Curiosity - 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle | The Online Automotive Marketplace | Hemmings (2024)

It was the summer of 1996, and I had been thinking about buying another car. Actually, I was always doing that, but I had kept the desire in check, due not to any sense of propriety on my part, but mainly to mollify my wife, who, although a wonderful partner, nevertheless had this strange attitude toward other people’s collector cars. She preferred that they remain other people’s collector cars.

However, as I only had one fun car at the time, I figured I didn’t really have a “collection.” Adding another would only put me in the position of asking forgiveness, which is always easier than asking permission. This thought pattern was not 100-percent rational, but it was good enough for me to let my curiosity carry me to the classified section of the paper and the ad:

“Chevrolet 1970, Chevelle SS, 396 4-speed, good shape, red-black w/black interior, low mi. $4,500.” /p>

A phone call provided the assurance that the car was legit and also had a 3.73:1 differential, good seats, two original SS wheels, and a rebuilt engine with only 12,000 miles.

Some of this was actually true. /p>

Viewing it and running some numbers (the seller had the original build sheet) revealed it to be an original Cranberry Red (code 75), bench seat (775), ZL2 ducted-hood, and full-instrumentation (U14) car. It also had factory power steering and brakes, and the transmission was a wide-ratio unit. This was exactly what I wanted and exactly how I would have ordered the car in 1970.

Of course, by the time I was looking at it in 1996, the Chevelle had strayed from its factory specs a bit. It had been painted maroon, there were ’69 Camaro buckets in place of the factory bench, and the big-block was a ’69 Camaro 325-hp version of the 396. There were also ladder bars, the claimed original SS wheels turned out to be a pair of Pontiac Rally IIs, and the 3.73-geared Positraction 12-bolt actually had stock 3.31:1 gears.

But I was still interested. It looked solid in spite of being a Wisconsin car from new. I knew I was taking a chance that rust wasn’t hidden under the paint, but the seller was only the third owner in 26 years, and he’d had it for 16 of those, so it didn’t appear to be a “problem” car being flipped. Once the price dropped to $3,500, my curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to find out if my gut feeling of this being a good car was correct.

I returned the next day, the Fourth of July (a fitting date to acquire “The Heartbeat of America”), to drive the car home from its commercial storage unit. It was an interesting trip. The drivetrain was very good—no smoke or noises and plenty of power. However, the Camaro buckets sat so low in the Chevelle that the position was unnatural, but even so, the 6-inch-tall Hurst shifter required bending down to reach third gear. I started noticing ants, rodent droppings, and acorns emerging from crevices and falling from the headliner. The ladder bars (and taller rear springs) pretty much eliminated any sense of a rear suspension. I bought the Chevelle with the idea of doing a full driver-level restoration, and so I found most of this merely amusing.

After pulling the body off the frame, I found the entire chassis to be perfectly smooth once the layers of dried red sand were washed off. The body was pretty good, as well. After paint stripping, I saw that the lower quarters had been replaced, a patch had been welded into a fist-sized hole in the passenger fender, and a few other small sections still needed some attention. Apparently, the road crews in the northern Wisconsin city of Brillion only used sand on the winter roads, not salt.

One big surprise was the pile of roasted acorns I dumped from the exhaust pipes. The mufflers were full of them, even after the drive home. I completed the chassis first and, because the Chevelle had totaled about 133,000 miles, I replaced dozens of small parts and wear items with original Chevrolet parts, still available from my local dealer, so the car would be like new mechanically. Fortunately, in the late ’90s, salvage yards still had muscle-car parts available, so sourcing a factory bench seat, a windshield with an intact integral antenna, and many of the bright-work pieces, was possible on the cheap.

As complete paint jobs are expensive (my wife’s forgiveness had been granted me, but I didn’t want to push my luck), I enlisted the help of a good friend, Frank Kaczmarski, to paint the car. He agreed, but I would have to do the prep work. He had been painting cars at his house for years, and I had watched him at times, so I figured I could get the Chevelle’s sheetmetal nice and straight with ease. I blocksanded it to what I considered perfection, and he inspected it. Then I blocked again and came back for another inspection. After my third try at perfection, he okayed my work and sprayed the PPG base coat. I laid the SS stripes out, and he painted them and cleared the car. Reuniting the body to the frame and assembling the (hundreds of) remaining parts took the better part of five months, with the car being completed in the summer of 1998. Total cost: $9,214.14.

Because the 12,000-mile claim made by the seller regarding the Chevelle’s engine appeared accurate, I had left that 396 alone aside from re-gasketing it, retaining the M/T valve covers, Torker intake, and fl ex fan. However, 10 years ago when a 454 engine became available for $1,200, I jumped on it and converted it to a full roller valvetrain— that is what currently powers my SS.

Although the cold-air induction hood is fully functional, I don’t have the correct air cleaner on it, as I prefer the look of the chrome unit, and the air induction only added about 5 to 10 horsepower according to contemporary tests. I like a stock-appearing body and interior on my cars, but I don’t mind altering the engine. However, looking closely at this Chevelle, you’ll notice outside mirrors from a 1971—I liked the body-colored sport-style design so much better than the chrome ’70 version. Speaking of mirrors, hanging from the inside mirror is an acorn, reminding me of what this car once was.

