1969 Chevelle SS 396/402 by Greg Zyla
Q: In 1987, I purchased a 1969 Chevelle that I was told was “special ordered” and came with a 402-inch big block instead of the 396, and the SS (Super Sport) badges were NOT present. However, a 396 emblem sits above the left and right fender side lights, and is in the same place as the 307 V8 identification (which was the standard V8 engine that year). The transmission in my car is a Borg Warner T-10 4-speed and it has a 3:73 posi rear. My Chevelle also has a bench front seat. I re-did the whole car, and also replaced the upholstery, dash pad and put in new gauges. I had the motor and transmission overhauled, and it runs great. How rare is this car? I am not looking to sell it and plan to pass it on in the family or to someone who will appreciate it and not beat it. I see a lot of them at drag races. It’s not an SS, but is it a special order car and what is it worth? Thanks, Rick from Wilkes-Barre, PA
A: Rick, please send me a copy of your vehicle identification number (VIN), and I’ll be able to decipher it quickly and tell you what your car really was when it was delivered from the factory. However, from the information you’ve given me, it sounds like your 1969 Chevelle is a clone and did not come equipped in the manner you were told by the person your purchased it from.The 402-inch big block is not a rare piece, because in 1970, all “SS 396″ Chevelles sold came standard with a 402- nch big block, as Chevy bored the engine .030-over from 4.09 to 4.13 size.
For marketing purposes only, GM decided to keep the 396 moniker as it had long been embedded into the muscle car lover’s dictionary. Many people don’t know that GM had five big blocks, including the popular 396-427-454 engines and the not as famous and many times forgotten 402 and 366 inchers, the latter which came in the heavy duty truck line. All big blocks, except for the 454, relied on a 3.76-inch stroke crank, while the 454 had a 4-inch stroke crank and a 4.0-inch bore. Since the 4-speeds sold by the factory in 1969 were Muncie M21 and a “rock crusher” M22s in close and wide ratio form, it sounds like the Borg Warner T-10 (I had one in my 1963 Chevy – a great tranny) is an aftermarket bolt on.
With all this said, I wouldn’t feel too bad as your big block Chevy 402 is still a very neat car, and worthy of your restoration efforts. If I were selling it now, I’d ask in the neighborhood of $13,000 to $15,000 for it, and you’ll probably get more to the right buyer. Overall, it sounds like this car was assembled with a 1970-72 402-inch big block and might have begun life as a 307. If you have a 10-bolt rear, it was a 307, if it’s a 12-bolt, it could have been an SS or an option upgrade for a 327. But we need that VIN number to clear it all up. Finally to help confuse everyone even more, in 1969 there was an SS Chevelle built on the “Chevelle 300″ 2-door post sedan platform.This was the only year that a 2 door post sedan SS was ever produced. Most of the ’69 SSs, and all the ’70-’72 SSs, were built upon the 2-door Malibu pillar less coupe. However, the 402 was definitely not available in 1969, unless for some reason, you got a late year run with the 402 in it (which I doubt). It’s not totally out of the question; but that T-10 4-speed is a dead giveaway your Chevelle is not a special order car. Still, I’d love to own it, especially if it’s a 2-door post model that came in SS trim and someone removed the engine, tranny and badges. Then it’s worth more for sure.
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Originally posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 at 1:04 pm
Category: Auto Round-Up News