By the numbers, GM produced a lot of Chevelles. In 1967, 369,133 were built, and overwhelming a majority were V8-powered cars at 283,400. Where things can get surprising is in the realms of the SS vs. base Chevelle. A base-level Chevelle V8 rang up at the cash register for $2,326, about 4,800 consumers wrote a check for one. For just $500 more, the SS396 version is a bargain, and something that 63,000 proud owners discovered on their test drives. With so many SS396 Chevelles in the market, setting yourself apart from the crowd may be a little tough.
This is one of those cars. The fact that this is a beautiful original survivor makes it worth looking at, but a recent event made the car a touch more unique. The producers of the movie “Tree of Life” selected this Chevelle for a feature in the movie. The movie, which stars Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, was filmed throughout Texas, including Dallas, Austin, Houston, Waco and the infamous La Grange (made famous by ZZ Top). Part of the Statler Collection from Tyler, Texas, it was an easy decision. “Tree of Life” begins in the 1950s, and progresses through the life of the main character, Jack (Penn), whose father (Pitt) teaches him the ways of the world. It may not be a car-chase movie, but then we wouldn’t have a car to look at afterwards, it would have been smashed. The car has traded hands a couple of times since the movie was filmed, Fred and Kim Murfin of Red Line Auto Sports in Wilson, Oklahoma recently purchased the car and told us about its history.
The Chevelle is worthy on its own merits. An original 4-speed car, the factory Tahoe Turquoise color (coded LL) covers all of the original body panels. A southern Texas car, there is no rust to be seen anywhere, even the trunk is perfect. The bumpers were rechromed to match the perfect paint, but the stainless trim buffed out to a blinding shine.
Moving inside, the Chevelle needed a little more love. The interior had seen better days, so the original bucket seats and rear seats were recovered with restoration covers. A new headliner, door panels, dash pad and carpet were also installed. One thing that is a must in southern Texas is A\C, which was not originally installed on the Chevelle. A Vintage Air retrofit A\C system was installed to upgrade the car while maintain the original look under the hood.
Numbers matching, the 325 horsepower 396 big block is original to the last bolt. It has been freshened up on the outside, but runs like a top. Cracking the VIN code, we learn that the Chevelle was built in Kansas with the 396 being built in the Tonawanda on October 12, 1966. Having driven the car, we can tell you, this sucker runs. We drove it about 40 miles during our photo shoot, and unlike many survivor (and even some fresh restorations) it never lost its composure. Although, it is worth mentioning, we hard time getting set up with all the people stopping by to look at the car. Power steering and power disc brakes make the car a breeze to drive, and the 1” front sway bar keeps the car level in the turns. The front suspension had been rebuilt with new rubber components and consumables, so it rode quite well on the 1969 14×7 rally wheels wrapped in Redline rubber.
Setting yourself apart in a world full of quality SS Chevelles is not easy. Having a super-clean original car is just part of the equation. The story behind the car needs to be just as compelling. We think Brad Pitt and Sean Penn having driven this one in a movie is pretty interesting.
Red Line Auto Sports