In 1970 Chevrolet promoted the Chevelle with the slogan “The performance starts as soon as you’re seated” ¦ that was no marketing BS. It was true then and remains very true today. What Chevrolet did not say was that when you sit down, sit with your knees as far apart as humanly possible because, if you are going to test the performance of the LS-6, you will need a couple of things similar in size and appearance to two defrosted chickens hanging between your legs! 454 (7440cc) cubic inches plus the LS-6 option equals 450hp (336kW) produced at 5600rpm, 500lbs/ft (678Nm) torque at 3600rpm. These were Chevrolet’s ’advertised’ ratings but it feels like more and I have to wonder if they weren’t quite telling the whole truth (and nothing but the truth) ¦
Truth is, in 1970 the basic Chevelle cost $USD2735.70. The LS-6 of which only 4,475 were produced, included the optional SS 454 package that would set you back $USD503.45, the LS-6 450HP Special High Performance Engine for $USD263.30, a M-22 Muncie Heavy Duty ‘Rock Crusher’ 4 speed transmission for $USD221.80 and a Positraction 12-bolt 4.10:1 rear axle (limited slip equipped) for the huge sum of $USD42.15 The total cost for this LS-6 off the showroom floor was $USD4402.82
The LS-6 454 instantly claimed legend status featuring a Holley 780 carburettor on top of a low-profile aluminium intake. The heads were closed chamber iron castings with rectangular ports and massive intake and exhaust valves. The block was an iron casting featuring a four-bolt design — while the crankshaft was made from 5140 alloy steel and tuftrided to form a very durable unit. It was forged, cross-drilled and oil passages chamfered for improved oil lubrication (because the engineers demanded it!). Connecting rods were forged steel with separate caps using 7/16 bolts to hold things together. As if all that isn’t enough, add in 11.25:1 aluminium dome topped pistons and a camshaft with .520-inch lift and 316 degree duration ¦ and the redline 6,500rpm! The engineer’s even had the foresight to spec out this engine with high-RPM pulleys (with deep grooves to stop the belts jumping off) and machined-in provision for an external oil-cooler.
While the above may read like an enthusiast’s dream, it is not. It is fact, or more to the point, it is factory Chevrolet style 1970.
John Murray who is a member of the American Muscle Car Club in Auckland owns the Chevelle featured. This story begins back in the good ol’ days when it was legal to burn rubber (and bras) and the powers that be encouraged it! As a teenager John would write to Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler etc. asking them to forward any information regarding their latest cars. The letters were not ignored responses came eventually. One day in 1970 arrived “The 1970 Chevelle by Chevrolet” — that is where this story begins. First thing to do was to jump into the family car and go get a driving licence (whether the family knew about it or not). Having got a licence John purchased a mighty Hillman Californian with a glorious flathead-4. Wanting to see how well it performed, he learned quickly. On the second night of ownership an engine rebuild started — because he had blown it up.
Various vehicles followed, some of good pedigree (a Ford Mustang) and some of dubious pedigree (a Vauxhall Viva GT). John maintains to this day the Viva performed very well — I believe you John, I can see it on a billboard “Yeah Right!”
In 1994 it was time to get serious and John started turning the pages of auto magazines in pursuit of his dream. This turned out to be rather frustrating as there was quite a gap between the heart and the wallet. Undeterred, in early 1996 John and Dave Loose took to the sky and arrived in US of A on a mission to find ‘the dream car’. First stop was to view a car at Reggie Jackson’s muscle car museum, they then moved on to view a second car but alas, in both cases, price was a factor. Rather than give up, the disappointments only fuelled John’s determination to make his dream reality¦ there had to be a way!
Get your gear off
Mid 1996 news got to John that an American was bringing an LS-6 into NZ as a project car that needed restoring. John and Dave sprung into action. After a lot of talking, a deal was made before any work was done on that car — the dream was becoming reality.
Prior to shipping to NZ the engine had been fully rebuilt to factory specifications. Whilst the car was generally in tired condition, the body was sound and after some thought John and Dave decided a full body off restoration was the way to go. Chuck’s Restoration Supplies were called upon for specialised parts and could be relied upon to get the goods, and to get them fast.
