1965 Chevrolet: 350-Horsepower Chevelle
Not long after graduating from high school, Robert Holland joined in the Air Force and was assigned to an air base in California. When Chevrolet introduced the new intermediate-size Chevelle in 1964, a car with almost the interior room of an Impala but with a more practical exterior size, he was more than a little bit interested.
“I liked the look of them,” he says. He was particularly interested in the L-79 engine, a 327-cubic-inch V-8 that produced 350 horsepower. “I didn’t have a lot of money,” Holland says, “but I found out from looking at the sales books that you could get the engine in a low-priced four-door car.”
Of course, most of the extra-cost L-79 engines were ordered in flashy upscale models. He approached several Chevrolet dealers but they all turned down his request to buy the big engine in a stripped-down car. Listening to his tale of woe, a fellow airman said his uncle worked at a Chevrolet dealership and he would take the order.
Holland got a weekend pass and placed an order for a mist-blue Chevelle “300” series four-door sedan with L-79 V-8 engine, rubber floor mats, heavy-duty battery, heavy-duty radiator, heavy-duty suspension, Muncie four-speed transmission, AM/FM radio with rear speaker, fawn-colored cloth bench seats, plus the comfort and convenience group which includes backup lights.
With only a “little horn button” at the hub of the two-spoke steering wheel, Holland admits his car is on the plain side. But when he lights up the L-79 engine, “It’s very special.” Before he was discharged in March 1966, Holland reports, “Every six months I was going through a set of rear tires.”
While the speedometer stops at 120 mph, Holland says, “It’s been past that. They have a lot of nice freeways in California.”
Holland’s 3,035-pound Chevelle is supported on a 115-inch wheelbase with front coil springs and rear leaf springs. The base price in 1965 was $2,301, plus the $1,000 in accessories.
Holland says, “I drove the car home to Illinois and I got 18 miles per gallon. It cruises nicely between 65 and 70 mph.” A four-barrel Holley carburetor feeds fuel to the powerful engine.
An acquaintance with a top-of-the-line Malibu with an L-79 engine and a four-speed floor-shift transmission sold his car to Holland when he got his draft notice. Thereafter, Holland’s original Chevelle sat out the winter months while the Malibu tackled the salt and chemicals.
“That car had a lot of miles and was worn out. It was getting pretty rusty too,” Holland says. “I drove both of those cars for many years without thinking about any special significance of the special engines and transmissions. I later joined a car club and learned that the L-79 was a sought-after engine.”
Because virtually no one would believe Holland when he said he had a four-door base-model Chevelle “300” with the L-79 engine, he decided to do some number crunching. When the dust had settled he had determined that there were no more than 100 cars like his built with the L-79 engine. “Most people think that number is very unlikely,” Holland says.
Holland has had a few minor rust spots repaired and spot-painted and has installed new seat covers. He also has altered the blacked out grille to include four shiny Chevrolet “bow tie” emblems.
The car only goes out on fair weather cruise nights and the occasional auto show. Still in the trunk is the original 7.35x14-inch spare tire.