WHEN it comes to tough American cars, things don’t get much better than a 1970 Chevelle. With an optional 454ci under the cowl induction hood, the big-hipped A-body had the biggest engine in the famed US Muscle Car Wars, and took to the Pro Street scene like a duck to water. Gino Aiello knew that all too well when he set out on his journey to take this Chevy from grumpy classic to 900hp blown LSX454-powered tarmac terror.
This article on Gino's Chevelle was first published in Street Machine's LSX Tuner #8, 2018
Bought out of Perth, WA in December 2014, the big Chevelle already had a ZZ502 Chevrolet Performance crate big-block in it.
“The Chevy it was in excellent condition when I got it, and all I wanted was a registered Pro Street car,” says Gino. “This car was pretty much done as it’d had a rotisserie restoration in America at some point. I put an MSD Atomic EFI system, shortened the 12-bolt diff, did Wilwood brakes and AlumaStars, and then I drove it for a year.”
Gino loves Yankee performance cars, though he initially started with the Chevelle’s smaller brother. “I have a ’67 fastback Mustang, then I bought a ’67 Camaro. I love American muscle cars, but I was thinking the Camaro was too common, so I sold it and looked for a Chevelle”
It was at this point that Gino dropped it off to his mate Mario Panicone and things got taken to the next level, because Mario runs VCM Suite and the Autotechnique workshop. This means he knows how to make serious horsepower.
“I wanted the same look but with completely new running gear,” explains Gino. “I didn’t like the big-block that was in it before as there wasn’t much more we could get out of it. I was aiming around the 1000hp mark, but the big-block couldn’t get there. I’ve had 10 different HSVs, which Mario has always worked on, but I’ve always wanted an LSX engine. Plus, the 454 keeps with the 454 heritage of the car.”
Yes, Gino’s car is a real-deal Chevelle SS 454 (see more, below)! While the old Chevelle 454s were powerful beasts, this new one is a real tyre-fryer.
This car isn’t going to be finished and flipped if Gino has his way. “I purchased the car the week my daughter Jessica was born, so this will be her car,” he says
The Chevrolet Performance LSX454 is based around a General Motors high-performance Bowtie iron block with a 4.185-inch bore and 4.125-inch stroke and equipped with six-bolt cross-bolted mains. It is filled with a forged 4340-steel crank using an eight-bolt flange for better clamping at high-horsepower loads, while the rods are also forged 4340 steel and the pistons are forged aluminium to provide a rock-solid base for insane power, along with 11.0:1 compression.
As with regular production LS engines, the cam is a hydraulic-roller, running 236° and 246° duration on the intake and exhaust. The big stick is needed to make use of the aluminium LSX heads running LS7-style square ports (and 70cc chambers), stuffed with 2.2-inch titanium intake valves and 1.610-inch sodium-filled exhaust valves (with 0.648-inch valve lift on both the intake and the exhaust).
The LSX454 and 454R engines aren’t production engines by any stretch of the imagination, though they are perfect for people like Gino who want a tough street motor without having to build something with bad manners from the ground up. While the 454R makes 707hp out of the crate, its 13.1:1 compression ratio makes it a bit too angry to have a blower fitted and then run on the street
The serious hardware continues with the rockers, with roller trunnion-style pieces packing a rocker arm ratio of 1.8:1 to maximise valve lift and ensure power keeps rising to the 6500rpm redline. How much power? Try 627hp and 568lb-ft as delivered new in a crate, though Gino’s goes much further than that!
Riding on a 2845mm (112in) wheelbase, the ’69-’72 Chevelle coupe is part of the legendary General Motors A-body platform shared among other epic muscle cars like Pontiac’s GTO, Oldsmobile’s F-85, and Buick’s GS Stage 1. With a reported curb weight of 1597kg, and coming in at 5009mm, the big-hipped Chevelle SS was also a long way off being a land barge
Firstly, the cam has been upgraded to VCM’s own #883 bumpstick running a more suitable 228°/238° duration and 113° LSA to suit the Magnuson TVS2300 Heartbeat supercharger jammed in the 454’s valley. This work pairs to 945cc DeatschWerks injectors, with twin Walbro pumps used in a Squash Performance in-tank hanger to supply the go-juice, while Phil and the Autotechnique crew whipped up a full stainless exhaust system to expel gases.
Part of the package from Chevrolet Performance includes their E76 ECU, which Autotechnique set up to run flex fuel. This means the Chevelle can run on either 98RON premium unleaded or boost-friendly E85 ethanol. Punching out 900hp and 900lb-ft of torque, the LSX is not only a far sight lighter than the original MkIV big-block, but it also has the goods to make the big Chevy boogie plenty hard.
