Chevrolet was granted liberties that other brands within General Motors usually didn’t receive. Take this 1967 Chevelle SS 396 as an example: it was available with a solid-lifter 396 (option code L78) rated at 375 horsepower. The same engine was rated in the 1965 Corvette as 425 horsepower. Even at 375, it broke GM’s rule of no more than 10 pounds per horsepower, something no other GM brand happened to do.
As a result, the engine (which was available 1966-70) was rarely advertised. In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned in the brochure, yet Chevrolet sold thousands of them — in 1966, 3,099 Chevelle SS 396s and El Caminos were built with the L78 and, in 1968, another 4,751. Not bad for word-of-mouth!
But in 1967, only 612 L78s were installed in the Chevelle SS 396 and El Camino. Why such a difference from other years? I can’t explain, but 1967 was a strange year at Chevrolet: L72 427 availability for the big cars disappeared, and only six Chevy IIs were built with the L79 327/350 after several thousand being built in 1966. I have heard the L79 was cancelled for the Chevy II so as not to cannibalize Camaro sales but later reappeared — could the latter have been the same for the Chevelle SS 396? Noted Chevelle expert Dale McIntosh thinks this scenario may be possible with the L78. “From what I’ve gathered from conversations with knowledgeable Chevelle owners, the L78 engine was dropped for 1967 for whatever reason, then reinstated around April/May but with no fanfare or advertisement. As such, only a few dealers and potential buyers even knew it was back on. Hence, only 612 were sold.”
One of those rare 1967 L78s is presented here by Muscle Car Campy. Owned by Frank Oddo, he bought this Chevelle in 1971 after graduating from high school, and he’s kept it ever since. Besides the rare L78, this SS 396 also was built with a red bench seat (code 747), one of 10,074 Chevelles built with this interior and, of those, you can imagine just a handful were SS 396s as buckets seem to be the rule.
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