(first posted 5/22/2011) The 1959 Impala Hardtop Coupe CC stirred up some comments doubting that the Impala, and all full-size Chevys came in two distinct models, a six and an eight. They did, ever since the eight appeared in 1955. It’s an old tradition too; once Ford came out with a V8 in 1932, Fords were available in two distinct models; the four cylinder Model B and the eight cylinder Model V8. And thus it set a pattern for pretty much all full-sized American cars, until the early seventies: two base models; a six and an eight, each with a distinct factory model number. Including even the legendary Super Sport:
Here’s the close up of the 1965 SS brochure shown above: “depending on the model you chose”. Six or Eight. The V8 SS Convertible was Model # 16667. The exception was the Caprice; except for the ’65, when the Caprice was an Impala trim option, subsequent Caprices were not available as a six. The Encyclopedia of American Cars does come in handy at times. But it also raises some questions; like which year was the last for the six cylinder big Chevy?
It was a gradual phase out, for one thing. The last year for six cylinder wagons was 1969. Beginning in 1970, sixes were limited (1970 powertrains above). But after 1971, things start to get confusing. The Encyclopedia still lists six cylinder Biscayne, Bel Air and those same two Impala models (hdtp coupe and sedan) for 1972, although with very low production numbers: 1504 for the Biscayne six sedan, dropping to 289 for the Impala hdtp coupe. But the 1972 Chevrolet brochure doesn’t list a six at all. So the sixes by 1972 must have been fleet order only, or if you really begged you dealer.
And the last six: the Encyclopedia lists the Bel Air sedan (Model K69) as the last and only (the Biscayne was dropped for ’73). And all of 1394 of them were made. End of the road. And again, the ’73 brochure (above) makes no mention of the six.
One more factoid: the Powerglide was still listed along with the THM as late as 1971 in the full size Chevy catalog. But I already knew that: I drove a ’71 Chevy cab with the six and Powerglide; a wonderful combination indeed!
And the final bit of six trivia: the Encyclopedia does not have production breakouts for the 1965 SS six convertible, but in 1964, all of 316 buyers opted for the SS six convertible. Undoubtedly, even fewer did as the sixties went on. The last relevant numbers are that in 1967, a total of 400 SS six coupes and convertibles were sold. And that was the last year for the SS as a distinct model line. Anyone know how many of those were convertibles? Probably rarer than a Hemi Cuda convertible.
More on the Chevy six: The Quickest and Slowest Chevy Turbo Thrift Sixes
So my question is, were any ’65 (or any at all) 6-cylinder SS convertibles actually made, and if so, do any still exist?
Our neighbors at the end of the street were known for frugality, and their family cars were a succession of basic Chevy full-size sedans–Mr. G. would get a new car about every five years, the Mrs. would drive the previous one until he bought the next one, and then drive his next hand-me-down. They may very well have had a Bel Air 6 from ’72 or ’73 (but never an SS).
I just updated the post; I don’t have ’65 production numbers, but 316 SS six convertibles were sold in 1964. Probably somewhat less than that in 1965.
Thanks for the update!
When I was a kid, my dad had a 1965 Belair with 283 V-8 and Powerglide. A close family friend had a 1965 Biscayne with six cylinder and Powerglide, so the sixes did exist. I am pretty sure that, proportionally, more sixes were sold in Canada as Canukistanis tend to me more conservative in auto choices and they amount they want to finance. At least they were in the past. The banking laws in Soviet Canuckisan prior to 1967 made getting a car loan with less than 30% down almost impossible.
My Grannie had a 1966 Biscayne with the straight 6 powerglide–she drove it every day up till 1989. Only car I’ve seen with a green cold light in the dash–when the light went out turn on the heat.
My ’66 New Yorker has that too. Plus a red one… if it goes on, get to the side of the road IMMEDIATELY or replace your engine!
At least some newer VW’s have a “cold” warning light, my Grandmother’s turbo New Beetle convertible does at least. It might be a turbo-only thing, but it always struck me as odd.
Have never seen a “cold” light outside of junk yard or car show. Oldest car I’ve ever owned was a ’65 Fury III which didn’t have one (but did have left hand thread lug nuts on the left side.)
Was this something valuable to have in the days of manual chokes?
My 69 chrysler had a cold light. These were done away with after the first gas crisis to save fuel. The intended use of the cold light was to NOT start driving until the cold light went off.
My 2007 Honda Fit has a cold light, so I wouldn’t say they were done away with.
The first gas crisis was like ’71 or ’72. What your 2007 Honda has or doesn’t have is irrelevant to the events of 40+ years ago.
@ Bob Martel -The cold light was cheaper than a temp gauge. It’s main use was to let you know when the engine had warmed up. I never saw any owners manual recommend to not drive before the light went off, but in those days, a car would often not run as well until the choke came off.
Their main use was in cold climates to let you know when the car was ready to start putting out some heat.
jpcavanaugh, the cold light was an “idiot light” that was eliminated from the dash panels of American cars, and at the time it was eliminated it was not replaced with a temp gauge. I do not remember seeing temp gauges on American cars until the early 80s, and then only on the small/medium models intended to compete with imports. Trucks excepted. I assure you the intended purpose of idiot lights and temps gauges was not to tell you to turn your heater on.
John, temp gauges had been in American cars for eons, but were gradually supplanted by idiot lights. Mopar held out longer than others with most having temp gauges at least through the 70s. The lights were cheaper and GM was mostly lights by the late 50s.
The cold light gave some additional info lost in the ditching of gauges, namely when your engine was starting to warm up. That’s all it was. It had nothing to do with when you could drive the car, or else they would have been used across the industry, or at least across a manufacturer’s lineup. It was and is a cheaper way to give you more of a gauge’s function but without a gauge.
The proper warming-up of an engine is correct the starting routine of all knowledgeable car owners…or was before the gas crisis. Lots of time idling in your driveway for lots of short trips around town makes your MPGs drop out of sight. So the sensible car owner abbreviated his routine when fuel costs became a big concern. And now we are to the point where car owners do not remember warming up their cars for the sake of the car. Car owners now actually think “warming up the car” means to warm up the interior on a cold day before driving it and that a temp gauge is there to facilitate operation of a car heater. The cold light was there for the warmup routine and it stayed on until your engine was up to proper temp…which is when you start driving it. I’m not sure which part of the sentence just prior to this one you have a problem with.
I am aware temp gauges were around for eons. I would think a reasonable person would understand that I meant temp gauge did not REAPPEAR on American cars until the early 80s AFTER their hiatus.
John, I appreciate that waiting until the cold light went out was your routine. But it is not accurate to say that the cold light was there to require everyone to warm up their cars. My mother’s loaded 64 Cutlass did not have a cold light. So, was there something fundamentally different between our Olds and my father’s 63 Chevy that had the cold light? The light was there or not there as a tradeoff between a offering a feature at a cost, or deleting it for a savings. Your example of some cars losing this feature at the time of the fuel crisis (1973) coincides with a period of rampant industry cost cutting due to rapidly increasing expenses for emissions and safety systems.
I did not use this word, you did.
The PARKING BRAKE is there to be used when you park your car. Is it required? No, parking your car without engaging the parking brake is doable, obviously, but not recommended. Is that what it is there for? Yes. Is it possible to drive your car without warming it? Yes. Is there a “cold” light on the dash of pre gas crisis cars to tell you when your car is warm enough to drive? Yes.
At this point I think we will have to agree to disagree
My first car was a 65 impala SS 6 cylinder, from what I read years ago, only 8 were made
Turns out they phased out the sixes just in time for the ’73 gas shortages. Brilliant.
What kind of mileage did that ’71 cab get, do you remember Paul?
The way I drove it? Flat out, all day?
Actually, I don’t know; it was an old school cab operation (Yellow) where the cabs were all owned and serviced by the company. We got paid a percentage of the fares (55%? or 45%?). And they gassed them.
I’ll do a whole story on that…
“Turns out they phased out the sixes just in time for the ’73 gas shortages. Brilliant.”
Yeah, great timing. But this makes me wonder…why is it assumed that a six will be inherently more fuel-efficient than an eight? After all, as an in-line engine, the block will be heavier per-cubic-inch; that weight will suck performance and fuel.
On the other hand…I have a well-used Dodge van with a V-6, and fuel economy is rather disappointing compared to a carbureted Slant-Six van I had fifteen years ago…same basic body, same series, entirely different engine.
So…wouldn’t it have been good for sales and also economy-statistics, to have made a small-bore, long-stroke V8 for these full-size cars? People wanted V engines; and there were practical reasons for them as well. Why not set up an eight to have the same torque and economy characteristics associated with the six?
A straight six of equal displacement and power output is more efficient than an 8 cylinder. This is because of a number of factors. One is fewer moving parts means less internal friction. Friction is waste. Another factor is vibration. The crankshaft flexes and vibrates less in a straight six than on a V8 or any other engine configuration except a V12. Vibration is another source of internal losses. And finally, one more factor that I know of is RPMs. A straight six tends to make the bulk of its power and torque at a lower RPM than an equal V8 does. Lower RPM power output is more efficient than higher RPM power.
