|Sorry Folks, ich habe die Info nur in Englisch aber bestimmt besser als gar nichts, oder|
Chevelle SS Identification
How to spot a genuine SS Chevelle / El Camino
With: Daniel Carr
This Guide is for owners and potential owners of 1968 and newer.
SS vs ?
It is easy to spot an SS Chevelle compared to a "plain-Jane" model.
However, it is not so easy to tell the difference between a genuine SS and a plain Malibu which has been altered to look like an SS.
There are far more SS "look-a-likes" out there than people realize.
There may even be more SS clones out there than genuine SSs.
I would recommend that anyone looking to authenticate an SS get one of the available Chevelle & El Camino ID books. There is a good one currently available that is produced by the publishers of "Cars and Parts" magazine. There are also several restoration guides which can provide valuable information. However, some of these types of books are known to be factually incorrect about certain things.
Perhaps one of the best ways to authenticate an SS is with the build sheet, protect-o-plate, original window sticker, etc. Even with those, however, you have to be on the lookout for fakes. I've even heard of VIN numbers on build sheets being changed. There are also companies that can supply you with reproduction protect-o-plates, window stickers, and even cowl tags. I think the outfit that supplies the cowl tags is legally only allowed to replace a damaged cowl tag with a reproduction that has EXACTLY the same codes on it. However, I wouldn't be suprised if a few paint codes have been changed here and there.
Although highly illegal, I'm sure there are numerous cars out there that have had their VIN plates switched. If you can, always look up under the dash for any signs of recent welding around the VIN plate.
For '68 & up, here are some things to look for :
For '68-'70, only big-blocks were available on the SS. In '71-'72 you could get an SS with either a big-block or small-block. However, in '72, GM was not allowed to sell the 307, or any big-blocks in the state of California. So, the only SS you could get in California in '72 was the small-block SS-350. I think all big-blocks from '68-'71 sold in California came with smog pumps. I have personally seen a genuine '69 SS-396 El Camino with a factory smog pump, and a genuine '72 SS-454 El Camino with a factory smog pump. The '72 was not from California, but the '69 probably was. I have also seen numerous similar, genuine vehicles that did not come with factory smog pumps. 4-speed cars tend to have smog pumps more often than automatic cars.
In '68-'69 the 396 engine was generally only available as part of the SS package (there appears to be at least one exception - see the 1969 section). In '70-'72 the 454 engine was only available as part of the SS (or SP) package.
All '70-'72 454 motors (LS5 and LS6) came with a forged crankshaft. The LS5 had 2-bolt mains and the LS6 had 4-bolt mains.
The 325 HP 396 (L35), and the '70-'72 402 (LS3) came with a cast crank and 2-bolt mains. The 350 HP 396 (L34) came with a forged crank, and is usually a 4-bolt block, but may possibly come as a 2-bolt block also. All 375 HP 396's (L78 and L89) came with forged cranks and 4-bolt mains.
All '68-'70 SSs and '68-'72 big-blocks came with 4-barrel carburetors. In '71 and '72 it was possible to get an SS with a 2-bbl 350.
The '70 LS6 454 and the '71-'72 LS5 454 came with either the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic, or the M22 "rock-crusher" 4-speed. These were the *only* two choices ! The '70 LS5 was avaiable with the TH-400 and the M22, but it may have also been available with the M21. 1970 was the last year for the M21.
The 402 big blocks (from '70-'72) could come with either the TH-400, or a variety of Munice manuals including the HD 3-speed, and the close and wide ratio 4 speeds: M20 ('70-'72) and M21 ('70 only).
There are actually two types of M20 transmissions. The "Muncie" M20 has an aluminum case and was used on 4-bbl V8 engines. The M20 "Saginaw" has an iron case, and was used on the 1-bbl 6-cylinder and 2-bbl V8 engines.
The 396 big blocks (from '68-'70) came with either the TH-400, or a Muncie 3 or 4 speed. It was also possible to get a '68 SS-396 with a 2-speed "PowerGlide" automatic. The standard "base" transmission in a '68-'69 SS-396 was the Muncie 3-speed. All other transissions were extra-cost options.
