Luckiest Chevelle guy in the world, or does luck really favor the prepared? The little stabbing twinge of jealousy we’re feeling can be blamed on Patrick Nichols, who both owns and operates Chevelle Supercars and Supersports, and scored this crispy-fresh, four-speed, big-block coupe that is a high-performance variant of a high-performance variant of an already kick-ass 1970 Chevelle.
Nichols earned this car by knowing his facts at a mega-geek level and staying involved in the cause by liking every Chevelle-oriented Facebook page he could find. One day while scrolling around, he saw a few storage-lot photos of what looked like a standard SS396 Chevelle. What got him out of the chair was a single interior photo showing a high-redline (6,500 rpm instead of 5,500 rpm) tach, a sign that the car was equipped with the high-horsepower version of the 396.
“After looking at the pictures, I couldn't believe my eyes,” Nichols says. “There were some clear telltale signs that this was a real SS396 L78 solid-lifter, high-performance-engine Chevelle.
“Only the 450hp LS6 and 375hp L78 had the special tach, standard 396 engines were rated at 350.”
Nichols quickly emailed the guy to see what was up. The owner responded that the car had been parked in 1983 in a storage lot in Fresno, California, and hadn’t moved since. Nichols flew out from his home in Clarksville, Tennessee, to look at the car in person. “I checked for a single fuel line, the Muncie M21 transmission numbers, and the CKK stamp on the rearend indicating a 12-bolt, 4:10:1 Posi. That was enough to identify it,” Nichols says. “It was definitely a 100-percent authentic L78 Chevelle.”
The L78 featured an aluminum low-rise intake, solid-lifter cam, 11.0:1 compression, square-port heads, and a Holley 780-cfm carburetor. Later in 1970, the L78 was replaced with the LS6 option making all 1970 L78 Chevelles early cars. This kept the production down to 2,144.
“This is a true California car. It was built at the Van Nuys, California, assembly plant and was sold new at Merle Stone Chevrolet in Tulare, California,” Nichols confirms. Van Nuys plant assembly workers placed the build sheet on the gas tank and the photos looked like the tank had never been removed. When Nichols pulled the tank, the document was there. This dealership is still in business today and is only a few hours’ drive from Fresno. The car had been in the area since new.
According to the sheet, the car was optioned with raised-letter tires, auxiliary lighting group, the cowl-induction hood, bucket seats, and a center console. The original color was Cortez Silver with a black interior.
“It was optioned the way I would want one; four-speed, cowl, 4:10, and solid-lifter big-block—all the cool options,” Nichols says.
So now what? “I believe these cars are now a part of our culture and need to be preserved so I am not going to restore this car. It will be left in its ‘as-found’ condition,” says Nichols. That’s what we would do, how about you?