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4 Speed SS396! 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle

Well the VIN checks out – that’s always a good start. But this 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 is not exactly everything it could or should be. It is an attention-getter, appearance-wise, so let’s check it out in detail. This Chevy is located in Tacoma, Washington and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $8,750, 43 bids tendered so far.

The 1968 Chevelle was a bit of a departure from its 1967 predecessor. From an exterior perspective, the two had little in common but the big difference was dimensions. While the frame and suspension were pretty much the same, all ’67s were built on a 115″ wheelbase stretch while the ’68s were 112″ for two-door models and 116″ for everything else. In typical GM conformity, this was the same story at Pontiac (LeMans/Tempest), Oldsmobile (Cutlass/F85), and Buick (Skylark/Special). This was also the last year that a Chevelle with an SS designation could be validated via the VIN. From 1964 through 1968, the SS variant (either Malibu SS or SS396) carried a second and third VIN digit of 3 and 8 respectively. In 1969 the SS396 option was available on both the 300 Deluxe and Malibu trim levels, so the VINs for those models supplanted an individual one for an SS396.

A couple of weeks ago, we covered a 1969 SS396 Chevelle and we had a good comment discussion regarding the durability of 396 engines, particularly in modified form. I made a comment, that back in the ’70s, I used to encounter, with surprising frequency, many SS396 Chevelles, without the 396. What happened to the original engines? Don’t know in every case, of course, but in many instances, serious engine damage was usually the answer with the big-block engine being usurped by the more commonly found small-block, one usually of either 327 or 350 CI displacement. And that’s what we have under the hood here, a 350 V8 of unknown provenance. The seller’s listing is laconic but he does state, “runs good“. The engine is equipped with headers, a Holley carburetor, and an HEI ignition but beyond that, it’s hard to tell what other mods may have been performed, or how sound the engine really is. It is a four-speed manual transmission equipped car, so that’s an advantage.

The exterior attention-getting that I referenced earlier has to do with the wave of primer over the very faded orange finish. The seller suggests that this Chevelle needs total restoration as well as rust issues with the trunk pan and the floors. The body, itself, shows as sound but there’s no telling what all of that primer is covering. The stainless trim along the lower beltline is missing except for the piece on the lower edge of the front fender. In 1968, SS396 models had rocker panels, below that defined stainless beltline, painted satin black, but many existing cars have been changed over the years. The chrome on this example is typically weak, usually the case for a car that is over half a century old and has spend a lot of time outside. Capping off the exterior are unadorned, ubiquitous Chevrolet rally wheels.

Those seat covers are downright scary looking! No telling what they might be harboring. The assumption is that the original vinyl upholstery is shot and these covers are hiding the multitude of sins that reside below. Maybe, and maybe not, perhaps the seller just likes this wooly look. The carpet appears to be pretty worn and the door cards are starting to wrinkle but at least the dash, instrument panel, and center console are presentable – and the steering wheel? Not so much. The shifter looks like an original Muncie unit; they can be a handful, especially as they age and wear. And is often the case, the original Delco radio is gone and aftermarket gauges are in place, suspended below the lower edge of the dash.

So, a car with potential? Sure, it actually looks like a sound restoration candidate. Considering where these trade, there is interest in this subject though the value is harmed by the swap from big to small block engine. Some of that lost value can be recaptured with an appropriate, or better yet, date correct engine. Nevertheless, this Chevelle can still be a fun, powerful muscle car even with the wrong engine ensconced under the hood. It seems to mostly need some aggressive elbow grease, don’t you think?


  1. Steve R

    I’d want to know more about the car before bidding. It not unlikely it has a engine/transmission combination thrown together as inexpensively as possible just to boost its sale price. Running 350’s aren’t expensive neither are Saginaw transmissions, especially one from a Vega or Monza, which will bolt up to the bell housing used for V8 engines. It would be nice wise to approach this car as if you were buying a roller and judge it on that basis due to the lack of useful information provided by the seller.

    Steve R

    Like 8
  2. Steve Clinton

    Nice ‘Camo’ paint job. ;-)

    Like 2
  3. jerry z

    I thought chevelle SS’s to ’68 had the 13817 body designation. So ’68 SS was 13837?

    • Steve R

      The key numbers are 138, that signifies SS. The next two numbers will show coupe (hardtop), convertible or El Camino.

      If you Google search, “1968 Chevelle Vin decoder”, they don’t show 17 for any of the available body styles that year.

      Steve R

      Like 3
  4. Jaime

    To think I bought one in 1984 for 1500 bucks from an old lady in perfect shape then sold it to a dealer for the same price 6 months later.

  5. George Mattar

    Pass. These cars looked like this in 1976. Just another waste of money. You are looking at $3,000 just to a correct interior.

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