Chevy's new mid-size entry, dubbed Chevelle, was an immediate hit when it landed in dealers' showrooms in 1964. While full-size Chevrolets had become bloated, the Chevelle brought back dimensions virtually equal to the popular '55 Chevy. A clean design was complemented in the power department with everything from economy six-cylinder engines to V-8s that had you holding on to your hat.
The second-year Chevelle was little-changed. However, the Super Sport, which had been a Malibu trim option in a year earlier, was now a separate series for the '65 models and consisted of a hardtop and a convertible. Instead of a full-length side trim spear, the SS had stainless steel trim around the wheel openings and along the rocker panels. You could also spot a Super Sport by the partially blacked-out grille and the flat black outlining the rear deck cove, as well as SS emblems on the rear quarters and deck. But the emblem to watch for was the one on the front fender panel that designated what engine was under the hood. A 327 above the crossed flags could mean any one of three options: 250 hp, 300 hp or the hairy 350-hp L79. That's the one Rich Cummings proudly proclaims on the plates of his '65 Malibu SS hardtop.
The L79, backed by a Muncie four-speed, was the hottest combo you could get in the Chevelle until spring of 1965, when Chevy released a limited (201) run of Z16 396-powered Super Sports. Pontiac had broken GM's rule of no big-blocks in an intermediate in 1964, and Chevrolet was preparing to jump into this new competition with both feet with the SS396 in 1966. When Rich grabbed this L79 20 years ago, he didn't get much. In fact, he described the acquisition as "rescuing a wreck." However, although the high-performance 327 had logged 138,000 miles, Rich noted it didn't require reboring when he rebuilt it!
The musclecar enthusiast from Waverly, Nebraska, has actually restored the Super Sport twice. The first time he spent five years, finishing in 1984. Then, he decided to tear it down for more detailing, and it spent 12 years in the shop before emerging in 2000 as you see it here. Rich rebuilt the 327 himself to original RPO L79 specs, which include 11:1 pistons, a forged steel crank, a high-lift, 350-hp cam with Rhodes anti-pump-up lifters, 2.02-inch intake valves (valve job and machine work by Daly's Machine), single-point ignition, a Holley four-barrel and chrome dress-up accessories. The Muncie four-speed is accessed by a Zoom clutch and stock console shifter. The rearend is a 12-bolt Posi with 3.31:1 gears.
For the street and most shows Rich likes the pizzaz of the 14x7 wheels from a '69 SS, along with P235x14 Goodyear Eagle GT white letter radials. For judging by the National Chevelle Owners Association or American Chevelle Enthusiasts Society, he can quickly swap to stock 14x5 steel wheels, SS full wheel covers and 7.75x14 Firestones. The second time around, the body was cherried out and refinished in Madeira Maroon by Auto Kraft of Lincoln, Nebraska. The bumpers were rechromed by Lincoln Bumper and Plating. McVicker Auto Trim, also of Lincoln, handled restoration of the interior in white vinyl with black carpets and trim.
Super Sports came with a full complement of gauges-voltage, fuel, oil pressure and temperature. Rich's SS also has the rare L79-specific tachometer and dash-top clock. Deluxe seatbelts with retractors are also rare equipment. Other helping hands on the restoration came from John Milota, III, Bill Dmytriw and Jim Daley. What began as a mission just to save one of the rare, "forgotten" L79 Chevelles turned into making it one of the finest examples in the country!