The Pontiac GTO caught everyone’s attention in 1964. For 1965, Chevrolet responded by offering the Chevelle with the L79 327, which had the horsepower to compete. However, it was a big-block world and Chevrolet would need heavier artillery to compete more properly. One of those hustling small-block L79s, a 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS for sale on ClassicCars.com, is our Pick of the Day. It is being sold by a dealership in St. Louis. (Click the link to view the listing)
The Chevelle was introduced in 1964, available as the Chevelle 300, 300 Deluxe, Malibu, and Malibu SS. The SS model nicely captured the buckets-and-console trend, but that’s where “sporty” and “sports” diverged because horsepower was somewhat lacking. Soon after introduction, a 300-horsepower 327 became available, but it was no match for the GTO. A L76 327 mule with 365 horsepower — the top carbureted engine available on the Corvette — was paraded for the magazines but it never reached production status. The following year, Chevrolet introduced a slightly detuned version and called it L79.
Rated at 350 horsepower, the L79 327 was basically an L76 with a hydraulic cam, which made it easier to live with compared to the solid-lifter job that the L76 was using. The 11.0:1-compression L79 was the little engine that could, surprising a lot of more substantial machinery, but considering Pontiac, Chrysler, Buick, and Oldsmobile were offering 6.4 liters and larger (and even Chevrolet’s solid-lifter 396 for the full-size cars), it became apparent that Chevrolet needed to plant that big-block in the Chevelle. After a trial run of 201, the 396 Chevelle would become a regular-production offering for 1966.
The L79 was available for the Chevelle through 1968 (though, strangely, Chevrolet skipped 1966), and the fact it was soon overshadowed by the SS 396 is a great reason why cars like this 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS is such an underrated find. Only 6,021 L79s were built among all Chevelle models including El Camino, and the lack of strong identification means they’re quite obscure.
This Mist Blue example was originally sold at Security Chevrolet in Mackay, Idaho and, in more recent years, has received a rotisserie restoration. “The Chevrolet retains its born-with drivetrain including the matching-numbers 327/350 HP engine, matching-numbers M20 4-speed transmission, and 3.31 12-bolt Positraction rear end,” says the seller. Features include black bucket seat interior, gauges, AM radio, SS wheelcovers, and NCRS shipping data report. Seller is asking $79,900 OBO.
“This Chevelle is beautifully done and ready to show or drive,” adds the seller. If your blood runs Bow Tie blue and you thirst for a high-winding engine in a car that has room for the whole tribe, now’s your chance.