If you were going to build your dream 1970 big-block-powered Chevrolet Chevelle, there are many differing configurations you could choose to employ. But for Robert Nace of Newville, Pennsylvania, this Cranberry Red runner is exactly the way he wants it. There’s a perfectly good reason for that too. Rather than finding a near-perfect example and changing or modifying it to bring it more into his view of what the car should be, Robert began with a base that required a lot more work, but allowed him to make it perfect, from the ground up.
A Local Discovery
He located the car about seventeen years ago, sitting outside of Clark’s Auto Body in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was the remnant of someone else’s project that had gone stagnant. The car had been whiling away the years underneath an impromptu cover that just barely kept it safe from the elements. It was missing its engine and transmission, as well as the complete front end. And while its rear quarter-panels were still mostly there, they needed replacing.
Seeing its potential as a foundation for the ‘70 Chevelle that he always wanted, Robert snatched the car up and began making it perfect for him. That meant the car would need to have a big-block, but not necessarily a stock one. The Rat engine was modified to its very core by boring and stroking, which brought the new cube count up to 496 with a 4. 310-inch bore and a 4.250-inch stroke. A Scat crankshaft and Probe 6.250-inch rods and forged pistons fitted to its bores round out the rotating assembly. There is a Comp Cams hydraulic roller (.558/.542-inch lift with 235/249 degrees of duration at .050-iinch) deep in the valley, with matching Comp springs and rockers up top. The pump-friendly compression comes in at just a tick over 9.5:1, and makes sure that all the fuel fed through the Holley carb and factory GM LS6 intake get properly positioned so that the MSD 6AL-assisted ignition can build all the power available.
It is gratifying to know that this car was built with help from family and friends. This car will be a family heirloom. – Robert Nace
Since Robert’s Chevelle had been sitting outside for a while and was used as a daily driver before that, it’s safe to assume that the chassis and underside of the body needed some work as well. The frame was removed, cleaned and powdercoated to not only bring it back to pristine condition, but also protect it from future elements like stone chips from when Robert decides to drive the car. Robert rebuilt the chassis to factory specs in his garage with the requisite disc and drum brake combo. It also received an upgrade with Monroe Gas-Matic shocks all around.
As for the body, it didn’t move very far from Clark’s Auto Body. They removed the body and began bringing it back to its former glory. That meant there were a few things that needed torn down before the shell could be built back up. New quarter-panels and outer wheel houses were ordered, and Robert was sent in, scraper and wire brush in-hand, to remove all the grime, undercoating and unwanted crud that had formed (and likely had protected) the near-pristine floorboards.
Robert and his friend Daryl Hurley spent many weekends at Clark’s Body Shop, primping the Chevelle’s body in preparation for paint, and scouring the nearby Carlisle swap meets for parts to put back on the car once the paint had dried. At that point, the newly-painted body and freshly powdercoated frame were once again joined in Robert’s garage. Then, the engine and transmission were bolted in place. With the Chevelle starting to look like a car again, items both stock and aftermarket found their way into the build.
A Gathering Of Go-Fast Goodies
A more modern and performance-enhanced Pypes dual exhaust was assembled from stainless, and is fed through a set of Hedman headers. They help rid the engine of spent fumes via the factory GM aluminum heads. The combination of aftermarket performance parts and factory go-fast goodies makes for a nicely spiced blend of vintage horsepower with a “day-two” feel. It gives a vibe reminiscent of when these cars were new, purchased simply for their performance, and anything that could enhance its performance even further was not only welcome, but sought after. Back then, the aftermarket hadn’t yet been made sugary-sweet with billet and excessive chrome bits, and performance scroungers could be found in about any backyard garage or cruise night. Truly a hands-on generation in time.
You could say that Robert’s Chevelle is built in that very same vein, since this home-built brawler uses a proven combination of GM part numbers, coupled with some additional parts that either weren’t available back when these cars were new, or were the sought-after products on almost every high-school parking lot and cruise night. Beyond the big-block, blazing red paint, and floor-shifted automatic, Robert also infused a nice touch of reliability out back, as the GM 12-bolt rearend has been decked out with a set of 3.73 gears on an Eaton posi unit, twisting a pair of heavy-duty Moser axles. Beyond that, those factory SS wheels (15×7 front/ 15×10 rear) wear a set of BF Goodrich Radial TAs, appropriately sized both front and rear.
Today’s driver has become accustomed to certain accouterments that might not have been high on the list way back when these cars were new, or even desirable today to those seeking the most accurate of restorations. Items like power steering, air conditioning, and the aforementioned automatic transmission might not have given this car the top billing on any dragstrip, but as we said before, Robert built this car exactly the way he wanted it, and those are the very items that he’s deemed necessary to make the drive as enjoyable as possible.
The power steering is all factory, since it has been proven to work well over the decades. Other items like air conditioning have had various improvements over the years, and Robert decided to upgrade the cool factor beyond factory in his car. A more efficient Sanden compressor was swapped in place of the much larger, factory A6 compressor that was noted for hogging up the lion’s share of horsepower in the name of comfort. Beyond that, the A/C system was restored and keeps its factory appearance. Even better, it keeps Robert cool!
The rest of the interior was restored in a deep black hue by Robert, his brother Don, and his son Bob, in about six months, once all of the mechanicals were complete. The dash has been restored using factory gauges, and is coupled with the factory-correct interior panels and carpeting. Sitting in Robert’s Chevelle will surely transport you back in time, which is exactly what it has done for Robert ever since he completed the seven-year restoration. While this particular 1970 Chevelle might not get as much exercise as it once did when it was simply a daily-driver, that doesn’t mean that it has become pampered garage art. Robert stretches its legs regularly, heading off to various local car shows and cruise nights throughout the year.
We caught up with Robert and his Chevelle at this year’s Carlisle Chevrolet Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but we’re pretty sure that with the Chevelle’s big-block, it would be a Llot tougher to catch up with him unless he wanted you to. That makes the decision totally up to Robert and his right foot, which is just the way he likes it, and just another reason that this is the perfect car for him.