels, with a ‘V’ shape for the side rear windows and twin-domed bonnet, work together to make this car just plain gorgeous from almost any angle.  Its purposeful stance (partly thanks to one inch wider tyres), simple lines, chrome-rimmed edges and intense expression certainly endows it with the requisite hero car looks.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

2. Packing some Power

The Chevelle was a drag racers delight, so unsurprisingly the SS (Super Sport) versions were a hit seeing as they were equipped with a 396 (6.5-litre) V8 producing 325bhp and 410lb ft of torque. But if that wasn’t enough you could opt for the more potent 350bhp (415lb ft) version of the motor. If that still didn’t get you salivating, there was the L78 unit churning out 375bhp (though still only 415lb ft). That could see the SS launch from standstill to 60mph (92kph) in 6.5 seconds and do the ¼ mile in 14.5seconds at 100mph (160kph).

In 1969 the SS spec was offered as an option pack on all body styles rather than a stand-alone edition. But Chevrolet felt they needed to offer performance enthusiasts something a little more again. This gave rise to the COPO limited edition cars, only available by special order or for very favoured regular customers.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Whilst everything else was left unchanged (there wasn’t even any badging) an L72 427 (7-litre) V8 was dropped in. This put out 425bhp and a significant 460lb ft of torque from just 4000rpm, in a car that weighed 1576kg. That would literally rocket the SS from 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds – that’s quick by today’s standards and must have been staggering in 1969! The quarter-mile would be dismissed in 13.3 at 108mph (174kph).

A three speed manual was standard, but you could opt for a four-speed manual or an automatic. The Muncie four-speed was not as well liked as the smoother Hurst shifter but it got the job done. The engine was regarded as slightly rough but revvy, and the heavy-duty suspension helped sort the rather wayward handling of the Chevelle, to an extent. But none of these were major issues because it was so affordable!

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

3. Everyman’s Muscle Car

Believe it or not the price new for an SS was just $2899 in 1968. The 350bhp unit would cost you an extra $100 and for the 375bhp the dealers were only asking another $237. So it wasn’t hard to understand why the Chevelle SS quickly became one of the most popular muscle cars of that era, outselling every other performance machine – with 60,000 made in 68 and another 86,000 the following year.

Even today, whilst inflation ensures values are staggeringly higher than what it originally cost, going by contemporary values for ever-popular muscle cars, the Chevelle is not unreasonable. You could pick up a decent example, even a restomod, from between $35-60k in the USA. Though prices will rise to around the $100k mark for immaculately restored or maintained cars.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

4. Movie Star Presence

Get into a Chevelle SS and you immediately transform into a John Milton from Drive Angry, a Jack Reacher, or a John Wick. Or perhaps you’ll regress to Davide Wooderson in Dazed and Confused and his car: Melba Toast. Although to be accurate, all of these were the later 1970 Chevelle SS models with the more bluff front end. A 69 coupe like ours is driven by the absentee road-racer dad in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (not an SS) and a 68 chases Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II. A 69 SS also features in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

5. Experimental Steam-Powered Chevelle

In 1969 Chevrolet contracted Bill Besler to make a steam-powered vehicle. The car used for this experiment was a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle (saloon) and was designated SE-124. It took a year, during which the 305 engine block was cut in half leaving four-cylinders and the three-speed manual transmission intact. The rest of it was a steam engine!

It was not exactly a muscle car anymore though, as it only managed 55hp, but it did work and still exists today with 5000 miles (8000km) on it. A curious side note to a car dedicated to the worship of horsepower.

1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Thanks to Khalid Bin Hadher and Performance Garage Dubai for providing us with the stunning Chevelle SS you see in these pictures.

Read about more classics on MME here

Please let us have your comments about the Chevelle below

2 responses to “5 Reasons the 1968-69 Chevrolet Chevelle SS is legend”

  1. Eddie says:

    I’m impressed with your ride and that heck of a stance. What are the specs on your wheels, in term of size wheels and tires and do you have a lowering kit on front and back, for example 2″ spindle drop in front with lower springs in the rear?

    Please share because I’m loving it and would like my 68 to sit similar.



  2. Dean says:

    I have a chevelle 68 ss and would like to know what is your size of tires and rims and if you have a drop kit on your chevelle?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.