Growing up in the 1960s, I had one of those little labeling machines that would emboss letters into a sticky plastic strip.
I may be the only person who used a machine like that to stick dozens of those little labels onto my school notebook, featuring sayings like “1965 IMPALA SS” (my brother’s first car when I was 12), “CORVETTE STING RAY,” and perhaps the coolest sounding label of all “SS396.”
At the time I didn’t really know much about car engines, but I knew enough to realize that SS396 just had an extra special ring to it. I still like the sound of the name to this day. It just screams the muscle car era to me.
In fact, those memories came roaring back this week, like the sounds of that special engine, when I saw on the internet that a unique Corvette cutaway Mark IV 396 engine is going to be auctioned off at no reserve at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale in January.
First displayed by General Motors at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, alongside a cutaway 1965 fuel-injected coupe and the Mako Shark II concept car that would define the future looks of the C3 generation, this educational engine has now been restored to its full glory. It’s powered by a starter motor and has “careful and well-thought-out incisions made into all the major components to illustrate its build quality and overall operation,” according to Barrett-Jackson.
Basically, it just looks super cool.
The engine, which Chevy was introducing in mid-1965, briefly represented the world’s most advanced technology of that era, producing 425 horsepower, the highest output of any of the other 396 engines made through 1969.
The Mark IV 396 quickly doomed the Rochester fuel-injection system as it was much less expensive and much more powerful than the fuel-injected 327/375.
Ironically, though, the Mark IV itself was rapidly obsolete, too, as the 396 was replaced by the bigger 427 to keep up with the competition as Ford, Chrysler, and other GM models all had 420-plus engines by late 1965. A 396 couldn’t keep up.
Today, however, “this one-of-a-kind Cutaway Engine represents not only a unique piece of General Motors and Corvette history,” Barrett-Jackson says, “but an opportunity to look inside an incredible example of automotive engineering.”
…And at the same time fuel the memories of youngsters like me who grew up in the 1960s, dreaming about SS396s.
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