1969  Chevelle Engine Photos & 396 cid Engine Production Numbers

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A few things should be mentioned about the 1969 396/402 engines. Towards the end of the model year the 396 cid engine was increased to 402 cid. Rumors abound for the reason of the 402 cid existence. One is that Tonawanda has a lot of bare blocks rusting away and decided to bore them +0.030 to clean them up. GM wouldn't do this. It is believed the increase in bore size  was done in preparation of 1970 (when all "396" cid engines were really 402 cid) because engines over 400 cid had lower restrictions on smog regulations. Whatever the reason the 'new' 402 would become the base engine in the 1970 SS396 option even though it was the larger 402 cid engine size. This 402cid engine was also available from 1970-1972 as RPO LS3 and referred to as either a 400-4 or a Turbo-Jet 400 to distinguish it from a newly introduced 400 cid small block V8 referred to as either a 400-2 (as it was only available with a 2-barrel carburetor) or a Turbo-Fire 400. The small block version of the 400 cid engine was only available in full size Chevrolets and the 1970 Monte Carlo.

This was the first year the SS396 was discontinued as a separate series and became an option just like air conditioning, a radio, a vinyl top, etc. This is also only year that the SS Equipment option could be ordered on anything other than a Malibu sport coupe, convertible, or pickup. The SS Equipment option was also available on the two 300 Deluxe series body styles, the 13427 coupe (2-door post) and the 13437 sport coupe (hardtop).

Not all 396 engines went into RPO Z25 optioned Chevelles. There was also a "police package" that could be ordered with a 396 engine in a 300 Deluxe 4-door sedan body style. It's believed 323 non-SS396 optioned Chevelles were built. This figure is arrived at by subtracting the number of RPO Z25 (SS 396 Equipment) options sold from the total of the three 396 engine options.
RPO L35 = 59,786
RPO L34 = 17,358
RPO L78 =  9,486
Total      = 86,630
RPO Z25 = 86,307
                     323 396 engines sold not accounted for via RPO Z25
Some have postulated the 323 'missing' 396 engines were due to the 323 COPO Chevelles that were not SS396 Chevelles. But, those COPO Chevelles were shipped with the L78 engines according to build sheets so they would most likely be included inthe 9,498 L78 engines reported by Tonawanda.

There is another discrepancy in the L78 engine and L89 aluminum head option numbers vs. production numbers. According to Tonawanda numbers 8,876 L78 engines were built and 412 L89 aluminum head options were built. When the L89 option was included the suffix code on the L78 engine changed. The L78 engine totals below indicate only the iron head suffix codes yet documentation from GM indicates 9,486 L78 options were sold - a difference of 610 "missing" engines. Either the Tonawanda engine production totals are wrong or the GM reported L78 sales is wrong. I tend to believe, but cannot prove, the GM reported L78 sales figure is a typographical error and would be 8,486. Subtracting this 8,486 from the Tonawanda reported 8,876 production would leave 390 service engines which is in line with other engines. For now, I suppose we'll never know for sure.

The 1969 model year was also unique in that Yenko Chevrolet worked some GM back-door deals via the Fleet & Special Order department to obtain via Central Office Production Order (COPO) means to get 427 cid engines installed in various Camaros and Chevelles. For that reason RPO L72, the 427/425 from the passenger car line, are included here as well.

These new 402cid engines can be identified in 1969 by the three letter suffix code. Anyone with good, readable, engine pads with a 3-letter suffix please send it to me for inclusion on this page.

To date, the latest known 1969 396 Chevelle with a 3969854 block casting is assembly date stamped T0703JA and was cast June 30, 1969.

