396 Sleeper! 1969 Chevrolet Bel Air

In the 1950s, the Bel Air had been Chevy’s top series car but lost that spot to the Impala late in the decade. The name would continue into the mid-1970s, serving as the mid-level trim offering until the entry-level Biscayne was discontinued after 1972. Although they were your basic family kind of transportation, the sixth generation Bel Airs (1965-70) could be ordered with just about any motor that Chevy built, including the 396 V8. That’s exactly how this car was built, looking like a sleeper with its 4-doors and dog dish hub caps. Located in St. Louis, Missouri, this Chevy appears to need little to surprise folks every time you took it out. It’s available here on craigslist for an undetermined price. The ad says $15, while $15,000 is more likely. Thanks, Gunter Kramer, for finding this Hi-Po grocery-getter hot rod for us!

Using the same platform since 1965, the 1969 Bel Air (and all full-size Chevies) were restyled with new fender and body lines and new front and back ends. Riding on the carried-over 119-inch wheelbase, the ’69 Chevies were slightly longer at 220 inches. While most Bel Airs came with an inline-six or small-block V8, big-block power was also offered, included the 265 hp, 396 cubic inch V8 (you could also step up to the 427 at nearly one horse per cube, if you were so bold).

Chevrolet had another good year in 1969, selling 1,168,300 full-size cars alone. Of that number, the Bel Air was only 13% of the total and the Biscayne was less than half of that. So, it was becoming clear that most buyers of cars this size wanted creature comforts. To prove that point, Chevy built nearly 11,000 more Caprices than they did Bel Airs. The seller’s car is one of the 90% of Bel Airs made in ‘69 that had a V8 engine, but no production breakdown by displacement is available. So, the seller’s car may have been unusual when new, and then again, maybe not.

This ’69 Bel Air looks to be in really good condition and the medium blue paint is too nice not to be a repaint, but it looks like it was done properly. There is no mention of any rust, past or present, and we don’t see any in the limited photos provided. At just shy of 80,000 miles, the interior is used but not abused. The front bench seat has some splits in the bottom where the vinyl fabric has separated, but the back seat looks fine. So that would be an easy fix and the only thing we see worth doing.

The seller describes this Bel Air and “turnkey and ready to drive” so if you have a large enough credit limit on your gasoline charge card, hop in and go. You’re probably looking at 10-13 mpg on premium fuel but possibly less when you get tempted to punch the accelerator at the traffic signal to light up the rear tires! The seller says the car has an automatic transmission, so the likely Turbo-Hydramatic might lessen that impact – a little.

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Comments

  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    Anybody else getting Dirty Mary Crazy Larry vibes from this car? I know theirs was a 1966 but still

    Like 10
    • ADM

      The Getaway vibes, with Steve McQueen, come to mind, with the blue, ’69 four door Chevy. They used it to get out of town, after McQueen shot up the ’69 Plymouth cop car. It pulled that bootleg turn to overtake the bus, and then ride back through town. I’m guessing it has 427 badges on the fenders, and likely 390 hp, because a 396 2 barrel, at 265 hp, wouldn’t have the stones, that this car had.

      Like 1
  2. jwzg

    Uhhh, this car was no HiPo grocery getter with a 2bbl. It was a snoozer of a powertrain that served one purpose: towing.

    Like 21
  3. 68custom

    well equipped for a Bel AIr but no barnstormer with the 2 barrel equipped 396/265, buyer also choose disc brakes which is essential on these big cars. Pretty cool but priced a little high IMO

    Like 9
  4. PaulG

    Note: Trailer hitch equals towing, not a “Hot-rod grocery getter”…

    Like 11
  5. ChiTownJeff

    It looks like a cracked dash on the Craigslist interior shot. Also there appears to be an aftermarket radio under the dash. No mention of A/C.

    Like 1
    • Pat

      Looks like one of those RadioShack fm converters.

  6. Walter

    Always a little surprising to see these plain 4 doors survive. This is the kind of car that was bought for a few hundred bucks in the 80s and either pummeled or, if like in this case, it had a desirable engine, the engine would be swapped into a Chevelle with the chassis sent to the scrapper.
    Definitely kind of cool but a bit too high for me.

    Like 7
    • Dan H

      Very true!

      In 1978 I bought a 1967 Impala 4 door hardtop with 396cid 325hp for $175 (it was kinda rusty). I got it for a winter car so I didn’t have to drive my 327 4 speed 68 Camaro in the snow (didn’t know it was a L30/M20 at the time). After doing lots of 1 wheel peel burnouts and treating the Impala poorly, I wrecked it. Took the engine and trans out, sold the TH400 to a buddy for $100 and rebuilt the 396 adding rec port heads, cam, intake and putting it in the Camaro.

      I hated letting the Impala shell go to the junkyard with a 12 bolt, but it was non posi and they wouldn’t take it without a rear end. And I couldn’t let it sit behind the high school auto shop any longer. Late 70s was a great time to buy V8 four barrel cars cheap because many people didn’t want them. Good times!

      Like 5
  7. Neil Aussenberg

    Power brakes a must!!! Learned to drive on this car with manual brakes. Literally had to use 2 feet to stop this car.

    Like 9
    • jwzg

      Yeah with that nice little lockup on one of the front tires that would jerk the wheel out of your hand. Ask me how I know….

      Like 1
    • JoeNYWF64

      Any car with non powered front disc brakes requires a lot of brake pedal pressure.
      With 4 wheel manual drum brakes, less/acceptable pressure is required, but stopping distances are longer than with discs & forget about driving thru deep water or down long steep mountains.
      Yet still, my friend test drove a ’71 pinto with 4 wheel manual drums & 1 with manual front disc brakes & bought the 4 wheel manual drum brake car. You could not get power drum or disc brakes in early pintos.
      On the flip side, if you have POWER 4 wheel drum brakes on any other car, be very gentle pressing on the brake pedal even with 1 foot, else you could send an unbelted front passenger through the windshield.

  8. Mike Kummer

    One wonders if most of these were undercover police cars.

    Like 2
  9. Kent Pascoe

    My grandfather had a gold 69 Belair with a 396 2bbl. It was his daily driver plus he towed a 18 foot twin axle camper with it . My grandparents winter vacation away from Northern Iowa was always southern Texas. Remember them coming to visit on their way, the camper mirrors on the fenders I always thought where cool.

    Like 4
  10. Luke Fitzgerald

    St L MPD

    Like 1
  11. Troy s

    As stateted Im looking at a tow package not a drag car or sleeper of any kind. Maybe it resembles one now days,,…now days.
    Nice machine none the less.

    Like 1
  12. angliagt angliagt Member

    There should be a rule on craigslist that you have
    to post the ACTUAL asking price.I’m tempted to call,&
    ask if they’d take a $10 bill for it.

    Like 2
  13. Loney

    Hey, it’s a cool old car and appears to be in pretty good condition…But a 265 H.P. mill in a 4200 Lbs. car with “brick like” aerodynamics would be far from a thrill ride! I’m thinking more “sleepy”, than “sleeper”…

  14. RalphNC

    The “peanut port” version of the 396 wasn’t worthy of being called a big block.

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