DEC 13, 2010 24 CARS OF CHRISTMAS: DAY 13:THE 1966-69 CHEVELLE SS396



The 24 Cars of Christmas aren’t picked through exhaustive scientific analysis.


A better explanation is “sheer gut reaction”.


‘In this case the car that caused the gut reaction was a brand new Chevelle SS396.’


My older brother Bruce was a huge devotee of the stoplight drag and in 1966 our town’s population was around 25,000 people so it did have a few traffic lights.



My brother Jim and I were 11-years-old and any day that we were invited along by my older brother for a trip into town in my dad’s car was a great day.


We knew that a stoplight Grand Prix was inevitable and Bruce won his fair share with a combination of timing and reflexes until he came up against this brand new SS396


It was a blue car with the black vinyl roof and the 2 things I remember best about that first exposure to this legendary Chevy were the crossed flags/SS396 fender badges and the black strip below the trunk lid with the SS-we saw a lot of the SS on that fateful day.


Those were ominous visual signs-akin to seeing jailhouse art tattoos on a muscled-out freak whose girlfriend you’d been hitting on relentlessly at a biker bar.


The simple fact was that my dad’s tired 1963 2-barrel 318 Belvedere 4-door sedan had a better chance of winning the Daytona 500 than beating a showroom new SS396. The only thing that kept it close was the Chevy’s fight for traction at every light.




The blue SS396 practically stood on end until it grabbed-it was similar to a space shuttle launch.You could see it lurch ahead with brute force every time it hooked up and then it would disappear in a cloud of tire smoke.


It took 6 losses in a row to convince my underdeveloped juvenile mind that this wasn’t a fluke-the worn out old Plymouth was dead in the water and it would probably lose even if the Chevy was running on 7 cylinders.


This was a healthy dose of reality for an 11-year-old kid and it’s not like I immediately became a huge fan of the SS396-in fact I hated them. I always hoped that the guy who spanked my dad’s ’63 Belvey would come against a brand new Plymouth or Dodge street hemi for his own reality check.


But that blue SS396 left a lifetime impression on me and over time I’ve come to really appreciate the 66-69 era of the Chevelle SS396. Merry Christmas.


Jerry Sutherland  


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