This is the magazine article I’ve been waiting 61 years for! I’ve been well aware of guys (and dealers) swapping in hot 327s into the new Chevy II all those decades, but I did not know that there was a factory-built version that was essentially a prototype for that swap. Here it is, a Chevy II built by Chevrolet with a Corvette solid-lifter 327, four speed and…four doors!
In addition to using a six cylinder four door as the starting point, its original 3.08:1 rear axle ratio without Positraction and the little 6.50 x 13″ tires hampered its initial acceleration, but once under way, it was red hot. With the right rear axle and a bit more rubber, this undoubtedly would have been the quickest sedan in the land, four door or two door.
Would you take the bait at a red light in your 413 Dart or 421 Pontiac from this innocuous -looking four door Chevy II? If so, you were in for a nasty surprise. Roger Huntington speculates that this ultimate Q-ship is something “you may be able to buy off the showroom floor in a few months. Or the conversion parts may be offered as a kit for dealer installation. Final plans have not been settled as this is written”.
Well, we all know it wasn’t ever available off the showroom floor. Chevrolet did off the the 250 and 300 hp versions of 327 in the Chevy II in 1965, and even the 350 hp version in 1966, before the new “no less than 10 lbs/hp” edict kicked in for 1967. Why not this package in 1962?
Almost certainly to keep some sort of brand pecking order intact, at least for the time being. In 1962, the ’64 Chevelle was of course already in the works, and it probably would have felt wrong to offer a quicker Chevy II than a Chevelle. And this Chevy II would have given given the big Chevrolet with the 409 a serious run for the money, as almost certainly beating it (with the right axle and tires). It would even have Corvette, which weighed about the same, serious competition. Now that wouldn’t be a good look, coming from your new economy sedan.
In 1962, the notion of a compact with a truly powerful V8 was still a couple of years off. Pontiac broached it mostly with the 1963 Tempest 326 HO, and then of course with the ’64 GTO. After that, all bets were off, which explains the 327 available in the ’65 Chevy II (the 283 was available in ’65). Everything in its right time, and the time for a 340 hp Chevy II was just not quite right, yet.
As to the dealer installed option, it really was a thing; here’s a page from the parts book. It shows a price for the 283 kit, but the 327 is “NL”; not listed, I assume? One had to ask?
And here’s everything that went into that kit. Looks like bigger brakes were part of the final kit; good call. How many dealers were willing to actually do the conversion is a good question—I suspect not many, but some in the right locations undoubtedly did.
Hot Rod magazine featured this swap, with a 360 hp FI 327 in 1962. Perhaps the price for the 327 depended which version one wanted? This one ripped off the 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, undoubtedly with a more favorable rear axle and other prepping (and it was a two door!).
The tested version took 6.8 seconds for the 0-60, due to a weak launch, but it was doing 97 mph in the traps at the end of the 1/4 mile, which is much more indicative of its potential. It was still fast enough to beat the 413 Dart, and not far behind the well-prepped 421 SD GP Pontiac.
And of course there’s the icing on the cake: 14-17 mpg on the highway instead of the 10-12 mpg all those big hot cars were getting.
The 327 and the aluminum-case T-10 close-ratio 4-speed only weighed 200 lbs more than the six. Most of that was of course on the front wheels, but thanks to stiffer springs and shocks and a front roll bar, handling was actually better than a six and the stock suspension. The rear axle did get torque links (essentially traction bars) to deal with the added power. As to the axle itself being strong enough, no worries, Since the Chevy II used the same one as in the big cars, just narrower. The 6.50 x 13 tires (roughly comparable to a 175/80-13) and 5.5″ wheels are from the wagon, as the stock tires were 6.00 x 13s, on 4″ rims. Sintered metallic brake lining were fitted.
The 3.08 axle combined with the 2.20:1 first gear ratio resulted in a 6.08:1 overall ratio in first, which either bogged down the engine or resulted in too much wheel spin if the engine were revved up too much. Getting a god start is essential to good acceleration test times, so these numbers did not reflect its potential.
But once under way, it really pulled hard. Too bad there were no timed 30-70 or other “passing” time tests. “The peak of the horsepower curve is very flat…the engine has tremendous potential.” What else is new; well, actually the 327 was new in 1962, and the biggest advantage over the 283 was its fatter and taller torque curve.
Huntington took accelerometer readings to try to determine just how much the 327 made, as installed. His results suggest about 260-265 hp at around 5000 rpm, as compared to the advertised 340 hp. But of course that’s gross hp, and those numbers he got are essentially net (as installed) hp, and seem about right. I’ve seen him do this before; why he doesn’t just spell it out, that gross hp is on the dyno without an open exhaust, no accessories, and carb and timing tuned for absolute maximum power, and not as specified. As it is, his calculations for torque (330-335 ft.lbs) were remarkable close to the advertised gross numbers (344 lb.ft.)
Yes, understeer was present, but with so much power and a manual four speed, it was easy to use the throttle to call up neutral or even oversteer from the rear end. And this was easier to do with a lighter car like the Chevy II than a big one. On the straight highway, it was rock steady. Overall, on the handling: “The Corvette-powered Chevy II is fine from this standpoint.”
Only one last point: “So when can we buy it, Chevrolet?” As a complete car, in 1966, and then only for one year. And it was even available on the four door sedan too.
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