Take a look at Semi tractor trailer power plants. They are almost always inline six motors of very large displacement operating at extremely low RPMs, as in 2000RPMs or less. They have found the most durable and most efficient engine configuration and they stick with it. And it turns out to be a straight six tuned for low RPM torque.
An inline six is better balanced than an inline four or a cross-plane V-8 because the first- and second-order forces caused by the motion of the connecting rods cancel out. However, inline sixes (and eights) are still prone to crankshaft bending and torsional vibration. I’m not an engineer, so someone else could undoubtedly explain this better than I, but I think it’s principally because the crank is a lot longer than the crankshaft of a V-8 or an inline four — all else being equal, a shorter crank is going to be stiffer. That issue became less of a problem with postwar metallurgy and counterweight design, but it was a serious concern with prewar engines and a major reason a lot of older inline engines didn’t rev very high.
That being said, modern (i.e., designed — not just built — after WW2) inline sixes obviously can be very high-revving and the shape of their torque curves really is a function of cam timing and breathing, not engine configuration. Big American sixes were usually set up as low-RPM luggers, with very cool cam timing and restrictive single-throat carburetors; again, that’s not an intrinsic limitation of inline sixes, but a design choice to keep the engines from lugging when hauling more than a ton and a half of car or truck.
To the original poster’s point, all else being equal — including displacement — more cylinders will generally mean more power (more total valve area), but poorer fuel economy, due mainly to the additional friction of the extra sets of valve gear, connecting rods, and so forth. There are some tradeoffs in that regard because a six and an eight of the same total displacement won’t have the same bore/stroke relationship, but that’s the basic idea.
The length of the crankshaft is only part of the picture. The number of main bearings also matters. A straight six typically has more main bearings than it does cylinders and more main bearings than a V8. As far as power and torque goes…a famous comparison is the Ford pickups available with either a 302 V8 or a 300six. The six produces more max torque and at a lower RPM than the V8 and it got better fuel mileage. The six also lasted longer than the V8.
One more point: when driving a manual transmission, the engine which produces more torque at lower RPM is smoother, more relaxing, and more pleasant to drive. There is less shifting required, less clutch slipping required, and less throttle required.
oh, one more point about friction: There is a little more to it than simply number of moving parts. When you divide the 300 cubic inch displacement up between 6 cylinder or 8 cylinders as my above example, you change the amount of surface area of all the cylinders. For example, the 6 and the 8 both have the same volume(300ci) but the surface area of the cylinders is much greater in the 8 cylinder than in the 6 cylinder. This is significant because the friction of the rings on the bores is proportional to the area not the volume.
Adding to John’s note about the surface area of the cylinders, another reason for the superior fuel economy from fewer bigger cylinders is that the thermal efficiency of an engine is effected by the surface area of the cylinder. For the same displacement, a six will have less total surface area which means less energy is lost before it can do work.
Excellent point, Sailor. Theoretically, the most efficient motor is a single cylinder operating at just barely enough RPMs to keep from stalling(think 100rpm and a 1000lb flywheel), and having enough cubic inches to provide the required power output at that RPM. In a car using gasoline for fuel in a 4 stroke engine that might require 1000 cubic inches displacement. But then when you get to that extreme you will have to worry about the weight of the engine itself causing inefficiencies. In the early days of industrialization, stationary engines actually were designed and built with this line of thought..
I had a 68 Holden 3litre 6 with powerslide horrible car either it didnt want to move or revved its guts out in the low range and still didnt move fast.
Didn’t the six return with the 1977 downsized models? I seem to remember it..
Good point; it did. But they weren’t really “big” anymore.
Hmmm…I remember a discussion, not sure if it was yours…of how the 1977 A-bodies eerily resemble the 1955-57 Chevys, in dimensions and curb weight.
Granted, things were getting bigger by 1965; but they were still closer to 1955 size than to 1972’s.
Not that it detracts from your theme. The car was getting bigger in that era; and the demand for correspondingly-big engines was growing also. And just around the corner were the strangling first-gen smog-regulations and implementation.
I think you would find that the Chevelle was the approximate equal to the mid-50’s Chevy in size and heft. Over at Mopar, the 1965 Belvedere/Coronet was exactly the same size as the 1964 Fury/Polara. Upsizing was on a roll. BTW, I just saw a ’65 Malibu 4-door sedan for sale, original 230ci six and Powerglide. I was thinking that the person that would buy top-line trim with that powertrain and bodystyle would have to have been over 55 years old. Ill post pictures on the flickr site soon.
I never once saw a straight six in a 1977-79 B Body and I bought dozens of them. There were a few 229 V-6s in the 1980 and later Chevys and more than a few 231 V-6s in the Oldsmobiles but the cars were underpowered dogs. Added to that GM put motor mounts that were too small and they constantly broke. You had to drive with the pedal to the metal all the time which negated any fuel economy advantage the smaller motor may have had.
They eventually upgraded the Caprices by the mid 1980s to a Fuel Injected 4.3L pre-Vortec V6 that put out 130-140hp. I would assume those weren’t too bad, probably far better than the 267 V8 could ever hope to be, but they weren’t offered for the Station Wagons which were V8 only.
I think the 1977 Downsized ones were dimensionally closer/or a bit larger compared to the 1961 models than the 1955 models (at least in length and somewhat in weight, but probably narrower). If I can remember off the top of my head the 1961s were 209 or so inches for sedans and coupes and a quick glance at WiKipedia quotes the 1977-90 generation at 212 inches.
The 4.3 was less of a dog than the 267 but they were very rare; I only ever saw one. The 267 was pretty common in the 1980 Chevrolet B Body but the motor was so cheapened out that it didn’t last long. Cast crank and camshafts, fibre timing gears and poor gaskets, along with the thing being basically underpowered, made the the engines die at around 80,000 km.
The 1977 B Bodies were closest in size and weight to the 1964 Chevelles. The frame configuration is practically identical. Have a look here:
The extra equipment of the 1977 such as 5 mph bumpers and side impact beams made the 1977 car about 300 lbs heavier in all instances.
So the 267 is the third member of the unholy trinity otherwise composed of the Ford 255 and Olds 260. All of these engines were late-’70s-early-’80s answers to a question that seems to have been lost in antiquity.
Actually, I was giving the 267 credit for being the only one of the downsized V8s to be any good.
Incidentally, I had some friends who tried to upgrade a 255 with 302 parts, same as people combine Chevy smallblock parts to make 377s, 383s, etc. They didn’t allow for the fact that while Chevy smallblocks are internally balanced, smallblock Fords are externally balanced, and the resulting conglomeration of parts just about shook the fillings out of their teeth.
Yup, the 255 was the ultimate dog. The real issue here was the domestic makers were doing everything possible to avoid switching to fuel injection. Doing so would have given a 305 at least 20% better economy and 20% more power.
I there as also a 4.3 V-8 available in the 1991 Caprice, which was injected, but I have never seen one.
Actually the 4.3L V8 was available from 94-96 in the Caprice Sedan only. It produced, ironically the same 200HP as a concurrent Vortec V6 as I remember (there was a GMC Safari Vortec and a base Caprice in the family at the same time) but it was far smoother. I think there was some tie ins that the new base Caprice V8 was the same displacement as the original 265 V8. Didn’t help sales much tho. Think it was probably good for mid 9 second 0-60 times and 22mpg highway cruising.
The 1985 introduced 4.3 liter TBI V6 which started off with 130 Hp and went up to 140 the following year and 145 with roller lifters starting in 1987 was on many Caprice Classics, Monte Carlos and El Camino’s during that time period. We sold a lot of them so equipped at our first dealership during the 90’s. Imagine the 229 V6 with the power and response of an early 80’s 305 if you want an idea how they performed.
The 267 Chevy V8 was simply a 3.48″ 305 crankshaft stroke with smaller 3.500″ bore. It was constructed using the same basic design as other Small Blocks with nylon timing gears, cast crank etc. It did not have a limited life span as some seem to think. If anything it may have lasted longer than some 305’s due to the fact it put out less power to hurt itself and didn’t suffer the early 305 soft cam and valve seal wear. This engine was offered from 1979-1982 as a more economical smooth running V8 and sat in between the 229 V6 and 305 4BBL which ended up being just as frugal with gas as long as you stayed out of the secondaries. The 267 along with every other small economy V8 such as the Olds 260, the Pontiac 265 and the Ford 255 were all dropped after the 1982 model year when it was found out that Cafe standards were not going up and gas prices did not go up as expected and actually started to go lower. None of these engines would also meet upcoming emission standards without switching over to FI or C4 equipped 4 BBL carbs like the 305 and 307 used. many customers also complained that none of these engine got any better mileage than there larger 5.0 bothers and that power was lacking.
A perfect example being by 1981 260 Olds Cutlass coupe and my later 1983 307 4BBl Cutlass coupe. With 40 more HP the 307 car would run circles around the feeble 260 car and gas mileage was nearly identical at 17-18 around town, 20 overall and 24-25 on the open road!
