Beyond Help? 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

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Here at Barn Finds we’ve seen some pretty desirable cars that have been reduced to shadows of their former selves, but this 1969 Chevelle SS 396 must rate up there with some of the best (or worst) that we’ve seen. If you give the car a very (very) brief glance, it shows promise. As you dig below the surface, things really don’t look good. The Chevelle is located in Watseka, Illinois, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the opening bid at $4,995, and while there are currently 55 people watching the listing, no-one has been willing to submit a bid.

As you look at the ruined exterior, it is hard to believe that the Chevelle started out in life finished in Cortez Silver. This has faded almost completely into non-existence, while rust has bloomed almost everywhere in the car. The way that the quarter panel is drooping on the driver’s side should give you a clue as to how bad things are. The trunk pan is completely gone, and the rear frame rails no longer exist from the wheel housings back. That’s just the start of it, because all of the floors are bad, and will need to be replaced. The parcel tray is Swiss cheese, while the cowl is also beyond repair, and will need replacing. My personal opinion is that this body is probably beyond saving.

The news doesn’t get a lot better inside the car, as it is pretty obvious that it has been wet quite a bit in the past. That has basically destroyed anything that is upholstered, and it won’t have done items like electrical connectors, relays, or gauges any favors. If anyone was considering taking this one on as a restoration, there really isn’t a huge amount left inside the car that is worth salvaging.

Frustratingly, this is a numbers-matching car, with the original 396ci V8, Turbo Hydramatic transmission, and 12-bolt rear end. As with so much of the Chevelle, the news heads downhill pretty rapidly from there. At some point in the 1970s, the engine spun a bearing. It was removed from the car, and that’s as far as the repairs have proceeded. If it has been left sitting out in the weather for any length of time, even if it had something covering it, the chances are pretty good that it’s going to be locked. Even if it isn’t, the bearing issue means that a full rebuild is on the cards. Right now, the only things that I can see that the Chevelle has going for it are a full set of tags and a clear title.

It’s not often that I will look at a classic car and just think that what I’m looking at is beyond salvation, but that’s what I feel with this Chevelle. If it was able to be fully restored, then there’s no doubt that it would be a stunning and desirable car. As it stands now, I just question whether the time and effort would be economically viable when there isn’t a single aspect of the car that won’t need either restoration or replacement. What do you think?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. art

    I think that poor car would devolve into a collapsed pile of rust by the time it made its’ way to a new home. This one looks like someone pulled it out of a swamp and I doubt there’s enough “metal” left to even recycle. At this point, the seller should be paying someone to drag it away and be ever so happy. There is not one bolt or nut on the car or the engine that would not require an acetylene torch to remove. Time to move on.
    Mama mia.

    Like 28
  2. Steve R

    The seller has a sense of humor, they start the ad out by saying, “nothing changed since new”.

    Some rocket scientist might think about swapping the VIN onto another car, but that’s still a losing proposition. This is a low option car, even if they can rebuild the original engine to keep it “matching number”, this will never be particularly valuable. It’s better off to let this one rest in peace.

    Steve R

    Like 14
    • Superdessucke

      Rust in pieces, LOL!!

      Like 6
      • Barry L Klotz

        I believe that the only place for this Chevrolet iis the scrap yard .You might get a few dollars and that’s not being sarcastic.

        Like 1
    • Douglas Willinger

      Rebody. Let it be known via the records including this ad and let the market decide….

      Like 1
  3. Ohu

    Obviously this car is done. Salvage what you can and crush the rest. Of course these VIN plates could end up elsewhere, but thats the way it goes in this hobbie anymore.

    Like 1
  4. Camaro Joe


    The “JK” engine code is a 325 HP 396 with a TH-400. As you said, not particularly rare or valuable, especially with a spun rod bearing and shown sitting on the ground with the intake and valve covers open to the elements.

    If you’re the seller, at least attempt to cover the intake and valve covers with $1 worth of plastic and duct tape so it’s not obvious that there’s a few gallons of water and grass in there. In addition to chunks of the rod bearing . . . . . .

    Twelve bolt rear ends are getting hard to find, and the TH-400 “might” be worth something. But that’s what it’s worth, maybe $800 at best.

