Curbside Classic: 1972 Chevelle Malibu SS 454 – Big Block Cherry Bomb


(first posted 4/15/2015. Aiden is now at the University of Arizona, but he had to leave his ’79 Z-28 at home. But that doesn’t seem to be blunting his success with the young women)

(Welcome our newest Contributor, my nephew Aidan, age 13, who lives in San Mateo, CA. Last year when I was down to visit, we did two joint CC hunts, which  I wrote that up here and here. We went on another CC hunt yesterday, and found a motherlode of cars, which we will both be writing up from time to time, but individually. Aidan picked this one as his first car to share. He does love red classic muscle cars. Paul N.)

When I first saw this Chevelle Malibu in the distance walking with uncle Paul, I thought it was my favorite model: a 1970 Chevelle Malibu SS, but we soon figured out it was a ’72 SS 454, because of the single headlights and the grille. Cherry red with the famous two stripes through the middle, this car was the hottest version of the last of the true hardtop Malibu coupes.


The 1970 SS 454 was the first year a new version of the already famous SS396 was available with Chevrolet’s biggest engine, and it instantly became a legend because the LS6 version of that engine was rated at 450 horsepower, which was more than any other muscle car of its era. This car was happy to take on 426 hemis.


That 450 horse high performance LS6 was only available in 1970; since this is a 1972 model, it must have the lower performance LS5 engine, which had been rated at 360 gross hp, but with the change to net hp ratings in 1972, was now rated at 270 hp. Still plenty of muscle.


The optional Cowl Induction let the big block 454 breathe fresh, cool air, which allowed it to make the most of its power potential. I think it also looks better than a front-facing hood scoop, and works better too.


The SS models were always famous for their bucket seats and consoles, but by 1972, you had to pay extra to get them. Obviously, this one has an automatic too. Looking at this interior, one might think this could have been a 6 cylinder Malibu that belonged the old lady who lived across the street when I was growing up.

Actually, I like cars with bench seats more than modern cars with bucket seats and a console because you can get in the passenger side and just slide across to the driver’s side for a quick getaway.


If this was an old lady car, it wouldn’t have come with a tachometer. Of course we can’t be totally sure this car is a genuine original SS 454 because anyone could change an old lady Malibu into a SS 454 clone. The parts are all easy to get. Just like the bench seats, I like the old fashioned dashboards because they have much more style than modern car dashboards today.


These look like original Rally wheels, but probably widened to fit modern, wider tires. I like this body style, but I prefer the 1970 model with the four headlights. Although this car was wearing Cooper tires, I would have liked to see Goodyear tires, my favorite brand on classic muscle cars.


Sadly, the big 454 wasn’t running when we were there, but wouldn’t it be nice to hear it through those twin exhausts and see it roar down the road and off into the sunset. Or better yet, be sitting in its bench seat while doing so.


Follow-up reading:
Curbside Classic & Driving Impressions: 1979 Camaro Z-28 – Nephew Aidan’s First Car