1971 Chevelle SS
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1971 was yet another year of change for the SS option. In previous years the SS396 and SS454 options were performance oriented, meaning they included either a "396" or "454" high performance engine. With rising insurance concerns and costs, Chevrolet dropped the RPO Z25 SS396 option and changed the 1970 RPO Z15 SS454 option to simply Z15 SS Equipment option (hereafter referred to simply as Z15) and it became more of a dress-up option than a truly performance option. The Z15 SS Equipment option continued to be available on only the Malibu 2-dr sport coupe, convertible, and pickup body styles.
Unlike earlier years the only way to truly document a 1971 Chevelle as having the SS Equipment option is with some sort of paperwork showing the option itself. The warranty protect-o-plate card is of little use to determine if the SS option was ordered or not UNLESS the protect-o-plate indicates a 454 engine. Since three other V8 engines could not only be ordered with the Z15 option, but without it as well, even having the engine numbers match the car's VIN is of no significance with these other 3 engines.
For 1971, any optional V8 engine and transmission was now available which meant the L65 350-2, the L48 350-4, as well as the LS3 400-4 and LS5 454-4 engines could be ordered as well as any manual 4-speed or 3-speed automatic. The 307 cubic inch engine could not be ordered with the Z15 option since it was not an optional engine but rather the base V8 engine. Some claim the 307 was available early in the model year but no documented 307 has been reported with the Z15 option.
Unlike previous years, not all SS-optioned Chevelles came with a 12-bolt rear end. The SS Equipment option was available with any optional V8 engine in 1971 as noted above. The L65 350-2bbl engine came standard with a 10-bolt rear end and only equipped with a 12-bolt rear end when the trailer option (RPO YD1) was ordered. The other 3 optional V8 engines (L48, LS3, and LS5) were outfitted with 12-bolt rear ends so when one of those engines was ordered along with the SS Equipment option a 12-bolt rear end was used. Positraction was still an option; an open rear end was standard. However, a 12-bolt rear end, as well as Positraction, was available on non-SS-optioned Chevelles as well so the presence of a 12-bolt (with or without Positraction) is not an indication of a 1971 SS-optioned Chevelle.
The L34 "396" and the LS6 "454" were gone. The L34 was replaced with the LS3, 330hp 402 cubic inch engine and the LS6 was dropped from the lineup. Although some early test cars were built with the LS6 as magazine test cars, the LS6 was dropped from the Chevelle.
Three of the optional V8 engines available with the Z15 option were also available without the Z15 option. Only the LS5 454 engine mandated the Z15 option.
This, from Chevrolet's documentation, shows the equipment supplied with the Z15 option. Note two 3-speed manual transmissions were back on the table, even with the Z15 option, after being absent in 1970. Contrary to other information, there was only one Z15 SS Equipment option, not two. It is true, however, that when the 454 engine was ordered, the fender emblems displayed "SS454" and when any other engine was ordered, only "SS" emblems were displayed on the fenders on coupes and convertibles and the tail gate of Custom El Caminos.
Note the information indicates hood locking pins were part of the package with the standard, domed hood. Several documented SS-optioned Chevelles from various plants have been found without the hood pins. As in 1970, the ZL2 cowl induction hood still included hood locking pins as well as RPO D88 Hood & Deck stripes. Also note the LS6 engine is listed but no price is given. This information was printed before the LS6 was officially dropped. Even documentation as late as March 1, 1971 lists the LS6 engine but with "Will Advise" noted on pricing.
This is verbiage from window sticker on a 1971 SS-optioned Malibu sport coupe with the L48 engine.
SS optioned Malibu with L65 350-2bbl engine.
LS3 402 with ZL2 hood option.
LS5 454 without ZL2 hood option.
454 LS5 with ZL2 hood option.
Also gone for 1971 was most of the bright trim in the engine compartment, even for the 454. The valve covers were painted orange just like the rest of the engine. The air cleaner lid was flash chromed on the LS5 except on ZL2 cowl induction equipped LS3 and LS5 engines when the lid was the typical satin black.
The cowl induction hood was still available in 1971 but, "Available only when SS Equipment and 365-hp or 425-hp engine are ordered." Whether this was changed to include the LS3 402 engine isn't known but since the ZL2 was offered in 1970 with both the SS396 and SS454 options and in 1972 with either the LS3 or LS5 engine, it can only be assumed it would have been available in 1971 with the LS3 engine as well. The ZL2 cowl induction hood was not promoted as much by Chevrolet, hence the units sold was down considerably; 4,079 in 1971 compared to 28,888 in 1970.
The SS Equipment optioned Chevelle did come with the round gauge pods as they did in 1970. The U14 Instrument Panel gauges were still optional however and the U14 gauge option could also be ordered on a non-SS Malibu coupe, convertible, or pickup. The same 'rules' applied as in 1970 so the presence of gauges is not an automatic indication of the SS option; round gauge pods without gauges would indicate an SS but the round gauge pods with gauges only means gauges were ordered whether the SS option was ordered or not. Might note here the numbers and letters on the 1971 gauge option were white as opposed to green from 1970. Only the SS optioned Chevelles got the dash knobs (radio, lighter, and headlamp) with function symbols, all others were plain black with bright circle.
