Some refer to the 1964 fullsize Chevrolet as the biggest or squarest of its era. Conservatively styled, it was not aerodynamic, but its two-door V-8s outsold the 1963 by a wide margin. The Super Sport Impala became a model designation in 1964. No longer was it an RPO. The "1847" hardtop sold a staggering 257,208 units and the "1867" convertible sold 50,279. Air conditioning sales increased about 50-percent over 1963. Many regard the 1964 full size Chevrolet as the model year of grand sophistication. After GM’s “no racing” ban of the year before, it seemed like it was taking its volume leader in a different direction.
The introduction of the brand new “mid-size” Chevelle in 1964 certainly cut into big car sales. Enthusiasts gravitated to it because of its smaller dimensions, sportiness, V-8/four-speed availability and its attractive price. Those who grew up with Chevy big cars and Corvettes now had a new, lighter, attractive mid-size Chevy. The only thing missing was a high-performance version to match the Pontiac GTO.
Most Chevrolet enthusiasts did not drag race per-se so the AMA anti-racing edicts of 1957 and 1963 meant little – except for losing 99-percent of the nation’s top 409 racers to Brand X cars in mid/late 1963. Neither did the oncoming replacement of the 409 engine. Chevrolet enthusiasts were given a brand new model to love in 1964 – the Chevelle. It was well-built, looked great and was affordable. As a direct result, Chevrolet’s “enthusiast” base continued growing by leaps and bounds.
Model year 1964 was the last full RPO year of the winning 409. It was the first year for an RPO V-8 Chevy II, and the Corvette L76, 365 hp 327. We thought things were great. They were, but they were going to get a lot hotter.
Chevrolet’s total domestic car sales in 1964 bested 1963 totals by 84,347. Big car six cylinder car sales dropped in 1964 by 87,302. Big Car V-8 sales increased by 95,647. Based on rarity, the most unusual fullsize ’64s today would certainly include a six cylinder Impala convertible (419 sold) and a six cylinder Impala SS convertible (3,164 sold). Over 90-percent of all Impalas were V8-powered. Impalas also accounted for almost one-third (32.2-percent) of all big cars sold. The Impala SS accounted for 7.9-percent (184,049) of all big car sales. A whopping 98.2-percent were V-8-powered. Bel Airs totaled 17-percent (411,461) of all fullsize sales and Biscaynes accounted for 9-percent (210,262). So popular were the V-8s that even 63 percent of Bel Airs got one. Six cylinder Biscaynes (popular all over rural America) accounted for a whopping 72-percent of all Biscaynes sold.
|1964 FULL SIZE CHEVROLET V8 ENGINE & 4-SPEED SALES|
|300 HP 327||50,150||(+5,883 above 1963)|
|340 HP 409||5,640||(-4,949 below 1963)|
|400 HP 409||3,044||(-3,269 below 1963)|
|425 HP 409||1,997||(-2,397 below 1963)|
|Four-Speed Wide Ratio||46,343||(+7,280 above 1963)|
|Four-Speed Close-Ratio||1,941||(-2,134 below 1963)|
|1964 BIG CAR TOTALS*|
|1111||6 cyl 2 Door Sedan||55,679|
|1135||6 cyl 4 door Wagon||21,669|
|1169||6 cyl 4 Door Sedan||73,737|
|1211||V8 2 Door Sedan||12,591|
|1235||V8 4 Door Wagon||18,182|
|1269||V8 4 Door Sedan||28,404|
|1511||6 cyl 2 Door Sedan||29,837|
|1535||6 cyl 4 Door Wagon||13,124|
|1545||6 cyl 4 Door Wagon 9 Pass||2,241|
|1569||6 cyl 4 Door Sedan||105,519|
|1611||V8 2 Door Sedan||22,364|
|1635||V8 4 Door Wagon||64,884|
|1645||V8 4 Door Wagon 9 Pass||16,044|
|1669||V8 4 Door Sedan||157,448|
|1735||6 cyl 4 Door Wagon||1,308|
|1739||6 cyl 4 Door Sedan||13,250|
|1745||6 cyl 4 Door Wagon 9 Pass||506|
|1747||6 cyl 2 Door Hardtop||25,848|
|1767||6 cyl 2 Door Convertible||3,164|
|1769||6 cyl 4 Door Sedan||20,040|
|1835||V8 4 Door Wagon||35,996|
|1839||V8 4 Door Sedan||180,476|
|1845||V8 4 Door Wagon||17,113|
|1847||V8 2 Door Sport Coupe||257,208|
|1867||V8 2 Door Convertible||50,279|
|1869||V8 4 Door Sedan||139,680|
|1347||6 cyl 2 Door Sport Coupe||2,855|
|1447||V8 2 Door Sport Coupe||153,141|
|1367||6 cyl 2 Door Convertible||419|
|1467||V8 2 Door Convertible||27,634|
|* USA-built totals only. Canadian-built not included|
Chevelle & El Camino
They press made a big deal about the 1964 Mustang hardtop and convertible ponycar. In all, 121,538 were sold after its April 17 introduction. Not bad, but the brand new intermediate ’64 Chevelle sold 64-percent more, totaling 338,286 built in American assembly plants. Models included a four-door sedan and station wagon, two-door sedan and station wagon, sport coupe and convertible.
