To car guys, the various sounds an engine makes are completely distinguishable. For instance, the sound of high-compression pistons makes a very audible “pop” out the exhaust, a belt squeal is an annoyance that nobody can live with, and when it comes to an engine with a solid-lifter camshaft that “taps” a rhythmic cadence, the sound is awesome. Recently, as I arrived at the Dream Giveaway garage to take a look at the group’s latest sweepstakes offering, the cadence I heard was awesome.
Last year, I showed you the first-gen Camaro that was awarded to a lucky person by the folks at Dream Giveaway. That car was an exceptional example of Chevrolet’s pony car, and when Christopher Phillip of the Dream Giveaway Group called me and explained that this year would be something just as cool, I wanted to see if he could deliver the goods.
When I arrived at the garage, Christopher delivered – and in a big way. Let me introduce you to the 1970 Chevelle that you can win! Before I explain how you can own this gem, let me tell you a little about this original L78-optioned car.
When discussing any of the great high-performance muscle cars that were unleashed on American streets during the late ’60s and early ’70s, few enjoy as many accolades as Chevrolet‘s 1970 Chevelle SS. The styling was outstanding, and the Chevelle SS not only carried a decidedly upscale image, but the available performance options expanded their appeal beyond the typical “cool dad” market of the era.
When the ’70 Chevelle was released, SS396 buyers had two engine choices: the 350-horse L35 was standard, and a hotter L78-version was optional. The L78 engine was rated at 375 horsepower at 5,600 rpm with 415 lb-ft of torque at just 3,600 rpm. The L78 was one of Chevy’s finest high-performance engines, with a four-bolt main, forged internals, that hot, solid-lifter camshaft, big-valve heads, a Holley carburetor, dual-plane aluminum intake, and a low-restriction dual exhaust. Off the showroom floor, the L78-equipped SS Chevelle was a low 14-second car. With some simple tuning, slicks, and headers, that time could be dropped deep into the 13s.
But, 1970 was to be a transition year for Chevrolet’s “hotter” big-block. The L78 was only installed in the SS396 for a few early months of 1970, as the 454 big-block was destined to take its place. Although a 1970 LS6 Chevelle is generally more collectible today, 1970 L78 Chevelles are actually rarer in numbers (4,475 versus 2,144).
From The Beginning
But enough with the general stuff, let’s talk about this Cranberry Red gem. It was ordered new by Robert Erikson of Flandreau, South Dakota, in September 1969. Mr. Erikson knew exactly what he wanted, as the order form shows he paid the extra $210.45 for the 375-horsepower engine. Behind that, he opted for an M21 four-speed, and filled the 12-bolt with Positraction and a 3.55 gear. In case you were wondering, his trade-in was a 1968 GTO, and Country-Side Chevrolet gave him $2,814.25 for the Poncho.
Mr. Erikson enjoyed the Chevelle for several years and eventually sold it. Sadly, the history of this car gets a little foggy after that. Eventually, it ended up being restored and placed in a private collection.
Every now and again, the owner of the collection would drive the car to local functions around New Jersey. During one of those outings, Mike Mal spotted it and developed more than a passing interest in the car. “The first time I saw it, I missed my chance to talk to the guy that drove it. It was another several years until I saw the Chevelle again,” Mike said. But once again, luck was not on his side, as he did not get to speak to the owner during that second occurrence.
Patience is a virtue, and one day Mike saw an ad on Craigslist that described the Chevelle he had twice seen – and twice missed. This time however, the car was not able to hide from him, and he was able to strike a deal to buy it.
When Mike acquired the car, he was also given a lot of paperwork that described some of the specifics about the factory hot rod. Unfortunately, that paperwork verified that somewhere along the line, the original L78 engine had succumb to a catastrophe, and was replaced with another mill. That didn’t deter Mike’s enthusiasm. “Before I bought it, the car spent a lot of time parked. While I owned it, I did some mechanical upgrades to add to the drivability of the car,” he shared. Mike enjoyed it for little more than a year. That’s when the guys from Dream Giveaway found it and decided it would be a great sweepstakes car.
My Day Just Got Even Better
Taking pretty pictures of cars is just one aspect of my job, and when somebody is willing to hand me the keys to their classic so I can take it for a drive – even with my known history – I usually jump at the opportunity.