Some non-SS small block cars are known to have come with a 12 bolt rear. These appear to be mostly El Caminos with an optional towing package.
Big-blocks came standard with a 12-bolt rear axle. Small-blocks usually had a 10-bolt, but could be optionally equipped with a 12-bolt. Positraction was NEVER standard equipment on the SS, but was always an option. The only exception was that if you ordered the 4.10 (or higher) rear axle ratio option, positraction was mandatory.
Genuine big-blocks with TH-400s should have a kick-down switch for the transmission located just above the accelerator pedal.
Contrary to popular opinion, the tachometer/gauge package was NEVER a STANDARD part of the SS package. It was an extra cost option. The '68 tach/gauge setup is fairly rare. Other years are a bit more common (especially '70).
The rear anti-sway bar (F41 suspension) was included in the SS package on all Chevelles (except El Camino) starting in '70. It was not available on any year SS El Camino. The F40 heavy duty suspension (which did not include the rear bar) was standard on the '69 SS, and F41 was optional on the '69 SS. F41 was not available in '68.
All '71-'72 SSs (and some Malibus) came with remote mirrors and glove compartment lights.
For '70-'72 however, the standard SS dashboard was different from the plain Malibu dash. The non-SS dash had a wide rectangular speedometer, idiot lights, and no gauges. The SS dash had three large round "pods" and three small round "pods". The large pod in the center would always hold the speedometer. If the tach/gauge option was ordered, then the instruments would be as follows :
POD LOCATION SIZE CONTENTS ------------ ---------- ------------ center large speedometer left large tachometer right large clock far left small ammeter (battery gauge) far right, upper small temperature gauge far right, lower small fuel gauge
Note that there was NO oil pressure gauge available, only a warning light at the bottom of the tachometer.
If the optional tach/gauge package was not ordered on the SS,
then the SS dash layout would be as follows :
POD LOCATION SIZE CONTENTS ------------ ---------- ------------ center large speedometer left large fuel gauge right large optional clock far left small alternator warning light far right, upper small temperature warning light far right, lower small oil pressure warning light
All genuine '70-'72 SS cars *must* have the round speedometer. However, when a non-SS car was ordered with the optional gauge package, it would also come with the round "SS" speedometer.
The SS dash is almost identical to the dash used in ALL '70-'72 Monte Carlos. It is a common practice to replace the non-SS dash in a Chevelle with a dash from a Monte Carlo. These switches can often be easily spotted since the Monte Carlo dash would have originally come with fake wood-grain facing. A genuine Chevelle SS dash would have a black painted face, and a different surface texture than the Monte Carlo dash. Another thing to look for is the color of the letters on the instruments. 1970 instruments have letters with a green tint, while '71-'72 instruments have white letters. Except possibly for some early '72 model year vehicles, all '72 SS dashboards have an oval "Fasten Seat Belts" warning light. This light, if present in an earlier car indicates a dashboard swap. If this light is not present in a '72 SS, then that also indicates a dashboard swap (if it is not an early '72 car). The woodgrain facing on the Monte Carlo dash can be removed, leaving holes or slots in the dash. Once these holes are filled, the Monte Carlo dash could look just like the Chevelle SS dash.
Genuine SSs did not necessarily have a black steering column and steering wheel. They often (but not necessarily) matched the interior color of the vehicle. There were also several different types of steering wheels available on the SSs.
The '68-'72 SS grilles were generally painted black, while the non-SS models were often silver, or had silver accents and/or additional chrome trim. Some '72 SS El Caminos (with the deluxe exterior trim option) came with Malibu style stainless trim strips on the grille.
The '70-'72 SS El Caminos did not come with any "SS" door panel emblems, but the Chevelle did. Some genuine '70 SS Chevelles are known with "Malibu" door panel emblems rather than the "SS" door panel emblems. Apparently, one of the plants ran out of the "SS" door panel emblems and used the "Malibu" version to keep the line going.
Again, contrary to popular opinion, bucket seats were never a standard part of the SS package. They were, along with center consoles, an extra-cost option available on SS and non-SS cars.
The 375 horsepower 396 and the 450 horsepower 454 could NOT be ordered with air conditioning. The demands of air conditioning on these solid- lifter motors would have caused them to overheat if left idling with the air conditioning on.
