The '70 Chevelle is generally regarded as the peak of Chevrolet musclecar development. Being the first year to offer the big 454 certainly helped, and being the only year the fat powerplant was delivered sans smog equipment with up to 450 underrated horses only serves to ice the cake. Stylewise, the since-'68 body should have been showing its age, but instead some innovative and aggressive styling touches served to refine the muscular lines. Smoothing the harder leading hood edges and softening the relocated taillights truly helped define the '70 and put it in a class of it's own.
The '71 model that followed lost the distinctive quad headlights, and, interestingly, the singular taillight design became circular and grew to number four lenses. The muscular shape of the '70 would stand between the desirable '68-69s, and the less-fondly remembered '71-72 models, isolating it as a one-year design with one-year only big-horsepower options. It's no wonder racers, enthusiasts, and collectors all covet the '70 Chevelle, especially when there's a big-inch big-block underhood.
Keith Wagner has enjoyed the style of the '70 Chevelle for many years, as this car is the second to be built by the 35-year old McHenry, Illinois, engineer. The first was in the long-popular Pro Street tradition, and Keith admits to its shortcomings.
"My Pro Street '70 was over the top. It was a great car, and I'm proud to have built it, but it was hard to drive on the street. When I sold it, I still wanted a '70 Chevelle, but I was determined to make it more comfortable and driveable on the street. I saw this car at an auction, and the love affair began!"
Wanting to redefine the classic American musclecar as a true all-around performer is no easy task, but it is getting easier. Keith went straight to Ken's Hot Rod Shop in Rockford, Illinois. A full suspension and braking plan was launched, focusing on bolt-on upgrades and attainable goals to add to the overall motoring experience.
The chassis now boasts a full complement of aftermarket grip-adders, including Global West tubular upper A-arms and spindles, QA1 adjustable shock absorbers, lowered custom coils springs, and a pair of antisway bars measuring 1.75-inch up front and 1.5-inch in the rear. Adding the grip in the back is a complete complement of Hotchkis control arm components, featuring their proven solid lower control arms and adjustable uppers. With the chassis sufficiently stiff, binders were added.
Keith chose proven Baer Racing discs in 14-inch front and 13-inch rear diameters. The drilled and slotted rotors would require a big diameter wheel to clear, and Keith chose 17x10s to steer and 17x11s to drive. The tires are likewise fat, checking in at 275/40-17 up front and 315/35-17 out back. Grip was determined to be sufficient and under control; now, what should be powering this beast?
As mentioned, the "pinnacle" powerplant offered in '70 was the 454, and this seemed a logical choice. Wagner went to Speedfreak of Alden, Il, and made his desires clear. The resulting block now displaces 468-inches (after a basic overbore) and was loaded with Comp Cams valvetrain and reworked iron heads to deliver plenty of torque on pump gas. While we weren't provided with horsepower or torque figures, Keith did share quarter-mile timeslips in the 12.50-second range at 116 mph. He also claims to put 4,000 annual miles under the car, which proves he was able to regain the streetable qualities he was after from the start.