Chevrolet also sold within the Chevelle lineup 32,548 El Caminos. Ford’s Ranchero sales were about half that. Ford started the market for a low priced, midsize car with the dowdy Fairlane, but Chevrolet perfected it with the Chevelle. The rarest model sold was the Series 300 two-door, two seat, V-8 station wagon: 1,101 sold. The standard V-8 was the 283. In March ’64, the RPO L30, 250-horsepower 327 became available. A few months later in June, the RPO L74 300 horsepower 327 was added to the already long list of comfort, convenience and power options.
At the end of the model run, 8,335 327-powered Chevelles and El Caminos were sold (6,598 250-hp and 1,737 300-hp, respectively). Four-speed Chevelle and El Camino sales numbered a whopping 30,566.
By and large, most Americans liked their Chevelles and El Caminos for cruising and general daily driving (be it fun transportation). Compared to a fullsize car, the lighter weight alone meant anywhere from a 2-to-5 mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy. Those 1,737 300 horsepower 327s are very rare today. Young V-8-oriented performance buyers might not be able to afford a new Corvette, but they sure could afford a new Chevelle or El Camino. Both had great coil spring suspension, were easy to work on and boy, if you had a four-speed/327 Chevelle or El Camino, you got instant respect from your peers. The ladies liked them too.
The 365 HP 327 Chevelle That Almost Was
Hot on the drawing boards for the new A-body, but nixed during the final days of pre-pre-production decision-making was RPO L76—the Corvette’s 365 horsepower, 327-cubic-inch small-block. We believe corporate where-with-alls plus overall availability woes at the Flint Engine Plant caused its cancellation in the Chevelle. Decades ago, GM insiders casually mentioned that the Flint Engine Plant may not have been able to build enough L76s for the Corvette and the Chevelle combined. They also mentioned that Corvette executives did not want any other Chevrolet to have its power and acceleration. If true, that's fine because savy buyers could and did build their own L76 Chevelle or El Camino at home.
The L76 327 featured 11.0:1 compression, domed forged aluminum pistons, a forged steel crankshaft and heavy duty connecting rods. It also had 2.02-inch intake/1.60-inch exhaust, big port heads, a reworked high-rise aluminum intake manifold and a Holley 585 cfm, four barrel carb.
The heart of the L76 327 was its new “30-30” solid-lifter camshaft. It had a whopping 0.480-inch valve lift and about 290-degrees of duration. The 327 idled wildly at 800-900 rpm and it helped the engine make plenty of top-end power easily past 6,500 rpm. The engine's only power-limiter was the smallish 585 cfm carburetor.
A story from year's past direct from within the walls of Chevrolet Engineering regarded the making of this 30-30 cam. Rumor has it that a few valvetrain engineers were watching valvetrain action with a new-for-the-time strobe light on a ’62-’63 340 hp 327. The engineers saw there was lots more ramp event action available so they had a cam ground to their higher specifications. When this cam was run, they knew they were on to something. Hence, the increase in 1964 from 1.94-inch to 2.02-inch intake valves and from 1.50 to 1.60-inch exhaust valves and a rework of the aluminum, high-rise intake manifold. Where the ’62-’63 327’s cam and induction sort of pooped out at 6,200 rpm, the L76 pulled strong to 7,200 rpm. The L76 four barrel, 365-hp 327 and L84 fuel-injected, 375-hp Corvette engines made Chevy’s sports car an absolute animal. It would have done wonders for the Chevelle. This solid-lifter camshaft had a valve lash of 0.030-inches on both the intake and exhaust valves, hence it was quickly referred to as a “30-30” cam and is still a legend today. It went on to be the storied cam in the ’67-69 Z/28 302 engine.
|POPULAR CHEVELLE & EL CAMINO OPTIONS|
|A41||Electric Front Seat||874|
|C65||Custom Deluxe A/C||1,088|
|L74||300 hp 327||1,737|
|N33||Tilt Steering Column||3,646|
|PO2||Simulated Wire Wheels||8,040|
The compact and inexpensive Chevy II was many things to many people. Writers of the day called it “fun and easy to drive.” Being small, nimble, spunky and responsive, it was. Chevy IIs had a character and a style all their own. Here was a stylish little car with a 90 horsepower, four-cylinder engine. Where did Chevy find the mighty mite? It’s more or less half of a small-block V-8.
In two-door coupe, four-door sedan and station wagon, it had a fairly large back seat and the trunk and rear areas were accommodating. The Chevy II was right-on for the times. But one thing it lacked was a V-8—until now. A factory 283 Chevy II was in the books for ’64 under RPO L32. In all, there were 25,083 sold. Four-speed floor shift Chevy IIs totaled 3,599 while column-shift Chevy IIs numbered 66,829. All remaining had an optional Powerglide two-speed automatic.
