A Beast In A Beauty: A True, L78 Big-Block-Powered 1969 Chevelle SS

A true SS, 396 cubic-inch, 375-horsepower L78 1968 Chevelle, is something that we don’t get to see every day. When one pops up on our radar, we’re going to catch the story. This particular L78-optioned 1969 Chevelle SS belongs to Ole Birkland of Chimacum, Washington, and while he’s only had it for a couple of years, he’s tracked the car’s long history back to its original owner.

This is the kind of car that looks good from every angle. The fact that it's a true L78 car takes things to a whole new level, with the beast hidden under the hood of this beauty.

Ole knew what he what he was looking at when he ran across this car for sale through a dealer in California. “It was listed through a broker in California, but it actually belonged to a guy in Missouri,” Ole explained. The car was on consignment, and when Ole saw it, he knew he couldn’t pass it by.

What makes this so cool is that it is a certified-true L78-optioned ’69 Chevelle SS. Anyone can get the badges and a big-block to throw in a Chevelle, but an original L78 car is a finite resource that can never be truly replicated. Chevrolet only made so many. Ole struck gold when he got this one!

You're not looking at the original engine. Ole has the original stashed away in his shop.

When Ole acquired the car, it was mostly a completed restoration, but the folks that did the job left a few things under-done. “They used all the old suspension stuff when they put it back together. I put all new suspension parts on it, and also installed a new fuel tank and a quick-ratio steering box,” Ole said. It only took a few changes to get the car dialed in to where Ole wanted it. Along with those subtle changes, Ole also added a four-core radiator, a 780 cfm Holley carburetor, and an MSD pro-billet distributor. The biggest change ahs to do with the interior. He changed it from white interior to black. “These cars are meant to have black upholstery,” he quipped.

While this car is an original L78-optioned 396 cubic-inch big-block-powered Chevelle, Ole doesn’t have the original engine in the car. Instead, that mill is sitting safe at his home, resting on an engine stand.

“This engine is an exact replica of the original engine, but it’s got a bit bigger cam. I can drive it like I stole it, and not have to worry about breaking it,” he stated. The engine has an 11.0:1 compression ratio, rectangular-port heads, Howard’s camshaft, and a Tufftride crankshaft. Along with the impressive powerplant, this Chevelle features a positraction 12-bolt 3.73-geared rearend and a Muncie M22 four-speed manual transmission.

A big-block, a four-speed, and a 12-bolt rearend—all parts to the formula for perfection in a classic muscle car.

The car came to Ole with this paintjob, and he’s done little more than keep the surface clean. “The previous owner took it into a Chevrolet dealer for something back in 2015, and a roll-up door rolled down onto the roof. It didn’t damage anything, it just scratched it. He got a free paintjob out of it,” Ole said. The dealer covered the new paint, but unlike the usual stories we hear, the dealer didn’t cheap out. Ole explained that the guy who painted the car is well known, and has a waiting list for him to paint cars.

The other thing that makes the story of this L78 Chevelle interesting, is that Ole not only found the original owner, but talked to him! Ole put a post on a Chevelle forum, and the original owner responded that he had purchased it new. For most of us that are interested in finding out the history of our cars, that’s just a fairy tale, but to Ole, that was a dream come true.

The classic American Racing wheels and BF Goodrich tires really complete the classic look of this Chevelle.

“I opened the owner’s manual, and a registration and insurance card from 1994 fell out. I Googled the guy, found a phone number on the Internet, gave him a call, and he picked up,” Ole said with a surprised voice. Through that conversation, Ole was able to get enough information to make a detailed posting on the Chevelle forum that the original owner recognized.

Here is a picture Ole got from the original owner with him standing next to the car in 1970!

This Chevelle is as clean as they come, and is a stunning example of a rare car. It’s one of the few cars of this age that can have its history traced back to day one, when it was sold at Dutch Miller Chevrolet in Huntington, West Virginia. It’s always cool when you get the whole package with a car like this, and we love seeing rare cars with histories as rich as this one has.

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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