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1965 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 L79 Looks Like a Taxicab But Runs Like a Beast

His Air Force Buddies Needed a Ride

Arvid Svendsen Mar 1, 2017
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If a guy orders a new 1965 four-door Chevelle 300 with a four-speed transmission and a 327/350-horse L79 engine, logs more than 600 (and counting) quarter-mile passes, and keeps it for 52 years, he is allowed to paint up his grille to create four large Chevy Bow Ties. Axiomatic. Bob Holland is that original owner whose grille proclaims Bow Tie allegiance. With just 89,550 original miles, this rare L79 Chevelle sports mostly original paint, original interior, and an unrebuilt engine.

Back in 1964, Bob Holland was in the Air Force stationed in California (thank you for your service, Bob). He wanted to update his 1960 Biscayne with a newer offering from Chevrolet. The newly designed 1964 Chevelle caught his eye, but since Bob was not one given to impulse, he held off making a purchase. However, when news came out that the new Chevelle/Malibu would be available with a 327ci, 350hp small-block, Bob was ready to buy.

Since Bob often served as transportation for fellow Air Force officers, he wanted a four-door Chevelle to ease entry and exit. He went to a local California dealer in Merced County, but they told him they would not order that motor in a four-door. As fate would have it, one of Bob's buddies had an uncle at Jack Head Chevrolet in Alhambra, California. A quick visit netted open arms. The oddball four-door Chevelle 300 was ordered with the L79 engine, four-speed M20 Muncie transmission, AM-FM radio, HD radiator, HD battery, HD suspension, and padded dash. Since it was an L79 car, a 12-bolt rear was included, but Posi was optional. Bob's car came with an open rear with 3.08 gears.

According to the build sheet that Bob still has, the four-door L79 was built on April 16, 1965. Not long after, it was delivered to Jack Head Chevrolet. The 350hp Chevelle 300 must have been regarded as one of the more popular personnel transporters on the base. Bob was discharged in March 1966 and drove the car home, netting 18 mpg on the trip. At home he discovered that his two younger brothers had cars with 327 engines and four-speed transmissions. It gets in the blood.

Production numbers are not exact, but a reasonable estimate can be made. Mark Meekins, former president of the now defunct National Chevelle Owners Association, helped Bob make that estimate. In 1965, a total of 234,676 Chevelles were built with V-8 engines. Only 6,021 of them, roughly 2.5 percent, were built with the L79. Only 3,060 four-door Chevelle 300 V-8 cars were built. Using the 2.5 percent number, approximately 78 cars like Bob's were built in 1965.

The rarity of his four-door has not hindered Bob from using the car. At 77 years young, he has accumulated 622 passes at Byron Dragway and Lake Geneva Dragaway. His most recent run in the car was a 14.40 at 93 mph in November 2016. The car retains most of its original paint, interior, and personality. The original engine has never been rebuilt. Only the water pump has been replaced.

That is not to say that the entire drivetrain is in as-born condition. Bob grenaded the original M20 at some point in the later 1960s. He wisely scavenged another M20 from a worn-out 1965 L79 Malibu SS that he owned. Bob also pulled the 12-bolt 3.31 Posi from that same Malibu, and it remains in the four-door to this day. That is small price to pay for 52 years of fun with this car.

And no, it's not for sale. Asked if he was ever going to sell the four-door L79, Bob joked, "If I'm in the hospital and I need an operation that's going to require selling the L79 to save my life, I'm going to tell my wife, 'Don't sell the car.'

Bob is as friendly and welcoming as he is passionate for small-block Chevy performance cars. For that reason this four-door L79 is awesome, plain and simple. The car is like the owner. It would have been a two-door if he hadn't been playing the ultimate host to his Air Force buddies, who would often ride with him to town. But the four-door reveals a passion for friendship and Chevrolet performance, in every sense a signature car for Bob Holland.

At a Glance

1965 Chevelle 300
Owned by: Robert and Rosemary Holland, Elgin, IL
Restored by: Unrestored original
Engine: 327ci/350hp L79 V-8
Transmission: Muncie M20 wide-ratio 4-speed manual
Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.31 gears and Positraction
Interior: Fawn bench seat
Wheels: 14x5 steel
Tires: P205/75R14 Guardsman 40 whitewalls, original 7.35x14 bias-ply spare
Special parts: Customized grille, rear cove tape treatment, Stewart-Warner 10,000-rpm tachometer and gauges, trailer hitch


In 1965, the Chevelle 300 was the lightest and cheapest Chevelle offered, which appealed to Bob Holland for both budgetary and performance reasons. Rocker panel moldings and quarter-panel Chevelle 300 emblems were the only exterior dress-up items.


Whitewalls! It looks like a taxi cab but runs like a beast. Bob still takes his car to cruise nights and occasional test-and-tunes at Byron Dragway.


The plain-Jane taillights found on the Chevelle 300 (and the Chevelle 300 Deluxe and Z16) needed some extra zing. Bob doesn't remember the exact date, but he added the subtle tape treatment in the rear cove panel. He has used the trailer hitch to tow a small travel trailer.


The 327/350hp L79, certainly one of the all-time great small-block screamers, featured special forged pistons (for an 11:1 compression ratio), a high-performance camshaft, hydraulic lifters, an aluminum high-rise intake manifold, a 585-cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor, and camel-hump cylinder heads. The alternator bracket on the L79 engine is unusual due to the aluminum intake manifold. The bracket attaches to the engine at the top bolt that holds the water pump. On the more pedestrian versions of the 327, the bracket attaches at the intake manifold.


So cool to open the door to Bob's car for the first time and see the four speed factory shifter in a four-door sedan! The factory fawn cloth interior is bare bones and all original.


Shifting action was not good with the factory shifter, but no doubt it looked cool with the reverse lockout built into the handle.


This combination vacuum gauge and fuel pressure gauge sits atop the steering column. While a vacuum gauge has diagnostic functions, in my mind it's most helpful in developing driving habits that produce optimum fuel economy in your muscle car. Hence, don't get one.


In this car alone, Bob has made 622 quarter-mile passes. The engine remains untouched save for a water pump replacement. Credit great engineering, hydraulic lifters, and smart driving for keeping this car together. Most of those runs were made at Byron Dragway, called the House of Hook, in Byron, Illinois.


Decoding the Trim Tag

"4B" stamped in the upper left corner of the first line designates the body assembly date as the second week of April 1965. Note the hand-stamped "13," which is probably an inspector's stamp. The second line starts with "ST 65-13269," which decodes as a 1965 model year, Chevelle 300 four-door sedan. "Body BF" designates the final assembly plant as Fremont, California. "365" is the Fisher Body Unit Number. The third line is stamped "TR 764," which is the code for Light Fawn Rialto Cloth, Imitation Leather interior. "F" is code for Fawn interior. "Paint DDD" designates body color Mist Blue, with the first D being the lower color, the second D the upper body color, and the third D the color of the wheels. In the fourth line, "ACC' is an abbreviation for accessories, but no RPO codes are stamped on Bob's car. The next five-digit number, 59486, is the manifest number, which is listed on the car's build sheet, confirming the build sheet as belonging to Bob's car.


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