The Chevrolet Chevelle was introduced in 1964 as a mid-size model between the Impala and the Chevy II.
Chevrolet felt a mid-sized car would be appealing to young families wanting a bit more room and driveability than the compact, yet not financially ready to step up to a full-size car.
But the Chevelle was also a car that caught the eye of the performance-minded buyer. With the initial success of the mid-sized Le Mans GTO, buyers looked toward the Chevelle with its Super Sport option and potent V8 engines.
Restyled in 1966, the Chevelle grew in both overall size and added big-block engine options, making it even more attractive. In 1968, the Chevelle got a total restyle with a new wedge-shaped body and upgraded chassis and components.
The Super Sport or SS 396 model was the ultimate muscle-car package and, although the engine received an overbore to 402 cubic inches, it still retained the 396 designation for model recognition. Several engine options brought the buyer a choice between the base 325-hp Turbo-Jet version, the 350-hp L34, or the L78 with 375 horsepower. The F41 sport suspension package added heavy-duty sway bars and front disc brakes for better handling and stopping power.
Rick Sierhuis's 1983 Fiat Spyder had always been a great summer driver, but that changed in 2003 when his wife Allyson told him she was expecting and they'd need a bigger car. His search for a replacement took him to Fraserwood, Man., for a look at a 1969 Chevelle SS 396 hardtop. Finished in Butternut Yellow, the Chevelle had just come out of a lengthy storage and was in great condition.
"I drove the car for two summers, then started on a full restoration with many of the mechanical parts sourced with the help of my father-in-law, Dave Hollowaty," Sierhuis says.
Once the car was stripped down, the engine went to Piston Ring Service where Barry Korba treated it to a full custom rebuild that included forged pistons, performance camshaft and Carter four-barrel carburetor. The Turbo Hydra-matic transmission received a performance rebuild at GW Transmission, and the 12-bolt posi-traction rear axle was checked and serviced.
For the exhaust, a set of headers carry the spent gases to a three-inch-diameter custom dual exhaust system with Dynomax mufflers fabricated and installed by Minute Muffler's Main Street location. Wheel treatment is the tried-and-true GM 15-inch rally wheels turning on Cooper Cobra radial tires.
While the body of the car was fairly straight and rust-free, Dan Robinson performed the usual body preparation and priming before final paint.
"Everyone told me to keep the original Butternut Yellow colour, but I wanted it Hugger Orange," Sierhuis says, adding the colour was factory available colour in 1969 and, for him, would a tribute to Holland's soccer team.
Sierhuis' father Dick grew up playing soccer in Holland before immigrating to Canada at the age of 19 and played for the Canadian national team until he married and began raising a family.
"There ended up being 13 kids in the family, so there wasn't any way to outfit us all to play hockey, so we all played soccer," Sierhuis says.
Robinson laid down a fresh coat of Hugger Orange, accompanied by the Super Sport white stripes on the domed SS hood and trunk lid. The original bumpers were re-chromed at North Star/Fairmont Plating in Winnipeg.
"I called about reproduction bumpers and they told me if I had the originals to re-chrome them, as the reproduction bumpers are thinner and the plating is not as good as a professional shop can produce," Sierhuis says.
For the black vinyl interior upholstery, Sierhuis had John Baxter re-upholster the seats and install a new headliner with the factory-correct materials, available as a kit from the Car Shop in Orange County, Calif.
Completed in 2007, the SS 396 Chevelle is everything Sierhuis had hoped for, and he enjoys driving it each summer to the local shows and family outings. Equipped with Super Sport Strato-bucket seats, centre console and floor shift, the Chevelle also features full factory gauges with tachometer, AM radio, power steering and power front disc brakes.
While some might think the car's vanity plate, "ORANJE", is misspelled, it's Dutch and references the national soccer team. In the 1970s, the team was often called the Clockwork Orange for their passing precision, and the bright uniform is a long-standing trademark.
Precision performance is also something the SS 396 Chevelle was noted for. Turning in mid-14-second quarter-mile times at over 100 miles an hour, it was a capable beast.
Whether it's an Oranje World Cup soccer team or this vintage SS 396 Chevelle muscle car, only one word adequately describes both: GOOOOAAALLL!