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Chevrolet Malibu SS Z16 Tribute, for sale in Solon, Ohio, for $52,500.
1965 Chevelle SS Convertible
Some people take regular cars and turn them into something spectacular, and some cars are born great. The car here is both: A true, 138 code Chevelle SS convertible, beautifully restored and then updated as a tribute to the unobtainable Z16 SS396 package. A triple white, big block, four speed Chevelle droptop done as nicely as this one simply doesn’t come around every day, and since the only Z16 convertible built is lost, a well done replica is in order!
True 138 Chevelle SS Period correct 396ci/four speed combination Crisp white paint Extremely well sorted A Z16 tribute at a fraction of the price!
As most car folks know, the Pontiac GTO was thrust on the market in 1964 and is given credit by many as the first American musclecar. Chevrolet debuted the Chevelle in 1964 to compete with it’s sister GM division’s car, but the largest engine was the 327. The Goat had a 389. Chevelle’s 327 in the higher horsepower forms was certainly no slouch, but that old saying “there’s no substitute for cubic inches” must have been heard around Chevrolet Engineering as 1964 progressed.
The 396 c. i. Mark IV V8 was brand new and highly publicized in early 1965. Whether a conceived strategy on the part of Chevrolet marketing to whet the appetite of the buying public by installing the new 396 engine in the mid-size Chevelle, or an effort to simply garner interest in the Chevrolet brand, the Z16 was born.
But the Z16 was much more than just the big 396 in the Chevelle SS. It was a complete package with many special and heavy duty chassis components including a heavy duty suspension, special heavy duty rear axle, 4 speed transmission, special frame, special heavy duty power brakes and unique power steering components. The interior was very special, as well. A 160 mph speedometer was only available with the SS 396, and mandatory options included a tachometer, deluxe front and rear seat belts, an AM/FM stereo radio, padded dash and remote outside mirror.
Starting with a clean, original ’65 SS convertible, the foundation for this Z16 tribute was already set. The original 327 was tossed and a 1970 code CTW 396/350 was procured for motive duty. Rebuilt with new internals and a tough-sounding cam, there’s an Edelbrock Performer 2-O intake and Holley 750 double on top, chrome valve covers and a chrome air cleaner for shine and ceramic coated headers on the sides. With an eye towards drivability all new hoses, wires and belts are in place up top while rebuilt power steering, front disc brakes and a full MOOG suspension kit is underneath. There are neat assembly line details like the “138” in grease pencil on the firewall and modern pieces like the Mallory Unilite distributor. Power flows back into a Borg Warner T10 transmission before ending up at the 12 bolt rear featuring boxed control arms, urethane bushings and a rear sway bar. There’s a Positraction unit in the pumpkin, too--the 3.31 open rear might be the hot Z16 resto ticket but the locker is the way to go on the street!
Z16 models came loaded up with options, small special touches and slight changes from the base SS, and you’ll find just about every one of them on this car. The Malibu SS badges were relocated to the rear of the fenders to make way for the crossed flag 396 pieces up front, and there’s an SS396 emblem on the decklid, but the real showstopper is the set of simulated mag wheel covers and 7.75x14 Firestone Deluxe Champion gold line tires. Although the original cars only came in light yellow, red or black this one looks awfully sharp in its brilliant white coat with matching power top. Panel gaps are better than factory, the surfaces are flat and smooth. The glass is in excellent condition, as is the brightwork. With the tough sounds emanating from the Flowmaster-fortified exhaust below this is not a car that gets missed.
Inside new white upholstery takes center stage with the California-cool teal paint as its foil. The clock on the dash is a Z16 item, making way in the cluster for the 6000RPM tach. The original AM/FM radio spec’d out by the package has nothing on the sound quality of the Ken Harrison cassette deck in the factory location. Comfortable and attractive the seats are perfect, split down the middle by the factory center console. Front and rear seat belts were added, which is both a nice plus for safety and another Z16 detail. There’s a sport woodgrain wheel in your hand and a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror--now that’s capturing the car’s dual personality as a cruiser and a bruiser!
Only 76 Z16’s are known to remain, and the sole convertible (which may not have even been built) is lost. Let’s face it--your chances of finding a real one are close to zero, and their value is high enough you’ll think more than twice before taking a drive to you favorite hangout. With big league power and crisp looks this tribute can go anywhere with little worry, and if you’re like us you’d rather be out on the road than anywhere else!