HomeFeatured VehiclesPick of the Day: 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454

Pick of the Day: 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454

LS5 still had the suds


When General Motors lowered the compression of all its engines in 1971, you would have expected horsepower to fall as well. However, one engine actually featured a higher horsepower rating. That engine, the LS5 454, powers our Pick of the Day, a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 Sport Coupe. It is listed for sale on by Motor City Classic Cars in Vero Beach, Florida. (Click the link to view the listing)

For 1970, the Chevelle SS 454 featured two engine choices: the 360-horsepower LS5 and the 450-horse LS6. However, the LS5 was rated at 390 horsepower in the Corvette and full-size Chevys. That rating was much closer to the truth, which likely is why the 365-horse 1971 LS5 appears to have a horsepower bump in the Chevelle. If you look at net horsepower ratings, the LS5 was rated at 285 horses, which was respectable for a low-compression big-block though not as much as the Olds 4-4-2 W30 or Pontiac 455 HO. Though the LS6 was advertised as being available for the Chevelle, only the Corvette was a recipient for this 425-horsepower (325 net) engine. (For 1972, the LS5 would be rated at 270 horses.)

The 1971 Chevelle featured a facelift that reflected the Camaro’s influence. Fresh from a 1970 restyle, the 1971 Chevelle evolved from quad to dual headlights, wrap, around parking lights, and four round taillights. The Super Sport remained a package for the Malibu, but now included small-blocks starting with the 350 two-barrel. Though not a performance engine, this was at a time when insurance companies and federal regulations were making it difficult for high-performance cars in the market. Offering low-performance engines allowed Chevrolet to promote the sporty image of the Super Sport while giving consumers a choice that they could be happy with.

In addition, Chevrolet introduced a mid-year package for the base Chevelle called Heavy Chevy, which was a combination of a late-to-the-party Road Runner-fighter and sporty insurance-buster. Any V8 up to the 402/300 was available.

In the past, there was much moaning and groaning about low-compression engines from GM, but engines like the LS5 have proven themselves to have more flexibility within the power band, and they’re much easier to drive with the gas that’s available today. That makes this Sunflower Yellow 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 Sport Coupe quite a fine find. “This outstanding ’71 SS Chevelle was the result of a nut and bold rotisserie restoration that resulted in an absolutely pristine car,” says the seller. “[This is] a high-end example that is mechanically and cosmetically fully sorted out and ready to show and enjoy” including numbers-matching engine and TH400 automatic. Note the unusual bench seat!

Included with the sale is the Protect-O-Plate and build sheets, both items key to certifying this Chevy as a real SS 454-optioned vehicle since engine codes in VINs didn’t appear until 1972. For the honor of a documented car in this condition, you can expect to pay $85,000.

Click here for this of the Day.

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


  1. That’s a really nice Chevelle, I had a gold 2 door with black vinyl top, black interior, It had a 400 engine ( Malibu 400) I remember that it rode like a boat and needed a bit more horse’s. It got 10 mpg on the road, but gasoline was like 25 cent a gallon back in 1972.

  2. I do love Chevy Chevelle. Since I can’t afford to buy one right now. I only collect nice small die cast Chevells.

  3. @ Diego Rosenberg -The 396 (big block) was actually a 402. The 400 (small block) was just that, a 400.

    Also, it is worth mentioning that the 1971 and 1972 454 LS5 was able to maintain it HP ratings (360 to 365 gross, and 270-285 net) in spite of the lower compression because of the improvements in cylinder head design which resulted in improved air flow. So those heads were actually better than the LS6!

    • There was no 400 small-block for the Chevelle. When you see 400 badges on a 1970-72 Chevelle, it’s a 402.

      In regards to the LS5, the gross ratings were nonsense for both years.


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