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1964 Chevrolets - Golden Anniversary Salute

Looking back on 50 years of a post-racing-ban Chevrolet.

Doug Marion Sep 10, 2014
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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 Chevy Impala Ss Red 2/32

This ’64 was restored and is owned by Dwight Bower, the son of the original purchaser. Bower’s father ordered lots of goodies, like the 327/300-horse engine, 4-speed trans, Positraction and AM radio. He also had a dealer install a driver-side spotlight, which stopped being a factory option after 1963. (Photo: Rod Short)

1964 Chevy 327 Engine 3/32

Paired with a 4-speed trans, the 300-horse 327 made for a fantastic highway cruiser, with plenty of credibility at the drive-in. (Photo: Rod Short)

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 Chevy Impala Black 4/32

Southern California’s Jerome Ruzicka has owned this loaded, 425 hp 409 Super Sport for decades (note the vinyl top). It’s a show-winning, street-driven beauty. He’s a product of the torrid ’60s.

1964 Chevy Impala Ss Blue Convertible 5/32

Maury Bird’s Kansas-based, ’64 SS convertible has a great history. It’s got a proven 300 hp 327 for power linked to a Powerglide transmission. Note its rare dual radio antennas.

1964 Chevy Impala Convertible Interior Ss 6/32

Bird’s Super Sport interior screams “fun in the Sun”. Options include power steering and brakes, tilt wheel, AM-FM radio with rear seat speaker, air conditioning and power windows.

1964 Chevy 409 Engine 7/32

This is one of 5,640 ’64 340 hp 409 fullsize cars sold.—a great powerplant for sure. Most never ran the quarter-mile, but they were capable of mid-15 second elapsed-times thanks to monster, smooth-idle, torque production.

1964 BIG CAR TOTALS*
MODEL STYLE SALES TOTAL
BISCAYNE
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
BEL AIR
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
IMPALA
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
IMPALA SS
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

1964 Chevy Chevelle Brochure 8/32

Fifty years ago you couldn’t find a Chevelle factory sales brochure anywhere. We got this one at Boldt Chevrolet, Fairfield, Iowa, my college town.


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.

1964 Chevy El Camino Red Side Prototype 9/32

Here’s a ’64 El Camino factory prototype photo. Notice how the front end resembles a ’67.

1964 Chevy Chevelle Convertible Ss Malibu Brochure 10/32

Chevelle convertible sales totaled 22,896, of which 9,559 were V-8-powered Super Sports. A real rarity is the 1,487 SS Malibus built with six cylinder engines. Often overlooked today is that there were two six-cylinder engines offered in SS models, the more potent of which was a 230-2V that came with a chrome air filter, oil breather and valve cover.

1964 Chevy El Camino Red Pro Street 11/32

While cruising the northern Cincinnati area with “Car Show Joe” Johnson of South Lebanon, we spotted this exemplary, big-block, Pro Street ’64 El Camino. If it knew fifty years ago what it would be doing today, it wouldn’t have believed it. Lookin’ good.

1964 Chevy Rpo L30 Engine 12/32

The RPO L30 250 hp 327 seen here has essentially the same short-block (less camshaft) as the RPO L74 300 hp 327. The L30 has 1.72/1.50 valve “Power Pack” heads off a 283 as well as the same smaller port, cast iron intake manifold and 400 cfm, 4GC carb. The L74 300 hp 327 has 1.94/1.50 valve heads with larger intake ports, a larger port cast iron intake manifold and a 500 cfm Carter AFB carb.

1964 Chevy Chevelle Dick Harrell 13/32

Drag racer Dick Harrell was known as Mr., Chevrolet. He went from a ’63 Z-11 427 Impala in ’63 to this custom-built Z-11 427 ’64 Chevelle in ‘64. I got to know him when we both worked at Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago in 1966.

1964 Chevy Chevelle Malibu Black 14/32

We spotted this “Day Two” black ’64 Chevelle Malibu SS at a big show in Orange County, California. In ’64, two wheels were seen everywhere: five-spoke type similar to these or chrome (standard or reverse offset) steel wheels. The engine looked like its original 283.

1964 Chevy Wagon Red 15/32

Most wagon buyers chose a four-door. In all, 41,430 were sold. The two-door wagon sold a scant 2,654 (1,098 V8s and 1,556 six cylinder). This gem is owned by D&P Classic Chevy in Huntington Beach, CA.

1964 Chevy Chevelle Yellow Huntington Beach 16/32

At a Saturday morning coffee and donut cruise-in near Huntington Beach, California, this straight axle, light yellow ’64 with fenderwell headers and five-spoke wheels sure rolled back the clock.


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.

