Muscle cars were associated with small vehicles with low weight and very few amenities but large amounts of horsepower from massive engines. The entire Detroit market had been stricken by creating faster, more vehicles. The Chevelle flirted with this definition but went a step farther and added versatility and convenience. When introduced in 1963, its 327 cubic-inch V8 engine producing 300 horsepower was no match for the 389 cubic-inch V8 that the Pontiac GTO concealed under its hood. In the years that followed, Chevrolet would answer the challenge with larger, more powerful engines.
The Chevelle was built atop a new A-frame platform and had a 112 inch wheelbase. The suspension was unequal-length double wishbones in the front and a 4-link live-axle rear suspension. The vehicle could be ordered in 2 or 4 door bodystyle. The base model was the 300 series while the Malibu SS was the top-of-the-line model.
During the 1964 model year, over 76,800 Chevelle SS's were produced. Two engine sizes were available, the 283 and 327 cubic inch. Horsepower ranged from 195 through 300 depending on the engine and configuration.
The muscle car market was beginning to heat-up and Chevrolet needed to prove that they still had what was needed to compete. In 1965, Chevrolet unleashed a limited edition 396, known as the Z-16 package. The 201 examples that were produced featured 375 horsepower, highly-modified suspension and power-assisted steering, and anti-roll bars in the front and rear. The gear ratio on the Muncie 4-speed transmission was raised from 3.31 to 4.56. The 283 and 327 cubic-inch engines were still available. The base engine still produced 195 horsepower while the top of the line Z79 327 was now producing 350 horsepower. Production was down by over 4000 SS's from the previous year, now at 72,500.