7 September 2006

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS 396

When the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu was introduced, Rich Hafer fell in love with it immediately. At the time, he owned a 1966 Chevelle SS that he had bought new just two years earlier. It didn’t have power steering or power brakes, and had a four-speed manual gearbox with a heavy-duty clutch. As it turned out, his new wife didn’t like driving it, so it made sense for them to trade it for a new one, ordered just the way they wanted.

After shopping for the best deal at all the Chevrolet dealerships near Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Hafer was told of a dealer in Ligonier that claimed it could beat anyone’s price. He drove the short 25 miles from where he and his wife lived to see what they could put together. The dealership was Jack Schade Chevrolet-Oldsmobile.

At Schade Chevrolet, he was helped by a gentleman by the name of Gene Springer. They sat down at his desk, and Haver told him everything he wanted on the car: Z25 SS396 equipment, Turbo 400 Hydramatic with column shifter, ZL2 cowl-induction hood, F41 firm-handling suspension, power steering, power disc brakes, 3.31 positraction gears; F70-14 white letter tires, AM radio with rear speaker and windshield antenna, Cranberry Red paint with black body striping, wheel opening moldings, undercoating and a cloth bench seat. (Yes, that’s right, cloth upholstery and a bench seat.) Many people questioned his reasoning, but it’s what he wanted so he ordered it: trim option 753, black river cloth.

While the base price of the car was $2,864.50, with the extra $1,066.60 of optional equipment, the price of the car grew to $3,931.10 (plus almost $100 in tax, tag and licensing fees). With Hafer’s ’68 Chevelle being used for a trade-in, a $2,462.24 allowance, Springer’s figures beat the others by $50. Being a diehard shopper, Hafer went back to the other dealers to see if they could beat the Schade quote. They told Hafer to take the deal, because none of them could beat it. So he placed his order on January 6, 1970.

The car was made in Canada at the Oshawa plant, and rolled off the assembly line on February 19, 1970. It was shipped the following day, and Hafer took possession on March 6, three months to the day from when he ordered it.

It turns out there were 3,306 Chevelles equipped with the Z25 SS396 equipment that came from the Oshawa plant for the 1970 model year. Build histories of Chevrolets made in Canada are easy to verify as all the factory documentation is still available from GM of Canada. Hafer keeps the paperwork handy for when Chevelle experts approach him about its equipment and for judges to peruse if they have a question regarding its authenticity.

With only 71,000 miles on the odometer, Hafer’s Chevelle Malibu is all original with matching numbers and only a repaint and new exhaust system in its past. Even the Firestone Wide Oval tires are original. But while it’s a relatively low-mileage car, he drives it to all the shows he enters. He says there are 350 horses under the hood – and not a one of them is crippled. In fact, in 2005, he and friend Chester Nolph attempted to take their cars to every AACA national meet, putting on an additional 5,000 miles. Nolph’s car is a 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport that he also ordered new.

The duo believes their cars were made to be enjoyed. Their 3,028-mile round trip to the 2005 Annual Grand National Meet in Denver proved to be great fun – two old muscle cars motoring down the highway, at speeds the cars were made to do. Truckers were blowing their horns and onlookers were giving the thumbs-up. The two know that the hard work they put into preparing and showing the cars was worth every minute. Neither car missed a beat, and the guys made the trip just fine. Hopefully there will be many more miles ahead for both of them.

West Peterson is editor of Antique Automobile, the official publication of the Antique Automobile Club of America.

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