Engine codes can also be used to authenticate SSs. The engine blocks
usually will have a portion of the vehicle's VIN number stamped into it.
The last 6 digits of the engine stamp should match the last six digits
of the vehicle's VIN. Not all factory installed engines have the VIN
stamp, however. Some engine stampings have been known to be one or
more digits off from the the vehicle's VIN. If the engine has ever
been replaced, the engine VIN stamp would most likely be vastly
different from the vehicle's VIN.
Many '69-'72 SS vehicles assembled by GM in Canada have a "Z15" or "Z25" code on the cowl tag. Other GM plants in the US used different codes on the cowl tag below the paint code. These codes vary from plant to plant. There is no documentation currently available on these plant-specific codes. However, it does seem to be that genuine SS and other "special" production vehicles usually have some sort of code in this location while "plain" non-SS cars have this region of their cowl tag blan, or they have just a few digits..
Be aware, however, that there are individuals and organizations out there that re-stamp engines. There is even a company from which you can rent engine block stamping equipment, and another company that will make cowl tags for you.
Stamped-in engine codes are relatively easy to fake. The raised codes on various engine parts are much harder to fake. These raised codes are a part of the casting process. That is, they are part of the mold that the metal is poured into. These codes can often tell you when the part was cast. If the casting date is after the vehicle build date, or if the casting date is many months before the vehicle build date, then that part is not original.
In 1968, the SS was a separate model (the "SS-396"). Therefor, it can be identified by the VIN number. For example, a 1968 El Camino with a VIN number starting with "13880" would be a genuine SS-396 model, while a '68 El Camino with the VIN "13680" would be a non-SS "Malibu" version of the El Camino. All genuine Super Sports from 1966-1968 have an "8" as the third digit of the VIN.
1968 was also the first year you could get an El Camino SS, and it is the only year for a separate El Camino SS model.
Genuine '68 SS-396 Chevelles had chrome trim pieces on the lower body sides both in front of, and BEHIND the rear wheels. The non-SS versions had the same trim in front of the rear wheels, but not behind them. None of the '68 Chevelle or El Camino models came with wheel well trim.
Genuine '68 SS-396s could come with standard Chevy rally wheels, or even with plain "dog-dish" hub caps. In '68, disk brakes and tachs/gauges were NOT standard equipment on the SS - you would have to pay extra for those. In fact, the MAJORITY of '68 SS-396s have all drum brakes. In '68, the disk brake option utilized 4-piston front brake calipers. Parts for these brakes can be difficult to locate today. The "F41" suspension option (rear anti-sway bar) was not available at all in '68.
The only available engine in the '68 SS was the 396. It came as either the 325 HP "L35", the 350 HP "L34", or the 375 HP "L78". At least one '68 SS-396 Chevelle with the "L89" aluminum head option has been reported.
The '68 SS models had "SS/396" emblems on the front and back, on the door panels, above the glove box, and on the steering wheel. On early '68 SSs, the front side marker light bezels had a foil insert that said "SS/396". On later '68 SS production, The bezels simply said "396". The steering wheel emblem also said "SS/396" on early production, and simply "SS" on later production vehicles. The '68-'69 SS hoods had twin bulges, while the non-SS hoods were "flat". The two raised bulges each had a chrome grille on the top, near the rear edge of the hood.
The '68 SS stripe option was either a black, white, or red stripe which ran across the front header panel above the grille, angled downwards towards the bottom of the front fenders, and then along the lower body sides to the back.
In '68, there were some special Chevrolet dealers such as "Baldwin Motion" and "Yenko" who sold Chevelles with hopped-up 396 or even 427 motors. The 427 motors were installed at the DEALERSHIP, not the factory. These cars would usually have other dealer installed items such as emblems, hoods, stripes, etc. These cars are quite valuable today, but only if they have documentation proving their authenticity.
In Canada, GM sold a very unusual vehicle that was basically a Chevelle, but it was called a "Beaumont". It had the same chassis, engine, and sheet metal as the SS-396 Chevelle, but with a Pontiac derived front grille and dashboard. It was called the "SD-396", and even had "SD-396" decals on the lower front fenders.
