CC reader John Kelly has sent me a link to what is described as the “Rarest SS Malibu Built”. Instead of the expected hot Chevy V8, it has a six cylinder backed by the standard three-speed column-shift manual. Yes, regular Chevy SS models—with some exceptions—were really just trim packages, with bucket seats and a few other identifiers. But the power trains and other chassis elements were just the same as a non-SS version.
The standard six in Chevelles at the time was the 120 hp Hi-Thrift 194 six, but the 140 hp Turbo-Thrift was optional. There’s no indication as to which of these in this car, but one rather suspects it is the 194, since its original owner rather seems like a “Hi-Thrift” kind of person.
And the fender skirts? Are they from the factory?
I looked at two Accessory brochures for 1965 Chevrolets, and could not find them shown or listed. That doesn’t definitively prove that they weren’t available, but it pending further proof, I cannot verify this.
The linked article makes a point about this being a rare “137 VIN” car. That 137 seems to have been the model identification for the six cylinder Malibu SS. Curiously, my Encyclopedia of American Cars doesn’t list this number; it just has a “Chevelle Malibu SS” category with “138” prefix for the coupe convertible versions. That does not put the existence of the six cylinder Malibu SS in doubt, as the brochures make it quite clear that the 194 six and 283 V8 were the standard engines across the board, depending on which version was chosen.
The interior shot clearly shows the clutch pedal. A console was included when the Powerglide or 4-speed manual options were chosen.
Now if this had been a 1964, it could have also been ordered with the one-year only 155 hp Turbo-Thrift 230 six, which had a slightly more aggressive cam and even came with standard chrome valve covers and air cleaner. I’m still a bit puzzled by the existence of that engine, and it obviously was not a popular choice. In the light Chevy II, it made for a pretty sprightly car. On the other hand the 120 hp 194 was probably anything but sprightly in the heavier Chevelle.
On the extreme other end of the spectrum, Chevrolet built 201 Malibu SS396 Z16s in the spring of 1965. It was by far the best SS396 ever built, as it had a heavy duty convertible frame and a thoroughly upgraded chassis, which was fully up to the power made by its red-hot 375 hp L37 396 V8. Why Chevy only built 201 is not known, but it became an instant classic and its safe to say that it was the best all-round of the mid-sized muscle cars in 1965. The ’66 and later versions had weaker engines, frames, suspensions and brakes, but were of course very affordable, unlike the Z16.
So which were rarer? The six-cylinder SS or the Z16?
Related CC reading:
Engine History: The Quickest And Slowest Chevy Turbo-Thrift Sixes