How Can I Tell If a 1970 Chevelle Is an SS or a Malibu?

by Kelley Walker Perry

The Chevelle, a mid-sized car first introduced by Chevrolet in 1963, entered the muscle car ring as a true contender with the 1970 Super Sport, or SS, model. With a big-block engine and fancy factory striping--plus different gauges, sport suspension, wheel covers and bucket seats as options--it was far more popular than its plain sibling, the Malibu. But with all the reproduction parts and fake documentation available to turn a Malibu into a clone of the SS, it can be nearly impossible to discern a true SS Chevelle from a Malibu.

Some things to look for:

1

Look for obvious identification signs on the original window sticker, build sheet or Protect-o-Plates (given to car purchasers from 1970-72 and which included information about the car's equipment). The build sheet, also known as the broadcast copy sheet, was generally found behind the rear seat or over the gas tank and might be the only means of verifying what actually came with your car in its original form when it was assembled.

2

Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate numbers. On 1970 Chevelles, the VIN is stamped behind the firewall and on the right rear frame rail. Be suspicious of recent welding under the dash around the VIN plate.

3

Verify the size of the engine. In 1970, SS models only offered big-block engines. Two SS packages were available: Z25 SS-396 and Z15 SS-454. The 396 had either a 350- or 375-horsepower engine. The 454 had either a 360-horsepower LS5 or a 450-horsepower LS6. The 1970 Malibu had a 330-horsepower LS3 big-block engine, also called a “400” due to it being an over-bored version of an earlier-model engine. Additionally, keep in mind that a very limited number of SS Chevelles with the 375-horsepower engine were produced in 1970.

4

Examine closely the engine-part codes and compare them to codes found in your Chevelle Identification Book or your Catalog of Chevy V-8 Casting Numbers—or, better still, take the engine to a Chevrolet dealer. All Chevrolet engines are stamped with the assembly plant code, production date, and suffix code. Note that although it is fairly easy for a counterfeit operator to stamp codes onto an engine, it is much more difficult to counterfeit the raised casting codes and dates on engine parts.

5

Take a look at the hood. True SS Chevelles have a large bulge in the rear center of the hood, or they have the optional cowl-induction hood instead. SS Chevelles also had striping on the hood, although that could easily be duplicated.

6

Look at the placement of emblems on the car, which is one of the most obvious markers for the SS package. The SS had an “SS” logo and the engine size on the fenders, a white “SS” emblem on a black rubber pad on the rear bumper and a large “SS” grille emblem. The grille should be painted black on a true SS. The Malibu and other non-SS models had silver or chrome trim and other accents.

7

Compare the dash with pictures of true SS dashes found in your Chevelle Identification Book. If it is a true SS model, it should have a black painted face. SS dashes had three large and three small holes for the speedometer and other gauges; Malibus had a rectangular speedometer and no other gauges. The letters on the SS Chevelle’s gauge instruments had a greenish tint; they were white on Malibus. The genuine SS steering wheel and column often matched the interior of the vehicle; clones might be painted black. This is not a foolproof method of identification, as there are SS dash inserts and conversion kits available for Malibus; however, this is one more way to help identify your car.

Tip

  • check Unless you are planning to sell the car, a less-expensive clone can be just as good as an SS model and you can drive it without having to worry as much about damaging it.

Warning

  • close Be wary of buying a car claimed to be a true SS without any of its original paperwork.

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About the Author

Based in Fairland, Ind., Kelley Walker Perry has been writing professionally since 1999. Her articles have appeared in “The Shelbyville News” and “The Daily Journal” newspapers, and in “At the Center” magazine. Walker Perry is a Hoosier State Press Association award winner for Best Profile Feature. Her short story, “Lake Effect,” placed 18th in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition in 2007.