The Real World:
Chevelle SS396 Convertible
Compared to the 283 Impala and the 327 two-barrel Camaro, this SS396/350-horse Chevelle feels like Hercules unchained. Just step on the throttle a little and the bias ply tires start squealing—a testament to big-block torque and ancient tire technology. I loved driving this car. It’s definitely more my style.
The blue ragtop is a very unusual touch, but it’s correct for this car, according to the trim tag. Few remember that Chevy even offered a Medium Blue convertible top on Chevelles in ’67, and most of those probably ended up on white cars. This one looks rather unusual against the Marina Blue paint (and blue interior). It’s also one of the aspects that drew Rick to the A-body, even though he jokingly calls the SS396, “a cliché collectible.”
Backing up the 396 is an M-20 wide-ratio four-speed. The shifter just slips effortlessly from one gear to the next. It was an absolute joy to run the Rat up through the rpm range and then grab the next gear with absolute precision. The Chevelle still has the original factory T-lever for reverse. Remember how they rattled in the ’60s and ’70s? I was delighted to find this one still has those rattles in it. Some factory flaws shouldn’t be corrected.
A neat touch is the Audiovox FM converter bolted under the dash—that’s a real period piece. It’s a throwback to when FM was just becoming popular and a place for long hairs to listen to free-form rock radio.
I personally felt more comfortable in the midsize muscle car. It hooked me immediately. Definitely enjoyed throwing it around. It felt more substantial than the Camaro, but not to the point of being a distraction like the enormous Impala. It’s no Corvette in the corners, but it’s sure-footed. Power disc brakes give it a leg up on the other two cars in the stopping department.
The gauge cluster is definitely not as sporty as a GTO of the same vintage. The tach is like an afterthought off on the left side of the dash, and the sweeping speedometer is a little pedestrian for a car with such sporting intentions. Except for the three-spoke steering wheel, what you’re looking at inside is fairly plain, though the seats and door panels help dress things up quite a bit. No complaints about the seats, though. They were quite comfortable.
All the excitement is what’s happening under your right foot. I couldn’t get enough of the big-block. I don’t care if it wasn’t the King Kong 375-horse version. It put a smile on my face for days.