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Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1973 Chevy Chevelle SS Wagon

Jim Brennan February 21, 2014 Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage 23 Comments

1973 Chevelle SS Wagon

Welcome to another installment of the Redusernab Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the definition of what a muscle car is, and to discover hidden treasures while doing so. During the 1970s, the age of the fire breathing muscle car was quickly coming to an end, though there were several surprises. One such surprise is the first Chevrolet station wagon that wore the heralded SS badge. Introducing a true paradox, the 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Station Wagon.

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When Chevrolet joined the growing performance car market in 1962, the SS badges on its sporty Chevrolets were known to stand for “Super Sport.” Armed with enhanced performance features and adorned with custom styling touches, the Chevrolet Chevelle SS had earned a deserved place among the top rank of the era’s muscle cars. However, the auto industry’s taste for such cars began turning sour in response to political and economic trends in the early 1970s, but Detroit still issued sports models, and an SS package was created for the completely redesigned 1973 Chevelle.

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After five years on the same basic body shells, all General Motors intermediates were totally new for 1973. Wheelbases remained 112 inches for two-door cars and 116 inches for four-doors and station wagons, but convertibles were dropped and closed cars were dressed in new “Colonnade” styling. The two-door hardtops of the past were replaced by true coupes with thick B-pillars and fixed rear side-window glass. Heavy government-mandated five-mph “crash bumpers” were fitted up front.

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The mid-size Chevy came in Deluxe, Malibu, and new upscale Laguna trim. Checking off option Z15 and plunking down $243 would make an SS out of any Malibu coupe or — for the only time ever — station wagon equipped with a 350- or 454-cid V-8. Package equipment included a blacked-out grille, dual sport mirrors, color-keyed lower body striping, black-accented taillight bezels (on coupes), black-rimmed round instrument dials, front and rear stabilizer bars, rally wheels, and G70 X 14 white-letter tires. SS identification showed up on the grille, front fenders, rear fascia (or wagon lift-gate), steering wheel, and interior door panels.

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Since 1971, GM engines had been detuned to run on low-lead fuel. The 350 engine was rated at 145 net horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor; 175 horses with a four-barrel carb. The optional big-block 454 now netted 245 horses. Automatic transmissions were standard with the SS engines, but four-speed manuals could be ordered for the 454 and the stouter of the two 350s. As it was, the 1973 Chevelle SS was the last one offered, even though 28,647 were ordered, an increase of almost 4,000 from the 1972 totals. The Laguna Type S-3 coupe served as the sportiest Chevelle from 1974 to 1976. These Chevelles have become the “Lost Generation” considering most collectors and parts suppliers focus on pre-1973 Chevelles.

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While the SS option cost $243, the 454 option cost another $235, and was only equipped on around 2,500 of those cars. The wagons are very rare, as I could not find any information as to the number sold. So, with the last year of a Chevelle SS offered, and a one year only Station Wagon model, is this a true Obscure Muscle Car, or should it be confined into Station Wagon Hell? Let me know what you think.

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Can a Chevrolet Chevelle SS in Wagon Form be called an Obscure Muscle Car, and does it belong in the Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • OA5599

    It's an El Camino SS with extra seats and an enclosed cargo area. I have no problem letting the 454 version into the club, but I vote no on the 2 bbl. The 4 bbl 350 is a close call, but I'm still leaning towards "no".

  • I really like this era of Chevelle more and more, but I hate the hatchback on the wagon. If it had a 2 piece conventional tailgate I'd be all over these as a practical cruiser.

    • They seem like good potential LeMons candidates. So cheap no one wants them, plenty of junkyard-swappable parts. Probably not that heavy if completely gutted.

      • Not that heavy, PERIOD. Factory curb weight was like 3500lbs for some of these. Pretty sure they can be gotten down to less than 3000lbs if you are really aggressive with the weight loss. The underlying chassis is so good it became the basis of the downsized Caprice/Impala in 1977 and continued until 1996 with not a lot of changes.

        • Sjalabais

          Filled windscreen washerfluid today. Got me thinking. 6kg of extra weight. Do LeMonsians need and drive with washerfluid?

          • No, but cars with radiators are required to have coolant catch tanks. My car was built without one, so I repurposed the washer fluid reservoir accordingly.

            • Sjalabais

              Are cars without radiators a common sight at LeMons?

              • Some people seem to think AIR is the proper fluid to cool their cars. Some people also think the motor should be in the back. It takes all kinds

                Some cars race without wind screens or wipers, just some metal mesh.

              • Yes. Some are air-cooled, others are just having a bad day. Sometimes both.

  • stigshift

    It's probably my favorite SS. Make mine a 454 4-speed please. The very definition of Obscure Muscle Car, most die hard bowtie fans I've talked to don't even know it existed.

  • wunno sev

    normally i love wagons, but this thing is a design monstrosity. i have a really hard time appreciating malaise-era anything, which is funny because when i was a teenager i was a fanatic for it.

    for reference: ;…

    so a four-fiddy-four cost the equivalent of about $2500 over the base malibu, with whatever tragic lump was under its hood. anyone know the base price of the malibu at the time? $2500 in today-dollars seems like a steal for an upgrade like that.

