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This Sleeper’s a Keeper: A 14,000-Mile Unrestored Original 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 LS6

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 10/20/2017 Hot Rod Network Staff
1970-chevy-chevelle-ls6-penske-wellborn-car-action-9.jpg This Sleeper’s a Keeper: A 14,000-Mile Unrestored Original 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 LS6

Up in the hills the crafters still refer to it as squeezin's, trickling through a homemade distillation system. More public and commercial now, old-school moonshine remains a sort of rite of passage for many. The Chevelle SS you are looking at is the automotive equivalent of good moonshine. Plain white wrapped, column shift, bench seat, and little to show that it is packing a real kick. It goes smooth, then you realize you are at 110 mph or faster. As for the crafter, well, that would be ol' Chevrolet, passing the LS6 around to some guy named Roger Penske. How much should you use? Oh, we are just sippin' it, a little at a time; in fact, less than 15,000 miles since it was purchased back in 1970.

Research

Tim Wellborn is noted for his ability to buy cars right, and this one came into the collection in Alabama back in 2013 after it was offered at Mecum's Indy Classic. At the time, Tim and his wife Pam already had a low-mileage black LS6 in their collection, but something about this particular car drew Tim's attention with enough pull that he decided it was worth chasing.

"I like white muscle cars, and I thought the gold interior was a great complement to it," says Tim. "Plus, it was a non-cowl induction car, non-stripe car, a bare-bones car. The black one was such a time capsule, and it had taught me a lot about these cars, so when this one came up I decided it was worth chasing if it came in at a good price. It did."

Column shifters on muscle cars could be considered a detriment in some cases. The lever in the LS6, however, looks almost aggressive in its angularity. Tim was correct when he wondered if the selling price would end up being reasonable as result, and he took it home without topping $100,000.

While some factors may not have helped the car, others did. "The first thing that caught my attention on this car was that metal Roger Penske dealership tag on the decklid, because everybody knows who he is," says Tim. "How many LS6 Chevelles are still around that have provenance from his dealership? I figured not many, and that adds to this car's interest and value.

"This car has more original documentation, including notes the original owner wrote, than any other car I have ever owned. In 1992, the owner had written up the history of the car and wanted it sold at auction. That sale had happened about a year before I bought it, so the guy who consigned it was only the second owner. And it's so original. The owner wrote notes regarding everything he ever did to it, even everything he replaced. The tailpipes, oil and coolant changes, plugs, air and oil filters, wiper blades and tires—that was it. It has the original driveline, original paint, original interior, all of it."

Once Tim got it back to the museum, he found it to be "an amazing driver. It's smooth, quiet and extremely powerful. People know I have a lot of Mopars, and I love them, but this is a completely different ride. In fact, Dennis Gage was down here filming for his TV show, and after driving this Chevelle he got out and told me it was the best-riding muscle car he had even been in."

1970-chevy-chevelle-ls6-penske-wellborn-car-front (4).jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 1970-chevy-chevelle-ls6-penske-wellborn-car-front (4).jpg

So how did this jug o' lightnin' get through to today without the sort of abuse so many other muscle cars suffered? On May 25, 1970, a young man named Burton Greeby came to Havertown, Pennsylvania, to Mr. Penske's big Chestnut Street dealership in Philadelphia. He had a pretty good idea what he wanted: a 1970 Chevelle LS6 454/450hp with the cloth interior (on the order form, "blue" is scratched out and "tan" written in), tinted glass, a rear defogger, a rear speaker, automatic transmission, a 3:31 Positraction rearend, power steering, and a heavy-duty battery.

The salesman calculated an approximate total of $4,111, but Greeby did some hard negotiating, special-ordering the car for $3,699 and a grand total of $3,931 including tax. As Tim noted, the paperwork is extensive, so this form shows he could not get factory air, and they killed the power locks to get the price down. There is a factory build sheet here, something not often seen, and it shows the specifics of the car's construction. The sales-day notes show that Greeby came to the dealer with a whole lot of money (yep, sounds like moonshinin') on July 7 to pay the entire bill off and pick up his new wheels.

Greeby wrote little notes on each slip: air cleaner on or off, low-gear start, and so on. The Chevelle's best e.t., being big in weight and with a 3.31 cog, was 13.85. It is not known how many laps were made except for these few slips, and since there is a drawing of how the smog equipment was routed, it's possible he temporarily pulled it off for the effort. Regardless, the car was never modified seriously for racing and seems to have been very well cared for from day one. Even that smog junk.

So when Tim himself was selling a group of cars from the collection at Mecum's Florida auction several years ago, he chose to send the black car over the block. It had stripes, a similar solid history, and a little more curb appeal to the general buying public. The white car became the keeper.

Tim says, "In my opinion there were really three 'greatest muscle cars of all time': the 1971 Hemi 'Cuda, the Boss 429 Mustang, and the LS6 Chevelle. These were the benchmarks for Chrysler, Ford, and GM of that era. So as the collection has grown and matured, we wanted to make sure we had representation on those. I still need to find a comparable replacement for the Boss '9 we used to have."

At a glance

1970 Chevelle SS454

Restored by: Unrestored original

Engine: 454ci/450hp LS6 V-8

Transmission: TH400 3-speed automatic

Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.31 gears and Positraction

Interior: Gold ("tan") cloth bench seat

Wheels: 14-inch SS Rallye

Tires: F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas

Special parts: Rear speaker, rear defogger, tinted glass, H/D battery, power steering, AM radio; 14,175 original miles

"I Thought the Wellborns Had Mostly Mopars"

Tim and Pam Wellborn are noted for their museum in Alexander City, Alabama. When we contacted Tim about this story, he joked a little about the Mopar connection.

"Yeah, we have got some, but the museum is not just for Mopars. We have a bunch of GM and Ford stuff on display right now. That Chevelle, an SD455 Trans Am from 1973, a Ram Air IV GTO Judge convertible, a G.T. 350 Shelby, and more. We have had some people wanting to put cars on display, so that has let us rotate through a lot more variety."

The museum is open on Saturdays, as well as by appointment.

Wellborn Muscle Car Museum

124 Broad St.

Alexander City, AL 35010

(256) 329-8474

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