©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Chevelle was restyled for '66, delivering style and thrills at a modest price. See more classic muscle car pictures.
Like other GM intermediates, it was reskinned, though dimensions hardly changed. SS models got a blackout grille and a new hood with nonfunctional vents. With engines of around 400 cid now obligatory in this game, Chevy made the 396-cid V-8 standard, so all its midsize muscle cars were now Chevelle SS 396s.
But instead of the 375-bhp Z-16 396 that bowed midway through the '65 model year, the '66s got detuned 396s rated at 325 bhp in base Turbo-Jet guise and 360 bhp in optional L34 form. Both new mills had 10.25:1 compression, but the L34 got a taller cam, stronger block, and larger four-barrel. It cost $105 extra and nearly one-third of SS 396 buyers ordered it. Still, the L34's mid 15s at around 90 mph in the quarter were pretty ordinary.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. In 1966, all Super Sports now had a 396-cid V-8 of 325 or 360 bhp or the flashy 375 bhp 178.
So was much of the rest of the car, at least compared to the pricey, limited-edition Z-16. Instead of reinforced brakes and underpinnings, the '66 SS 396 used standard Chevelle brakes and suspension pieces. Chevy claimed it had stiffer springs and shocks -- an assertion some testers disputed once they experienced the car's wayward handling and subpar stopping ability. In fairness, comfortable seats, tractable engines, sporty styling, and a $2,776 base price made the '66 SS 396 a great daily driver.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The SS 396's optional bucket-seat cabin featured a console with a clock and included the extra-cost "knee-knocker" underdash tachometer.
Then, in the spring, Chevy released the L78 396. This was essentially an updated Z-16, but with solid lifters and new exhaust manifolds. It had the 427-cid V-8's large-valve heads, plus 11.0:1 compression, aluminum intake manifold, and an 800-cfm Holley. The L78 echoed the Z-16's 375-bhp rating and was the 396 that hard-core Chevy street warriors had hoped all the '66s would be. Only about 3,100 L78s were built. But even the base Chevelle SS was now a genuine big-block muscle car, and the best was yet to come.
Return to Classic Muscle Cars Library.
- Chevy muscle cars beat at the heart of big-cube high performance. See profiles, photos, and specifications of Chevy muscle cars.
- Muscle cars came in many shapes and sizes. Here are features on more than 100 muscle cars, including photos and specifications for each model.
- Muscle cars created their own culture. To learn about it, read How Muscle Cars Work.
These muscle car profiles include photos and specifications for each model:
- Cougar pulled out of Mustang's shadow with the striped and spoilered 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator.
- Beep, beep! Make way for one of the baddest muscle cars of all time, the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi.
- The 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am combined sports-car handling and muscle car power.
- An all-aluminum, race-proven V-8 defined the rare and wicked 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
For related car information, go to these articles:
- The engine is what gives a muscle car its flamboyant personality. To learn everything you need to know about car engines, see How Car Engines Work.
- Muscle cars wouldn't have much muscle without horsepower -- but what exactly is horsepower? How Horsepower Works answers that question.
- NASCAR race cars embody the muscle car philosophy of power. Read How NASCAR Race Cars Work to find out what makes these charged-up racers go.
- Are you thinking of buying a 2007 muscle car, or any other car? See Consumer Guide Automotive's New-Car Reviews, Prices, and Information.