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LS3-powered Chevelle SS – Doin’ ’65 (Part 1)

1/24/2015 8:35:15 PM
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Bill Kuhn went back in time, then drove into the future with his LS3-powered Chevelle SS.

In 1964 Chevy introduced the mid-size Chevelle to fill a gap in its model line-up. Sharing the same 115-inch wheelbase as their hugely successful ’55-’57 vehicles, this new model was the Bow Tie brand’s answer to compete with cross-town rival Ford, and its mid-size Fairlane. Initially, depending on one’s tastes and needs, a two-door coupe, convertible, four-door sedan, or four-door station wagon were the model options available.

image: http://guides.wmlcloud.com/images/uploads/2014/02/image001.png

In 1964 Chevy introduced the mid-size Chevelle to fill a gap in its model line-up

Mixed in with those choices was the SS option, which was available on the coupe and convertible. A small 194-inch straight six-banger was standard and there was a 230-inch six optional, but it was the 283-cubic-inch 4-barrel V-8 rated at 220-horses that was Chevrolet’s entry vehicle for the emerging youth market. Later, a 300-horse 327 appeared in an attempt to thwart the Pontiac GTO’s exploding popularity with performance enthusiasts. The Chevelle was a huge success in ’64, with GM selling over 330,000 units – the SS coupe and convertible models accounting for over 74,000 of those sales.

Maryland native Bill Kuhn wanted a piece of that action, so in ’64 he pulled the trigger on a new SS ragtop. Fresh from a stint in the military, he had one ordered, and was ready to take delivery of it. Unfortunately, fate wasn’t kind to him that year. “I almost lost my right arm in a work accident at that time,” he recalls. “I was unable to take delivery of the Chevelle.”

That accident sidelined him for about six months; however, in ’65 he again placed an order for one. After months of waiting, he finally got a Madeira Maroon Chevelle SS convertible. Powered by a 300-horse 327 mated to a four-speed, this was his first new car. That ride served him well for a few years. He logged many miles traveling from the East to the West coast, and back. In ’68, he sold it and moved up the cubic-inch food chain with a new ’68 Chevelle SS396 convertible, also four-speed-equipped. Ironically, the ’65 had been an enjoyable car, the ’68, not so much. “I didn’t like the car, so I sold it,” he points out.

A 300-horse 327 appeared in an attempt to thwart the Pontiac GTO's exploding popularity with performance enthusiasts

By that time had also set up a business. As the owner of His Place, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, working on cars became his bread and butter. While the main focus of the business was auto repair, he also tested the restoration waters by tackling numerous projects. In subsequent years, he restored a ’65 SS coupe, and also a ’65 SS convertible.

In ’83 he was at the Spring Carlisle show in Pennsylvania and recalls, “There was a guy there from Texas who was selling a Mist Blue ’65 SS convertible with a Medium Blue interior, an air car. Man, that car was gorgeous. I wanted to buy it, but at the time he wanted 13 grand for it. In ’83 that was a lot of money, so I didn’t buy it, but I always remembered that color combination.”

That car stuck in his mind for many years, and the desire to own one like it didn’t subside.

In ’07 he stumbled upon his current ride, an almost original ’65 four-speed SS convertible located in Pennsylvania. The car had been parked in a barn for many years, and it was in dismal shape, but it was complete. The original 327 was long gone, however, the seller had a freshly rebuilt replacement that Bill wanted no part of. He cut a deal with him and dragged the car, minus the engine, back to Maryland.


In terms of rolling stock, subdued but elegant was the desired look

His plans for this Chevelle were unlike the previous ones he had done. His shop had started doing restomod conversions for customers, so this one would get that treatment as well. When they started digging into the Chevelle, they quickly found out how unkind Pennsylvania winters could be on a car.

 
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