Original Big-Block: 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

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If you drew up a list of the Top 5 American muscle cars from the 1960s, there’s a good chance the Chevelle SS 396 would make the grade. Even in its most conservative form, its big-block provided impressive performance that satisfied most enthusiasts. This 1969 model has sat for years, requiring a total restoration to reclaim its former good looks. However, it is structurally sound, and its engine is healthy. It needs a new home, with the seller listing it here at Hemmings in Assonet, Massachusetts. This promising project could be yours for $20,000, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Mitchell G. for spotting it.

We know little of this Chevelle’s history beyond the fact a previous owner placed it in storage in around 1990. It is unclear why this happened, although I suspect it may have been a restoration project that stalled early. The car’s original Garnet Red paint looks tired, and the body has rust in the usual places, like the lower rear quarter panels, doors, rockers, and floor pans. However, a couple of photos show the body separated from the frame, and the frame looks rock-solid. With the car in its current state, a frame-off approach would be worthwhile because it would maximize the chances of returning the body to a rust-free state and reducing the possibilities of future problems. Most trim pieces look acceptable for a driver-grade restoration, and I can’t spot any issues with the tinted glass.

Lifting the hood reveals what separates an SS of this caliber from mere mortals. Its engine bay houses a numbers-matching 396ci V8 that sends 325hp to a 12-bolt rear end via a three-speed TH400 automatic transmission. The original owner followed the sensible path of ordering this classic with power assistance for the steering and front disc brakes. For high-performance enthusiasts, this combination should deliver a ¼-mile ET of 15.1 seconds. The seller indicates that this car is completely original, apart from the carburetor. It retains its factory air cleaner, and even the exhaust is original. After sitting for three decades, it is expected the SS isn’t roadworthy. However, they include an embedded video showing the big-block running in their listing. It sounds as sweet as a nut, and the oil pressure is as healthy as you could hope to find.

The Chevelle continues its dual theme of originality and total restoration when we examine its interior. The bench seat sports a different cover, but that appears to be the only aftermarket addition or change. The dash is unmolested, and the pad might be okay. It requires a total retrim, but kits retailing for around $2,200 should return it to a pristine state. The original owner wasn’t totally focused on performance, ordering this classic with air conditioning and an AM/FM radio. The latter is intact, although the A/C is missing a few parts. However, like the interior trim, those items are readily available.

The 1969 Chevelle SS 396 has suffered the same recent fate as other classics, with values recently dropping significantly. However, the situation has stabilized, and I see no reason why the trend shouldn’t reverse. Restored to a high standard, it would be a $50,000+ classic any day of the week. It needs work to get there, but its solid bones and healthy original big-block offer a new owner an excellent starting point for that process. This could be your ideal candidate if an iconic muscle car is your heart’s desire.

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Comments

  1. Chevelle Muscle 😎

    Looks like a great start with strong original engine.
    Ithe pans and rear skins are obviously needed.

    Not sure if car is coupled to frame currently? It seems with video it is but never stared reassembled. Not a fan of forklift picking up body as it can bend and warp body.

    This is priced fairly but 15-
    20k more likely to restore back…

    Goiod luck on sale !

    Like 2
  2. Chevelle Muscle 😎

    Looks like a great start with strong original engine.
    The pans and rear skins are obviously needed.

    Not sure if car is coupled to frame currently? It seems to indicate yes with video but never stated reassembled. Not a fan of forklift picking up body as it can bend and warp body.

    This is priced fairly but 15-
    20k more likely to restore back…

    Goiod luck on sale !

    Like 0
  3. Maggy

    I agree with the forklift comment.Not a good idea.Looks like the car was light green originally with a vinyl and the cowl where its green looks all bent up like it was in a accident and then straightened out.It’s going to take about 30 -40k or even more to restore this one with nice paint unless you do everything yourself.My buddy just bought one out of AZ with a fresh built 454 so it’s not a #’s car but it’s a buckets 4 speed 12 bolt posi car and those are original to the car with not a spec of rust on it just a lot of typical desert patina for 20k late last year.I’d find one done first. This is a 10 k car imo.Glwts.

    Like 8
  4. eyes4color62@gmail.com CooterMember

    There isn’t a panel or trim piece on this that doesn’t have some sort of issue. This restoration will be $50K plus and that’s doing some of the work yourself.

    Like 8
  5. Rod Lustila

    Crazy at 20.000, anybody out there rebuilding an old car will tell you ,inspite of your very best intentions,your going to lose money at that price.alot of it.is your time worth less than nothing?? Don’t do that.

    Like 7
  6. ACZ

    The best looking Chevelle, imho. Trouble is this thing is a money pit.

    Like 9
  7. Stu lynch

    OMG it has a column shift & bench seat that’s a 3500.00 car at best the only thing I c going for it was original a/c car who in their rite mind wants a car today with no a/c,the best time of year to drive these is the summertime

    Like 4
    • 19sixty5Member

      $3500 in this condition? How many do you have, I’ll take about 15 of them at that price.

      Like 3
  8. Greg

    Really….$3500 for this car? Are you in a time warp or have you been asleep for 20 years?? I guess you don’t know muscle cars. This chevelle is a good start at $10k to $15k. Thank goodness everything is still in tack and it hasn’t been taken apart. I put one just like this together 15 years ago, bench seat and all. Little old lady purchased new and died
    The 2nd husband sold it. Hugger orange.

    Like 4
    • s.lynch

      Real car guys don’t want bench seat column shift u can kid u r self but just like u said little old lady car.no time warp just cause u c it on tv that isn’t the real world which u obviously do not live in . 1 more thing it’s time for the bottom to fall out it’s just a matter of what day.the crazy crash with exonomy

      Like 6
      • DON

        Here we go with another “sky is falling” statement. People have been saying it for years – and is still hasn’t happened .
        If you know so much about these cars, certain things in cars , while not necessary what you want , still bring value. If there were few SS cars with bench seats, and this one is one of them, it brings the value up in restored shape. If you’re going for a period piece hot rod, or a restomod , you can put whatever you want in it. This car also has a lot of options, including factory A/C , and an AM FM radio , which, if it turns out the car was originally equipped with it, will bring up the value.
        By the way , I’m not saying all this because I’m a Chevy fan ; I personally was never a fan of this body style, and no issues tearing these cars up to race back in the late 80s. The facts are that this is a desirable car, with different options than most.

        Like 6
      • Grape Ape

        You spot on imo

        Like 0
  9. Dana

    20K for a money pit that gets crap gas mileage ,. Wow, not even for five k here.

    Like 4
  10. ACZ

    Is there a full moon out?

    Like 5
  11. Kent pigeon

    Keep in mind it is a 69 chevelle with a 396 big block if you want gas mileage you should probably go by a PRIUS

    Like 4

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