Is It Really An L78? 1968 Chevelle SS396 4-Speed!

David FrankBy David Frank

In the mid-sixties, Chevy’s SS 396 was a potent enough competitor at any traffic light, but if you could hear the lifters ticking things could get really interesting. It just might be a real L78 under the hood. Chevy introduced the option in 1965 in the Corvette, then the full-size Chevys received it followed by the Chevelle, Chevy II and then the Camero. If you had an extra $250 to add to the bottom line, you could check the box on a “Special Product Order form”. Most Chevy Dealers knew nothing about this option and you sure wouldn’t find one in the showroom. Chevrolet didn’t build many, so a true numbers matching Chevelle L78 is a rare and valuable beast. This Chevelle listed on craigslist might be a real L78 although it is not numbers matching and the $19,900 asking price reflects that. However, it’s not really clear from the ad if the seller is claiming it is really an L78 car, or if the seller just installed an L78 drivetrain. In either case, you’d have a nice ride with some serious go. However, if it’s not a true L78 with the suspension upgrades, life could get interesting and possibly perilous with the standard suspension. Along with the heavy-duty suspension that included stouter coil springs, bigger shocks and a larger stabilizer bar up front, the rear suspension was heavily modified. Under the rear, I’ve heard these came with a four-link coil setup with well-braced control arms and a stout stabilizer bar.

Here’s a peek at the L78 375 horsepower version of the 396. It is not a numbers matching block, but hopefully, it’s a real L78 with the square ports, solid lifters, fat cam and such. Like other high-performance engines of the day, Chevy was very conservative in their power ratings. The L78 was said to actually have another 50 horsepower in box stock form.

It all looks pretty straight from here. The interior needs lots of work, we’re told in the ad. A peek would have been nice.

This Chevelle would likely have started life with 70 series belted bias ply tires. They were called “Wide Ovals” and still weren’t much more than “rim protectors” on a car like this. The pictures in the ad make the outside look really nice. There are a lot of questions, though. A look underneath should reveal whether this might really be an L78. There’s no way to know how well the engine was rebuilt without taking it apart. Without numbers matching, the buyer won’t be able to add much value to this Chevelle. It comes down to what someone wants. If one is looking for a stupid fast Chevelle and is willing to invest in a new interior on top of the purchase price, this could be a nice car. I look forward to learning a lot from the comments. The 1960s were a long time ago and my memory is a bit hazy on many details.

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Comments

  1. 68custom

    If it is equipped with the factory tachometer then a 6k redline would suggest a 375/396 assuming it has not been added or replaced. Or a build sheet would also confirm it. I prefer 68 to 69 looks nice Enough.

    5+
  2. jdjonesdr

    L78 or not, that seems like a lot of car for the money. I bet it goes quick. I’d love to have it myself.

    4+
  3. flmikey

    Reading the ad, this guy really knows his stuff…quoting stock part numbers and such…I’m about half convinced that it’s real…that being said, if this is a real L-78, it’s really not a bad price…

    4+
  4. House of Hotrods

    Sounds more like an auction than a sale. Taking offers, taking bids, put an attractive # out there that you won’t sell it for…… cheaper than an eBay listing tho 🙁

    3+
    • Steve R

      Exactly. It’s better to ask what you really want.

      The seller has provided nothing more than a nice story to back up his claim that it’s a real L78.

      Steve R

      1+
  5. Tony S

    The rear suspension was same configuration – just similar upgrades to the front.

    1+
  6. 68 L89

    No block casing numbers listed leads me to believe it’s a 2 bolt main engine. Unless you got a look to see if it is a 12 bolt rear end and a look at the interior to see if it has all of the SS parts there is no way to tell if it was true SS by the serial number. However it looks to be a very good deal for a driver.

    4+
    • Rodent

      Wasn’t 68 the last year of the SS being a “model” with a 138xx VIN?

      5+
      • Steve R

        You are correct. In 1968 the VIN will tell you if it is an SS.

