With muscle cars reaching the peak of their popularity and performance in the late '60s, many mid-year classic cars have gone unnoticed for generations. None more than the second-generation Chevelle, specifically the 1966 SS 396 variant.
Overshadowed by its younger, beefier, third-generation brother, the '66 Chevelle laid the foundation for Chevy and the future of their performance vehicles with its massive, factory-standard engine, updated suspension, and reinforced chassis. Almost 60 years later, we're beginning to witness a major upswing in valuation for the second-generation.
With the majority of surviving examples either no longer operable, or long since rusted, a solid example can set you back more than the price of a new car. However, despite what the current classic car market is telling you, deals can still be had for those willing to sacrifice some time, effort, and a little money.
Like this 1966 Chevelle for sale in Inglewood, California.
Since this article has been written, the link to the Craigslist ad has been deleted by the owner.
A Brief Introduction To The Chevelle
Debuting in 1964, the Chevelle began to hit its stride after receiving a restyling in 1966. Featuring sharper edges, popular "Coke bottle" body design, and all-new SS 396 badging, the Chevelle was Chevy's latest entry into the muscle car battle sweeping the States.
Becoming a series of their own, the Chevelle began to utilize the chassis code 13817, like the Chevelle in question. SS 396 coupes began to use the same body as the top-tier Malibu that featured reinforced frames, revised front suspension, higher rate springs, recalibrated shocks, and a thicker front stabilizer bar.
The 396 also featured three optional engines, displaying a range of performance. The standard L35 variant doled out 325 horsepower with 410 lb-ft of torque, with the L34 producing 360 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, and the top-of-the-line L78 pushing a massive 375 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. Lasting for two model years, the SS 396 series later became optional packaging in 1969.
Endless Motor Swap Possibilities
At first glance, the $27,000 price tag for a 56-year-old muscle car, sans motor, would make most people balk at the idea of this project. But those who are not worried about "numbers matching" this and that, it's the perfect blank canvas for the ultimate swap.
Because, if it's one thing we love at HotCars, it's the newer generation of car enthusiasts willing to swap massive engines in classic muscle cars. With older generations priding themselves on possessing bone-stock examples that appear straight out of the factory, younger gearheads only care about two things: speed and power.
Luckily, the internet is bountiful with huge engines, featuring a range of prices for any budget. A cursory search of Craigslist shows a handful of options. The most interesting, you ask? Well, that depends on your personal preferences and willingness to try new things. Because for the shockingly affordable price of $3,000 you can have an 18,000 mile, twin-turbo 2JZ-GTE engine. It may take some ingenuity, and heaps of patience, but the results would make the 2JZ, pound for pound, the best option.
As time presses on, rust-free, relatively straight body muscle cars are becoming harder and harder to find. With average valuations close to $45,000, this '66 Chevelle could be one of the few remaining "affordable" builds. The only remaining question is, which engine are you going to swap in?