From 1969 on, the SS was no longer a separate model. Instead, it was now a "Malibu SS" - that is, a Malibu with an "SS" package option. For 1969 only, the SS package could also be ordered on the base model Chevelle 300 (as a 2-door coupe or a 2-door post sedan). The only SS option in '69 was the "Z25" SS-396 package. The '69 and up cars are harder to authenticate because the VIN can not be used to confirm if the car is an SS.
There were two colors that were exclusive to the '69 SS. "Monaco Orange" (code 72) and "Daytona Yellow" (code 76). If either of these paint codes appear on the cowl tag (and the cowl tag is genuine) then that would prove the car to be a genuine SS.
If someone had a nice '69 Malibu, and a rusted out '69 SS, it would be easy for them to simply move the SS equipment over to the Malibu. As long as they did not alter or move the VIN plates or cowl tags, this would be perfectly legal, and since the VIN tag doesn't tell you much, there would be almost no way for you to know.
From '69 on, single-piston disk brakes were STANDARD equipment with the SS package. These brakes are easier to find parts for than the earlier four-piston disk brakes.
Chevrolet literature indicates that the only way to get a 396 was with the SS package. However, there appears to be at least one late-production Chevelle that was built with a 396 and all the required SS equipment, but the "Z25" SS-396 option was not listed on the car's build sheet. It is believed that this car came from the factory with "SS" emblems, but that is not 100% certain.
Again in 1969, the only available SS engine was the 396 (in the same flavors as in 1968). In 1969, however, it was possible (if you knew who to talk to) to order something called a COPO 427 Chevelle. COPO stands for "Central Office Production Order". The COPO program allowed dealers to order equipment that was not usually available (such as special paint, special engines, etc.) Unlike the '68s, the '69 Chevelles had their 427 engines installed at the FACTORY, not the dealership. This makes the '69 427s more legitimate in the eyes of collectors today. You didn't necessarily have to go to Yenko or some other special dealer in '69 to get a 427 Chevelle. Your local dealer could usually get you one if you filled out the right paperwork. While the '69 COPO 427s had basically the same equipment as the SS-396s, they were not generally considered SSs because they did not have any external "SS" or "427" identification. They were the ultimate sleepers. Any genuine '69 COPO 427 Chevelle is quite valuable today. There are also unconfirmed reports of a '69 COPO 427 El Camino.
In addition, there was an "L89" aluminum head option available for the '69 375 HP 396. Few were ordered.
1969 SSs had "SS/396" emblems on the front, back, fenders, and door panels. The '69 SS also had the twin-bulge hood like the '68s, but the bolt holes where the hood hinges attached were slightly different. The '69 SS came with 14" SS wheels with "SS" center caps. The '69 SS stripe option consisted of a black, white, or red stripe which ran along the upper body sides. There are also rumors of a few '69 SSs with dealer-painted hood stripes, similar to the stripes used on many '70-'72 SSs.
Another rare car, produced only in '69, was an SS Chevelle built on the 2-door post sedan, the "Chevelle 300". This was the only year that a 2-door post sedan SS was produced. Most of the '69 SSs, and all the '70-'72 SSs, were built upon the 2-door Malibu pillarless coupe.
In 1970, there were two different SS packages available. One was the "Z25" SS-396 and the other was the "Z15" SS-454. There were only two engine choices for the SS-396: the 350 and 375 horsepower versions. It was a confusing year for 396 buyers. The 396 engines now actually displaced 402 cubic inches, but were still called a "396" when installed in an SS. There was also a new 330 horsepower "LS3" big-block "400" engine option available for the non-SS Malibu and El Camino Custom. To confuse things even further, there was a 400 cubic inch 2-bbl small-block available (only in the '70 Monte Carlo).
The Malibu "400" big-block was also actually a 402, and was basically an overbored version of the 325 horsepower 396 motor that had been available on the '68 and '69 SSs. The "Malibu 400" package, produced from '70-'72 on the Chevelle and El Camino is fairly scarce today. The reason is that many of these big-block vehicles have been converted to SS clones. In stock form, the Malibu 400 and El Camino 400 carried "400" emblems on the fenders.
A very limited number of SS Chevelles with the 375 HP 396 and the "L89" aluminum heads were produced in '70.
