Chevelles have always been popular muscle cars, but this Welsh rare bit (groan) stands out because it ….Ain’t No Malibu, Barbie
Words: Dave Smith, photography: Darren Maybury
Everybody knows muscle cars. The formula was for a mid-size coupe, long bonnet, short boot, and plenty of motor. This was great, but half the time, these muscle machines came laden with a load of extra goodies you might not have wanted. If you really wanted to go fast on a budget, you ordered the lightest base model, then ticked the option box for the biggest motor you could afford. All fun, no frills.
That’s what happened with this 1969 Chevelle 300 Deluxe, although it came as something of a surprise to the owner, Darren Milner, from South Wales. “I have been into Yanks and hot rods since I was a kid, going to the old indoor shows with my dad,” says Darren. “He was always into classics, but I became interested in Ford Pops and hot rods. At 16, I bought an old VW Bug and, inspired by the Street Machine Project Cal Look, went down the Bug Jam route as soon as I could drive. By the time I was 21, I got into newer American cars such IROC Camaros and later Trans Ams. I kept with the newer cars but always wanted a period correct muscle car.
“In 2004 I saw a Richard Petty-inspired ‘72 340 Road Runner for sale at Billing, and swapped it for my daily driver Trans Am. The Plymouth was my only car for two years, used for work and family holidays – it had two child seats in the back. After that, I bought a ‘68 Dodge Charger before they started getting silly price-wise, then flirted with a ’67 Beach Buggy, and then a ’67 Mercury Cougar before getting the Chevy.
“The Chevelle has been known to me since a friend, Daniel Thomas, bought it back in 2003, and I always liked it. As soon as I bought it from him, I realised that a few things were different from other Chevelles I had seen – the wipers didn’t hide away, the trim was different, the rear lights were different, there were no badges, and some interior pieces seemed wrong. Because of this, one day when I was bored, I researched the VIN on the Chevelle Resources pages and it came back as a ‘300 Deluxe sports coupe.’
“For the ‘69 model year only, the SS396 was a $347.60 option package for any two-door model. That meant not just a Malibu, but even the pillared coupe and sport coupe in the lower-rent 300 Deluxe series could be ordered with this option. Only a handful of SS396-optioned 300 Deluxe coupes exist and are highly sought after by collectors. This car was ordered as a 300 Deluxe sports coupe. Only about 7,000 300 series cars were produced in 1969 as opposed to 286,000-plus Malibus, and fewer than one in 10 of these were four-speed manual cars.
The ‘post’ cars were most popular, with the pillarless sports coupe being the rarest. The 300 Deluxe in small-block trim weighed just 3,100lbs as opposed to 3,950lbs for a full-spec big-block Malibu. With the right options and the low weight, they made great sleepers. The factory quarter mile time for a 350-powered Deluxe was 13.6 seconds, putting it ahead of some big-block cars of the era.
“Collectors in the States believe that this car was a special order COPO car, as most 300s came with a straight six or a 307 small-block and no performance options, but this car was ordered with heavy duty suspension, a 12-bolt Posi rear end, boxed control arms, big-block radiator and the four-speed manual transmission.
It came from the factory with the ‘Vette-headed 350 small-block, factory rated at 300hp. Nobody knows how many came like this, but the registry is not aware of any similar cars and it’s the only known 300 Deluxe 350 car in Europe. The four-speed was swapped in the States for a Sixties TH400, which is built with a shift kit and such, but the clutch pedal is still in the car.
“Due to the fact they came so lightweight from factory, the 300 Deluxe has been used to good effect in the Factory Appearing Stock classes in the US, where a few are running into the 11s.
“This car was bought on holiday in St Petersburg, Florida, in 1991, by Lee Jasper. He’s had some amazing cars over the years including his famous stunning yellow Pro Street Camaro, featured in the mag in the Nineties (May 1991, the bottle opener issue! – DS, SM), and, at the time, his family also owned the ‘69 Russo’s Rat Chevelle. Lee paid just $2,100 dollars for this car. At the same location his friend, Terry Harking, bought a ’69 Camaro ragtop for the same price!
“Lee brought it into the UK and stripped it down. It was dark red but he painted it Butternut Yellow. The engine was built by Terry Harkin and included a 292 Cam Dynamics cam, a 1968 period correct Edelbrock C3BX intake, Competition headers and a 650DP Holley. It had a valve job, new rings and bearings, and a converter added to the TH400. The rear end is a 4:11 Posi, which is not ideal for cruisin’ but has given a 13.9 quarter on street tyres.
“The car was sold in summer, 1992, at a Street Machine Lazy Sunday show in Hickstead for about £4,000, but the history after this is not really known until it turned up for sale in Street Machine back in 2003, and was bought by my friend, Dan. Dan picked it up from a trailer park in London. It had a fibreglass cowl bonnet and Centerlines, and was looking a bit sorry for itself, but it ran as good as ever mechanically and was like new underneath.
“Dan used the car for his wedding, on hillclimbs, and attended car shows all over the UK. He had it painted in a Candy Apple Red over silver base in about 2007, and fitted it with a new domed SS bonnet and a new boot lid, along with a stainless custom exhaust.
“I bought the car from Dan in 2012 and have added various interior and trim pieces that are very hard to find. I am missing the 300 Deluxe badges off the side, but these go for up to $1,000, if you can ever find them. I have got a line on a set, however… Unfortunately the 300 Deluxe cars come under the Yenko/COPO collector umbrella, and when parts do come up, the collectors stick extra money on them!
“It still has the original drum brakes, which were rebuilt by Paul Watkins with all new lines and master cylinder, and now stops well for a drum braked car. It has a Sniper 125 nitrous system, fitted by Ifan Miller at Miller’s Speed Shop, but since finding that the motor is numbers-matching, I have been less inclined to hit the button!
“I’m gutted about Shakespeare County, and Santa Pod is a hell of a long way from me – thanks to those rear gears and 3,000rpm stall convertor, it screams on the motorway, but I’ve got used to it. It never fails to start, and drives great for a near-50-year-old car.
“The original colour is Cortez Silver, and if it were to reach its potential value it would need returning to a four-speed and original paint. I am thinking Hugger orange and just enjoy it. The owners club were shocked to find this car ‘in England’; even more so when I told them it was in a tiny village in Wales! The collectors in the States have valued even the straight-six cars way above an SS396, and the 350 cars stronger still, but I am happy with the car and have no plans to let it go… although a Tri-Chevy is still an itch I need to scratch.”