Unicorn Sighting: 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Station Wagon

So today the office closed at 1 PM, as usual on Fridays. It was kind of cloudy, so I wasn’t going to camp out on my postage stamp deck and read a novel with a couple gin and tonics.

So I went to the county building and paid my property taxes. Then over to Disc Replay at the mall, where I found the fourth and fifth seasons of The Rockford Files for less than ten bucks. Such a deal.

Surprisingly, less than two hours later, I saw a fully restored example of Rockford’s famous Firebird Esprit.

Kinda spooky, ha ha. But that’s not the subject of today’s column.

Anyway, tomorrow the AACA is having a regional show with lots of classic, perfectly restored rolling stock. And I’ll be there. But I thought I’d mosey over to the location to see what had arrived so far.

And snuck in. Klockau, that guy’s a rascal, dontchaknow.

And saw lots of great stuff. Including my friend Humberto Garcia’s 1979 Continental Mark V Bill Blass Designer Edition, my friend Wayne Scherer’s black on black, big block 1965 Galaxie 500 two door hardtop, and a simply fantastic 1959 Impala Sport Sedan.

But that’s not tonight’s subject. That would be the ’73 Chevelle SS…station wagon.

I have no idea why Chevrolet decided to do an SS Wagon in 1973. Maybe too many martinis during 3-hour lunch sessions in Grosse Pointe by GM execs? But I love it for its sheer craziness. I knew about them from a small picture hidden way, way, wayyy in the back of the 1973 Chevy wagons brochure. And was intrigued.

I couldn’t find any production records for the SS Wagon itself, but according to my Standard Catalog for American cars from 1946 to 1975, 2500 Chevelle SSs had the 454 V8. Of which this is one.

It’s a certainty that far less than 2,500 SS wagons were built in 1973. But a grand total of 328,533 Chevelles of all types trim levels and body styles were built that year.

Gaze upon it, ladies and germs, and gape at the wild and crazy times of the ’70s. So. Have any of you fine folks ever seen one? This is my first time seeing one in the metal!

Until next time, keep on Broughaming. And always tip your bartender!

12 Replies to “Unicorn Sighting: 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Station Wagon”

  1. Scout_Number_4

    “Wayne Scherer’s black on black, big block 1965 Galaxie 500 two door hardtop, and a simply fantastic 1959 Impala Sport Sedan”

    Tom, I’d love to see these two cars appear in these pages. These are the two models from that era that I just can’t turn away from!

  2. LynnG

    “Maybe to many martinis during a 3-hour lunch session in Grosse Pointe by GM Execs?”
    Or someone in marketing said why don’t we put a 454 in a mid-size wagon and slap on “SS” badges and see if anyoen orders one. Maybe it was someone in product that later went to work Dodge and said lets put a Hell Cat engine in the Durango and see if anyone at HQ notices. 🙂 Well in the case of this mid-sized wagon, someone ordered one and they loaded it with options (Power Windows, Power Door Locks, A/C, Roof Rack, Turbine Wheels, Automatic Transmission) from just what is in your photos. I like it…. Tom keep uo the great work…

  3. John C.

    What I don’t understand, is why the enthusiast/ 12 year old boy magazines shat upon hi/po colonades. Was the point of their politics that imports were really the only future? If Jack is still around, he checks out these elderly writers frequently from their old folks homes, what were they thinking, beyond hippy treason?

  4. LynnG

    Read your comment and I have to ask, did you start the morning with a 36oz New Orleans Hurricane? (for those non Southerners readers the contents are listed in the site below)
    And that first one was really good, so you had another for dissert?
    That is to say, what are you talking about in regard to a 1973 SS Wagon…
    Respectfully your fellow commentator.

      • LynnG

        Tom, willl do. Oh, you photo of the tribute Rockford Firebird reminded me to introduce you to Alen Clarke at the next CLC Grand National as he has the real deal. He purchased the Firebird used by James Garner in the Rockford Files from the studio. I forgot to ask which one he has as the originally used a 1977/78 Esprint and in the third year of the show Pontiac gave them a 1979 but James Garner did not like the new nose on the 1979 so they put the 1978 front end on the car. Also, the new 1979 was a Formula with the base Firebird hood with Esprint badges, because it handled better for the driving sequences due to the better suspension over the Esprint. Alen also has Rocky’s pickup truck. Alen has told me the next time I am in Southern California that we would take the Firebird up to Malbiu and hit all the places the show was filmed at.

        • Carmine

          They started using Formulas with regular hoods in 1977 or so when the 400 was no longer an option on the regular Firebird. The first half of the shows run the cars are Esprits with the optional 400 V8.

          Also, all the cars were re-painted to match the same gold as the cars used at the start of the series so they would match.

    • John C.

      Never had one of those, or another for desert, Not a big rum guy. I think Johnny Cash was talking about beer, when Sunday morning was coming down like that. Now where is my cleanest dirty shirt?

  5. MD Streeter

    So if this was a 73, that means it’s an oil crisis car, right? Was that 454 fitted with smog controls? Are we talking like 120 hp?130? Or maybe my internal timeline is off and there was still some glory left under its hood. Either way, it’s a cool car (I’ve always liked wagons) and a great find!

    • Sobro

      The google machine will tell you this choked 454 output was 245 HP. Yes, it’s a malaise era big block, detuned and compression lowered, but without a catalytic converter since it could run on leaded or unleaded, as shown in the above brochure. As it’s Wiki, all facts below are subject to review.

      From the 454 big block article:

      For 1970, the Big-Block was expanded again, to 454 cu in (7.4 L), with a bore x stroke of 4+1⁄4 in × 4 in (108.0 mm × 101.6 mm). The 1970 Chevrolet Corvette LS5 version of this engine was factory-rated at 390 bhp (395 PS; 291 kW) and 500 lb⋅ft (678 N⋅m)

      In 1971, the LS-5 produced 365 hp (272 kW) and 550 lb⋅ft (746 N⋅m), and the LS-6 option came in at 425 hp (317 kW) and 575 lb⋅ft (780 N⋅m). In 1972, only the LS-5 remained, when SAE net power ratings and the move towards emission compliance resulted in a temporary output decline, due to lowered compression, to about 270 hp (201 kW) and 468 lb⋅ft (635 N⋅m). The 1973 LS-4 produced 275 hp (205 kW) and 468 lb⋅ft (635 N⋅m), with 5 hp (4 kW) and 10 lb⋅ft (14 N⋅m) gone the following year. Hardened valve seats further increased reliability and helped allow these engines to last much longer than the earlier versions, even without the protection previously provided by leaded fuel. 1974 was the last year of the 454 in the Corvette, although the Chevelle offered it in the first half of the 1975 model year. It was also available in the full size Impala/Caprice through model year 1976.

      From the Third Gen Chevelle artice:
      Five powertrains were available for 1973 Chevelle models; the 250 inline-six and 307 2-barrel V8 both rated at 110 hp (82 kW) were std. engines on Deluxe and Malibu. The 350 2-barrel V8 of 145 hp (108 kW) was the base Laguna engine. Options for any Chevelle included a 350 4-barrel V8 of 175 hp (130 kW) and a 454 4-barrel V8 rated at 245 hp (183 kW).

  6. Disinterested-Observer

    I like to picture some Phantom of the Opera type hiding somewhere in Kettering whispering to future GM execs, “Build the CTS-V wagon! It will sell, I promise! Make sure it has a stick shift!”


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