It had the 325hp engine and was optioned with a four-speed trans, a 12-bolt Posi, power steering, console, gauges and the cool tach with the left turn signal in its face. Its interior was light blue and though second-gen Camaro front seats with black fuzzy seat covers were in it, the original buckets with ripped covers were included with the sale.
Like most first cars, my Chevelle was not without its issues. Shortly after I got it home it developed some transmission woes. I had a cousin in the auto repair business, so I had it towed his shop. When I called to see if the Chevrolet was ready for pickup, he said it would be after one more test drive. That final test drive resulted in two connecting rods exiting the bottom end via the oil pan. I had owned the SS for about two weeks at the time and spent every dime I had buying it and the requisite aluminum intake, headers and air shocks, which I hadn’t even installed yet!
With the blown-up SS delivered to the driveway of my grandparents’ house, I was about to embark on my first engine swap. There was no chance of rebuilding the 396 on the budget I had, so the same cousin helped me find a running low-compression 454 engine to replace it for about $425. The 396 short block went to an uncle without me knowing it until I showed up at the house one day and it was gone. The 1967 396 heads, however, I have to this day.
After renting a cherry picker from the local auto parts store, the swap was underway. I also got periodic aid from my father, a GM mechanic, and grandfather on the project.
In the middle of all this, a friend of mine started dating a new girl who went to school a few towns over, and he set me up with her friend, Linda, my first and last blind date. He decided it would be a good idea to introduce us the day before the date, so he showed up at my grandparents’ house with her. It was just the first impression I wanted to make – all greasy from working on my first car that blew up two-weeks after I spent all my money on it – what a catch! Well, she must have seen something worthwhile in me just like I did in her, as we have been married for nearly 23 years now.
I got the 454 and my $69.99 headers into the Chevelle and after some teething issues were resolved with the help of a family friend who was also a mechanic, it ran well. I also had a new girlfriend to cruise around in the SS with, so life was good and gas was still cheap.
Soon after, I decided that as part of my repair and improvement plan, the SS needed fresh rolling stock. The dull-finished aluminum slots with no center caps and worn rubber just weren’t cutting it. The rear tires were wide enough to rub at times, and the overall look wasn’t great for 1985, though today, aluminum slots seem to once again be in favor. I wanted five-spoke chrome mag wheels and modern RWL radials.
Working extra hours at my job after school, I finally had the cash to buy them. A local shop was selling a set of 15×7 Cragar S/S wheels with BFGs that were taken off of a 1970 GTO convertible, which was being restored to stock, so I grabbed them. Smoother daily driving and weekend cruising ensued.
After a full school year with the Chevelle, prom night was approaching. I didn’t want to take the SS for fear of it getting dinged in the parking lot by partying high school kids, so Linda and I decided to rent a limo with another couple. It never showed up, but a torrential rainstorm did. Already an hour late, we decided to take the Chevelle.
The photo accompanying this blog was taken on prom night 1986. Because it was pouring, and the driveway was already full of cars, the plan was for me to pull up front and for her to make run for it to avoid getting soaked. Her aunt snapped this photo just as Linda got to the car. Taking the SS to the prom turned out to be a great memory for both of us.
Sometime later, after lots of cruising and plenty of positive attention, the SS needed some more work that I probably couldn’t afford, so I decided it was time to sell it. I let it go for less than $4,500 if memory serves, about $1,000 less than I had in it. A high school friend bought it and had his fun before selling it. I don’t know where the Chevelle ended up, but hopefully it got restored and received the respect it deserved.
Most of us ultimately sell our first car, and not taking any good photos of it is a lost opportunity that we rarely get back. For anyone who currently owns any car that they care about, my advice is to shoot some good photos of it as soon as possible if you haven’t already. Take it from someone who wasn’t smart enough at the time to do so, you’ll be sorry if the car goes away and you have nothing to remember it by except a set of cylinder heads."