In another post we counted down our five favorite Rat motors ever. Now, we’re looking at the top Chevrolet big block production cars ever produced. And there were some great ones to choose from.
The big block Chevy kick started the muscle car era when it was introduced in 1965. Since then, it has been the braun behind some legendary rides, including these:
10. 1974 Corvette LS4
Though its 270 horsepower is down considerably from some of the other vehicles on this list, we’ve got to mention the LS4 454 Corvette Stingray, as it was truly the end of an era. Lasting through 1974, the LS4 carried the Chevy performance mantle longer than some of its other contemporaries and endured the best it could amidst tightening emissions regulations.
Considering how many performance nameplates vanished completely during the 1970s, the LS4 gets partial credit for simply keeping the Corvette legacy alive—slow clap.
9. 1970 El Camino SS LS6
Is it a car or is it a truck?
Onlookers may have had a hard time getting a clean look at the El Camino SS LS6 in 1970, what with that 450-horse 454 LS6 motor slinging it down the road. The 1970 El Camino is Chevrolet’s fastest production truck of all time.
8. 1965 Corvette 396
This version of Chevrolet’s legendary sports car was not only the first Corvette to sport a big block, it was the first vehicle to get Chevrolet’s then-new big block Mark IV. Although the Rat’s birth can be traced back to the Gen II 427 a couple years before, the actual Mark IV originally appeared in this Corvette, along with the Chevelle. The 396-equipped Corvette delivered 425 horsepower.
7. 1990-93 Chevy 454SS
While it’s easy to think of the Rat-powered muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s, let’s not forget that Chevy kept the Mark IV big block going for several decades after that. And nowhere is that more evident than with the 454SS, a sport truck from Chevy that borrowed everything from the muscle car playbook: it was a based on a plain-Jane C1500, 2WD-only truck, exclusively available as a regular cab, short bed.
And though on paper it made only about 230 horsepower, the 454 also churned out a tire-melting 345 ft.-lbs. or torque.
Can you say “sleeper?”
6. 1967 Corvette L71 (Turbo-Jet 3×2)
You probably know it as the “427 Tri-Power.”
Say those words and even the most casual of Corvette fans will start drooling. Although the big block in this legendary ‘Vette is technically known as the Turbo-Jet 3×2, most know the car as the 427 Tri-Power (sorry, Pontiac). The L71 version of this engine had an aggressive solid lifter cam and high-flow cylinder heads that helped make the Corvette a 435-horsepower ground-pounder.
5. 1969 Yenko Nova
Using Chevrolet’s Central Office Production Order (COPO), Pennsylvania Chevy dealer Don Yenko created his own line of Chevrolet muscle cars using big block power. The 1969 Chevrolet Yenko Nova might not be the most famous of the famed Yenko lineup, but it was the lightest. And when you combine 425 horsepower with the Yenko Nova’s light weight, you get a car that goes 0-60 in just four seconds.
Too bad there were only 37 of these rare cars.
4. 1967 L88 Corvette
Numbers really do lie.
That’s the case with the L88 Corvette–one the rarest and meanest versions of Chevrolet’s sports car. The 427 L88 engine came with high-flow, lightweight aluminum heads, a racing cam, and competition-grade parts; yet it was rated at just 430 horsepower. Like other cars of the day, the L88 Corvette was purposely and grossly underrated. Many estimate it produced around 500 horsepower!
Designed strictly for racing–all unnecessary weight was left out–L88s were extremely rare. Just 20 were made in 1967.
3. 1969 Yenko/SC Camaro
The most popular of the COPO/Yenko family, the 1969 Yenko/SC Camaro allowed Camaro owners to get around Chevrolet’s 400-cubic-inch limit for midsize vehicles. These particular 427-cubic-inch L72 big blocks were equipped with an aggressive solid lifter camshaft and high-flow cylinder heads to produce 450 horsepower.
Using Central Office Production Order 9561, Don Yenko created just 201 of these legendary Super Cars (SC)
2. 1970 Chevelle 454 SS LS6
For 1970, Chevrolet lifted its cubic inch ban on midsize cars. The company promptly offered two SS 454 Chevelles: the LS5 and LS6. The LS6 version of the 454 came with forged steel engine internals, free-breathing closed-chamber cylinder heads, and a huge 780 cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor. Although considered conservative, the rated 450-horsepower output was the highest ever assigned during the original muscle car era.
Combine brute muscle (most think the LS6 actually produced around 500 horsepower) with the Chevelle’s iconic design, and you’ve got the poster child for the American muscle car.
1. 1969 Camaro ZL1
Power. Looks. Rarity. Great story.
The 1969 Camaro ZL1 had all that and more, making it #1 on our list. Built at the request of Chevrolet dealer and NHRA drag racer Fred Gibb, the ZL1 is another of the legendary COPO cars (9560) and was designed with pure power and straightline speed in mind.
So what differentiates the ZL1 from the Yenko/SC Camaro at #3 on our list?
It had an all-aluminum 427 engine that weighed roughly the same as a small block 327. It also had open chamber cylinder heads, a hot racing cam, and competition-grade parts that gave it a power rating of 430 horsepower. (Again, Chevrolet officials went conservative here). Its combination of light weight and big power make it the king of Camaros–and the king of our Top Ten list.
Today, Camaro ZL1s can go for as much as $500,000 at auction.
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