IMO It’s kinda hard to compare these to any before 1959. Before that Chevys were all “A” bodies. While that came to mean “Mid size” in the 1960’s It (The “A” Body) really was close to mid size in the early/mid 1950s. Early 50’s entry level cars in reality were about the size or mid size 1970s cars. As an aside I had a buddy who had a 1988 Caprice that not only had a six it had crank windows and an AM (only) radio! It was not a fleet car, it was ordered that way! It was as close to a 1960’s Biscayne as one could get at that late date!
I’ve run across one or two in the junkyards, even a 250 straight six shoehorned into a 78 El Camino.
Caprice was a V8-only series from the first model in mid-1965 all the way to 1976 as was Impala from 1972 to 76 and Bel Air for 1974-75. Sixes returned to the big Chevy line with the downsized 1977 models. In fact, the Caprice brochure issued at ’65 introduction listed the 195-horsepower 283 V8 as the standard V8 with the 327/250 and the two new 396s of 325 and 425 horsepower, even though virtually no Caprices came with the 396/425 and some Chevrolet sources indicated this engine was offered on all big Chevys, except the Caprice. Not listed for the Caprice but offered on other big Chevys were the newly-added 283/220, a four-barrel dual exhaust version of the standard V8 and the 327/300 with larger four-barrel carb (than the 327/250) and dual exhausts.
My dad bought a beautiful 1966 Impala sport sedan (hardtop) in February, 1968. The car was red with black cloth and vinyl interior. 250 ci. in. six, power glide, power steering, AM radio. That was it.
That was an amazingly gorgeous car! It ran great, had a surprising amount of pep for a large heap with a six and I loved it! My neighbor gave me some “mag” wheel covers, so I took off the factory covers and snapped them on. Of course the wheels were body-color red, but that didn’t seem to matter, as those covers looked good even with the red wheels showing through – at least to us back then, so I just let ’em alone.
In warm weather, I used to wash and wax that car every Sunday and take it out for a cruise. Man, I loved driving that car! I got that car up to 103 mph on the highway one morning – on a slight upgrade! Never tried that again.
My mother had a ’65 Bel Air 4 door sedan (not the one pictured) with the straight six and three-on-the-tree. It was a really nice car for such a low-end offering, and the six was peppy enough for normal driving which was surprising given the heft of the car.
And it looked good, painted a very nice medium blue color with matching 2-tone blue vinyl and cloth upholstery.
IME many of the older American cars with straight sixes are pretty good choices for DD duty, since less weight on the front end helps handling considerably. It doesn’t cost much to increase the output a bit, too.
Btrig, that’s a beautiful car. Tell us about it.
Oh, I just found that one in a google image search, trying to find one like my mom had. It is quite a beautiful car. Not sure if it’s exactly the same blue, pictures tend to change the color a bit, but I think hers was a bit lighter and had no aqua tone. That could be the lighting though, hard to say.
The ’65 was the first car my mom ever bought. Prior to that she had always made do with what my dad bought without consulting her, and she was fed up with that and ready to finally choose her own car. The times really were a-changin’, even in sleepy, rural PA.
She found the ’65 at a local dealer in Berwick, PA. I believe it was 1969, might have been ’70 — but it was a pretty cherry low mile car at the time, and it cost her $700. I remember her sitting on the bed counting the cash from a shoebox before we went to go get it. She was so excited, and the car seemed really modern and glamorous to me at nine years old. We were (are) working-class country people, the newest car I’d ridden til then was our ’59 Bel Air., and just two years prior we had a ’46 Chevy for mom’s driver!
So, in light of all that it’s entirely possible that the real car today wouldn’t quite stand up to my memory of it. Still, I think it’d be a pretty satisfying ride in 2011. Except living in GA as I do now it’d have to have A/C. 🙂 That car was *hot* in the summer time, and while the cloth part of the seats was pleasant enough (woven nylon-like stuff), those wide, vinyl borders around it in hot weather wearing shorts or a skirt were just horrendous. That vinyl can almost take your skin off if you’re not careful!
GM hadn’t yet adopted the cheap “rubbermaid knock-off” interiors, so the ’65’s door panels, window cranks, armrests, and door handles all felt suitably solid. Tasteful chrome and aluminum accents were evident in what I considered just the right proportions.
It’s funny that at the time the marketing made us all feel the Impala was better and prettier, or maybe that was just our style then. But looking back, it’s interesting how often the “lesser” models are actually more tasteful and handsome, like in that rear shot of the blue Bel Air. The taillights just make the car look much more sleek somehow than the Impala with it’s trio per side. Of course that’s just my opinion, not everyone will agree…
That car was a smooth highway cruiser, and we took a number of 300-mile or so trips in it over the years. It was pretty agile on the back roads, too, for a car with a column shifted three-speed and no power steering or brakes. It would be really interesting to find a way to hook up a 5 or 6 speed manual to that six and still have it column shifted… And convert it to R&P steering and power disc brakes. Wow, I’m surprised how much I like the idea, now that you’ve got me thinking about it…
Mom finally traded the faithful Bel Air in on a ’71 VW bug in ’73. Rust was taking its toll, as it usually does in the salt belt.
That bug (and the bug that followed) is a whole other set of memories, not unlike some of Paul’s early Coronet experiences. 😀
The Mennonite family I stayed with during my summers in Iowa bought the exact same car: a turquoise-blue Bel Air sedan with the six, three speed, and nothing else. They had at least six kids, who all fit in when it came to go to church. It served them well for about ten years or so of hard service. And it was a big deal for them too; it had been a demonstrator, so they got a break on the price. But they loved that car, and the girls kept it washed and clean for Sundays. Thanks for reminding me…
Except that the seven main bearing big six was heavier than the small block V-8 and extended its mass forward of the front wheels, degrading handling by a small amount. I swapped out the 250 I-6 for a 283 V-8 in a C-10 Pickup. Handling and fuel mileage improved marginally. The little three-speed was lighter than even the two-speed aluminum-case automatic.
That I didn’t know! I have experienced that just tweaking the timing and mixture for better performance on many of the old sixes easily erases any mileage advantage over the V8. Here all along I thought the V8s were significantly heavier…
I really like the 4.9L straight six in our (5 speed) ’90 F150 though. Not great mileage, but pretty good low-end torque which makes it fun to drive.
The 4.9 litre Ford straight 6 is practically indestructible. It is still sold as a stationary engine for pumps, etc. Great motor, better than anything that replaced it.
Your pix of the 65 Bel Air made me laugh about an incident that happened to me in high school auto shop. A buddy of mine had one of these (6 cyl/3 spd) and it needed new lines to the rear brakes. In our high school train of thought, we used a body jack to lift the whole passenger side of the car so we could access the brake lines. When we couldn’t get to some of the areas, we decided to lift it higher and poof! The Bel Air rolled over onto it’s roof in the auto shop! We got several people and managed to roll it back onto it’s wheels. Once righted, it seemed nothing was wrong with the car. We finished the brake repairs and drove the car home that afternoon, like nothing had ever happened, outside of the strange scratches on the roof!
Geozinger, it’s actually kind of charming that I remember that story now that you recall it. Makes me feel like I am with old friends, Thank you.
I like the 71-76 big Chevy even less than I like the 59. At least the 59 has that out-there styling. I could be convinced to own one of the 70s models, BUT ONLY if it has the 6 and the 3 speed on the column. I think I could enjoy the offbeat pleasure of a huge strippo 73 Bel Air.
The idea of a 6 in an SS – it is just hard for me to fathom GM doing such a thing. This sounds like the kind of obtuse marketing that Chrysler specialized in during that era.
“The idea of a 6 in an SS – it is just hard for me to fathom GM doing such a thing.”
You mean like sticking “SS” on most everything Chevy put out in the mid-2000’s? Sad, but true!
Truth be told however, If my ’64 had a six instead of the 283, I would’ve been happy, as I was (and am) cheap! Whether true or not, the perception of better fuel economy is what I looked at. Everything else was just for looks.
The Super Sport option was primarily a trim option in the early 60’s. My frugal uncle ordered a new ’63 Impala SS with a six and Powerglide. Later in the 70’s I bought a ’65 convert SS with a 283/2bbl/glide combo. My brother bought a really nice ’64 SS coupe that had a 327/2bbl/glide that he lowered and drove for years.
I remember reading the Popular Mechanics owners’ reports on cars and pickups in the 60’s and 70’s, and iirc the reported fuel mileage difference between the 6 and V8 never seemed to be more than 1 or 2 mpg.
It isn’t surprising that the 6-cylinder engines became unavailable in the full-size car lines in the 70’s; after all there were Novas and Chevelles for the more economy-minded folks.
I remember being disappointed by the mileage of the 250 Six in my ’68 el Camino, I saw 18 mpg at most with a three speed standard transmission and averaged 12-14 in daily driving. The six cylinder Mustang I had before returned 17 in daily driving and 21 on the highway with the 200 Six. The Chevy only got 18 with careful compliance to the speed limit (back in the days of the 55 mph speed limit, too!) on that long interstate commute to college.
