Chevrolet performance commenced in 1955 and continued unabated through 1970. The Federal Clean Air Act of 1970 caused a decrease in lead content in gasoline, which resulted in lower cylinder compression ratios and a reduction in camshaft/valve event timing. The year 1975 then brought the catalytic converter (to dilute exhaust gas particulates), and factory performance was a shadow of its former self. A high-flow converter arrived early in the next decade (1983), and we’ve all somehow lived happily ever after. I mention all this because the year 1964 is the midway year of the 1955-1974 time period. That means today, it was 50 fun years ago. Most Chevy veterans don’t live in the past, but we sure do remember the fun. Ah, nostalgia!
For many, 1964 is remembered for the Ford Mustang ponycar intro on April 17, and how well it sold. For the record, 92,705 Mustang hardtops and 28,833 convertibles sold (for a grand total of 121,538). Thanks to the Mustang, the Camaro was soon created. We’ll be talking about that in the near future.
In the meantime, the brand-new ’64 Chevelle and El Camino entered Chevrolet dealership showrooms—seemingly with a lot less fanfare. So how did the Chevelle lineup sell its very first year? Sedans: 136,374. Hardtops: 134,670. Convertibles: 23,158. Station wagons: 44,084. El Caminos: 32,548. Grand total: 370,834. Compare Chevelle hardtop and convertible sales totals to the Mustang’s and we find the Chevelle hardtop sold 31 percent more, while the Mustang convertible sold 20 percent more. Ford’s Ranchero sales were 17,316. El Camino sales were nearly double that (47 percent higher).
Was it fun back in 1964? You bet. But the best was actually yet to come. The ’65-to-’70 model time frame was an absolute scorcher.