Belgian Barn Find: 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396

Here’s a Barn Find that’s a little unusual, not the car per se, there’s nothing particularly rare about a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396, there were about 86,000 produced, but the location is far from typical. It can be found in Berlare, Belgium and is available here on eBay with a current bid of $15,300, reserve not met yet.

In 1969, the SS396 Chevelle lost its separate model identification and became an option package on the Malibu and “300” model Chevelles. For authentication purposes, this makes it difficult to verify the provenance because the identification via the VIN was lost. I can tell from the accompanying VIN that this is a “Baltimore” car and I actually attended a tour of that plant in March 1969. The SS396’s were flying off that assembly line as fast as they could be assembled and I was there on second shift – popularity rules.

Besides this Chevelle’s auspicious location, it’s what’s under the hood that intrigues me. The air cleaner sticker indicates that this is one of 9,400 L78, 375 HP engines manufactured in 1969. Now, I don’t recommend relying on an easily changeable decal to determine legitimacy but the intake manifold gives it away, it’s the Winters cast aluminum piece that was used on the L78 engine. Could it have been swapped for something less? Yes, but then the intake manifold wouldn’t line up correctly with the intake ports on the cylinder heads unless the heads were the L78’s big valve, big port (HI-PERF) items. There is a video link included so you can hear the engine idle and it doesn’t sound like the standard 325 or the optional 350 HP engine. The engine alpha code and the “HI-PERF” casting marks would need to be verified to know for sure what this engine really is.

The interior is a bit dull; it shows bucket seats with no console which was a possibility. The listing claims a manual transmission but I can’t spy the gear shifter, I’ll assume it’s the image angle. The radio and steering wheel trim/horn buttons are missing but the interior looks mostly intact otherwise. I’d like to get a better glimpse of the tachometer; it would help to solve the engine mystery.

The body on this SS looks stout, there is no visual image of rust and the seller offers up that it is a rust-free example. This car has apparently been in dry, protected storage since 1978 so that is helpful to know. No idea, however, about its first nine years. There is a ding in the front left fender but that’s the only boo-boo that is discernible. As an aside, the wheels are wrong for this Chevelle, it should have Chevrolet’s version of the Magnum 500.

There’s no telling how his SS396 ended up in Belgium but I have to believe it is one of not many, if any others to make it that direction. In base form, a ’69 SS396 commands a strong price, especially when original. If the engine is, in fact, an L78, that could kick the value into truly high gear. My concern would be getting the car to the US, shipping, damage, tariffs, etc. Any experience out there with buying or selling a car internationally?


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  1. Steve R

    The tach is for a high horsepower, the redline is different between hydraulic lifter big blocks and the 375/396. However, it’s presence doesn’t prove anything. The engine stamping and date codes matter more than the intake and tach. There would be other differences that someone would need to research and verify before purchase.

    It will be interesting to know if it stays in Europe or comes back across the Atlantic.

    Steve R

    Like 5
    • Camaro guy

      One way to tell if it’s a hi-perf block is there would be 2 pipe plugs above the the oil filter for an external oil cooler and those were all 4 bolt mains and yes you could get bucket seats and no counsel i had a 69 L78 4speed Chevelle SS and that’s the way mine was equipped

      Like 1
      • Rick

        It looks like it has square port heads as well

  2. Chris M.

    Regardless of provenence I love the car as it sets! Very authentic appeal.

    Like 4
  3. Newport Pagnell

    My guess is that this car was owned by someone in the US Military/Government and had it shipped over. I think it will stay in Europe as American Muscle cars are highly coveted there.

    Like 3
  4. Pete in PA

    A well-off highschool friend owned a true L78 4-speed 69 SS396 coupe. It was dark green metallic with the black bucket seat interior and console, manual steering, and power front disc brakes. With the combination of sound and power it was the most exhilarating car I have ever driven. The Tesla P90d I test drove recently was probably quicker than the Chevelle but it lacked the sound of burned Avgas being pushed through Hooker headers and Cherry Bomb mufflers. O. M. G.

    Like 7
  5. Roy Blankenship

    Check out the video in the ad. It idles like a 375, my two high school buddies had 375’s, one in a ’66 Chevelle SS, the other was a ’68 Camaro SS/RS, it is a familiar sound. If you click on the interior pic, you can see the shift boot on the floor. This is one of the coolest cars I have seen on this site, too bad it is so far away. I wouldn’t call the Rally wheels incorrect, they were an option.

    Like 1
    • Wesley

      Shipping is no issue as I do that all the time.
      1200 east coast
      1800 west coast

      Like 5
    • Camaro guy

      Only the 14×7″ painted Magnum style wheels were available for 69 SS’s the rally wheels with center cap and trim rings were not on 69’s from the factory as an option

    • Raymond Hurst Member

      I have never seen or heard of a 69 SS coming with rally wheels. You would have to show one on a build sheet to prove that to me. You could get a 14×6 inch rally wheel on a 69 Malibu or a 15×7 inch rally wheel on a COPO. I don’t think a 69 SS would have a 14×6 inch wheel. It would have to have been at least a 14×7 if I were guessing. ( I know that 67 and 68’s had a 14×6 rally.) You know what they say, though, never say never. I would also have to see a build sheet of a 69 SS or COPO with a steel wheel also before I would believe that happened. Not attackng, just educating.

  6. Scott

    Agreed on the 4 speed. You can just make out the bracket where the shifter handle bolts in. Interesting that they removed the interior. I assume it was in search of information. Hopefully it is back together. There are a lot of numbers shown for the engine. Anyone want to tackle figuring out the mystery of this motor?

  7. Troy s

    Nice ride. I don’t know, if the Europeans really like American muscle let them keep it, these aren’t all that rare. Actually, there’s probably more L78 Chevelles now than originally built. We can spare a few.

    Like 1
  8. TimM

    Really cool!! I like the 68 tail lights better but this car looks really solid!!!

    Like 1
  9. Rainer

    If you follow the photo link in the listing, there is a photo of the engine pad stamping. Engine is a JH code out of a 1969 Nova, based on the partial VIN stamp. So, a true L78 engine but not original to the car. Trans is also non-original to the car, an M20 out of a different Nova, based on the code and partial VIN stamp.

    Like 1
  10. Robert J. Pace

    My neighbor sold his 25th anniversary corvette to a guy in the Netherlands.

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