Yes. My average in my ’64 was a pretty consistent 16 mpg. I rarely drove like a maniac except on occasions when I was “feelin’ it”!
Mostly semi-rural driving to-and-from base to town. That was about all you expect back then. At 24.9¢ per gallon in those days, it still got expensive, as Uncle Sam didn’t pay too well.
I had a similar experience with a Ford Maverick. The car came with a six, and had pretty awful fuel mileage. I thought it would be fun to put a V8 in the car, so a buddy of mine found an old 289/4 bbl for sale and swapped it in. The motor had been rebuilt to stock specs, nothing fancy. A week after the swap I realized I was getting better gas mileage with the V8 than I was the six!
…And the stories continue!
These get better and better, whether here or on TTAC!
I always had suspicion of this myself, that a 4 would have to work so much harder to move the same amount of metal, that it wouldn’t get much better mileage than the 6 when both are offered. Is that a correct assumption generally?
No. This is a very complex issue. Some of these experiences may not be comparing apples to apples. Depending on certain factors, it may sometimes have been the case. But not generally. There was a good reason taxis all used sixes…they counted their nickles and dimes pretty carefully.
If a heavily “smogged” six was replaced by an unsmogged V8, it would certainly be the case. The ignition was retarded during the those days, and made engines run much less efficiently. Sixes really struggled during that era (seventies).
Vauxhall tried that in the 40s & 50s putting a 4 banger in the same body as the six claiming better fuel economy at 30 mpg for the 4 cylinder Wyvern, but as my father repeatedly proved on highway trips his 6cylinder Velox returned 31mpg, the theory being the six didnt work as hard.
Brit cars in those days were notoriously underpowered. I hardly ever saw a Wyvern, while Veloxes were fairly common. Much the same with Consuls and Zephyrs. The car mags in the early sixties were full of letters from people wanting more power from their Austin/Morris/Standard/whatever. In countries like ours, there wasn’t really much incentive to buy the smaller-engine model.
Consumer Reports used to tell people that a 6 would give faster heat than a V8. An important consideration – in weather like this, THE most important – for a lot of us!
I worked for a Chevy dealer off and on from ’72 until ’74. As I recall, the last full-size “B” body that came with a six was ’72. There were absolutely none in ’73, that I am sure of. Also, the six was not available in the Caprice or Impala Custom but was in the standard Impala, Belair and Biscayne (which was dropped after ’72.) The six cylinder models were distinguished by a tailpipe positioned on the driver’s side of the car. The V8’s were positioned down the passenger side.
Also, there were no six cylinder engines available in Impala convertibles (SS or not)
Sounds Right. My Uncle traded a 63 Bel Air 6 with powerglide for a 72 Bel Air with a 6. Do not remember if it was powerglide or not. Must have been awful since he got a 73 Impala with an 8 a year later. Back at this time some were concerned about the cost of those 2 extra plugs at tune up time.
Great post. I always assumed that the Impala was a V8 only! So how about Galaxie and LTD — were they available as sixes anywhere along the way?
Same basic story. I have vivid memories of riding in my best friend’s family car, a (top of the line) 1965 Fury III with the slant six. It did moan a bit on the hills…
In the case of the Fords in 65-67 the Galaxie 500 XL and Galaxie 500 LTD had the Challenger V8 (289) as the base engine while a “regular” Galaxie 500 and lesser models could still be had with the 6.
If you look at the engine pages picture you posted you’ll see at the bottom of the page * standard 6 not available with Caprice models or Impala Custom Coupe, Sport Sedan, or Convertible. It certainly is possible that mid way through the year Chevy issued a new ordering guide with numbers for a 6 cylinder version. Or the opposite that part way through the model year they noticed they had sold enough to justify keeping it available and it was quietly dropped from the top line models with that little * in the second printing of the brochures. I also seen cases where things that were shown as “available” in the brochure weren’t there in the first or second edition of the ordering guide. Likely a case of the bean counters overruling the marketing people.
I never said that 6 cyls weren’t available in the 59’s just that the advertising and brochures claimed the V8 was “standard” across all lines, purely as a marketing ploy. I also said that it was more likely that you’ll find a V8 in the Sport Sedans and Coupes for the 59’s being that they were the top of the line models, not that it was impossible to get a 6. If the buyer sprang for the top of the line model they likely weren’t looking to save a few dollars with the lower purchase cost of the 6 or the difference in MPG. In the case of the 59 the term “sport” was just how Chevy chose to market the hardtop version.
Ive seen a 6 cylinder 59 over here but it was an Australian assembly job where the V8 was unavailable until 1960,
After reading this for the umpteenth time, I eerily remembered something I had totally forgotten about. How relevant this is to this discussion, I don’t know. In the 1970s after I got out of the service, I tried restoring a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air 2 dr. sedan. I blended two cars, because the body on one was shot and the body on the other was great. Of interest to note: The car with the rusted body was a V-8. The car with the good body was a 6. DIFFERENT FRAMES! The 6-cyl. frame was much smaller in size compared to the V-8. Just throwing that out there.
Unfortunately, I never did finish that project. Naively, I thought I could do a body-off-frame restoration on the cheap – ha! I was too young, eventually got married and sold it in boxes in 1979 for $400 bucks shortly after our son was born! It was finished by the next owner!
Do the 1977+ 6-cylinder Impalas and Caprices count, or would they not be considered “big” Chevys?
Back in 1995 my husband bought a 1965 Impala SS Convertible 6 cylinder that was in storage for many years. The car was covered in pigeon dirt but it cleaned up nice. We’ve taken good care of it the past 17 years. Always garage kept. The VIN starts with 16567 produced in Tarryville, NY. Based on the information we’ve found there was 399 produced in 1965. We’ve talked about selling it several times but haven’t been able to get an accurate value. Any suggestions?
Nice to finally see some 6 Cylinder love ’round here .
You’re a late arrival. We’ve done lots of that. Here’s just a few.
The 250 L6 was available until the 1973 MY in the fullsize Chevrolets. It was the base engine for the Bel Air sedan, model 1BK69. Since the Powerglide was gone after 1972, the six was only available with a 3 speed manual shift transmission. It was listed in factory literature as having a 3.42:1 rear end ratio and had a factory curb weight of 4041 lbs. The Bel Air with the 350-2bbl was listed at 4284 lbs and had a 2.73:1 rear end.
Interestingly this engine was not available in the “B02” taxi option group for 1973. You could still get the L6 in 1972 with the taxi equipment, but GM literature lists that it was not to be merchandised after Jan 1, 1972. The L6 cab was also not available in California in 1972.
IINM, the Standard Catalog of American Cars claims that a six-cylinder Bel Air sedan was initially announced as part of Chevy’s 1974 lineup, but it was quickly deleted, and it is believed that none were actually built.
My 1972 Edmunds price guide shows a six cylinder engine for the Impala sport coupe and Impala, Bel Air and Biscayne 4dr sedans. 5 body styles are available for the Impala V8.
My factory literature shows the same thing. Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala sedans as well as Impala sport coupe all available with the 250 L6 in 1972. In 1972 the powerglide and the three-speed were offered. Interestingly, the only rear end ratio offered in 1972 with the L6 was the 3.08, presumably because most probably were equipped with the PG.
First series 1972 full-sized Chevrolet brochures issued in September, 1971 did list the 250 six as being available in the Bel Air 4-door sedan and the Impala 4-door sedan and sport coupe (semi-fastback) along with a 3-speed manual transmission standard or Powerglide optional, with all V8 models coming standard with Turbo Hydramatic and power steering. The revised brochure issued in January, 1972 noted the addition of the new Caprice 4-door (pillared) sedan, it also noted that only V8s and Turbo Hydramatic were offered on all Bel Air, Impala and Caprice models – 350 cid standard on Impala and Bel Air and 400 cid standard on Caprice, with big block 402 (not confused with small block 400) and 454 V8s optional on all models. The Impala sixes were offered only during the early months of the 1972 year and then dropped after maybe 1,000 were so built though the sixes (and 3-speed manual or Powerglide) remained available on Bel Air and Biscayne sedans for the entire model year (though not mentioned in the revised brochure). Biscaynes had not been included in U.S. full-sized Chevy brochures since 1969.
my source is the 1972 Car Specifications published by the Chevrolet Engineering department. It includes all details of the cars including all options, technical and engineering specs for the 1972 Chevrolet. It lists the 1972 Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala sedans as well as Impala sport coupe all available with the 250 six either with a PG or 3-speed. Now that I double check it, it does state that the six is not to be merchandised after Jan 1, 1972. This was a revision that was dated Dec 1971.
As I mentioned in another post, the 250 six was still available in 1973 with the 3-speed transmission only. So Chevrolet must have reintroduced it for some reason or other. According to Wikipedia, FWIW, it lists 1400 1973 Bel Air sixes made. However, no source is referenced.
So if the “SS” package was not an engine package, what the heck was it? Just a little chrome emblem with two big esses on it?