With the new Chevelle introduction in ’64, Chevy II sales dropped by 49-percent compared to 1963 (a record 375,626 to 191,691 in ’64).
|1964 CHEVY II MODEL PRODUCTION|
|111||2 dr Sedan 4 cyl||437|
|211||2 dr Sedan 6 cyl||23,243|
|411||2 dr Sedan 6 cyl||16,668|
|169||4 dr Sedan 4 cyl||396|
|269||4 dr Sedan 6 cyl||29,077|
|469||4 dr Sedan 6 cyl||55,373|
|437||2 dr Coupe 6 cyl||20,251|
|447||2 dr SS 6 cyl||10,576|
|235||4 dr Wagon 6 cyl||13,065|
|435||4 dr Wagon 6 cyl||22,605|
|TOTAL||1964 Chevy II / USA||191,691|
Corvette Sting Ray
If the brand-new ’63 Corvette Sting Ray wasn’t awesome enough, the ‘64 was even better and outsold the ’63 by 716 units, another sales record (22,229). Styling czar Bill Mitchell didn’t lose many battles over his reign, but he acquiesced to those who claimed the split rear window was a bad idea. He loved it from a styling standpoint, but once in production he finally conceded it impaired rearward vision too much.
Further styling refinements included removal of the fake air vents from the hood, revised air vents on the roof of coupes (functional on the driver’s side), and different wheel covers. The knock-off aluminum wheels first seen as RPO P48 in ’63, but pulled from the option list (no cars were delivered with them) finally became available in ’64, now with three-bar-style spinner.
As sexy as they are, the coupes were still not as popular as the convertible, getting outsold 13,925 to 8,304. The ’64 interior featured different seat pleats and tachometer/speedometer bezels.
The 250 hp 327 base engine and the RPO L75 300 hp 327 (+$53.80) were carryover from 1963 and 1962. The RPO L76 and L84 solid lifter 327 engines had larger valves and a larger duration and lift camshaft. Gone was the Duntov 097/098 cam featuring an 0.008 and 0.018 valve lash. This cam came out in 1957 and almost everyone ran one in their small-block Chevy somewhere/sometime. The new ’64 cam was nicknamed for its 0.030 – 0.030-inch valve lash. The 30-30 cam really woke both engines up drastically. The 365 hp 327 “RPO L76” featured a Holley four barrel carb and an aluminum high rise intake manifold. The L84 Rochester fuel injected engine was rated at 375 horsepower (a record never surpassed for the Gen 1 small-block). Both engines and their new cam and heads set the small-block performance world on fire. Both engines made enormous power from 3,000 to 7,000-plus rpm.
A ’64 Vette with either engine plus 4.56 gearing easily ran mid-13s on the street. With slicks, headers, a super-tune and a good driver, mid-low 12s at the strip was possible. Compared to what we all were trying to do in years before, the new 2.02 “Fuelie” heads and 30-30 camshaft also told the performance aftermarket what they had to do to compete. If anyone asks you when Chevy 327s really start running superbly, it was 1964. And you also know why. The rest of the decade would be even wilder.
|MOST POPULAR OPTIONS|
|AO1||Tinted Glass (All Windows)||6,031|
|L75||300 hp 327 engine||10,471|
|L76||365 hp 327 engine||7,171|
|L84||375 hp F.I. engine||1,325|
|P48||Aluminum Knock-Off Wheels||806|
Day Two ’64s
This covers what just about all 1964 Chevy owners might be doing to their car a minimum of two days after purchase—or two minutes after their warranty expired. Calendar year 1964 also saw a zillion Chevy guys and gals driving, cruising or racing their 1955-1963 V-8 Chevrolets. Suffice to say we don’t have space to tell these exciting stories.
While the majority of owners spent their evenings cruising around town with the Delco radio doing its thing, many other hard-working baby boomers could not get their father to co-sign for or approve a new 409-powered big car. They had to settle for a 300-hp 327/4-speed combo. Well, thank you very much! Stick an L76, 365 hp, “30-30” cam in it, plus the L76 induction (with or without the big 2.02 heads) and you had a small-block that could challenge or even best a 409—especially with a 4.11 or 4.56 Posi third-member.
In ’64, guys were really getting sneaky at cruise-in locations. A single snorkel, factory air cleaner might have many hidden air holes drilled into the base and the rear. It took a good eye to notice. And most wouldn’t fire up their stock-appearing 327 until a race was declared. Anyone who ever heard this new “30-30” cam idling at 1,000 rpm knew he was probably going to get dusted. Street tires of the day really favored the torque output of a 327 rather than a 409. Size 8.50-14 had as five-inch tread width. Softer rubber Atlas Bucron or Vogue Premium tires were the way to go.
When the new Chevelle was introduced in September, 1963, its biggest engine option was a 283. Five months later in March ’64, the 250 hp 327 was made an option. Finally, in June, the 300-hp 327 became available. The very first RPO (L32) V-8 Chevy II was to be had. A 283 powered 13-percent of all ’64 Deuces – 24,860 in all. With high flowing radiator, etc., swapping to a larger 327 was quite simple. These were all signs that the performance times they were a-changing.