Those authentic American Racing wheels from back in the day say it all. Dennis Sewell thrives on real '60s speed equip-ment, musclecars, and most importantly the correct look. So when this factory L78 SS 396 Chevelle hit the classifieds, he had to have it. After a quick call to the owner, who lived 350 miles away, Dennis and his musclecar buddy Frank Saenz fueled up a car hauler and headed north on California's I-5.
Just after 10 that morning they stood in the driveway next to the Garnet Red Chevelle. The road trip proved rewarding when they found this pristine example fitted with a solid-lifter Rat, a Holley carb, an aluminum intake, rectangular-port heads, and an M22 transmission. Dennis told us, "The matching-numbers 375-horse 396 looked great, but the original chambered pipes were shot and sounded like an old set of glasspacks. This made such a racket at idle I could hardly hear what the seller was telling me about the car." When the engine finally stopped, the two struck a deal.
Dennis is no newcomer to the musclecar scene. The baby boomer parks the '69 Chevelle next to his flawless '66 big-block El Camino. With Frank's help the '69 SS 396 now has better-than-new looks. Of course those worn-out chambered pipes came off, in their place a new set of throaty Dyno-Max mufflers and pipes. Frank spent weeks under the SS 396 hood detailing and painting the engine and compartment. Around the car, Dennis replaced many worn trim items with new parts to achieve stunning looks.
Dennis tells us it's his back-in-the-day machine when he rows the four-speed shifter, throttles the L78 to over six grand, and feels the pull in the seat. Just like in 1969, it takes the right stuff to do that.
For '69 the special high-performance L78 396 engines featured an 800-cfm Holley carburetor, a solid-lifter camshaft, big-port cast-iron heads, an 11:1 compression ratio, a Tufftrided steel crankshaft, and forged pistons. Back in the day these cars didn't need a lot of throttle to barbecue the stock, skinny bias-belted tires, in any of the four gears. The 50-state A.I.R. system is packed away.
Garnet Red paint covers the Chevelle's long hood and short deck. The optional landau vinyl roof nicely separates the classic lines of the car. The black side strip is the same as the factory issue.
Inside the Chevelle you'll find a console,a four-speed shifter attached to an M22, a tilt wheel, factory gauges, bucket seats, and power windows. This combination of performance and luxury items was
The chassis of an SS 396 included heavy-duty suspension, a 12-bolt rear axle assembly, power front-disc brakes, and, like all other A-bodies, a full perimeter frame. That rear sway bar is a factory item measuring 0.875 inch in diameter. It's also the same part number that Chevrolet first installed on the '65 Z-16 396 Chevelle.
Wheels & Tires
Mint-condition-and real-American Torq-Thrust wheels manufactured during the '60s are hard to come by. All four measure 15x8.5 inches and are fitted with Good-year P215/65R15 radials. Tucked away in Dennis's shop are the original 14-inch SS 396 rims.