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Z16 was the RPO (Regular Production Option) code given to the 396 engine option in the 1965 Chevelle and was used internally by Chevrolet. The Z16 is the 1965 Malibu SS 396 and was almost never referred to by the Z16 RPO number except in a few non-public Chevrolet documents.
But the Z16 was much more than just the big 396 in the Chevelle SS. It was a complete package with many special and heavy duty chassis components including: Heavy duty suspension, special heavy duty rear axle, 4 speed transmission, special frame, special heavy duty power brakes, and unique power steering components. The interior was very special too. A 160 mph speedometer was only available with the SS 396. Mandatory options included a tachometer, deluxe front and rear seat belts, AM/FM stereo radio, padded dash and remote mirror.
The 396 engine specified for the Z16 was the L37 375 horsepower version. The L37 was a heavy duty engine with forged crank and pistons, 4 bolt main bearing caps, large port heads, an aluminum intake manifold with a Holley carburetor and an hydraulic camshaft.
The new Z16 was promoted heavily by Chevrolet. Many automotive magazines road tested or reviewed the special Malibu in the late Spring and Summer of 1965.
Not every dealer received a Z16 since it was very limited in production but they were spread out geographically around the country.
Total Malibu SS 396 production was 201 cars with one reportedly a convertible. It is not known to survive. About 65 Z16 coupes in restored or unrestored condition still exist making them one of the rarest and most desirable muscle cars.
Z16ís all appear to have been built in or near February, March, and April 1965. The exception was two prototype, preproduction cars that were, of course, built earlier. All were assembled in Chevroletís Kansas City plant with the exception of the two prototype cars.
This Z16 is simply extraordinary due to its originality, owner history and documentation. Prior to being delivered to the original selling Chevy dealer it was tested and photographed by Car Craft Magazine. This Z16 was supposed to be delivered to Van Chevrolet in Kansas City Missouri but was instead sent to Allen Dennis Chevrolet in Olathe Kansas as a favor to Allen Dennis who was dating the mother in law of the soon to be original owners 23 year old son. The 23 year old son who is alive and well today and living in Washington State had arranged for his father to take a test drive in the new Z16. If the test drive didn't work out then the car was going back to Van Chevrolet where it was already pre-sold. When the family arrived to test drive the Z16 their was a crowd of customers around this Z16 trying to buy it.
The 23 year old son didn't think his father would buy the Z-16 due to his fathers love of sports cars including some rare Ferrari's but during the test drive when his father hit third gear and the Z16 got sideways the son looked up and saw his father grinning from ear to ear and his father turned to his wife in the front seat and said "we are buying this car right now" and bought the car on July 14, 1965. The father kept the car until his death in 1976 putting on 71,926 miles.
During the time the original owner had the car the original engine and drivetrain were never out of the car and no modifications were ever done. The car was painted in the early 1970s when work was done to the right rear quarter to repair a small dent. The interior was untouched. After his fathers death the son couldn't bring himself to sell his fathers family car and instead sold his fathers collection of rare sports cars. The original owners son stored the Z16 until 1996 when he put an ad in the Hemmings to sell it. The first caller Joe D. a noted collector of original survivor muscle cars immediately agreed to his asking price and the car went to Texas where it was made part of a prestigious survivor collection.
In 2003 the collector made a decision he would later greatly regret (check out pictures 10,11 and 12) they were taken prior to the resto) he decided to restore the Z16? Fortunately he had one of the country's premier Z16 experts and restorer Chris Daniels complete a no expense spared resto to the highest standards. Chris has indicated he believes of the approximately 65 surviving Z16s this is one of only 6 with its original engine and drivetrain. Chris believes that you probably could not find a more original assembly line component complete Z16 than this one. During the restoration every single factory body panel was used and only a few interior pieces were replaced along with the exhaust.
A year or so after the restoration Joe D. sold the Z16 to a collector in California. Not long after that Joe D. getting a bad case of sellers remorse bought his Z16 back from the California collector.
This year in order to add some more high dollar survivor muscle to what is undoubtedly one of the best if not the best collection of survivor muscle cars in the world Joe again thought about selling his Z. With the help and never ending patience of noted GM muscle car expert and dealer Stefano Bimbi of Nickey Chicago who assisted us in tracking down the original owners son and verify this Z16s incredible history we were able to add this rare piece of Chevy history to our collection where it is staying. It is also documented with its original protecto plate, original owners manual, original registration receipts, copy of its buildsheet and vintage pictures.
Not for sale. Special thanks to Stefano and Joe D. for their help. Z16 history provided by www.Z16chevelle.com