    • The Deluxe wagon with a 2-speed auto and the inline six had an MSRP of $3106. (The Malibu version with the same drivetrain was $184 more). So an SS 454 Malibu cost just over 21% more than the base price for a base Chevelle wagon.

      To compare, look at what stepping up to upgraded versions of these 2014 cars will cost as a percentage of base MSRP:
      Base Subaru Impreza -> WRX (base, not STI): 27%
      Base Buick Regal -> GS: 24%
      Base Fiat 500 -> Abarth: 26%
      Base Mustang -> GT: 37%

      In conclusion, yes, that was a comparatively good deal.

  • dukeisduke

    I always like those Polycast wheels (urethane face molded onto a steel wheel). You could get them on the Monte Carlo, too.

  • GTXcellent

    I have a hard time giving muscle car status to station wagons, but there are 3 that fit my criteria. '63 Super Duty Tempest wagon, the '63 Max Wedge Mopar wagons, and this '73 SS. Sure, all the manufacturers built plenty of big block powered station wagons, but a muscle car has to have something more. Something extra. SS badges, wide tires, the most powerful big block available (even if it was detuned from 3 years prior) and a 4 speed manual – That's something more, something extra.

  • mr smee

    I wouldn't have believed if I didnt see the brochure photo. I had a 1978 Malibu sport coupe that I made into a faux "SS," complete with badging, hood pins and cables from the 1972 SS. I had American Racing 200s wheels with perfectly-sized SS badges on the center-caps. My car was a 305 4-bbl, 4-speed, F-41 sport suspension and full gage package car,so it was plausible as an SS that never was. The funny part was I never tried to hoodwink anyone and always said it was my doing, but lots of guys were convinced it was a real 1978 SS and flat-out didn't believe me!

  • Ate Up With Motor

    One potential high point of the wagon is that your insurance agent might not have taken it as license to brutalize your wallet. The SS badges don't particularly help on that score, but otherwise, people (by which I mean insurance companies and John Law) don't generally assume that you're Up to No Good in a station wagon — at least not that kind of no good.

    I will point out for the record that while 175 net horsepower is hardly overwhelming, it isn't quite as far off the pace of the milder pre-smog engines as you might think thanks to changes in the rating system.

  • blvdsteve

    very interesting piece. never knew about this offering.

  • HTWHLS

    How come none of the ones in this article were for sale??

  • Tim Hogan

    There's a very real looking and very aged 71 or 72 Chevelle SS wagon 5 or 6 houses down from my parents. My Camaro is parked at my 'rents and my dad knows his A-bodies. He's owned a multitude of Olds products and still has a W-30 and a Pace Car.

    Supposedly, he's seen the build sheet and it's real. It's white with black stripes and a black interior, cowl induction hood, and equipped with a 454, Muncie and steep gears in a 12 bolt.

  • Bob-O

    Mr. Smee – I too owned a 305 4-bbl, 4-speed, F-41 sport suspension Malibu. Mine was a white with factory thin double gold pin stripes down the side 1979 Classic two-door and included black vinyl buckets, white letter tires, wire wheel covers and a couple of other things I can't remember at the moment. Mine did not have the gauge package nor did it have sport mirrors. It had a 3.08 open differential.

    I purchased it new, off the lot, from Chuck Olson Chevrolet in Seattle, WA and it was in a row of about five or six other similarly equipped cars. Some had the 305 4 barrel and the others had the smaller 2 barrel 267 V8 but all of them had the four speed.

    My dad ended up with the car on the east coast and he sold it when they lived in VA probably around 1985 or so. I heard it eventually made it to somewhere in the Carolina's.

    As far as this SS wagon goes, I'm a long time Chevy guy and never heard of it before. But I do vaguely remember seeing a similar SS badged wagon some years back but at the time figured somebody just put SS badges on their run of the mill wagon. Could have been the real deal! I'd love to own one of these.

  • Mitchell Murphy

    I just bought the '73 Chevelle SS wagon with the optional 454. it is the 5th picture in the Chamios (Code 54) color, as to a companion to my 73 SS coupe 454/4 speed. GM produced 600 Big block/4 speed cars and 2100 454 400 turbo cars, I am not sure. I have bever seen one of these SS wagons in person, just in GM literature and dealership books. it is the ONLY year GM ever made a Super Sport station wagon. I really like these cars, especially my coupe-the final '73 car built at the Kansas City plant. Being the final produced car it is a COPO, built so late that GM pit a '74 block in the car. These are really good running and driving cars. Horsepower is down from 1970 but with a BIG BLOCK you still can enjoy the torque.-Mitch

  • Bobby Tietz

    That is my wagon at the bottom smokin the tires, my daughter Amelia Tietz took the photo

    • Doug Fischer, N.J.

      Awesome,
      My dad special ordered this exact car in Jade Metallic Green with 454 right out of the factory in Nov. 1972, but of course it was the 1973 car, and it was truly awesome.
      He put 100,000 on it and wound up needing a valve job and experienced some body rot so he GAVE IT AWAY!! and the guy who took it chopped it up for engine,trans, and rear…
      So sad..

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