I have found this SS to be a really fun ride. The torque is monumental. The ride is surprisingly stable and compliant, given the improvements made in the past four and one-half decades. It is also the only fun car of the four I have that will comfortably fi t adults in the rear seat. And, of course, from a purely non-objective point of view, it looks flippin’ beautiful.

Do you have photos from “back in the day” of your muscle car(s) and an interesting story to write? It’s high school English class assignment time: Submit your images, memories and contact information to Muscle Car Scrapbook, c/o Hemmings Muscle Machines, attention: Terry McGean, P.O. Box 2000, Bennington, Vermont 05201, or email tmcgean@hemmings.com.

Curiosity - 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle | The Online Automotive Marketplace | Hemmings (2024)

FAQs

What is the rarest 1970 Chevelle SS? ›

The Chevrolet Chevelle was one of America's most popular nameplates in 1970, moving a whopping 443,659 units. And only 4,475 of them left the assembly line with the 450-horsepower 454-cubic-inch (7.4-liter) V8, making the SS 454 LS6 among the rarest and most desirable Chevelles.

What was Ford's answer to the Chevelle? ›

Ford released the mid-sized Fairlane in 1962, to which Chevrolet responded with the 1964 Chevelle based on a new A platform design.

How many miles per gallon does a 1970 Chevelle SS 396 get? ›

Based on data from 27 vehicles, 226 fuel-ups and 26,511 miles of driving, the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle gets a combined Avg MPG of 9.26 with a 0.37 MPG margin of error. Below you can see a distribution of the fuel-ups with 13 outliers (5.44%) removed.

What is the most sought after year of Chevelle? ›

One of the rarest and most sought-after Chevelles is the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 LS6 Convertible. In 1970, Chevrolet produced only 20 Chevelle SS 454 LS6 Convertibles. These cars were equipped with the potent LS6 engine, making them incredibly powerful and desirable among collectors.

How can you tell if a 1970 Chevelle is a real SS? ›

The most prominent physical trait of a 1970 Chevelle that can prove with absolute certainty that it was originally an SS model is the existence of evidence showing that any RPO L34, L78, LS5, or LS6 engines was the original engine.

How much was a 1970 Chevelle SS 454 in 1970? ›

The LS6 used solid lifters and forged internals, and made 450 horsepower. Requiring the Z15 SS 454 option at $503.45, the $263.30 LS6 package with $221.80 M22 4-speed manual added $988.55 to the base Chevelle price of $2,809. All-in, an LS6 Chevelle was pushing $5,000, which was Corvette territory at the time.

What size engine is in the 1970 Chevelle SS? ›

With the base 350 cid V8 engine and optional 396 cid big block having been offered in earlier models, the 1970 Chevelle SS benefitted from a change in GM corporate policy that would now allow the Divisions to install engines larger than 400 cid in their mid-sized cars.

How much horsepower does a 1970 Chevelle 396 SS have? ›

The base engine in the '70 Chevelle was a straight-six unit making 155 horsepower. The next engine up was a 307 cid V8 making 200 hp. Buyers could also get the SS 396, which wasn't actually 396. It was actually a 402 cu in engine, putting out either 350 or 375 hp.

What was the 1 4 mile time for a 1970 Chevelle SS 454 LS6? ›

All of the factory attention to performance paid off to the tune of 13.1 sec quarter mile at 107 mph.

Is a Chevelle a good investment? ›

The rarity and performance of these variants make them highly desirable among collectors. The value of these vehicles also largely depends on their condition and originality. A meticulously maintained Chevelle, with the original parts and paintwork, can fetch substantially higher prices.

What is the difference between a 1969 and 1970 Chevelle? ›

The '68 and '69 cars used the same fenders but with different side marker lights and SS396 callouts for each year. The 1970 body featured a facelift from stem to stern while retaining some features, such as the quad-headlight treatment. For some, 1970 is the pinnacle of Chevelle's appearance.

What is the rarest muscle car? ›

Shelby Cobra Super Snake and Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake: These two 1967 Shelbys are considered the rarest muscle cars ever built.

What is the most expensive Chevelle SS? ›

N6. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 427 LS6 — $1.15 Million

With only 20 Chevy cars made with a LS6 427 cubic inch engine, this is the car the collectors “battle” about every time. The Chevy collectors say that this model is the finest model produced by Chevrolet. One piece was sold at a Mecum auto auction in 2013.

Did the 1970 Chevelle SS come with a 396? ›

With the base 350 cid V8 engine and optional 396 cid big block having been offered in earlier models, the 1970 Chevelle SS benefitted from a change in GM corporate policy that would now allow the Divisions to install engines larger than 400 cid in their mid-sized cars.

How many 1970 Chevelle SS wagons were made? ›

Chevrolet built 40,612 Chevelle wagons in 1970, out of a total over 160,000 total wagons for the model year. Of those, only 2200 were 8-cylinder Concours Estate wagons like the one pictured here.

How much did a 1970 Chevelle SS cost brand new? ›

Depending on options, the MSRP for a 1970 Chevelle ranged from just under $3,000 to over $4,000. Drivers that wanted the ultimate in power signed up for the grand-daddy of all Chevelles – the SS 454 LS6.

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