    Like 15
  5. EricG

    Title vin tag and drivetrain. Junk the rest

    Like 9
  6. HoA Rube GoldbergMember

    Pretty sad, indeed. This the sorriest Chevelle I think I’ve ever seen. All this shows, is how out of whack the hobby is. Once they got to this point, most were scrapped. It is pretty typical of a northern car, however, and they think it’s restorable? This goes beyond “ambitious restoration”.

    Like 11
    • Steve R

      Someone trying to sell a car that should have been scrapped doesn’t reflect on the hobby it’s a direct reflection of the seller. People have always tried to sell worthless junk, the term snake oil salesman is not a new term. The seller doesn’t care what happens to this car, he’s just looking for a payday. It’s the buyers lack the discipline to pass on these piles of poo that are the majority of the problem. There are enough good cars out there that anyone with patience and persistence can find a decent car or project at a reasonable price. The problem is it takes work and often a reality check. There will always be cars like this advertised for sale, it doesn’t mean someone is going to buy it, when cars in this condition go unsold more often, it will be a good thing.

      Steve R

      Like 13
      • HoA Rube GoldbergMember

        I realize it’s always been buyer beware, sellers hoping for a doofus. What’s out of whack, is something years ago we may have saved the front bumper,( 396’s were a dime a dozen then) now someone thinks, just because it’s a ’69 Chevelle, and all the hype, it must be worth $5,000 dollars. $5g’s buys a lot of neat, drivable cars. And the crazy part is,this, being the bottom of the barrel, someone might pay that because there’s just nothing left to restore BUT this. Btw, the front bumper looks nice,,,

        Like 7
  7. JRodgers

    So I wonder if the block cracked if they did not punch out the freeze plugs?

    I am sure a donor car will appear and the new owner will attempt to swap all vin tag and body locations with vins appearing if not rotted away …

    Like 0
  8. TimM

    Need I say more???

    Like 2
  9. LARRY

    Umm..well..I uhh..uhh..this really makes no sense to me.

    Like 4
  10. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

    This is just barely a parts car. $1,000, tops. And that’s being generous.

    Like 5
  11. Jeff D.

    I always have to chuckle at guys evaluating the worth of a car, and then undervaluing the parts. That 12 bolt rear and TH400 you assign an $800 value? The rear, if posi, is worth $1500, $1000 if it’s not. Talk to guys that actually DO sell these parts (I do). Sad part is, some are exactly right. Only to easy to find a Malibu shell and use it to rebody this matching number car. Somebody will pay it and so this.

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      The rear end housing it too pitted to bring in $1,000, I’d say $500 at best. Around here core TH400’s go for $100 to $150. I sell parts all of the time and wouldn’t be interested in this car. Every bolt will be frozen, what’s left of this car will come apart with a cutting or sawzall. The little $30-40 bracket and miscellaneous parts that make up the majority of sales when parting out a car look to be worthless or missing. The only thing this car is good for is a VIN swap, but only if the original engine is salvageable.

      Steve R

      Like 5
      • Ken

        BOP 400 cores for $100-150 maybe, but not Chevys. I don’t know where you’re from, but here in the PNW, you can’t even get a Chevy case for $150, let alone an entire rebuilable core.

        Like 0
  12. Skip Weaver

    $495 is more like it. He’s fishin’. Put the hook out and see what he catches. We all do it…..

    Like 0
  13. NovaTom

    Selling as is/no warranty? That’s gonna be a deal breaker for me

    Like 6
  14. John S

    Based on the rest of the car, I’d venture to say that even the inside of the engine, trans & diff are rusted… Condensation loves to build up in iron blocks & cases. I’ve opened diffs and transmissions that were literally full of water. Selling these parts would be a sucker punch to an un-knowing buyer. This thing is junk.

    Like 6
  15. Stillrunners

    What Keith said…

    Like 2
  16. Glenn Arrigo

    I can fix anything but not that one, I don’t even see any good parts maybe the motor And the vin if they match , but I’m not a bad boy . Price is $4995 to high. Theres plenty of projects out there to keep busy. I would rather pay 50k for a good one and drive it rather than work on it.

    Like 0
  17. Del

    Lets all get in a deep techy discussion of this turdette.


    Even a wrecker yard would be hard put to give this guy 10 bucks.😂🤣

    Like 2
    • karl

      I think this guy bought it from an old time junkyard ; probably paid scrap value for it and then put rally wheels on it so it looks “better”. Judging from the massive amount of rust in the rear I’d say it was sitting on the ground for decades

      Like 0
  18. luke arnott

    Look up the AACA website under Forums and look for the Chevelle in Doncaster!