The 'sweep' or linear dash instrument panel remained standard fare for the Chevelle lineup. The clock was still optional under RPO U35 for the standard (non-SS) dash.
Non SS optioned Chevelle Malibu sport coupes, convertibles, and pickups could also order the RPO U14 special instrumentation package and get the round gauge setup. Note the radio knobs, lighter, and (not visible the headlamp knob) do not have the function symbols on them; only the addition of the SS option got the international symbols.
At some point in its life, this Malibu has had the lighter element/knob replaced - hence the international symbol. This is typical of aftermarket lighters.
As in 1970, the SS option included a round gauge pod for fuel and speedometer but the gauge package RPO U14 was still an option. Note the lack of the clock option. Ordering the Z15 SS option only got the round gauge pods with fuel gauge and speedometer, no gauges or clock.
A standard SS round gauge pod dash with optional U35 clock and optional NK4 sport steering wheel. Note the silver outlined bezel areas for the left/right turn indicators, high beam indicator, and brake lamp indicating an aftermarket dash carrier compared to one like below without the silver outlining.
Here is RPO U14 for an L65 350-2 engine in a Malibu sport coupe with the SS option. Note redline on tachometer of 5000 RPMs and column shift TH350 transmission indicator. One change for 1971 is the clock was now part of the U14 option where the clock was still a separate option in 1970.
Another SS optioned Malibu with gauge package. This happens to be the L48 version of the 350 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor. Note redline on tach is still 5000 RPMs.
This second dash is for the 402-4 or 454-4 engine as noted by the tachometer redline. Also note the 4 smaller circles should not be highlighted as these are. Some people like to add this extra bit of silver and many aftermarket replacement dash assemblies come this way was well.
RPO D88 Hood & Deck stripes continued to be optional on Malibu sport coupes, convertibles, & Custom El Caminos as well as part of the ZL2 cowl induction hood package. The stripe color was dependent on the roof color and not interior color. See Exterior-Interior Combinations/Seat Belts/Stripe Colors for more details.
The SS wheels for 1971 were redesigned to a flatter, 5-spoke design and were now 15-inch diameter instead of 14-inch as in previous years. Wheel color is best matched with Ditzler DQE-32961 or DuPont 9901L.
Often a Camaro wheel will find its way on a Chevelle. Note the differences in the Chevelle SS wheel in the top photo compared to a Camaro wheel in the bottom photo. The Chevelle wheel has an oblong opening for the valve stem where the Camaro wheel is round.
It's reported the back of the rear view mirror was also changed from stainless steel to a flat black for safety reasons.
If the optional engine ordered was NOT the 454, only the "SS" emblem appeared on the fender.
If the optional engine ordered WAS the 454, the fender emblem noted it with an "SS454" emblem whether a sport coupe, convertible, or pickup body style.
1971 Malibu sported a single horizontal bright bar much like the 1970 Malibu. The base Chevelle (133/134xx) did not have the bowtie emblem centered in the grille but strangely the Nomad (131/132xx) and Greenbrier (133/134xx) station wagons as well as the base El Camino (133/13480) did retain the bowtie emblem.
The bright center bar on the Malibu grille remained but the background was blacked out on the SS version and, naturally, the SS emblem replaced the bow tie whether a sport coupe, convertible, or pickup body style.
Base series El Camino (133/13480) tailgate with CHEVROLET script and painted insert.
Malibu series Custom El Camino (13680) tailgate with CHEVROLET script and wood-grain insert.
Malibu series Custom El Camino (13680) tailgate with SS (350-2, 350-4, and 402-4) option SS emblem and blacked-out insert.
Malibu series Custom El Camino (13680) tailgate with SS454 emblem and blacked-out insert.
There have been several reports from El Camino owners with the 454 engine that their LS5 El Camino did NOT have the 454 script even though the Factory Assembly Instruction Manual does call for them. There appears to be no correlation of assembly plant and/or timeframe to suggest a parts shortage or assembly plant SOP so it can only be attributed to negligence on the part of the assembly line and inspectors.
ZL2 Cowl Induction Hood
The cowl induction hood, RPO ZL2, continued for 1971 as an option along with the Z15 SS Equipment option. However, it was only available with either the LS3/402 or LS5/454 engine. The ZL2 option was not available with either 350 engine. Hood pins and stripes were still part of the ZL2 option package.
D88 Hood & Deck Stripes
At least thru early January, for some reason, the stripes from Arlington continued to have squared corners as opposed to rounded outside corners the other plants applied.
Both SS options came standard with RPO F41 Special Performance Front & Rear Suspension consisting of H.D. springs with matching shock absorbers, boxed rear lower control arms, a larger front sway bar (1" vs. 1.25"), and a rear sway bar. This was only standard on the Malibu sport coupe and convertible, the pickup did not get RPO F41.
Hard to see in the photo but the boxed rear lower control arm has an additional plate welded to the bottom of the (normally) U-shaped control arm.