I think the SS package included a bucket seat interior.
Also different exterior trim (moldings, etc). In 1962-1964, it included a distinctive rear panel (polished aluminum look). Also different wheel covers. Probably some interior trim details too.
Little known fact, there was a 4-door hardtop SS in 1961.
I’m familiar with that unicorn. Never saw one.
And arguably the best SS ever, given all the heavy duty components (suspension, brakes, etc.). It’s the one I would take over all the others, but in two-door form, preferably.
Merely a dress up package, with the same engine availability and choices as the rest of the full-size line up. Depending on the year, the SS option gave you the basic Impala features, plus: bucket seats, console, anotized aluminum side and rear trim, spinner type wheel covers, and SS badging. These were quite popular in the 60’s. Most seemed to come with the 283 and Powerglide, your basic Impala set-up.
The ‘Super Sport’ was mainly a trim package, while the SS409 was the performance car, for Impalas. Then, the SS427 took the place of the 409.
There never was a separate “SS 409” model. The 409 was just an optional engine on the SS models, as well as all the full sized Chevys.
The SS427 (1967-1968 only) was an Impala SS with the 427 and a few other special items.
OK, that clears it up, the later SS427’s were sold separately.
The ’65 Impala Super Sport was the highest selling year for that trim, BTW.
IINM, the SS 427 continued into 1969, when it was the only Impala SS available (the “regular” SS was dropped after 1968).
Oops; quite right. I don’t think I ever saw a ’69 SS 427; I do remember seeing some ’67s and ’68s. The ’69 has to be a near-unicorn.
I shot this ’69 Caprice 427 last summer. They wanted $9500.
My 1973 price guide shows a 6 only for the Bel Air (Biscayne’s are no longer). 1974 price guide does not show a 6 for the Bel Air, only V8’s.
In 1972, my high school best friend inherited his Aunt’s 1959 Impala 4 door hardtop. White (The worst color for that bat winged car, IMO) with brown cloth & vinyl interior, Power steering, PowerGlide, dealer add on A/C, perfect cloth seats (after we cut the hard-as-a-rock clear plastic covers off the seats and the sunvisors), less than 50K miles on this spotless/scratch less beauty!
The first time he brought it by my parent’s house to show it off to me, I was green with envy. Until he started it up. “Something” sounded….well, just wrong.
I looked quizzically at him. He grinned and said “Yeh, it’s a SIX CYLINDER. I can’t believe it either!”
He let me drive it that day. I was shocked to discover that my 1967 Corvair was faster than his Impala.
I’m wondering if Canadian Biscaynes still could be ordered with 6cyl engines in 1973-75?
Strangely, the 6 cylinder engine (odd fire 231 V6) returned in 1976 on the last big “B” body Buick LeSabre (and for the first time since 1930 on a full size Buick) and this engine wasn’t available in 1976 LeSabres sold here in Canada.
Since it was the engine offered on the base model LeSabre for 1976, only the LeSabre Custom with the standard 350-4 and optional 455-4 was offered here in 1976.
Here’s a picture of a 1976 LeSabre V6 and owner’s manual. This has to be one of the largest and heaviest V6 powered car!
Roughly 41 lbs./hp for that V6 LeSabre (4300 lbs/105 hp). Is this the malaise era record?
I would have to think so. I’ve long wanted to do a post on the malaise era cars with the worst power-to-weight ratios (“Lowest 10”). Need someone to do a bit of research…
The other one that came to mind is the Ford Granada. My “Encyclopedia of American Cars From 1930” lists the 1975 version of the 250 at only 72 hp (actually less than the 200 at 75). In the 3392 lb. Granada Ghia sedan this results in 47 lbs./hp(!) I’m not sure if I trust the 72 hp rating – the same engine is listed as 91 hp in 1974 and 90 in 1976.
1981 New Yorker 225 Slant Six – 44.8
Hmm, that’s fairly close to the 1982 Caddys with the 4100 V8. Weren’t they only 120 or 110 hp, pulling 4000 lbs?
The TV ads for the ’76 promoted the 20 mpg hwy figure. “A big car that gets 20!” 😉
I was amused by some of the print ads in Car and Driver back then. Majoring on economy to the exclusion of almost everything else, and comparing cars with Japanese competition that had nothing in common – a Pontiac Grand Prix versus a Toyota ANYTHING? To my eyes, Detroit really didn’t get the point.
The worst ’82 Caddy is the 4167 lb. Seville with the 125 hp 4.1 V8 (or the 4.1 V6 with the same 125 rating) – 33.3 lbs./hp.
The 1982 HT 4100 made all of 125 HP and 190 torque but it was tied to the 200R-4 transmission and given a more aggressive 3.42 rear axle ratio in the Deville and Fleetwood which helped this setup get off the line okay. For 1983 it gain 10 HP and 10 torque which made a slight difference.
The slowest cars I have ever driven from memory would be a 1981 Toyota Corolla that had trouble going more than 80 MPH, a 85 Hp Slant six Newport, a 100 HP 260 Olds Delta 88 sedan, an 85 Hp 4.3 diesel 1983 Cutlass Calais coupe and the worst ever was a blue 1976 LeSabre sedan powered by the 105 HP 231 V6 that had 110k miles. Foot to the floor made the engine scream but nothing seemed to happen thereafter.
The Canadian Biscayne’s were last equipped with a six in 1973 like the US counterparts. For 1974-75 it came standard with the 350-2bbl. The 1976 Canadian Bel Air was also equipped with the 350-2bbl as standard equipment. Of course in 1977, the Bel Air came with the 250 six, like the downsized US Chevrolets.
In Canada, Bel Air and Biscayne sedans could be had with a 250 6 and 3-speed manual or V8 (350 std, 400 and 454 opt.) and Turbo Hydramatic. For 1974-76, 350 V8 and Turbo Hydramatic were standard on the low line cars (Biscayne through 1975 only). Stick shifts would never return to the big Chevy line but the six returned with the downsized ’77 cars.
Local Buick dealer had some new 1976 V6 LeSabres for sale, and my mom saw them in the front row and wanted to get one. She was tired of our ’72 Caddy’s 10 mpg city.
We eventually got a Buick V6, a used ’75 Skyhawk in summer ’77 to augment the Caddy.
I remember as a kid one of the neighbors drove a ’62 Impala SS with the six and powerglide and column shifter. I also remember growing up my parents always purchased Chevrolets with the six and powerglide and not much else. The last six cylinder model they owned was a ’65 Impala; after about a year they traded it in on a ’66 Pontiac Catalina. I remember the first time I drove it, the experience from going from a 250/140hp vehicle to one with a 389/290hp(gross hp figures) was amazing. Likewise, getting used to power steering and way over-boosted power brakes took some getting used to, but the acceleration-compared to the Chevrolet- was fantastic!
Thanks for bringing back some childhood memories.
A ‘Holy Grail’ would be if there are any I6 powered 71-73 Chevys sitting somewhere.
My dad would get an unmarked cop car to take home and once had a ’72 Biscayne, and I rode in it, but while my hazy memory says it sounded like a Chevy 6/powerglide, I can’t confirm it. But, even at 10-11 y/o, I was wondering why Chevy still had Belair and Biscayne models.
If that Biscayne was a 1972, then it wouldn’t have been equipped with the Police Package. For 1972, RPO B07 (police package) required a 350-2bbl engine minimum. A high speed pursuit package was also available, but only on the 402-4bbl and the 454-4bbl cars.
The ’72 Bisc’ was most likely an admin car, just for rides. It didnt have a lot of equipment in the front passenger area. Mostly remember it since it was one of the first ‘take home cars’ he got after promotion.
I think a lot of smaller departments didn’t necessarily always use “Police Package” cars, especially for unmarked cars.
I attached a copy of the original Chevrolet literature that showed the equipment for the B07 option group in case your are interested.
Those old straight sixes were perfectly fine for normal driving. They did take their time climbing mountains, but back then not everybody wanted to drive 85 mph either. I am a fan of the inline 6, not only the Chevy, but the 200c.i. Ford and Chrysler Slant 6. My dad had a Dodge pickup (standard cab) with a Slant 6. It was one of the first engines I learned to work on. He would get mad because half the time he wanted to drive it I had something took apart on it.
My biggest complaint with the Detroit (Ford, Chevy, Mopar) six cylinder engines is that they were nowhere as smooth running or as quiet as their V8 engine counterparts.
If you can picture a 1976 white LeSabre coupe with a red vinyl top and interior kept in absolute mint condition and owned by the sterotypical little old lady, then you will also know the odd V-6 I remember from my childhood. Seeing the V-6 emblem on the front fender made me do a double take the first time I saw it. The owner was a teacher at the local middle school. She had that car for many years, well into the late 80’s. She traded it for a light blue late 80’s Delta 88 Royale Brougham coupe that she had until she passed. I remember thinking that her Buick must be totallly underpowered, as it was a huge car with such a small engine. All of the large GM cars I had ever encountered had V-8’s. The V-6 just seemed so out of place in that car! Yet, it must have been perfectly fine and reliable for her, as she kept it about 12 years before getting her Oldsmobile.