1969 396 V8 Engine Production

L35325ManualJA32,999396 cid
L35325ManualCJA01,528402 cid
L35/M40325TH-400JK24,771396 cid
L35/M40325TH-400CJK01,386402 cid
    60,684Total L35 Engines
    59,786Total L35 Cars
98.5% of total L35 engine production went into Chevelles in 1969.00,898Service Engines
L34350ManualJC12,454396 cid
L34350ManualCJC00,370402 cid
L34/M40350TH-400JE05,034396 cid
L34/M40350TH-400CJE00,079402 cid
    17,937Total L34 Engines
    17,358Total L34 Cars
96.8% of total L34 engine production went into Chevelles in 1969.00,579Service Engines
L78375ManualJD7,356396 cid
L78375ManualCJD0,033402 cid
L78/M40375TH-400KF1,471396 cid
L78/M40375TH-400CKF0,016402 cid
    8,876Total L78 Engines
    9,486Total L78 Cars
See L78/L89 notes above-610More cars than engines
L89375ManualKG333396 cid
L89375ManualCKG012402 cid
L89/M40375TH-400KH066396 cid
L89/M40375TH-400CKH001402 cid
    412Total L89 Engines
    400Total L89 Cars
97.1% of total L89 engine production went into Chevelles in 1969.012Service Engines
L72425ManualMQ277427 cid COPO
L72/M40425TH-400MP096427 cid COPO
    373Total COPO 427 Engines
    323Total COPO 427 Cars
86.6% of total L72 engine production went into Chevelles in 1969.050Service Engines

Alternate VIN Locations

Explanation of the 3-letter suffix codes for the 'new' 402cid engines. Interesting to note that none of the engine codes shown with RPO MA6 (heavy duty clutch) are included in the Tonawanda engine report.

Engine ID Stampings

T0927HQ - Tonawanda, September 27 350/255hp w/manual transmission.
Suspect this is for a Canadian Pontiac (GM division 7).

T1104JK - Tonawanda, November 4 396/325hp w/TH400 transmission.

T1107JD - Tonawanda, November 4 396/375hp w/manual transmission. (Atlanta)

Partial VIN stamping for T1104JK engine above. Note the difficulty often found in reading in this area (344635).

T1230JK - Tonawanda, December 30 396/325hp w/TH400 transmission.

Courtesy Greg Wilson
T0217JA - Tonawanda, February 17 396/325hp w/manual transmission.
Courtesy Greg Wilson

T0313HB - Tonawanda, March 13 350/300hp w/TH350 transmission.
Note the partially visible CON VIN on this Baltimore Chevelle engine.

T0425DD - Tonawanda, April 25 207/200hp w/TH350 transmission.

T0416JK - Tonawanda, April 16 396/325hp w/TH400 transmission.

T0418JA - Tonawanda, April 18 396/325hp w/manual transmission.

T0624JK - Tonawanda, June 24 396/325hp w/TH400 transmission.
The leading '0' could be correct as at least one other 1969 Baltimore Chevelle has been found to have this leading '0' as well as one Fremont Chevelle.


Courtesy Bill Anderson

An Atlanta partial VIN stamping.

Courtesy Greg Wilson
Courtesy Greg Wilson


K0409DC ~ 19B374777

T0610JD ~ 19B394809

T0419HC ~ 19B383315. Note on a small block the Tonawanda engine stamp is on the right side of the engine pad while the VIN derivative is on the left.

T0421JC ~ 19B3890645


T1022JE - Tonawanda, October 22 396/350hp w/TH400 transmission.

T1115HB - Tonawanda, November 15 350/300hp w/TH350 transmission.

T0211KF ~ Tonawanda, February 11 396/375hp w/TH400 transmission.

T0409KF - Tonawanda, April 9 396/375hp w/TH400 transmission.


KB - 396/350 w/Heavy Duty Clutch

T0130JK ~ Tonawanda, January 30 396/325hp w/TH400 transmission.

Note leading '0' in the partial VIN stamping.

Note the leading '3' on this partial VIN stamping.

Note the leading '9' on this partial VIN stamping.

Kansas City

Courtesy Dean Call
Ongoing research indicates that the Atlanta & Kansas City plants used this alternate location for 396 engines. Note this particular example was stamped several times.

T1108JE ~ Tonawanda, November 08, 396/350 w/TH400


T0826JE ~ Tonawanda, August 28 396/350hp w/TH400 transmission.

Also see here for more partial VIN locations and examples.