When it was first introduced in 1964, the Chevrolet Chevelle was available in a variety of models, from economical family sedan to stylish coupe. In 1977, the top level trim Malibu name replaced the Chevelle moniker, and the platform also spawned such independent Chevy models as the Camino and the Nomad station wagon, and it provided the chassis for the Monte Carlo. In the muscle car world, the name Chevelle is not associated with these models. It is used to refer to the 1970 Chevelle SS 454, a V8-powered behemoth that, at the time, was quite possibly the most powerful car ever produced.
The 454 in the Chevelle SS name refers to the displacement of the V8 engine in cubic inches. For those more familiar with the modern liter measurment, that translates to 7.4 liters, or, in other words, very large. Factory power ratings for the LS6 high-performance tuned engine were 450 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, but the enterprising muscle car enthusiast could easily increase those numbers by tweaking the four-barrel Holley carburetor. The Chevelle SS 454 had no problems hitting speeds of 125 mph, and could burn through a standing quarter mile in 13 seconds. These numbers may seem unimpressive compared to modern sports and super cars, but go back in time 40 years, and those numbers are massive, and were unequaled by any other muscle car of the time.
No one would ever accuse the Chevelle SS 454 of being a subtle car. The model was all about brute force and taming it as best as possible. Considering that raw power, the Chevrolet engineers did a good job of harnassing. The Chevelle was noted for its responsive handling and comfortable ride, and plenty of braking power to slow down from those 100+ mph speeds.
The styling of the Chevelle exuded the power under the hood. SS stripes went over the top of the vehicle, and the fenders bulged out, as if in a desperate attempt to contain the engine. After 1970, though, things began to change. GM mandated that all of its vehicle would have to run on standard unleaded gasoline. This was the time of a large oil shortage, and the cost of premium fuel was simpley too much for most drivers. After a redesign of the model in 1973, the SS option was offered for the last time as part of a Chevelle Malibu coupe. In 1974, the SS package was abandoned in favor of the new Laguna performance package, and by 1977 the Chevelle name was retired and all models were henceforth known as the Chevrolet Malibu.
While its time at the top of the muscle car hill was short-lived, the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 stands as a monument to what a muscle car should be. The styling should be aggressive and the engine should be big, loud, and extremely powerful. The ability to steer and stop, while welcomed, is optional.