Ask a crowd what the most popular Chevy of all time is and not only will you get a variety of answers, but probably a riot between the debating parties. The first top two nominees that come to mind are the '57 Chevy and the '69 Camaro. Even a Nova, Corvette, or Impala lover can't ignore the fact that those two cars are more popular now than when new. But wait, at the back of the room, what's the guy waving his hand frantically in the air got to say?
"The '70 Chevelle." Ah, yes, the dark horse in the debate. Denying the popularity of what's considered by many as the pinnacle of the Chevelle/Malibu line is like trying to deny gravity. Don't believe me? Just go to any cruise night, car show, or dragstrip, and you'll see them out in full force. They garner instant respect wherever they go.
Today, the '70 is one of the top choices of premier car builders for projects, and companies building show cars. The aftermarket has embraced the '70 model like a long lost lover, with enough new replacement parts available-including complete frames and a whole body shell-that someone could build an entirely brand- new '70 Chevelle today. Along with the physical body of the '70, owners can choose from a variety of different engines to power their A-bodies with, from small-blocks to big-blocks to LS-based engines, all with ground-shaking horsepower. The roomy confines of the engine bay are a welcome space for almost any Chevrolet powerplant.
Not happy with vintage handling characteristics? No problem. Companies like Detroit Speed, Global West, Ridetech, Fatman Fabrications, Art Morrison, and numerous others have everything from bolt-on parts to a complete rolling chassis to make any '70 Chevelle perform like a modern sports car.
What is it about the '70 that has cemented its place as a Chevrolet icon? Was it the timeless, muscular styling with those bulging fenders? Was it the all-conquering LS-6 Rat underhood? Was it the fact that '70 was the peak year for Bow Tie performance during the original muscle car era? Realistically, it was all that and a whole lot more.
Instead of doing the usual full-on history lesson for the '70 (which has been told a million times), we decided to look at the impact of the car on our hobby. Flipping through past issues of Super Chevy, we came across dozens of '70 Chevelles and Malibus that illustrate the car's impact.
Chevelle for 1970: 40 years and still going strong.
Back In The Day: The '70 Chevelle
The overwhelming majority of Chevelle and Chevrolet enthusiasts, owners and fans thought that the '70 Chevelle SS and Malibu sport coupe were the absolute very best looking Chevelles. The RPO LS6 450hp 454 cost a mere $263.30, while the RPO Z15 "Super Sport" cost $503.45. The Sport Coupe base price was $2,719. Add $184.80 for an M21 four-speed, or $221.80 for an M22 SHD four-speed or HD Turbo 400 automatic, and for around $3,800 (plus tax, fees, and licensing) you had yourself a rolling rocket ship with looks to match.
For the record, the LS6 454 and L78 396 Chevelles are two of the quickest and fastest midsize cars ever produced. As soon as the 780-cfm Holley carb's secondaries began to open, the rear tires went up in smoke. Neither engine was for the faint of heart. A total of 2,144 paid the $210.65 extra for the RPO L78 396 (402) early on, while midyear on, 4,475 manned up for the LS6 454.
Many-due to income level, military status and/or family responsibilities-could only dream of owning a '70 Chevelle when new (including me and my young family). In '75, we bought a loaded '70 Monte Carlo (which was essentially an overgrown Chevelle) from the original owner. We still own it today. Finally, in 2005, we got our '70 Chevelle. It's a maroon-over-black Malibu sport coupe with a big cam 383 stroker, four-speed, and 4.88:1 12-bolt Posi. It's reasonably fast (said to run 12.40s) and closely resembles exactly what we used to build back in the day.
We don't know anyone who doesn't like the '70 Super Sport. For decades, writers and owners alike have agreed the '70 SS Chevelle is one of the best-looking cars Chevrolet ever produced.
The lowest production '70 Chevelle we can think of is those 18 early production 375hp 402 SS models with RPO L89 aluminum heads. For the record, there were 64,225 396 (402) and 454 big-block Chevelles sold, of which I believe 1,853 were El Caminos. Almost all of the other really low production '70 Chevelles had one thing in common: a six-cylinder engine. (Grand total/all Chevelles: 28,791). We're curious how many still exist today. You see, many received a V-8 transplant by a later owner for both street and strip use, NHRA and IHRA Stock and Super Stock Eliminator included.