How does the 1970 Chevelle SS LS6, one of the most iconic muscle cars ever built, stack up against a modestly upgraded StreetGRIP equipped Chevelle? That is the question. To find out, we pitted our latest project car, the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle against a true, bone-stock LS6 car. We threw another icon into the mix just for fun – Bret’s 1970 Buick GSX equipped with a 455 and RideTech coilover suspension. The results are predictable and fun to explore.
Before anyone busts out their armchair g-meter, this is not a scientific shootout. There are no timed laps, nor did we employ our available on-board data acquisition equipment. Instead, hundreds of pictures and a video tell the tale. There is a huge margin between the stock LS6 Chevelle SS and the Happy Hot Rod StreetGRIP car. Likewise, there is a comfortable margin between the StreetGRIP-equipped Happy Hot Rod Chevelle and the RideTech coilover-equipped GSX. That gap could be narrowed by upgrading brakes, wheels and tires on the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle, but the GSX — with its adjustable coilover suspension — would still come out ahead. It’s nice to know that you have options. Have a look at each car, then check out the detailed gallery below.
All-Original 1970 Chevelle SS LS6
The stock Chevelle SS LS6 is an impressive piece of history. Arguably, it was King Of The Road in 1970 and many believe that it held that distinction for two decades. LS6-equipped Chevelles left the factory with way more horsepower than available grip or braking. The formula made for great burnouts and respectable quarter mile times back in the day. Like all A-bodies, Chevelles make great touring cars — thanks to their roomy cabins and trunks. With legit LS6 Chevelles selling in the six figure range and good replicas selling for $70K-$80K, these cars are as desirable as ever. If you like collecting cars, cruising to car shows at legal speeds and dropping the hammer in a straight line, an all-original Chevelle SS LS6 might be your dream machine.
If you like all of the above, plus turning and braking at speed, an all-original car might not be for you. The LS6 Chevelle suffered understeer and severe body roll at the mere suggestion of a tight turn. Speeds around our intentionally tight test track were painfully slow. During every turn, the reproduction 14″ F70 bias ply tires screamed for mercy and folded under thanks to antiquated suspension geometry and excessive body roll. Like the reproduction tires, the original shock absorbers do little to improve handling and even less with respect to ride quality. the car’s stock brakes, steering, springs, bushings and sway bars are all challenged within the context of modern technology. While these are still very special cars with great style and tons of appeal, we like muscle cars to be more capable.
The Happy Hot Rod 1970 Chevelle SS LS5/LS3
The great news is that the LS6 Chevelle’s many defects can be completely erased with 100% bolt-on parts. In fact, you can remove your LS6 Chevelle’s ultra-rare, “matching-numbers” parts, tuck them away safely and and re-install them at a later date. Bret Voelkel took an easier approach by buying an unfinished Chevelle SS project car. The original LS5 engine and transmission were long gone. Bret installed a late model LS3 along with a Muncie 4-speed. You can read in-depth about the project HERE.
The StreetGRIP system is a 100% bolt on solution that completely transforms the handling and ride quality of Chevelles and all A-body GM cars. How big is the change? The difference can best be described as modern. StreetGRIP also lowers your vehicle for improved aesthetics and center-of-gravity while maintaining reasonable ground clearance.
By comparison, the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle can take corners at speed with ease. Where the LS6 Chevelle seems terrifying, the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle feels composed. RideTech’s custom-tuned HQ Series shock absorbers respond instantly to quick directional changes while heavy duty, dual-rate springs and matching sway bars limit body roll. Tall ball joints improve camber gain, while delrin bushings resist deflection and binding. By far, the limiting factor on the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle is it’s 15″ B.F. Goodrich Radial T/A tires. A good set of 17″ or 18″ wheels with matching high performance tires would further increase the margin between stock and StreetGRIP. Aside from its suspension, the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle has two distinct advantages over its LS6-equipped brother. First, Bret installed a low and lightweight LS3 under the factory cowl induction hood. The modern engine is significanlty lighter than an LS6 454 big block. The Happy Hot Rod Chevelle also has a set of Baer SS4 disc brakes hiding behind the front 15″ wheels. Yes, they fit and yes, they are vastly superior to stock 1970 brakes. Anything that you can do to reduce weight and cut stopping distances will make your car more responsive. All in all, the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle is a blast to drive. As you’ll see in the photo gallery, it is possible to induce a little throttle oversteer on demand. Ride quality is awesome. You might want to drive this car across the country and then turn around and keep going. Some of us around the shop would like to see the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle with low profile rubber for better handling. At the same time, the 15″ wheels and tires really look cool — like a time machine back to our high school days.
BONUS: 1970 Buick GSX Pro-Touring
Bret’s GSX is one of the earliest and best known Pro-Touring cars in our great hobby. Built approximately 15 years ago to showcase Air Ride Technologies’ air suspension, the GSX has since enjoyed continuous refinement. What’s it like to drive this car? Picture yourself behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental GT hiding in vintage muscle car clothing. The GSX is a polished Grand Touring car that does EVERYTHING well. Though our plan was to test the two 1970 Chevelles, we could not resist the temptation to include an A-Body with RideTech Coilovers, StrongArms, MuscleBAR sway bars and R-Joints — plus 18″ Forgeline 3-piece wheels and modern low profile tires.
Like we said from the start, there is no reason comparing lap times between these cars. Though the clocks were not running, we’re confident that the Happy Hot Rod Chevelle and Pro-Touring GSX are in a different time zone than the all-original Chevelle SS LS6. Furthermore, your results will vary based on wheel and tire selection. The gallery below contains more than 160 photos of all three cars in action so that you can compare vehicle and tire dynamics frame by frame. We had a lot of fun running these three cars back to back. Let us know if you would like to see more comparisons in the future.
For StreetGRIP Systems and parts, click HERE
For Coilover Suspension Systems, click HERE