A cursory walk around the car took longer that I had planned. Yes, a ’70 Chevelle SS is a gorgeous car that deserves a great deal of attention, but this time, I was trying to find something lacking in the exterior restoration, which was done sometime in 2009. I was greeted with a stunning job. The car looks as great as it ever could – factory fresh or not.
Sliding behind the wheel caused an immediate psychological step back in time. As I looked at the still-working dash clock, I imagined it was 1970, and I was hoping to buy this new car solely to street race. I twisted the ignition switch and lit the fire. Even though the engine is not the original L78 powerplant, I was immediately greeted with the tapping sound of the lash induced between each rocker arm and valve stem. To a car guy, the sound is one that can cause you to lose yourself.
As I eased out of the corporate park and into traffic, I was immediately impressed at how well the car “felt.” There was no “mushy” feeling of a car that is 48 years old. The suspension made even the less-than-stellar road surfaces around St. Pete, Florida, seem manageable. The ride was not like a new Cadillac mind you, but that of a very nice 48-year-old car. One thing that really surprised me was the exhaust note. Too many times, an aftermarket muffler or exhaust system can be overbearing and even create a droning noise inside the car while driving. Not so with this car. The exhaust note was noticeable, but definitely not annoying. I found myself not wanting to return to the garage, but I knew the repercussions of such an endeavor. After several miles of in-town and highway driving, I turned West and headed back to the garage.
As I turned the car around and pointed the Chevelle’s grille in the direction I needed to go, I was treated to an open stretch of the Causeway. For once in my life, there were no other cars hindering forward movement, and nowhere for an FHP cruiser to be hiding. It was just me behind the wheel of a big-block-powered Chevelle with my right foot poised on the throttle and my left foot planting the clutch pedal to the floor. I couldn’t help myself, I had to accommodate the car’s desire to stretch its legs.
When the light turned green, I decided not to launch hard from a dead-stop – as that’s when I usually break things – but I quickly got the big car moving. Once forward momentum was solidified, I then helped the cowl-induction hood open by fully depressing the throttle pedal. Although the Chevelle has modern radial tires, I could still feel the car struggling with traction on the sand-scattered asphalt – even at a roll – and short-shifted at 4,000 rpm. In my mind, I wanted to rev the engine even higher, but one: this wasn’t my car, and two: well, this wasn’t my car. A firm shift to Second gear – even at 4,000 rpm – caused the car to squat considerably in the rear and forcibly gain forward momentum. Short-shifting again – this time just shy of 5,000 rpm, Third gear kept me pushed against the back of the seat as the R’s kept climbing. I can’t say for sure, but it didn’t feel like the engine ever surpassed its torque curve. As I glided into Fourth gear, I decided not to continue my assault of the Causeway, and let the ole girl glide back to a nice 70 mph cruise along the Tampa Bay.
As soon as I got back to the building, I was curious about how the under-hood restoration looked. I spent the next several minutes ogling the near-perfect restoration of that area. I still had no idea that the engine was not original. In fact, I didn’t find that out until sometime later. That being said, I am happy to see that whoever did the restoration, took the time be as correct as possible, even though the engine is not the factory-delivered unit.
It’s All About You
Although I have enjoyed the opportunity to experience the car first hand, now it’s all about you. The purpose of the Chevelle is to help people and deliver some happiness. The Dream Giveaway is organizing the sweepstakes for this SS396 Chevelle, and proceeds will be donated to multiple charities. By purchasing tickets, you can not only win this car, but help others in the process.
The Dream Giveaway group is licensed by a variety of 501(c)(3) charitable organizations for the purpose of conducting sponsored fundraising promotions. These funds help provide important assistance to veterans, hospitalized children, cancer victims, the homeless, victims of natural disasters, and other worthwhile causes. When you purchase sweepstakes chances from Dream Giveaway, you are entered to win the car, and your donation is 100-percent tax-deductible.
Now is the time to secure your chances to win, and the folks at Dream Giveaway want to give you an edge in winning. Because you’re a Chevy Hardcore fan, you can get bonus tickets on us when you enter the Chevelle Dream Giveaway. All you have to do is Click here for your chance to win, and get bonus tickets at the same time.