There were two engines available for the '70 SS-454 : the 360 horsepower "LS5" and the 450 horsepower "LS6". The '70 LS5 Chevelle is actually rarer than the '70 LS6 Chevelle. The LS6 was only available in the '70 Chevelle, the '70 El Camino, and the '71 Corvette. It was never available to the public in *any* other cars. The '70 LS5 motor used in the Corvette was identical to the Chevelle LS5, but for marketing reasons the Corvette rating was 390 horsepower. There was purported to be one known LS6 Chevelle with the L89 aluminum head option, but it is now generally believed that this car (and its documentation) is fake. Chevrolet also had an experimental LS7 engine that was supposed to be available in the '70 Corvette, but never materialized. However, the LS7 heads were available over the counter at GM dealers in '71 and '72. No factory built LS7 cars were ever sold to the public.
The '70 & up SS now had a completely different dash than the non-SS models. The '70 SS would have either "SS/396" or "SS/454" emblems on the fenders (and on the tailgate of the El Camino). The Chevelle SS had a white "SS" logo in the black rubber pad on the rear bumper. Both the Chevelle SS and El Camino SS had a large "SS" grille emblem (without any engine size).
The SS models also had a hood with a large bulge in the rear center. Hood stripes were an extra cost option with this hood. There was also a "Cowl Induction" option available. It had "Cowl Induction" emblems on either side of the bulge and a door on the top of the bulge that would open automatically when the engine needed extra air. The Cowl Induction option was NOT standard on any SS - it was always an extra cost item. The Cowl Induction option came with hood stripes. You could, however, delete the Cowl Induction stripes at no cost. You could get the stipes without the Cowl Induction option (at additional cost). All of the '70-'72 SS cars came with hood pins except for some of the early '70 models that were not ordered with Cowl Induction.
The '70 SS came with the same wheels used on the '69s.
For 1971, there were two SS packages. One was the SS-454, and the other was simply the "SS" (available with either the 402, 350-4, or 350-2 engine). The unusual "Malibu 400" package was also available on the non-SS Chevelle and El Camino. It utilized the LS3 402 motor.
New for '71 was a "Heavy Chevy" package which featured special decals and some SS equipment. While the SS was based upon the Malibu, the Heavy Chevy was based upon the base Chevelle model, which had less trim. The Heavy Chevy could be ordered with any V8 engine except a 454. Like the Malibu 400 cars, many Heavy Chevys have been converted to SS clones. The VIN on a '71 Heavy Chevy starts with 13437, while the VIN on a V8 Malibu or SS coupe starts with 13637.
The compression ratio on all GM engines was lowered to 8.5:1. 188 Corvettes were built with the 425 horsepower LS6 motor in '71. There have been rumors that a few LS6 Chevelles were built in '71, but these have all been proven to be false. The LS5 454 motor in the '71 Chevelle and El Camino was now rated 5 horsepower HIGHER than it was a year earlier, even though the compression ratio was lowered. This was accomplished partly by redesigning the heads. The increase was also a result of the overly conservative rating (in the Chevelle) of the previous year's LS5.
If the SS-454 package was ordered, the fenders (and tailgate on El Caminos) would sport "SS/454" emblems. If the 402 or 350 engine was ordered with the SS package, then there would simply be "SS" emblems all the way around (but no external engine size designation). The El Camino SS generally did NOT have any "SS" emblems on the door panels.
The SS hood was the same as in '70. The Cowl Induction package was still available. It was, however, not promoted as much as in '70. As a result, far fewer Cowl Induction equipped vehicles were produced in '71 than in '70. There is some conflicting information, but it appears that that the Cowl Induction package was only available with the 454 in '71.
The '71 SS came with 15" five-spoke rally wheels. These wheels were painted silver, with trim rings and center caps. These wheels are similar to those found on mid-70s Z28 Camaros. The latter 70's Z28 wheels were very similar, but the spokes were a bit flatter.
