Chevelle was nice fit in middle of Chevy lineup
Chevrolet found itself with a Goldilocks scenario in the mid-1960s. For many potential customers, the Corvair was too strange, the Chevy II was too small and the Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala were too large.
The situation was made even more critical when Ford put its Fairlane on an "intermediate"-sized 115.5-inch wheelbase for 1962, giving Chevy's archrival a mid-sized vehicle that came with what was considered big-car styling.
Chevy wasn't alone in its predicament, and General Motors went to work to develop a new A-body lineup that would provide cars for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile, and eventually bring back a new version of the El Camino car-based pickup on the same platform.
Fortunately for Chevrolet, many people thought immediately of the 1955-57 Chevys when they saw the new-for-1964 Chevelle, as Chevrolet named its version of the GM A-body. Fittingly, both of those beloved 1955-'57 models and this new Chevelle were built on 115-inch wheelbases.
The Chevy II/Nova rode on a 110-inch platform and the large Chevys on a 119-inch wheelbase.
While the Chevelle took many of its styling cues from the compact Chevy II/Nova models, it was the first Chevrolet produced with curved side-window glass that made the interior feel much larger. "Senior compact" was one label applied to the car, which was built in Baltimore and Kansas City and in a new plant at Fremont, Calif.
The 1964 Chevelle was offered in 300 and more upscale Malibu trim. The 300 was available as a two- or four-door sedan or station wagon. Malibu buyers could select from among a four-door sedan, two- or four-door wagons or a two-door coupe or convertible.
The new Chevelle was available with a 120-hp, 194-cubic-inch or 155-hp, 230-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine or a 195-hp, 283-cubic-inch V-8. Buyers also could choose a version of the V-8 that breathed through a four-barrel carburetor, exhaled through dual exhausts, was shifted by a four-speed manual transmission and provided 220 hp.
For $162, buyers of the Malibu Sport Coupe or Convertible could add an SS (Super Sports) package that included a black or white vinyl interior, bucket seats, a complete set of gauges, a center console and special wheel covers. SS models could be further equipped with a tachometer and heavy-duty suspension.
With Pontiac finagling to stuff its 389-cubic-inch V-8 into the A-body platform to create the GTO, Chevy responded before the end of the model year by offering its 327-cubic-inch V-8 in 250- and 300-hp variations to create a "muscle car" version of the Chevelle.
The last year for the Chevelle was 1976; it was replaced by the Malibu, which had been the name of its top trim series.
You can reach Larry Edsall at firstname.lastname@example.org.