Every now and then, an automaker releases a car that’s nearly perfect in stock form. The list is short but the 1969 Chevelle SS is definitely one of those cars. Gaining a following that few Chevrolet’s have seen outside of the tri-five world, nice examples never stick around our showroom for long. This amazing 1969 Chevelle SS convertible is sure to continue that trend. Featuring an L78 396 mated to the original CX code TH400 automatic transmission, this is thought to be one of just 36 Chevelle convertibles to receive this drivetrain. Add in rare factory options such as the 8-track player and rear defroster and the desirability factor practically goes through the roof. Though these cars are notoriously difficult to authenticate without a build sheet, the car does have an original punch card and a letter from Chevelle guru Jeff Dotterer explaining his belief that the car is a true L78 SS. If you’re ready to claim a piece of rare GM metal, this 1969 Chevelle SS convertible is definitely worth a closer look.
Widely regarded as some of the most underrated work to ever leave a GM design studio, the 1969 Chevelle wears a distinctly sculpted body with tapered front fenders, a rounded beltline and Chevrolet’s hallmark long-hood/short-deck profile. It’s a familiar shape and one that served General Motors well with over half a million A-bodies built and sold during the 1969 model year. The subject of an extensive restoration, this ’69 convertible looks showroom fresh with straight panels and crisp lines all around. While Garnet Red or Monaco Orange may be the overall fan favorites, few colors complement the Chevelle’s lines quite like Le Mans Blue. The paintwork is first rate with no notable flaws within sight. Accented by a classic white Super Sport stripe, the car’s exterior hints at the monster under its hood without looking overly aggressive or gimmicky.
The Le Mans Blue shell is topped off with show-quality factory trim that returns the car to showroom condition. At the front of the car, four clear headlights flank a traditional black Super Sport grille which centers a prominent “SS 396” emblem between laser straight bars and a fresh chrome bumper. At the top of that grille a showroom fresh “Chevelle by Chevrolet” script occupies the header panel which perfectly complementing chrome SS-exclusive hood louvers. With the exception of the windshield, rear window and one piece of quarter glass, all glass is date coded and in great shape for its age. At the base of that glass, a correct chrome mirror and traditional chrome door handles combine with correct “SS396” fender emblems and dent-free stainless wheel well trim to give the car a clean finished appearance. At the back of the profile, deluxe Super Sport tail lights hang between a second “Chevelle by Chevrolet” emblem, two spotless exhaust tips and a traditional black decklid cove which centers a fourth “SS396” emblem above a second body-width chrome bumper.
Lift the hood and you’ll find one of the legendary L78 396 cubic inch V8’s rated at 375hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. Unless you lived near one of the major Chevrolet performance dealers or knew the correct path through the options list, getting an L78 Chevelle off the lot was a formidable challenge that limited the number built to 9.486 according to most sources. The block in this car is a CE-stamped unit with a K3070 (November 30, 1970) date code, suggesting the engine was replaced under warranty not long after the car hit the streets. Further supporting that claim is the impressive list of original and date coded parts cataloged by Chevelle master Jeff Dotterer. Under the chrome open element air cleaner, a date-code correct Holley four-barrel carb delivers fuel into a rectangular-port intake nestled between 3919840 cast iron heads. From the deep groove pulleys right down to the Holley throttle cable brace, nearly every detail is correct and show quality. Breathing through stock cast iron manifolds that exhale through an OEM true dual exhaust system, the mighty 396 has a great vintage rumble. The engine bay itself shows exceptionally well with satin black inner fenders, reproduction GM hoses and factory grease pencil markings painstakingly recreated on the firewall. There certainly won’t be any points deducted on account of this bay.
Underneath the convertible, the high quality restoration continues. The centerpiece is the original CX code Special High Performance TH400 automatic transmission which was unique to the 375hp and 427/425hp cars due to its specially calibrated shift points and heavy duty converter. The transmission case displays a 38628388 casting number with a correct 198390030 partial VIN, verifying its place as original equipment. From there, power is transferred down the driveline to a 12-bolt rear end packed with 3.73 gears. Around that drivetrain, the impressive F41 suspension remains in place. It utilizes firm springs and a large sway bar up front, a four link and coil springs out back and firm shocks at all four corners for consistent performance through the twisties. The rear also benefits from a large rear sway bar and braced upper arms that assist in handling the L78’s massive torque. Power steering makes turning the A-body a breeze while power disc brakes rein in the big block quickly and efficiently. At the corners, date-coded 14x6 sport wheels wrapped in F70x14 wide oval bias belt tires connect the chassis to road while keeping the factory look intact.
While this car left the assembly line with a Medium Blue bench-seat interior, LeMans Blue and Parchment suit the A-bodies so well that it’s hard to fault anyone for straying away from the original build sheet. Chevelle interiors were never flashy and over-dressed but, rather, functional and stylish - perfect for the performance cars in which they live. This driver’s compartment has been expertly restored to a very high standard with new materials used throughout. The Strato-bucket seats feature fresh foam under the new cushions and new stainless trim. New door panels are highlighted by new stainless trim, new “SS 396” emblems and chrome buttons for the power windows and door locks. Overhead, a white convertible top keeps the elements out while new black carpets and floor mats keep the use of white tasteful. The black dash is all new and houses a speedometer, a 6,000rpm tachometer, an optional electric clock and small fuel, temperature, oil pressure and amps gauges. The car also retains its rare factory 8-track player which still works perfectly. Connecting the driver to the road is an optional tilt column with a wood and aluminum GM Rallye steering wheel. In the back, the trunk is fully restored with spatter finish paint, a new trunk mat, and a full-sized spare with restored jack assembly.
Documentation for this car includes the original build card and original owner’s manual that covers the Chevelle’s features in GM marketing speak. There is also a letter from Jeff Dotterer which breaks the car down in great detail including a comprehensive master list which shows casting numbers and date codes for nearly every significant piece.
With a timeless look and one of the most desirable engines in the 1969 GM catalog, this Chevelle is the stuff dreams are made of. Factor in the drop top and installed options and it becomes a chance to buy one of the most unique A-bodies around. If you’ve been scouting shows and auctions for an awesome A-body, don’t miss the chance to make this 1969 Chevelle SS convertible a part of your collection!