When it comes to Chevrolet classic cars from the muscle car era, we often get excited about rare, high-performance versions of the Corvette and Camaro. But Chevy’s golden-era heritage extends well beyond these nameplates. The Chevelle, for instance, also spawned a series of highly desirable rigs.
Introduced at a time when smaller-sized cars were becoming increasingly more popular in the US, the Chevelle was Chevrolet’s answer to the fourth-generation Fairlane, which Ford downsized in 1962. Developed as a high-volume car, the midsize became available in various body styles, including coupes, convertibles, sedans, wagons, and even a pickup (the El Camino). The engine lineup was as diverse, including run-of-the-mill inline-six and V8 powerplants.
But muscle cars were also becoming a thing as Ford, GM, and Chrysler were moving big-block engines that were usually offered in full-size vehicles into intermediates. Chevrolet acted accordingly and introduced a beefed-up SS model.
A 300-horsepower version debuted in mid-1964, while 1965 saw the arrival of the Z-16, powered by a big 396-cubic-inch (6.5-liter) V8 rated at 375 horses. From then on, the Chevelle SS morphed into an increasingly more aggressive midsize. At the same time, Chevy added larger big-block engines to the lineup.
The nameplate’s performance ratings peaked in 1970 thanks to an optional V8 called the LS6. Fitted with a single four-barrel Holley carburetor, it was rated 450 horsepower and 500 pound-feet (678 Nm) of torque, which made it the most powerful V8 at the time. Some say it was underrated, too, with actual output sitting at more than 500 horsepower. An expensive, one-year-only option, the LS6 found its way in only 4,475 cars, including Chevelle coupes, convertibles, and El Camino pickups.
Granted, LS6-equipped Chevelles are a bit more common than many other muscle cars from the era. However, they’re highly desirable among Chevy enthusiasts. It’s the holy grail of the Chevelle lineup, and most of them get restored nowadays, no matter how rusty they emerge from long-term storage. The white example you see here is one of those rare survivors that’s struggling to make a comeback.
Discovered and documented by Chevelle SS specialist Patrick Glenn Nichols, this 1970 LS6 has been hiding somewhere in the Utah desert for decades. It’s not one of those all-original and unmolested classics, but that’s because it had a long career at the drag strip. And like many golden-era muscle cars that hit the track as soon as they left the dealership, it lost some of its original gear on the way.
While still sporting its factory black-striped white exterior with the remains of a black vinyl top, it’s no longer equipped with its original grille, rear end, door panels, and fuel tank. The back seat was also removed when it was lightened for drag strip duty. It also sat for a few decades, enough for various body panels to develop rust issues. But it’s still in solid condition overall.
What about the engine, then, because that’s what makes an LS6 special. Well, the 454-cubic-inch (7.4-liter) V8 is no longer under the hood. That’s bad news even for a coveted Chevelle, but Patrick points out that the owner knows where the engine is. He doesn’t have it but could trace it and put it back in the car. And this means the Chevelle could very well be on its way to a proper restoration soon.
Yeah, I may be too optimistic right now, but I can’t help but get excited whenever an SS 454 LS6 is being unearthed and authenticated, regardless of its condition. These cars are downright spectacular and deserve to be saved. You can check this one out in the video below, which also includes footage of a very cool red 1970 Chevelle SS with a matching interior and white top. That’s a really nice combo!