The only other odd V-6 I can remember was a great Uncle that had a 1976 Sedan deVille and traded it for – you guessed it – a 1981 Sedan deVille d’Elegance with the Buick V-6 engine. He thought gas prices were going to skyrocket and he wanted to beat the system! He was afraid of the V-8-6-4 so he figured the 6-cylinder was the way to go. He special ordered his deVille – it was a tan d’Elegance model with brown crushed velour pillow seats. I remember him waiting for it for about 8 weeks to come in. We had a huge family reunion, and I asked him how he liked his new Cadillac. “I HATE IT!!” was the response. “Biggest mistake I have ever made!” came next. He said it was so underpowered it was actually scary. After 5,000 miles of absolute torture from that car he traded it in for a 1982 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Brougham that he kept for many years until he passed.
My business partner oddly enough had a 1982 black sedan Deville several years back that he picked up from the block cheap. It had over 100k on the clock but ran perfect. It had the Buick 4.1 4bbl V6 tied to the 200R-4 transmission and std 3.23 rear gears. I laughed and made fun of him for having what must have been the slowest car ever. He handed me the keys and my jaw hit the floor as the rear tires actually broke loose and the car surged convincingly forward. I pulled into a nearby parking lot and popped the hood and there sat what looked like a 231 V6 with a 4 BBL carb sitting on top. It actually felt snappier than many 307 C-body cars I drove up to that point! The only time this car betrayed it’s lack of power was at high speeds or going up steep hills. Then it struggled to maintain momentum. Around town or driving in suburbs going 35-55 it was perfectly adequate. Apparently these came out of the gate in different states of tune or this was an abnormally strong running example.
I could definately see the six cylinder in a Biscayne or a Bel Air, maybe even in a low grade Impala sedan, but in a Super Sport -a convertible no less, no way. Surprised that Chevy even offered a six in their premium editions full size cars, but I guess you learn something new every day. A real curiousity item.
In the sixties the inline 6 was the base engine for all but the Caprice. One would think that the dealers would order one of the bigger engines with the Super Sport, but I don’t know what the dealers would have been thinking. However, I can see someone thinking they wanted the 6, although why they would want it in a Super Sport is beyond me. I would think most people who wanted a 6, would want it in the Biscayne or Bel Air. The 300 HP 327 would be the engine I would expect in the SS.
There were a lot of elder buyers who remembered the Great Depression and wanted to save $. But also, the same generation learned to drive on Model T’s and an I6 was ‘good enough’. But, big cars with 6’s were fading, with weight and availability of smaller cars.
Quite a few early 60’s Impalas ran around Chicago with the hum of the I6, but yes, most were plain jane Bel-aynes.
As for why an I6 Impala SS, maybe some just wanted the bucket seats, which were a new trend, now common. There was also the Nova and Chevelle SS with 6 and the Corvair Monza. One would have to find an original owner or dealer who could tell the stories.
Family had a 75 Dodge Van 1/2 ton short cargo van. 225 w/ torqueflite, ps, am radio and nothing else. It had good power when new, but by the time it got to around 30k miles it really lost a lot of power. California model, probably emission control related. Friend had a 77 equipped the same way except for 318 engine, it ran strong even as the miles piled up. They both were pretty trouble free.
My first service vehicle was an old dodge van with a slant six and three on the tree.
One of my landlord’s “working on rental properties” van was a former Bell Telephone Dodge van with the 225 slant six and a stick shift transmission in the floor. The shifter was super long and bent forward to bring it next to your hand from the floor behind the engine dog house…
The Impala SS’s main rival was the Galaxie 500 XL, and was top Chevy, until the Ford LTD started the ‘you know what’. Then came Caprice, which had the SS rear trim for ’65, so it was a ‘virtual SS sedan’.
Here’s the progression shown in the Standard Catalog:
Through 1965, all full-size Chevrolets were available as sixes.
From the time it was introduced as a distinct model in 1966, the Caprice was V8-only.
Starting in 1968, the Impala Custom Coupe, convertible and station wagon were V8-only.
Starting in 1969, the station wagon equivalent to the Bel Air (from 1969-72, full-size Chevy station wagons used their own distinct model names), the Townsman, was V8-only.
Starting in 1970, the Impala hardtop sedan (“Sport Sedan”) and the station wagon equivalent to the Biscayne (Brookwood) were V-8 only. The latter change made all station wagons V8-only. With the elimination of the 2-door Biscayne and Bel Air, the only remaining fullsize Chevrolets available with sixes were the Biscayne 4-door sedan, the Bel Air 4-door sedan, and the Impala Sport Coupe & 4-door (pillared) sedan. This lineup would hold through 1972.
For 1973, the Bel Air sedan was the only model available with a six. All Impalas were now V8-only, and the Biscayne had been dropped.
For 1974, the Standard Catalog indicates that a six-cylinder Bel Air sedan was initially announced as part of Chevy’s 1974 lineup, but it was quickly deleted, and it is believed that none were actually built. No price and weight fare shown for the six-cylinder version.
Over at Ford, the Galaxie 500XL is shown as V8-only from the time it was introduced in 1962, and the LTD as V8-only from the time it first appeared as a subseries of the Galaxie 500 in 1965. (The one-year-only 1966 Galaxie 500 ‘7-Litre’ was also obviously V8-only.)
Starting in 1968, the Country Squire was V8-only.
Starting in 1969, the Ranch Wagon and Country Sedan were V8-only. This meant that all fullsize wagons were now V8 only. All non-wagon Customs, Custom 500s and Galaxie 500s continued to be available with sixes, however. This lineup would hold through 1971. (For 1969, the Catalog oddly shows the XL also available with a six, for the first time ever. I notice that prices were down even on the V8 versions; was the XL decontented when it became a separate model in 1969? For 1970, the XL went back to being V8-only, then it was dropped after that year.)
Starting in 1972, the Catalog indicates that all full-size Fords were V8 only, although I notice that the engine chart still lists the 240 cubic inch six in ’72, after which it disappears. An error, or perhaps the six continued to be available on fleet models in ’72?
My 1972 Ford literature lists the 240 L6 as the standard engine for the Custom, Custom 500, and Galaxie 500. Also note that the Custom and the Custom 500 had the 302-2V as an option, but it appears that the Galaxie 500 was not available with the 302-2V. The LTD, wagons and LTD Brougham came standard with a 351-2V.
The 240’s came with a 3.25:1 rear end ratio. However, all L6’s came with automatic transmissions, no standard shift was available like in the Chevrolets. The 240 was not available in California.
Interesting. Not only does the model chart in the Standard Catalog show no 6-cylinder engines in ’72, the text states that the Custom came standard with the 351. On the other hand, the 240 (which was never used in any passenger car lines other than the fullsizes) still appears in the engine chart at the end.
oldcarbrochures.com has both a ’72 full–size brochure and a ’72 Ford full-line brochure, and as far as I can make out, they both indicate that the 351 was standard. oldcarbrochures also has a Salesman’s Data Book, which states that the 302 was standard on Custom and Custom 500 sedans, the 351 on other models (no mention of the six).
It’s possible that more than one of these sources is right, if availability changed with the model year in progress. Also, in the article, Paul notes that the six disappeared from Chevy brochures after 1971, even though reference sources show it as available until 1973. Maybe some of these engine choices existed, but weren’t really advertised to the general public, and were effectively restricted to fleet/special order/those in the know.
In my experience, there are plenty of small mistakes with the Standard Catalogs. They are okay for most data, but the most reliable is factory information.
When you read the salesman data book, you might have misread it. Perhaps what you were looking at was the “standard V8” not the standard engine. In any case, I included a page of standard equipment from this book which shows the 240 six as standard on the three aforementioned Fords.
Further, I also check the Ford Master Parts Catalog I have, and it lists the 1972 fullsize Fords equipped with the 240 six. These two sources are enough for me to believe the at least the possibility for this car to be produced existed. How many were actually made, is unknown. That would be something that Marti Reports may be able to figure out if someone was willing to pay for that data.
I get the impression that the Standard Catalogs get a lot of their information (though not all) from the brochures, so the Catalog’s statement that the 351 was standard on all fullsize models is probably sourced from the brochure, right or wrong.
I was looking at a different page in the Salesman’s Data Book which discusses engines. I went back and checked it, and you’re absolutely right. What I was reading was specific to V8s; there’s another paragraph on the same page that covers the sixes, and mentions the 240 as standard in Customs, Custom 500s, and Galaxie 500s.
Something else catches my eye about both the page you posted and the one I had been looking at. Both pages say “Revised 10/71” in blue at the bottom, and in both cases the text we are referring to is also in blue. It looks like the engine lineup was changed after initially being set at the start of the model year. I wonder if Ford originally intended to have the 351 standard on everything, then changed their mind and decided to continue offering the 240 and 302 on the sub-LTD models (possibly because Chevrolet was still offering a six on its equivalent models)?
