Chevrolet Chevelle Z16 Coupe

The Pontiac GTO had lit a fire under all the automakers in 1964, and various nameplates cast around for small cars to cram big motors into. Chevrolet’s Chevelle seemed like a natural choice, and in February of 1965, the division had a new 396/325 V8 for the new Caprice sedan, with a solid-lifter 396/425 for the Corvette.

Making the Chevelle able to pack a big-block turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated, and eventually only 201 of the rare RPO Z16 option cars were built, including two prototypes and a one-off convertible. The reason was that everything had to be beefed-up to handle the new powerplant.

The boxed Chevelle convertible frame was used, brakes came from the big Impala, the suspension was heavy duty, there were extra body mounting points on the frame and the only transmission was a heavy-duty four-speed. To top it off, the special L37 engine required different manifolds on each side to clear the frame. There was an 11-inch “King Kong” clutch and a rear axle ring gear almost an inch bigger than stock. The wheels were six-inches wide, an inch more than stock.

Other one-off parts include the air cleaner with metal cross flags, 396 Turbo-Jet script on the fenders and a rear taillight panel from the Chevrolet 300, but with an SS emblem and ribbed molding. All told, only 201 were built and it is believed that only about 72 are known to exist.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in June of 2010 at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, San Diego, California.

396/375 V8 engine, 4-speed transmission, reinforced frame, big brakes, bucket seats, dual exhaust, heavy duty axle. Wheelbase: 115".

Sources: RM Auctions; Mecum Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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