1964 Chevy Engine Assembly Instructions 17/32

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
RPO # DESCRIPTION QUANTITY
A31 Power Windows 2,494
A41 Electric Front Seat 874
C60 Air Conditioning 31,861
C65 Custom Deluxe A/C 1,088
F40 HD Suspension 18,731
J65 Metallic Brakes 1,573
L30 250hp 327 6,598
L74 300 hp 327 1,737
M10 Overdrive Trans 5,241
M20 Four-Speed Trans 30,422
N33 Tilt Steering Column 3,646
PO2 Simulated Wire Wheels 8,040
U16 Tachometer 5,734


Chevy II

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 Red 18/32

“Laryz” Chevy II sports full length lakes pipes and hails from rural western Illinois. It was amongst thousands of hot Chevys at an annual Friday night cruise-in in Monmouth.

1964 Chevy Ii Red Drag Car 19/32

The superb and similar looking Chevy II drag car is a great example of the super clean Chevys in competition at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, PA.

1964 CHEVY II MODEL PRODUCTION
MODEL CAR SALES
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.

1964 Chevy Corvette Fastback Red 20/32

This red-over-black, 365 hp 327 coupe “fastback” with aluminum knockoff wheels was a Corvette and Chevrolet flagship in 1964.

1964 Chevy Rpo L84 Rochester Engine 21/32

The RPO L76 327 (365 hp) cost $107.60 and gave the best bang for the buck. The RPO L84 Rochester fuel injection (375 hp) cost $538.00 and thus sold 82-percent fewer than the L76. But with a Kent-Moore manometer for tuning and a seasoned operator, a ’64 fuelie 327 could outrun just about anything.

MOST POPULAR OPTIONS
RPO # DESCRIPTION QUANTITY
AO1 Tinted Glass (All Windows) 6,031
AO3 Tinted Windshield 6,387
A31 Power Windows 3,706
CO7 Auxiliary Hardtop 7,023
C60 Air Conditioning 1,988
J50 Power Brakes 2,270
L75 300 hp 327 engine 10,471
L76 365 hp 327 engine 7,171
L84 375 hp F.I. engine 1,325
M20 4-Speed Transmission 19,034
M35 Powerglide Transmission 2,480
N40 Power Steering 3,126
P48 Aluminum Knock-Off Wheels 806
BODY COLORS
900 Tuxedo Black 1,897
912 Silver Blue 3,121
916 Daytona Blue 3,454
923 Riverside Red 5,274
936 Saddle Tan 1,765
940 Satin Silver 2,785


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.

1964 Chevy 421 Z 11 Engine 22/32

Here’s Bob Walla’s Z-11 equipped 409 engine back in the day. He is manufacturing aluminum 409 engine blocks and heads for the masses. Visit www.409raceparts.com or call 219-798-6358.

1964 Chevy Ss 409 Engine 23/32

A Kansas farmer by trade, Darryl Delong hails from a town called Admire. Everyone sure admires his ’64 SS 409 engine.

1964 Chevy Bel Air Wagon 24/32

Ohio’s Bill Wilmoth attended the Ohio Open Run car show with his awesome, Bel Air station wagon. It’s the coolest ’64 wagon we’ve ever seen.

1964 Chevy Bel Air Wagon Red Interior 25/32

Wilmoth’s 340 hp 409 has a medium cam and is linked to a column-shift, three-speed transmission. Note the Dixco tach in the factory dash housing.

1964 Chevy Impala Ss Red 26/32

Eldridge, Iowa’s Julie and Joe Grant attended the annual Monmouth, Illinois Friday night cruise-in prior to the Fred Gibb Memorial Car Show in nearby LaHarpe. Any red ’64 SS with factory A/C and Cragar S/S wheels is truly a winner.

1964 Chevy Impala Ss Blue White Interior 27/32

Four-speed, ’64 Impala Super Sports with 2-1/2-inch diameter, under-dash gauges don’t get any better than this. Aqua blue dash with white bucket seat interior is stellar.

1964 Chevy Chevelle 427 Big Block 28/32

Two years after the ’64 Chevelle came out, so did the Mark IV 427 big-block. Mark Fullbright dropped a ’67 3x2, 435-hp example into his green sleeper. Talk about a drive-it-anywhere powerhouse.

1964 Chevy Bolt In Engine 29/32

One thing about General Motors’ engineers, they almost always made sure that their engines were a proverbial “bolt-in”. We sure wish Chevys could talk (“Yeah, I had a 283 when assembled but my new owner wanted more mustard on his hot dog so here I am.”)

1964 Chevy Impala Ss Chrome Steel Wheels Cragar 30/32

Cragar’s all new “S/S” chrome steel wheels were first introduced in 1968 when this ’64 SS was four years old. The owners are Harriet and Bob McGarvey of Kansas City, Missouri.

1964 Chevy Impala Ss Black Interior 31/32

McGarvey’s black Super Sport interior looks just like when it was brand new.

1964 Chevy Nova Red 32/32

A little old lady in rural Girard, Illinois bought this ’64 new then drove it locally a total of 39,000 miles over the next 17 years. Since 1981 it has resided at the home of Patricia and Charlie Boyette. Sons Casey and Chris eventually whipped it into hot 350/700-R4 show-stopper status, as-shown.

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