At this point I don’t think there’s any doubt that the 240 and 302 were officially available in full-size ’72 Fords. The only question in my mind is whether the lack of any mention of these engines in the brochure is because it was printed before Ford decided to make those engines available, or if they were omitted from the brochure because Ford decided not to market those engines to the general public, making them available only on a fleet/special-order basis. It’s possible that both are true.
Note that while Ford offered the 302 in fullsize cars for as long as the six was available, from 1970 onward Chevrolet’s fullsize engine lineup had a gap between the six and the 350. You could get a six or a 350, but the 307 was not available in fullsize cars. The 350 was the smallest V8 offered.
To answer if anyone ever saw one, my Great Uncle, born in 1901, bought a new 1972 Ford Custom with the I6. Got to see the motor in 1981, when car was passed on to his daughter, and I asked to look under the hood. I was 21 and amazed to see the Inline motor.
No, car is long gone.
Don’t forget that Fordhad two different sixes available in their cars. The 240was the big car motor (300 cid. In trucks) and it weighed the same as the small block v8. The smaller “Falcon” six started at 170 cid and grew to 250 cid. This motor weighs 385/400 lbs. which is lighter than the small block Ford. In my 70 Mustang I find that the lighter motor results in less understeer than what was reported in magazine roadtests of first gen. Mustangs. I believe that there was only one Chevy six that weighed the same as the SBC. My dad had a ’60 Dodge Seneca full size coupe with a slant six three speed. I found that the biggest complaint was the big ratio jump between 2nd. and 3rd. gears which would cause he motor to drop out ot the power band, slowing acceleration.
The Chevy six weighed some 125 lbs less than the SBC.
My 1972 Edmunds New Car Prices shows that the Ford Custom, Custom 500 and Galaxy 500 were all available with a 6 as standard. Wagons were V8s.
Was the ford 300six ever offered in a car?
With regard to the 300 six in a car: Don’t believe Ford ever offered that but externally it was the same or close to a 240 etc. I imagine you can still youtube or google “turbo 4.9 in a maverick”. If I recall close to to correctly that was a torque monster that was almost completely stock with a turbo tacked on and backed up by a C6. It was quite impressive and I first read about it in Hot Rod or Car Craft.
Do the sources that show the six as available in some fullsize 1972 Fords show it for any years beyond ’72, or is that the last year?
From my info, 1972 appears to be the last year the 240 six was offered in the fullsize Fords.
According to the Standard Catalog, Plymouth began to make V8s standard on some full-size models much earlier than Chevrolet and Ford. All full-size Plymouth convertibles were V8-only from the time Plymouth started selling V8s in 1955, and some full-size wagons began to offer only V8 power as early as 1959.
As of 1961, V8-only models included the Fury convertible, the station wagon equivalent to the Fury (Sport Suburban), and the 9-passenger version of the station wagon equivalent to the Belvedere (Custom Suburban).
Starting in 1962, the Fury hardtop sedan and the newly re-introduced Sport Fury were V8-only.
Starting in 1963, all Custom Suburbans were V8-only, including the 6-passenger version.
In 1965, Plymouth’s full-size lineup was reshuffled into Fury I, Fury II, Fury III and Sport Fury; six-cylinder availability remained the same as for each model’s previous equivalent.
Starting in 1966, the newly introduced VIP was V8-only.
For 1969, the “FT” (fast top? formal top?) version of the Fury III coupe became V8-only. The regular hardtop coupe continued to be available with the six.
The wagon lineup throughout this period is very confusing. For 1968, the Catalog shows that the base Suburban wagon (equivalent to the Fury I) was dropped, but the 6-passenger Custom Suburban (equivalent to the Fury II) went back to being available with a six, presumably to keep a six-cylinder wagon in the lineup. For 1969, the Catalog shows the base Suburban returning, once again available with a six, while the Custom Suburban went back to being V8-only. In 1970, things revert back to the same way they were in ’68, with no base Suburban but a six-cylinder 6-passenger Custom Suburban. For 1971, there continues to be no base Suburban, but all Custom Suburbans are now V8-only, including the 6-passenger version. I guess the bottom line is that through 1970, the most basic wagon offered came always with a six, then all wagons were V8-only starting in 1971.
1971 was the last year the Catalog shows full-size Plymouths with sixes. That year, sixes were available on Fury I, Fury II and Fury III 2-door coupes (except for the Fury III “FT” coupe) and 4-door pillared sedans. The Catalog shows V8s standard on all models in ’72.
The 1972 taxi catalog shows the 225 standard on the Fury taxi, but you are correct that V8s appear to be standard on “civilian” models.
Very interesting article Paul and about a subject that has always been interesting to me.
Drove a lot of these straight sixes. Think the lighter cars with sixes were pretty good. Owned a 68 Nova with a 230 and drove across country in a 68 Camaro with either 230 or 250. I expect the V8 was a better choice for the heavy cars using whatever metric. When I first returned to the US (1982) the 231 (and some 229 et al) seemed to be the hot rod of choice for reasons of expense and fuel consumption (I suppose). My straight sixes were mostly gone.
What I think is the spiritual successor for GM would be the 3800 or the chev 4.3. They popped up everywhere. I was most surprised by that when a co-teacher having seem my 77 Impala 350/350 felt the need to show me his 77 or later four door sedan. It had the 4.3 six. That engine seemed that fit anywhere a 350 would fit. It and the 305 seemed to take over the big chevy IIRC. Today a new 4.3 soldiers on in trucks although, I am told, nothing interchanges. Seems they should have called it a 4.4 or something to show it was different.
I suppose most of us look at the straight six with rose colored glasses. Easy to work on (except for chev’s rear mounted distributor). I don’t want to even think of how many I owned but the first was the flathead 1947 Studebaker and the last was the Ford 4.9. Personally I prefer them to the eights and wish my 57 had a 235 versus the 283. Zackman, the hood brace on the 57 had to be removed to fit a six. Didn’t know the frames were different.
Probably the roughest running six that GM ever built was the Buick 198 cu in (3.2 L) engine. It was later redesigned to give it proper balance. I always thought the inline 6 was one of the smoothest engines ever made. I see that as both good and bad. I really like the sound and feel of a V8 with a hot cam in it, like my S10 has. It has very little bottom end power. You have to slip the clutch a bit too much in town, and it overheats on the highway. But it sure sounds nice with the exhaust cutouts open.
As far as a SS model with a six cylinder engine, yes that seems totally wrong. Kind of like a Cobalt SS. An inline 4 cylinder (even if it was turbocharged) and worse yet, FWD. It is hard to imagine any FWD car being called a SuperSport. IMO, FWD is just a cheap way to build a transportation appliance, and should not be associated with any type of sports car. Even the Mazda Miata is RWD. They probably knew that a FWD version would not sell. (it wouldn’t handle either) The short lived Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky are also RWD. I was sad to see GM drop this car.
“As far as a SS model with a six cylinder engine, yes that seems totally wrong. Kind of like a Cobalt SS. An inline 4 cylinder (even if it was turbocharged) and worse yet, FWD.”
I semi agree here, JYD. Im FAR from a Chevy guy, but Super Sport used to actually MEAN something. Slapping a SS badge on a fwd V6 slushbox personal luxury coupe that has no real upgrades from a ‘normal’ version does cheapen that storied name…however putting it on ANY 4 door sedan (people mover) is outright defiling it.
But on the Cobalt, Im only halfway with you. The Cobalt…and by association, the HHR was actually handled properly in a lot of ways. First off, upgraded performance was available on all the platforms. The coupe got the best of the best: High pressure turbo for max output, mandatory manual trans, and looked the part of a sport compact. It deserved the SS moniker, since it was a substantial upgrade over any other Cobalt. The same went for the HHR. Allowing a slushbox on the SS is a mark against it, but its just a modern version of the old panel trucks…hotrod style and performance, given what it is. The sedan mandated the automatic but still gave a boost over the base models. Cobalt RS, sure. SS, no way. Just because they made a family economy car less of a penalty box and less of a slug does NOT earn the SS badge. On the other hand, Chevy handled its sport compacts a LOT better than what the comparable Mopars were offering at the time. Neon SRT4 may have been fast, but it looks like a bag of buttholes. I picked a low mileage manual trans PT cruiser GT. Handled great, looked good, useful and went like stink. But a 2 door SRT4 would’ve hit the spot for a sporty economical car.
Engines are changing lately, even the new (and IMO ugly) 2015 Mustang has a Turbo four (I think they should have used a supercharger instead) but a sports car with 4 doors and FWD? Not only a people mover, but FWD makes it the lowest form of people moving appliance available. I remember how hard I laughed back in the ’80s at Nissan’s ad for the Maxima, the “4 door sports car”
New guy here, I have been lurking for a while and finally had to come out from under the bridge. I find it interesting that while the 250 was discontinued in full sized passenger cars in the early seventies, it soldiered on in the pickup line through at least the 1980 model year. We had one at work, 2bbl, HEI, and 3 speed column shift. Not a bad runner, but the kids couldn’t figure out the shift and kept getting the linkage tangled up. One had to put it in reverse to remove the key also. I love those motors, especially the 194 ci version.