Dave worked his magic on the panels with assistance from his son’s Dane and Kyle and a new ’apprentice’ called John. With the body prepped inside and out it was time to focus on the chassis which received a once over before being sprayed in black. Even at this stage the transformation was incredible, it was almost criminal to cover the chassis born again in its shiny new coat. Next, it was time to deal to the body. After a little research the correct code 75 Cranberry Red paint was sourced and Dave channelled his considerable skills to spraying, topping off the job with the Super Sport graphics a la factory specifications — the dream was becoming reality.
Attention turned to the inside and the decision was made to purchase a new interior that was expertly installed by Ian Goodwin Upholsterers whilst Otahuhu Chrome Platers added the gleam.
After two and a half years of hard work, the Chevelle was restored to how it would have rolled off the assembly line in February 1970. The dream was now reality. The reality was better than the dream.
Musclin’ and hustlin’
Nine years have passed since the Chevelle was purchased and recently I was lucky enough to shoot the breeze and cruise with John. With some apprehension, and decreasing patience, my ears listened for the big-block approaching. With an earth-moving rumble punctuated by a flick through the gears the mighty Chevelle rose over the crest of the hill, the LS-6 had arrived.
As the Chevelle parked up, the first thing that struck me was the presence of this car. The muscular, flowing contours of the body suggest serious business. Closer inspection revealed a finish that is testament to the commitment and skills of those involved both in the restoration and the following years of maintenance and care. Chevrolet was not kidding when they stated, “The performance starts as soon as you get in”. The solid door closed with a reassuring thud and I found myself planted in a seat that was extremely comfortable. The 454 fired into life and I prepared myself for a unique experience.
If you’ve got, flaunt it
The LS-6 is quite happy to spin the wheels through first gear, and second gear, and third gear, with only moderate throttle. The acceleration can only be described as phenomenal. Or perhaps phenomenal and sideways. I felt the push in my lower back that was instantly interpreted by my brain as a massive smile followed closely by joyous expletives (that the editor will not allow to print) and we were on our way. The LS-6 powered forcefully down the road, grabbing the attention of passers-by and recieved the respect and adulation it deserved. The open road revealed another side to the LS-6; it ate the straights and swallowed the corners like the hungry, controlled beast it is, spitting upon the occasional menace. The LS-6 handles exceptionally well taking into consideration its 3800-pound weight. Balancing 450hp to the road takes considerable skill and I was relieved that John did not stand on the loud pedal (too much). It was all over far too quickly, and I am exceedingly thankful to John for sharing his LS-6 with us and look forward to seeing it again where it belongs — on New Zealand roads.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle
Engine: Turbo-Jet 454 LS-6, 4.25” bore, 4” stroke, TRW impact extruded aluminium pistons, 11.25:1 compression ratio, 6.136” rods, 3/8-inch diameter pushrods, aluminium dual plane intake manifold, square port heads, 2.19” intake valves, 1.88” exhaust valves, LS-6 forged steel crank, four-bolt mains, camshaft duration 316 degrees intake and 302 degrees exhaust, camshaft lift 0.52” intake and exhaust, mechanical lifters, single Holley 780-cfm 4150 series carburettor with 1.6889” primary and secondary bores.
Driveline: Factory optional M-22 Muncie Heavy Duty ‘Rock Crusher’ 4 speed (M-21 standard); ratios: 1st 2.20:1, 2nd 1.64:1, 3rd 1.27:1, 4th 1:1 positraction 12-bolt with dealer-installed optional 4.10:1 rear axle
- Front: unequal length control arms, coil spring mounted on lower arm, anti-sway bar;
- Rear: Salisbury live axle, coil springs, four control arms
Brakes: power assisted front floating calliper disc; rear drum with integral vacuum assist. 11.0 inch diameter disk; 9.5 inch diameter drum
Wheels/Tyres: Factory Special 14×7-inch short spoke steel wheels front and rear F70x14 Firestone Wide Oval tires front and rear
Performance: 450hp @5600rpm 500lbs/ft Torque @3600rpm, red-line 6500rpm
Driver: John Murray
Occupation: Sales Manager
Previously Owned Cars: 1967 Ford Mustang, Hillman Californian, Vauxhall Viva GT, Chevrolet Bel Air, Chrysler Charger, B&H Homologation model
Build Time: 2.5 years
Length of Ownership: 9 years
Thanks to John’s extremely patient wife Peni Dave Loose, Dane and Kyle Loose Ian Goodwin Car Upholstery Chuck’s Restoration Supplies Otahuhu Chrome Platers Ltd.