        Steve R

        2+
    • Ken

      It’s a 68 you can tell that it is an actual SS
      Car by the VIN if it starts 138xxx

      0
  7. Dan

    His ad is BS……way more than 5 left in the country…..buyer beware..

    2+
  8. JW

    He could have at least included some pics of the interior.

    0
    • Steve R

      The eBay ad for this car has pictures of the interior.

      This car has been brought up at least once in a Chevelle forum. It has been for sale for quite some time. It was in primer but has recently been painted, which should make one question the quality.

      Steve R

      0
  9. Russ sherry

    My 68L78 -68 Camero had 4 piston caliper front brakes close ratio M-22 rockcursher tranny (don’t ever use Mr.Gasket V gate shifter likes to break 3rd gear sincrows lol.)the main thing I noticed was the heater core hoses. On big block chevys they flip the heater core over so hoses could fit be hind valve cover right side judging by the picture hood open the hoses are not in the correct spot!!😃🤣👍😎

    5+
    • Davey

      What is a Camero?

      5+
      • grant

        Thank you! Camero, my lord…

        0
      • Joseph Scalera

        Camaro spelled correctly.

        0
  10. Rock On

    C’mon guys, you have been reading Craigslist ads for too long! It’s Camaro. Spelled Camaro.

    6+
  11. mark

    had a 68 l79 chevelle 327. wish id kept it. dont we always.

    2+
    • Troy S

      That must have been one sweet running Chevelle!

      1+
  12. Del

    Real 396 would have it noted along front side marker lights

    2+
    • Del

      Oh. It does have them ! Sorry

      2+
  13. BiggYinn

    Even if it was a “steal” it wont be by the time folk read articles like this lol

    1+
  14. Russ

    Sorry (rock on) deaf, dum,blind and need a a spelling tutor hopefully blonde or Burnett late 30’s early 40’s /spelling professor. Good call Del 396 should be in front of the blinker front fender both sides I was going to mention that but my dictionary didn’t have the proper spelling of blinker or fender. lol. It’s all in fun now.

    2+
  15. Mac

    Where are the pics of the inside of the car?

    0
  16. William

    Personally I think it’s about 6k overpriced.

    2+
  17. JimZ

    Sorry no four link coil over rear suspension, however big block SS and some some other Malibus came with boxed lower rear control arms for the sway bar mounting points. Çhecking the block and heads casting numbers should give a good idea what the basic engine is, I’ve never seen a Chevy block without a casting number, if it has no partial or complete vin stamped its possible the block was decked and removed. So back to the casting numbers for info. Or an engine teardown which few sellers will allow. Nice ride though

    0
  18. Rocco

    What is with the trim on the right tail light where it overlaps the trunk lid? Maybe on both sides.

    0
  19. Elrod

    Throw out all the unsubstantiated claims. Body is straight enough. Recent paint doesn’t build confidence. This car requires an actual inspection. These are not growing on trees anymore. Car is priced close to value. Buy it knowing its not an original and lay some rubber.

    2+
  20. Superdessucke

    This isn’t a real L78 if it’s going for 19.9. Hell, I’m dubious it’s even a real SS at 19.9. It’s a clone or some severe monsters are living under this bed.

    A PPI is a must. And if the seller asks you to come alone at night with the cash as he has a lot of offers, run like hell.

    1+
  21. Troy S

    I really like the looks of this car, brings back a lot of memories. Not to get off track, but it seems Chevrolet was one of the least conservative when it came to horsepower ratings.

    0
  22. Tyler

    My dad bought one of these new, gold with a black vinyl top, & with much difficulty, it was my mother’s daily driver. If she didn’t baby the clutch just right, she would either leave a pair of stripes at the relight, or she would kill it. Seems like almost every weekend, he had the hood up, trying to keep it in tune, replacing fouled plugs, adjusting carb, or the lash on the rockers. After a couple of years, he gave up, traded it in & got my mother a new Mustang that was a lot more mild mannered.

    0
  23. JohnD

    If this was the car featured in the ’95 Musclecar Review magazine referenced in the Ebay ad…what in blazes happened!! It used to be a nice car!

    0

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