In 1964 Chevy introduced the mid-size Chevelle to fill a gap in its model line-up. Sharing the same 115-inch wheelbase as their hugely successful '55-'57 vehicles, this new model was the Bow Tie brand's answer to compete with cross-town rival Ford, and its mid-size Fairlane. Initially, depending on one's tastes and needs, a two-door coupe, convertible, four-door sedan, or four-door station wagon were the model options available.
Mixed in with those choices was the SS option, which was available on the coupe and convertible. A small 194-inch straight six-banger was standard and there was a 230-inch six optional, but it was the 283-cubic-inch 4-barrel V-8 rated at 220-horses that was Chevrolet's entry vehicle for the emerging youth market. Later, a 300-horse 327 appeared in an attempt to thwart the Pontiac GTO's exploding popularity with performance enthusiasts. The Chevelle was a huge success in '64, with GM selling over 330,000 units—the SS coupe and convertible models accounting for over 74,000 of those sales.
Maryland native Bill Kuhn wanted a piece of that action, so in '64 he pulled the trigger on a new SS ragtop. Fresh from a stint in the military, he had one ordered, and was ready to take delivery of it. Unfortunately, fate wasn't kind to him that year. "I almost lost my right arm in a work accident at that time," he recalls. "I was unable to take delivery of the Chevelle."
That accident sidelined him for about six months; however, in '65 he again placed an order for one. After months of waiting, he finally got a Madeira Maroon Chevelle SS convertible. Powered by a 300-horse 327 mated to a four-speed, this was his first new car. That ride served him well for a few years. He logged many miles traveling from the East to the West coast, and back. In '68, he sold it and moved up the cubic-inch food chain with a new '68 Chevelle SS396 convertible, also four-speed-equipped. Ironically, the '65 had been an enjoyable car, the '68, not so much. "I didn't like the car, so I sold it," he points out.
By that time had also set up a business. As the owner of His Place, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, working on cars became his bread and butter. While the main focus of the business was auto repair, he also tested the restoration waters by tackling numerous projects. In subsequent years, he restored a '65 SS coupe, and also a '65 SS convertible.
In '83 he was at the Spring Carlisle show in Pennsylvania and recalls, "There was a guy there from Texas who was selling a Mist Blue '65 SS convertible with a Medium Blue interior, an air car. Man, that car was gorgeous. I wanted to buy it, but at the time he wanted 13 grand for it. In '83 that was a lot of money, so I didn't buy it, but I always remembered that color combination."
That car stuck in his mind for many years, and the desire to own one like it didn't subside.
In '07 he stumbled upon his current ride, an almost original '65 four-speed SS convertible located in Pennsylvania. The car had been parked in a barn for many years, and it was in dismal shape, but it was complete. The original 327 was long gone, however, the seller had a freshly rebuilt replacement that Bill wanted no part of. He cut a deal with him and dragged the car, minus the engine, back to Maryland.
His plans for this Chevelle were unlike the previous ones he had done. His shop had started doing restomod conversions for customers, so this one would get that treatment as well. When they started digging into the Chevelle, they quickly found out how unkind Pennsylvania winters could be on a car.
The frame was unsalvageable, and the body needed extensive sheetmetal replacement. As a result, after the car was media blasted, they added new quarters, new floors, trunk floor, fenders, and hood.
From there the laborious task of getting the body straight started. That job wasassigned to Terry and Jesse Johnson, who work at His Place. It took them numerous months to get the boxy Chevelle to the point where it was ready for paint. Wanting to replicate the car that Bill saw in Carlisle, Jesse applied numerous coats of PPG Mist Blue basecoat/clearcoat paint.
The interior was another no-brainer. It would be a duplicate of the pricey Carlisle SS. Main Street Upholstery was tasked with doing the stitch work and convertible top on the car. They installed a new power top, and faithfully reproduced the stunning Medium Blue ’65 vinyl interior
which looks factory fresh.
The instruments also needed an overhaul. Rick’s Restorations faithfully restored them to a factory fresh look. The last details included a full glass replacement from Auto City Classic, and the installation of a Vintage Air AC system.
In order to bring the Chevelle’s handling into the 21st century, Bill started with a solid replacement frame, and cracked open the Global West catalog. The SS now rides on their upper and lower G-plus tubular A-arms, Monroe Sensa Trac adjustable shocks, late model GM spindles, a quick
ratio steering box, and a 1 1/8-inch Hotchkis sway bar. For the back end, he installed a 12-bolt GM rear stufed with 3.73 gears, while Monroe Sensa Trac adjustable shocks, and a 1-inch Hotchkis sway bar keep it all firm.
A five-speed Tremec gearbox handles the transfer of horsepower to the rear. That horsepower does need to stop, so bill opted for the installation of factory calipers at the front with 11-inch rotors. At the rear, Wilwood calipers also clamp down on 11-inch rotors.
Power for the SS comes from a stock Chevrolet Performance 6.2L LS3 crate engine. His Place, which is now run by his son, Bill Jr., has gained a reputation for using the crate GM LS3 mills in various restorations, most notably in C1 and C2 Corvette restomods.
“It is such a great motor. It has plenty of power and the gas mileage is phenomenal. With a five-speed and 3.73 gears you can get 28 miles per gallon,” Bill explains.
The other benefit from this combination is the peace of mind from a 24-month, 50,000-mile GM warranty. Allowing the LS3 to maximize its ability to produce power means free breathing at both ends. While the stock intake handles inward air, Street Performance headers mated to a custom stainless steel 2.5-inch exhaust system with Dynomax Performance mufflers insures the spent gases exit freely. Tim’s Garage was responsible for crafing the exhaust system.
In terms of rolling stock, subdued but elegant was the desired look. Afer careful evaluation of his options, he settled on American Racing Torq-Thrust 17x8.5 wheels wrapped in Cooper Zeon 2XS255/45R17 tires at all four corners.
The entire project took Bill and the crew at His Place four years to complete. The end result is a civilized and reliable car that is an absolute blast to drive. But if you think he is done with ’65 Chevelle’s, he claims to have just acquired another one.