    Like 0
  19. ACZ

    If the body and frame are this bad, it’s hard to believe that there is any integrity to the axle housing, trans pan or engine oil pan, yielding more rusty scrap. Do everyone a favor, dig a big hole, drop it in and let it peacefully recycle itself back into the earth.

    Like 5
  20. Bob

    needs to go stick it back in the barn they drug it out of LOL JUNK

    Like 1
  21. Mike

    so was this submerged in fresh or saltwater?

    Like 0
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      The answer is C: All the above- then left out to rot.

      Like 0
  22. Steve P

    Shame, even though not rare as to options, should not let a classic rot. What was he thinking

    Like 2
    • Gray Wolf

      That’s the problem, he wasn’t thinking!!!

      Like 1
  23. Troy s

    Die hard brothers to the bone Ford fanatics might even feel bad for this Chevy. Probably not.

    Like 0
  24. moosie moosie

    If this particular 1969 Malibu SS were to be the very last 1969 Malibu SS in existance and restoring it would ensure the breed to continue , I’d color that breed extinct. This deserves to go back to Mother Earth after any remaining fluids are drained so as not to contaminate the soil.

    Like 3
  25. Ross

    Tuna cans
    Canned vegetables
    Paint cans. New sheet metal for 5 mini coopers. The recycle program.

    Like 1
  26. CCFisher

    Somewhere, there’s a basic, 307 1969 Malibu that’s about to get a new VIN tag and big-block drivetrain.

    Like 5
    • Douglas Willinger

      Or a dynacorn body with an SR plus vin number stamp.

      Like 1
  27. Dave

    Hate to say it, but that German tank they pulled out of a pond a few years ago is in much better shape than this car.

    Like 2
  28. Bruce Fischer

    I wouldn’t even take it for free.Scotty, how come we cant post pictures with our comments any more? Thanks.

    Like 0
  29. Bigblocksrock396

    Is there something in the water in Illinois?
    Causes delusions.

    Like 0
  30. George Mattar

    I am all for saving American muscle, but this is a waste of time. Salvage what you can and make it lawn art. Boy have prices changed in the last 33 years. In 1986, I bought a near show condition, never rusted 1970 GTO from the original California owner and had it shipped to me in Pennsylvania for $300 on a trailer. The next day I drove it to my mechanic that did my state inspection. Even then, for a 16 year old car, it had zero rust, except it was starting to get crunchy under the rear window. All GM A bodies rusted there. The service manager called me before I could even walk the five blocks to my home and asked what I paid for a such a good car. I told him $5,500.

    Like 2
  31. Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

    As we read about this rusty relic of a wreck, we all realize what our expectations are with regards to what it is we want to find/expect in a rebuild.
    Me, I’ll bet a dollar to a donut that even the SEAT FABRIC is too rusted to use-and that’s no mean feat!

    Like 1
  32. John S

    why does barn finds even bother with this p.o.s.?

    Like 2
  33. bobhess bobhessMember

    This one doesn’t even have enough good metal to fix the ‘Cuda back window….

    Like 0
  34. sluggo

    I agree with the other comments, Somewhere there is a plain jane Chevelle thats going to get new numbers. Auction ended with no bids but eventually it will sell, we can only speculate on price, I agree its a tad bit high at $5k.
    However there is some viable parts including multiple other front fenders and other body parts and tubs of others included apparently in the sale. Still some viable parts left on the carcass as well, The dash panel insert can be restored and have seen some of the Teamchevelle forum that looked worse to begin with that came out spectacular. Grill, headlight trim, buckets and other bits also add up in value. I have news for you folks on engine blocks, trans and suspension and rear diffs. While cast Iron condensates,, its a pretty durable material that cleans up well. Same with the high grade steels for gears, cranks and other bits. Some surface rust is not terminal as many can be reconditioned. While its a LOT of work, clearly the seller is highlighting what this cars fate will be, notice the VIN plate and build plates are already removed and the numbers featured in the ads.
    I see at many big swap meets people selling date code specific blocks, trans and other bits, If there was not a market for them, they wouldnt be selling them.
    We have 2 Chevelles (68 & 69) and parted out a 3rd. You would be surprised how all the little bits add up, but they are still a viable project and even a lower optioned car is still a gold standard muscle car investment. If they were not,, they wouldnt be selling or the wide variety of vendors catering to them. There is a long list of vendors who sell every last item you need for these cars, stock, resto, or custom. A Excellent resource is here: The tech and advice resources are invaluable, I have printed off reams of info and 3 ring binders full on every related topic.

