When Chevrolet introduced its new Chevelle in 1964, the initial plan was for the mid-sized car to take sales away from Ford’s Fairlane. But, 1964 would also find automotive sales placing more emphasis on performance vehicles than ever before. The sensible Chevelle was in a position that it could have been left behind. Fortunately, certain folks at Chevrolet were not about to let that happen.
The exterior of Z16-equipped cars is not much different than non-Z16-equipped cars, except for the special black and chrome trim, mag-wheel-looking wheel covers, and small 396 badges
Chevrolet immediately placed its potent little 327ci small-block engine on the Chevelle option list. But, since the folks at Pontiac already offered a 389 cubic-inch engine in its mid-sized cars — like the GTO — Chevrolet knew something “big” was needed to make an impression. The Chevelle was a very versatile platform, and the buying public had the choice of a sedan, coupe, convertible, several different forms of station wagons, and even the El Camino. But, versatility aside, the Chevelle needed more attitude, and attitude it would get. Enter the now iconic 396 cubic-inch big-block, and the Z16 package.
In 1965, the Z16 option was much more than just a larger engine being stuffed under the hood of Chevelle. It started with a foundation of using the reinforced frame typically reserved for a convertible. This frame featured several chassis reinforcements, and utilized unique chassis components like the biggest brakes available, which were taken from the full-sized-car line up. The exterior of Z16-equipped Malibus feature only subtle differences from other Chevelle SS coupes. These differences were special black and chrome trim, mag-wheel-looking wheel covers, and small 396 Turbo Jet badges. What’s more, unlike standard non-Z16-quipped cars that could be purchased in any of the 15 available exterior colors, Z16-optioned cars were only available in three – Tuxedo Black, Regal Red, and Crocus Yellow.
When peering through the window and inside the car, Z16-optioned cars looked much like any Malibu SS. Front seat passengers got comfortable in bucket seats behind a padded dash that featured a dash-mounted pedestal clock, and a unique speedometer that let the driver think they could reach 160 mph in the car. The Malibu SS also included a center console for manually-shifted cars, and those equipped with a Powerglide (a column shifter was also available with the Powerglide and Turbo three speed transmissions). The information we found, states the Turbo three-speed manual transmission was not available with a floor shifter and console. If a column shifter was ordered, bucket seats were still standard fare, but could be swapped for a bench seat. The Z16’s standard-issue tachometer (RPO U14) was also optional on any V8-powered Chevelle.
The engine in all Z16-optioned cars was an L37 396 big block, rated at 375 horsepower. The L37 big block 396 used a hydraulic-lifter camshaft, and featured forged pistons and crankshaft, four-bolt mains, ported closed-chamber cylinder heads, and an aluminum intake with a Holley 3310 four-barrel carburetor. In a strange twist, Z16-spec cars were not available with Positraction.
Chevy only built 201 of these specially-equipped Chevelles with the Z16 package, and the car was never marketed to the public. It wasn’t even listed on any dealer order forms, so buying this car meant you knew the secret handshake.
What are they worth now? At the Mecum 2015 auction in Anaheim, California, a freshly-restored example was a no sale at $220,000. Not a bad investment since they sold new for slightly more than $4,500.
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Randy Bolig.
The ’80s was a crazy time for fashion, hair styles, and automotive accessories. Here’s an awkward moment in aftermarket shifters, the Hurst Lightning Rods.
Part of the fun in looking through old scrapbooks is having a good laugh with ourselves for the fads and styles of times past. Jeez, what we were thinking? Such could be the case in automotive fashions, too. Take the Hurst Lightning Rods, an aftermarket performance shifter marketed in the 1980s. This gadget employed three shift levers to accomplish everything that a single lever could do.
Hurst’s inspiration for the Lightning Rods was the Lenco transmission (above) used in drag racing in those years, notably in the NHRA Pro Stock category. A highly specialized, purpose-built piece of straight-line racing equipment, the Lenco employed a series of planetary gear assemblies that stacked together in modular fashion, with an individual shift lever for each gearset—simple, positive, and utterly foolproof. Hurst took this race-only setup and adapted it to production automatic transmissions, allowing road drivers to emulate their drag strip heroes, grabbing a separate lever for each upshift.
The Lightning Rods system was set up to work like any ordinary automatic gear selector, more or less, with a conventional PRND shift pattern (as shown in the top photo). The difference was in the two additional levers: the far right lever and release button performed the 1-2 upshift, while the middle lever and button performed the 2-3 upshift. Or the driver could simply leave the lever in D for Drive or OD for Overdrive and drive normally. In that regard, the Lightning Rods setup was not unlike the Hurst Dual Gate aka “His ‘n Her” shifters of previous years.
Hurst marketed the Lightning Rods through its regular speed shop channels in several versions, including kits for the GM F-Body Camaro and Firebird and a universal model with a small, stand-alone floor console. Perhaps the most familiar application was as standard equipment in the 1983-84 Hurst/Olds–the final iterations of the Hurst-equipped muscle cars. Some 3,001 models in 1983 and 3,500 units in 1984 were built before Hurst/Olds production concluded for good. In hindsight the Lightning Rods look like a silly idea, but often, silly can be fun.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.