Car Culture & Entertainment

Top Cars of the ’60s: #10 – 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Z16


Editor’s Note: The decade of the 1960s is considered by many to be the greatest in American automotive history. There’s little mystery why. The 1960s gave birth to the “muscle car wars” and game-changing performance pony cars. Legends like the Pontiac GTO, Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, HEMI-powered Mopars, and several others. How does one choose which is best? Controversially, we’re guessing. That’s why you’re taking some of the heat, too. We sync’d up with our friends on Summit Racing’s social media team to put the question out to their Facebook and Instagram audiences: What is the top car of the 1960s? Like us, you had trouble choosing, but we did our best to blend the collective wisdom of your opinions with ours to make a Top 10. The countdown to #1 begins now.

1965 Chevy Chevelle SS Z16 black

(Image/American Car Collector)

Anticipation for the redesigned Chevrolet Chevelle was so high in 1964 that General Motors opened a new manufacturing plant in Fremont, CA to ensure the automaker could meet the demand.

There were 11 individual sub-models on the docket, generally grouped between the Chevelle 300 and the Chevelle Malibu.

Coming in at #10 on our Best Cars of the 1960s list, is the muscle-bound 1965 Chevy Chevelle Malibu SS Z16. This is the car that took the Chevelle from an innocent midsize model to a big block-powered, pavement-bruising muscle car and forever. It changed the way we looked at the Chevrolet Chevelle and helped lay the groundwork for future Chevelle beasts like the Yenko S/C and COPO Chevelles, which would up the performance ante later in the decade.

The Chevelle Malibu SS Z16 featured a 375-horsepower 396 cubic-inch V8 engine, dual exhaust, and chrome accents. The gorgeous boxy-styled Chevelle Z16 was available in Regal Red, Tuxedo Black, and Crocus Yellow, and showcased a wide-body look and curved side-window glass that gave the car a distinctive and—at the time—brand-new look. The ’65 Chevelle Z16’s were built on a robust frame, fitted with special performance shocks on a meaty sports suspension featuring both front and rear sway bars. The Z16’s possessed an upgraded heavy-duty cooling system, hydraulic power-assisted steering and power brakes. Bucket seats upfront were a popular option on the newly created muscle machine.

According to The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars it was tricky to tell the difference between the Z16 and other Chevelles, despite the significant cost difference.

“The interiors… had an SS-396 emblem on the dashboard, and were equipped with a 160 mph speedometer and an AM/FM stereo multiplex radio,” the book said.

The Z16 upgrade cost $1,500.

Only 201 of them were produced—200 hardtops, and one convertible.

Today, surviving Z16s are revered as one of the most rare and powerful muscle cars ever produced.

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  1. How do I get to # 9 – 1 ?? No place to click to advance ??

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