Another unusual vehicle was introduced in 1971. It was the GMC version of the El Camino called the GMC "Sprint". There were about 5600 Sprints produced in '71. Compared to the '71 El Camino production of over 40,000 the '71 Sprint is fairly rare in any form. There was an "SP" package available for the Sprint that had the same basic equipment as the El Camino SS. Only 249 '71 SPs were built. There was even an "SP-454" package available. In fact, it was also possible to order the Sprint with Cowl Induction, tachometer, bucket seats, positraction, etc. It is estimated that about 25 were ordered with the 454 and about 16 with Cowl Induction.
This year, the government mandated that all engines be rated in "SAE NET" horsepower rather than the "GROSS" horsepower ratings used before. The "SS-454" package was still available, and although the '72 LS5 motor was virtually identical to the '71 LS5 motor, the '72 version was underrated at 270 horsepower due to governmental and insurance concerns. The '72 SS equipment was the same as in '71. It was, however, possible to order a '72 SS with any optional V8 (454, 402, 350-4, and 350-2). Some early sales literature implies that an SS-307 was available, but that is probably not the case since it was contradicted by some mid-year documents. Performance oriented options (especially hood stripes and Cowl Induction) were downplayed by all the Chevrolet literature. As a result, Cowl Induction production was even lower than in '71. The '72 Cowl Induction option could be ordered with the 454 or 402 engines. Interestingly, you could get a "Malibu 400" model with hood stripes even though these came with the non-SS "flat" hood. Only a few Malibus were ordered with hood stripes. This configuration was also available on the El Camino and Sprint.
The Heavy Chevy package was carried over, basically unchanged, from '71. The VIN on a '72 Heavy Chevy starts with 1C37, while the VIN on a V8 Malibu or SS coupe starts with 1D37.
The '72 GMC Sprint was available with the same equipment as before, including the SP package. Production of '72 Sprints was slightly higher than in '71. A total of 749 '72 SPs were built.
Starting in 1972, the 5th character in the VIN number of all GM vehicles indicated the vehicle's engine type. The engine codes for 1972 are as follows :
Since the 454 was only available as part of the SS (or SP) package, any Chevelle, El Camino, or Sprint with a "W" as the fifth character in the VIN is a genuine SS-454 (or SP-454 in the case of the Sprint). There was no SS package for the '72 Monte Carlo, but unlike the others, it could be ordered with a 454 without an SS package.
1972 was the last year for a lot of things. For example, it was the last year for the LS5 454, the 396/402, and the 307. In '73 the Chevelle line was completely redesigned with driving comfort being the major theme rather than performance. There was still an SS-454 package available. It used the low-compression LS4 454 rated at 245 horsepower. In reality, this motor was far less powerful than the earlier LS5, although with the right tuning, head porting and pistons it could equal the LS5. Unlike the LS5, the LS4 used a cast crankshaft. There was also the "plain" SS package which utilized the 350 motor. Unlike previous years, it was possible to order the 454 without the SS package. There was also an SS package available for the '73 Chevelle wagon. These are fairly rare and few details are known.
Around 1974 the "Laguna S-3" package was introduced. It was similar to the '73 Chevelle SS package. The "S-3" package was available only on the Chevelle, not the El Camino or Sprint (they still had the SS and SP packages). 1975 was the last year you could get a 454 in the Chevelle, El Camino, or Sprint. Like the earlier SS-454s, the '73-'75 SS-454s are scarce today. However, they are not in demand as much as the '72 and earlier SS-454s. The same is true for the SP-454, although it is even rarer than any '73-up SS-454.
The Sprint SP package was available until 1977. 1977 was also the last year of production for the Sprint.
When the El Camino was completely redesigned in 1978, the GMC version was renamed the "Caballero".
The El Camino SS package was resurrected, but by now it was basically just a "Super Sport" decal. Choo-Choo Customs in Tennessee built their El Camino SS in conjunction with Chevrolet. It could be ordered through a Chevrolet dealer, and consisted mostly of ground-effects body panels.
Other models of current interest include the '78 El Camino with the 350 V8 and 4-speed manual, the diesel El Camino, the "Royal Knight" El Camino, and the "Diablo" Caballero.
The Malibus of this era are almost completely devoid of any performance opions, although a '78 350/4-speed Malibu was available.
Written by: Daniel Carr
PS... the image on the left is REAL... note the out of place SS in the clone image .... AL