I believe that the 250 continued to be available in full-size pickups and vans through 1984. When the 262 cubic inch/4.3 liter V6 was introduced in 1985, it replaced the 250 in trucks and vans.
As a few others have already noted, the 250 would return to full-size passenger cars when they were downsized in 1977. It was available in full-size cars, Camaros and Novas through 1979, after which it was replaced by the 229 cubic inch/3.8 liter V6, which was produced from 1980 to 1984. (Because the 229 wouldn’t pass emissions in some areas, some cars were equipped with the Buick 231/3.8 instead.) I guess GM felt that the 3.8 wasn’t suitable for trucks, so they kept the 250 until the 4.3 came along.
The 250 didn’t make it all the way to ’79 in midsize cars, but was only used through 1977. It was dropped when the downsized A-bodies (Malibu, El Camino, Monte Carlo) appeared for 1978. It’s my understanding that the downsized A-bodies were designed for V6s — by that point the B-O-P divisions were using the Buick 231 for pretty much all six-cylinder applications — and as a result a straight six wouldn’t really fit into their engine compartments. Chevy’s original 1978-79 V6 was 200 cubic inch/3.3 liters. These cars would switch to the 229 in 1980.
My dad had a ’79 GMC half-ton with three-on-the-tree, no power anything, and the full complement of Olde Detroit secondary-control quirks (step-on parking brake, foot-operated dimmer switch and the column shift). It went away when I was 12 so I never got to drive it. It doubled as the family car for a while and when Mom got her ’86 Plymouth Horizon with PS PB and AT it must’ve felt like a Lotus by comparison. She sure drove it that way!
I liked those old Chevy inline 6. Simple and easy to work on. My father had a 1953 Chevrolet with the 216 cu in “stovebolt” six and later a1968 GMC 1/2-ton pickup with the 292 cu in inline 6. I believe the 292 engine was the last big inline six engine Chevrolet produced for trucks.
My father also had a 1950s-vintage Chevy/GMC Speed Manual that detailed all sorts of tricks to soup up an inline 6 where they could give a flathead V-8 or small block V-8 a run for the money.
Didn’t Chevy built a completely new inline 6 engine called Vortec 4200 around 2002 for the Chevy Trailblazer?
My neighbor has an all original 64 or 65 Malibu SS 2 dr h/t. Its a craptacular metallic lavender but it was owned by an old lady right up until he bought it. It has a 6cyl…I thought that back in those days there was no such thing as a 6 cyl SS, but sure enough it even has the emblems for a 235, if I remember right. The color is horrible but its clean enough to eat lunch off of.
That metallic lavender was called “Evening Orchid.” A fairly popular color at the time but subject to sun fade. Sounds like your neighbor’s car has been garaged most of its life?
Yup, that looks exactly like his car when he got it. He took off the stock 14″ babyshoes and put them in storage, in favor of 17″ Torq Thrust M’s…basically the same thing as the Bullitt mags from later model Mustangs. Not too sure about them on this car. He could’ve done MUCH worse of course, but 15×7 Torq Thrust D’s would’ve been the hot ticket….
Swearin’ Ta Gawd, that ’65 Chevy didn’t look THAT long 40 years ago!
Those 65 Impalas had alot of rear overhang behind the rear wheels especially compared to the 77 and newer Impala/Caprices.
My Dad owned a 65 Impala 4 door hardtop and I remember my Dad talking about the car’s tendency for the back end to bottom out and scrape the ground when he’d come out of a parking lot onto a road when there was a slope where the road met the parking lot…..He installed overload shocks on the rear of the car that raised the riding height slightly and lessened the bouncing and suspension travel of the rear to a small degree….Heavier springs would have been another alternative…..
In the late 60s, a woman who lived next door to my school had a 6 cylinder Impala SS hardtop. I remember thinking that it was a bit of an oddball, sort of like ordering a banana split but with all 3 ice cream scoops being vanilla.
At the same time, I had a teacher for English with a new 65 Biscayne 2 door sedan in dark green but with white sidewall tires and “dog dish” hub caps.
I just remembered something. A few years ago I was junkyarding and came upon a 1970-something Cadillac hearse. One of the big ones, I’d have to look up the exact year range. Anyway, a couple of guys were pulling the engine out of it—a 250 CID six! I think he said they were going to put it into a truck they had.
It seems mindblowing to see a straight six Cadillac anything, but it makes sense. Hearses won’t be going more than 55mph very gradually and even a smog strangled six could do that.
It’s an old thread, I know, but it touches a subject very close to my heart – American-made Sixes, particularl Chevy Sixes, so I just have to contribute my ten cents worth and maybe breathe a little new life into this thread.
My experience with Chevy inline Sixes comprises two vehicles, a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 Deluxe that I owned in the 1980s and a 1964 Chevrolet Bel Air that I bought last year, both four-door sedans and equipped with the same engine/trans combo, the 230 (140 gross/120 net horsepower) Turbo-Thrift Six and Powerglide.
Both vehicles were assembled at GM’s Continental plant in Antwerp, Belgium, and spent most of their service lives there. I purchased the Chevelle in 1983 and kept it through 1990 as a daily driver. It was pleasantly stylish in a conservative way and gave me faithful service, all in all.
The one thing I constantly had to watch closely was rust, particularly around the rear windshield, the right-hand rocker panel, the floor pan on the front passenger side, and the lip of the hood, all of which were taken care of as they occurred.
The 230 was perfectly adequate for a mid-size sedan, with approx. 15 seconds from 0-60 and a top speed of 95 mph on the autobahn; I live in Germany, by the way. The Powerglide worked flawlessly all the time, and so did the Six except for a new generator and a new starter during those seven years of my ownership. I sold the car because I moved to the US for awhile again and didn’t want to take it with me. Little did I know at the time that even a lowly 300 Deluxe four-door with a Six commands very respectable prices these days.
Years later, I learned that one of the subsequent owners of the car had thrown out the 230/PG combo and replaced them with the obligatory (in some circles) 350/350 combo. Things like that really make me both sad and angry. Doesn’t anybody respect a vehicle’s history anymore? Why this urge to turn a unique (especially in Germany) car into a run-of-the-mill modified sled? Sigh.
One thing is certain: Something like this is never going to happen to my ’64 Bel Air. It was born with a Six and it will stay that way, period. No, it can’t burn rubber and yes, it’s a four-door, but it’s very likely the only one in all of Germany. They certainly assembled quite a few four-door Bel Airs in Antwerp back then, but most of them have probably been scrapped or parted out since then.
Not mine, though. I just love those bare-bones four-doors with Sixes and no power extras that were so ubiquitous in their time and are super-rare nowadays. Enjoy your V8 Impala hardtop coupes and convertibles or your retrofitted Biscayne or Bel Air two-door sedans with 409s, but I will keep my Bel Air Six and have the time of my life with it.
And here’s the engine bay of my Bel Air, home of a 230 CID Turbo-Thrift Six. The picture was taken some months ago when the car was in the shop. It looks much better now.
Second try with the photograph. Here goes:
If the photo isn’t posting, try reducing its size. If a picture is no more than 1,200 pixels in the bigger dimension, it’ll post here.
Thanks for the tip. I’ll try. Here goes again:
Nice Michael ;
I had a 1964 Chevelle base model too, 360 straight six and power glide, manual brakes, steering and so on, what a great car .
Sadly I fell asleep driving it home late one night and wrecked it .
I’m sorry about the loss of your Chevelle, but better the car than you.
Thanx Mike ;
Agreed but, I had been warned by my passengers that I looked too sleepy to safely drive home and I was offered couches and carpeted floors to sleep on but refused .
I was nearly killed as the light standard didn’t stop until it hit the firewall and I broke the steering wheel in half with my death grip and still hit my sternum so hard on the horn button (too cheap a model to have a half ring) so hard I couldn’t take a deep breath for close to four months .
Young men make so many foolish decisions, I’m very lucky to still be alive at this point .
If it’s any comfort to you, we all make mistakes, not just when we’re young. I’ve had a few close encounters with destiny myself in the almost 62 years of my life and more than my fair share of sheer luck to still be around.
I probably made another mistake when I bought the Bel Air at the height of the pandemic when I couldn’t work, had little income and should have saved my money for the proverbial rainy day.
On the other hand, this was probably my last opportunity to get my hands on just the kind of super-rare car I’ve always wanted, so I said to the penny-pincher in me, “screw it, you only live once”.
Reminds me of that old joke about the guy who asks his doctor:
“Doc, how do I get to be 100 years old?”
“Depends”, says the doctor, “do you smoke?”
“Do you drink?”
“Do you do drugs?”
“Do you consume a lot of fatty foods, sugar, and salt?”
“Do you have a lot of sex?”
“Then why do you want to be 100 years old?”
On this slightly hedonistic note, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thanx Mike ;
I know childhood is for learning but so many I grew up with are gone now, many didn’t make it past 1970 .
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL ! .