The 1970s were the glory years for American muscle. Gas was cheap, and insurance companies hadn't yet realized just how different an LS6 Chevelle was from a 350-cubic-inch commuter special. The 454-cubic-inch, 450-horsepower LS6 engine was put together, along with the car it rode in, at Chevrolet's big-block V8 production plant in Tonawanda, New York. Specially built from air cleaner to oil pan, with tire-melting performance in mind, it is thought that just 17 LS6 convertibles equipped with an M-22 four-speed manual transmission left the factory.

This example is a numbers-matching, fully optioned car that has a known history from new. The first owner sold the car in 1989 to noted muscle car collector Dick Bridges. A fully documented restoration, complete with photographs, was then performed by Scott Tiemann. The car comes with its original build sheet, window sticker and sales contract. Mr. Bridges owned the car until late 2001, when it was sold to the current owner.

A noted automotive journalist said of the LS6, "driving (one) is like being the guy who's in charge of triggering atom bomb tests. You have the power, you know you have the power, and you know that if you use that power, bad things may happen." This car puts that awesome power in your hands.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS6
Years Produced:1970
Number Produced:4,475
Original List Price:$4,500
SCM Valuation:$44,000-$75,000
Tune Up Cost:$250
Distributor Caps:$21
Chassis Number Location:Top left hand surface of the instrument panel
Engine Number Location:Right side of engine block
Club Info:Team Chevelle, c/o Al McKenzie, Box 68, Porthill, ID 83853
Alternatives:1967 Corvette 427/435 hp, 1970 Hemi 'Cuda convertible
Investment Grade:A

This car sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale, Arizona auction, held January 17-20, 2002, for $172,800, including the buyer’s premium.

Imagine it is 1970 and you’re walking into your local Chevrolet dealership to order your new Chevelle SS. At the last minute you decide to spend an extra $263-then about two house payments-for the LS6 package. Just 4,475 people made that powertrain package decision, and fewer than 20 cars went out the door as convertibles with four speeds.

The base-level Chevelle in 1970 sold for $2,700, but the added cost of the Super Sport option with the LS6 package pushed the price up to $4,500. In the engine compartment, what you got for your money was a monstrous 454-cubic-inch motor producing 450 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque, solid lifters with a high-lift cam, an 11.25:1 compression ratio, closed chamber heads, an aluminum intake manifold and a giant 750-cfm Holley carburetor.

In terms of horses per dollar, it was money well spent, as the LS6 had huge performance numbers even by today’s standards. Think quarter-mile times in the mid-13 second range with a trap speed of 108 miles per hour, which is even more impressive when you consider the as-delivered weight of 3,700 pounds and the factory-installed Polyglas G70x14 tires that are now skinny-looking.

In addition to the features that came standard with the LS6 package, most buyers opted for the F-41 suspension package, a 12-bolt posi rear end and a set of 4.10 gears to make their car into an instant tire-burner.

Gas was cheap in 1970, and the LS6 consumed it prodigiously. Mileage was estimated to be between five and eight miles per gallon, and the 20-gallon tank was easily drained by an evening of cruising from burger joint to drive-in.

The $172,000 this car brought represents a combination of factors that separates the truly collectible muscle cars from the ones that are just old beaters with big motors. Today’s muscle car collectors demand the same type of documentation that sellers of big-dollar European cars have had to provide for years. The price made here proves that a rare, desirable muscle car, properly restored and with unquestionable provenance, can bring huge money.

Barrett-Jackson has established itself as the premier marketplace for high-end muscle cars. At this year’s auction, ground-pounders that broke the $100,000 barrier included a 1967 427/435 Corvette that sold for $151,200, a 1967 Yenko Camaro SS that sold for $118,800, and a 1968 Shelby GT500 KR convertible that sold for $112,320. Yet once the $200,000 range is reached, activity slows way down. We understand the seller, a very savvy collector, paid nearly this much for this Chevelle when he bought it within the past two years. So perhaps his putting it back on the market is an indication that he believes the market for LS6 Chevelles has peaked. Or maybe he just wanted to make space for something else in his multi-car garage.

Nonetheless, this is a nearly irreplaceable car, and one you’re not going to find at your next Chevelle convention. I have to wonder if the guy who was the underbidder on the car thought he’d dodged the bullet, or wished he had bid just one more time.

It will be interesting to see if this car surfaces again, and what it brings the next time around. My thoughts are that, outside of the Barrett-Jackson whirlwind, it will be hard to match this price in the near future. At the same time, those guys who in 1970 couldn’t imagine being able to buy a car for $4,500, and spent their time with noses pressed wistfully against the Chevrolet showroom windows, are getting to the point in their lives where cost may be less of a barrier to having a convertible LS6 than finding the right car.-Steve Dorsey

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