Inside is much how Chevrolet designed it, though Gino did have to add seatbelts to pass engineering laws. “This will be a car I can take the family out for a cruise and for some ice cream on a Sunday,” he says
Autotechnique fitted a 3800rpm SDE torque converter to the back of the LSX block, opting for a nuclear-tough TH400 three-speed auto to handle the immense torque of the blown small-block. Down the tyre-frying end, the 12-bolt diff is long gone, replaced by a Ford nine-inch that Jamie from Full Flight has stuffed with Strange 35-spline axles, and 3.7 gears to keep things snappy, but still be cool to cruise.
The N dash can display up to 32 read-outs on the colour screen without needing to spend a small fortune on aftermarket gauges and then work out where to mount them in a legal manner. When ’70 Chevelles are rapidly increasing in value, not cutting holes to fit gauges is also a big plus!
Keeping the diff off the floor are Viking adjustable coil-overs and adjustable trailing arms, which sit inboard from the beadlocked 15x10-inch Weld rear wheels. It gives the Chevy a classic street-tough look, yet Gino reckons it really drives nicely.
“It’s awesome,” he says. “Because of the cubes and the supercharger, the power is instant. As soon as you put your foot down on the throttle, it hits you, but it also handles good. You can just cruise it as it’s a solid car, but you have to pay attention.
“That blower whine is awesome, plus the fact it all fits under the bonnet is great, too. I really like how when you put an engine like this in an old car with a TH400 and a big converter, it still feels like an old car.”
We know exactly what you mean, mate!
Chevrolet threw down one of the most audacious efforts of the muscle-car era with their Chevelle SS 454. For 1970, General Motors lifted the 400-cube ceiling imposed on mid-sized cars, and so Chevrolet punched their 427-cube big-block out to 454ci to compete against the 455ci engines from Buick and Pontiac.
Sitting atop the vast range of Chevelle body and drivetrain options available in 1970, the 454-cube, big-block powered SS Chevelles were ordered via the RPO Z15 code, with the option of a 360hp (270kW) LS5 454ci V8, or the bad boy LS6-coded 454 punching out an industry-leading 450hp (335kW).
One of the big differences between LS5 and LS6 options were the hydraulic (LS5) or solid lifters (LS6). The ground-pounding LS6 also replaced the stock Quadrajet carb with a 780cfm Holley four-barrel, perched atop an aluminium intake and fed by a cool cowl induction hood.
Chevy prepared the LS6 Chevelle for war against Pontiac’s Ram Air GTO, Buick’s Stage 1, and Chrysler’s Hemi cars with four-bolt mains, forged steel crank and forged aluminium rods, setting it up for 11.25:1 compression. Deep-groove pulleys had to be used due to the LS6’s 6500rpm redline, while transmission options were heavy duty with Muncie’s M22 ‘rock crusher’ four-speed manual or the TH400 three-speed auto.
Out back, owners could specify a range of gears up to a 4.33:1 final drive, which would fry the standard Goodyear wide oval tyres with ease thanks to the limited-slip centre. If all that didn’t stop you in your tracks, or the various blacked-out trim and ‘stereo stripes’ didn’t give the game away, then you just needed to check out the factory fitted bonnet pins to let you know you shouldn’t mess with this GM A-body.
Chrysler fans still don’t like to acknowledge how fast the LS6 SS 454s were compared to their beloved Hemi. When Car Craft tested the LS6 Chevelle they stopped the clocks at 13.12@107mph against the ’70 Hemi Road Runner’s 13.34@107mph.
All up, only 4475 1970 Chevelles left the factory with the LS6 option, and in good condition they fetch a solid $150,000 today; a fitting end to Detroit’s biggest, baddest muscle car.
1970 CHEVROLET CHEVELLE SS
Paint: Fathom Blue
Brand: Chevrolet Performance LSX454
Blower: Magnuson TVS2300 Heartbeat
ECU: Chevrolet Performance E67
Pistons: GM Performance forged
Cam: VCM #883
Crank: Callies LSX
Fuel system: DeatschWerks 945cc, Squash Performance twin Walbro pumps
Cooling: Custom shroud
Exhaust: Custom stainless system
Gearbox: GM TH400 three-speed
Converter: SDE 3800rpm
Diff: Ford 9in, Strange 35-spline axles, 3.7:1 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Custom springs, 90/10 shocks
Rear: Viking Crusader springs & shocks
Chassis: Adjustable rear control arms
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld AlumaStar; 17x4 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson; 165 (f), 275 (r)
Thanks to Mario, Phil and the crew at Autotechnique; and to my wife and kids for putting up with my passion. Hopefully my kids will continue my passion for cars
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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