Museum Masterpieces by Geoff Stunkard

VEHICLE: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454

[dcs_p]Restored by: 33,500 mile survivor, detailed by Roger Gibson[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Engine: Chevy LS6 454/450-hp[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Transmission: Turbo 400[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Rearend: 12-bolt, 4.10 PosiTrac[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Interior: black[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Wheels: Sport style[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Tires: Wide Oval F70-14[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Special Parts: stripe delete, cowl delete, SS trim group, AM with rear speaker.[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Sticker price 1970: $4585.00[/dcs_p] [dcs_p]Owned by The Wellborn Musclecar Museum / Tim & Pam Wellborn[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]Survivor big-block musclecars are a unique breed of collector car. After all, when you signed your name to that loan for a machine with 400+ cubes and a race-inspired styling, the intention was to drive. What changed all of that was the insurance crisis that raised rates tremendously right in 1970, the gasoline crunches that ensued later in that decade, and the understanding by some owners that, as the hit song by Jim Seals and Dash Crofts recalled, ‘we may never pass this way again.’ And indeed, for machines like the LS6 Chevelle, that sentiment proved true – 454 inches with 450 ponies on tap were not long for this world. Some were tucked away, while others, like this one, were simply well-cared despite their use.[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]Tim and Pam Wellborn had begun gathering examples from that era’s Mopar heritage many years ago, but as their dream for their Musclecar Museum grew, they also wanted examples of other makes. After all, 1970 was a pinnacle year for performance supercars – the E-body Mopars, the Super Cobra Jet Falcon and restyled Boss Mustangs, and the upstart AMC Rebel Machine joined the fold, while GM finally dropped the corporate edict that kept anything over 400” officially out of mid-size musclecars.[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]So right off the factory floor came the big 455” Pontiac, Olds, and Buick beasts, examples of which all now reside in the Wellborn collection. At Chevrolet, the legendary 427 ‘rat’ motor was superseded by a new over-square powerplant with a 108.0 mm bore and 100 mm stroke; 7.4L is the math, but converted to inches (4.251 x 4.00) the designation was 454.[dcs_p] [/dcs_p]Three versions were there – a 390-hp LS5, the 450-hp LS6, and an announced-but-never-released 465-hp LS7. Unlike the rare COPO Chevrolets of the previous years, the factory offered these to anyone who filled out the right blanks on the order form.[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]In this case, that order came from the Mills Chevrolet dealership in Moline, Ill., but has ‘survived’ because second owner Ivan Schildhegn knew how special it was. Ivan bought it after the first owner had traded it in on a new ’71 hemi’cuda, and the Lancaster Wis., native then owned it until his death in 2004. Ivan would go out driving and tape off the chrome 454 logos on the all-black, cowl delete machine and go out after unsuspecting stoplight rivals, who thought it was just a regular SS package car. He stopped driving it before it had run up 34,000 miles.[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]No luxury liner, some would consider this car ‘stripped-down,’ a sinister black-on-black, black interior, stripe delete monster. The chrome was under the hood, part the Bright Engine Accent Group that came when the LS6 option was chosen. Indeed, ordering the SS454 model got you the high-compression engine, dual exhaust, F70-14 Wide Oval tires on sport wheels, and power disc brakes. The outside appearance changes from the standard Chevelle were the domed hood (the cowl induction was deleted on this car, but hood clearance was still mandated), the SS black-out grille and black-out rear panel, and chrome wheel moldings. Creature comforts included Astro ventilation, hidden wipers, glovebox light, trunk light, and cigarette lighter; an AM radio and performance gauge cluster finished it off, shifted through a console-mounted U-handle.[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]In 2005, Tim was at a Mecum auction in Palm Beach, Florida and became more interested the more he examined this machine, an ultimate musclecar combination which Roger Gibson refers to as ‘Big Horse in Black,’. Provenance is critical to Tim, and especially so with an LS6 package, which can be faked. Coupled with the physical originality visible, the ProtectoPlate, build sheet, and window sticker were joined by every single servicing down to the oil changes and emissions testing. Tim chose to pass on a Challenger he had come to the auction to buy, opting instead to place this stallion on the trailer back to Alabama.[/dcs_p]

[dcs_p]“This car drives like it is new; it’s a feeling you cannot replicate,” says Tim. “Coupled with all the paperwork, since it is easy to duplicate an LS6 install, this is a great car. People who see it appreciate it.” [/dcs_p] [dcs_p]It is in the Wellborn Museum now, but not out to pasture by any means…[/dcs_p]

A full feature on this car will run in Musclecar Review later this year!