    Like 3
  35. Ken

    Crush it. It’s not worth the trouble.

    Like 1
  36. Camaro Joe

    As Jeff D. said, twelve bolts are worth serious money. But given the condition of this car, I really doubt that the rear end is in good shape. At the very least the axle tubes are pitted and not useful to the people building a big buck show car who would pay $1500. $600 to $700 is closer to what it’s worth, but that’s a BIG gamble.

    This thing was obviously driven in a lot of winters, so there’s a good chance it has a Posi unit. There’s maybe a chance it’s still OK, but I wouldn’t pay big money for it assuming that. I have a friend from college who drove his Dad’s 68 Beaumont SD-396 in the winter in Kingston ON. It had Posi, and it was still a hand full on a good day. I can’t imagine what this one would have been in the winter without Posi. The original owner may have bought it for winter even if he wasn’t racing anybody.

    I did notice the good looking front bumper and decent looking wheels. I might have to raise my $800 estimate some, but only what the bumper and wheels are worth.

    Like 1
  37. 1st Gear

    The dude who is trying to oft this heap is a bottom feeder.I almost feel disrespected when these kind of situations arise where someone has pipe dreams of $5 grand paydays wanting to see if somebody will bite. Where’s the integrity of our hobby headed?

    Like 1
  38. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    Ended: Jul 07, 2019 , 12:11PM
    Starting bid:US $4,995.00
    [ 0 bids ]

    Like 0
  39. Mark Hiatt

    Barn Finds should be ashamed of themselves for even hinting that the only possible salvation of this rusted hulk is to salvage the VIN , tags, and engine ….. VIN rebody is considered tampering with a Motor Vehicle VIN and is punishable by a hefty fine and prison sentence if found guilty in a court of law
    I know it is done by many trying to make the $$$ but beware this is totally illegal and if caught you will suffer serious consequences and rightly so
    Junk this car

    Like 0
    • sluggo

      Mark this topic comes up a lot, and frequently, along with removing mattress tags, very few are going to prison.

      First, are you saying someone purchases a barleycorn new body shell and install the parts and numbers off this car they will go to jail? Nope… thats not what the laws are addressing. I worked for a dealership for motorcycles and we frequently replaced frames and engines and restamped vin numbers legally and properly.

      The laws are looking for intent to defraud and theft,

      While no police or court will be likely interested in pursing criminal case, Reusing the parts and VIN ID #s and then misrepresenting it for sale is a tort case and actionable for fraud. Thats civil vs criminal BTW.

      Now there are laws on the books and infrequently we see arrests for chop shops who crank out stolen vehicles THOSE get prosecuted, However the resources are thin and in some cases non existent.

      Here locally, I know many in the LEO community and occasionally they form a theft task force, it gets funded and they put a small dent in the theft rings, then they run out of money and thats the end of it. Until recently they fixed a law that was so large you could drive an 18 wheeler thru it but you could steal cars at your whim and not go to jail. Hopefully the theft rate will go back down. But trust me,,, NOBODY is going around to car shows and auctions and arresting people. The cops dont have the time or resources. Talk to people in the legal community and law enforcement and get the facts.

      Im not endorsing fraud or theft, just explaining the reality.

      Like 2
      • Steve R

        A friend is in law enforcement, a while ago they were doing a VIN verification for a sale between two dealers on a Norwood built 69 Camaro. The data plate was for a very valuable performance model, however the cars actual VIN was for a 6 cylinder, which was verified when they checked the concealed VIN on the firewall. They informed both parties involved with the transaction, they then removed the data plate.

        Steve R

        Like 1
  40. plwindish

    Looks to be a $500 parts car situation. Who knows what is still useable from the motor? The body and frame is toast. Tag value would be no where near what seller is asking. My favorite year for the Chevelle SS 396 was ’67 of which I had one for 3 years, even after it was stolen and found a couple days later minus the 396, 4 speed trans and sport wheels and tires. I bought it back from the insurance company and put a 327/ 4 speed back in it and drove it a while longer.

    Like 0

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