Retro Rocket – 1970 Chevy Chevelle

GM Scene Magazine®

Zach Hightower's 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle

From a distance, the world of car restoration seems straightforward and almost deceptively simple. Yet, the truth is, transforming a beast into beauty takes meticulous planning, a touch of artistry, and of course, the right combination of parts to make the magic happen.

Enter Zach Hightower of Wellington, Texas, a man with a penchant for speed and a mission to revitalize an old-school muscle car that not only looked the part but could leave modern speed demons in the dust. Inspired by the tales of his father’s glory days with a Super Sport Chevelle, Zach embarked on a quest to create a ride that blended the best of both worlds – classic charm with a modern kick.

The journey kicked off with the acquisition of a ‘70 Chevelle, already boasting a formidable big block under its hood. But for Zach, “formidable” was merely the starting point; he wanted to take it to a whole new level – improve it by a lot, to be precise.

Recognizing the need for a solid foundation, Zach decided to start from the ground up. While there was a plethora of aftermarket suspension components available, he knew that the true key to harnessing big power and achieving ultimate handling was a new chassis. And who better to turn to for this critical foundation than the renowned Roadster Shop? Known for their innovation in chassis and suspension systems, they provided Zach with a SPEC chassis – a game-changer complete with an independent front, four-link with a panhard bar in the back, AFCO coil-overs, and rack and pinion steering for precision turning.

However, as they say, the road to greatness is seldom smooth, and Zach encountered a few bumps early on. Some shops that worked on the initial stages of the project let him down, causing build time to lag. But, as fate would have it, Zach discovered Ryno Lieberman of Ryno Built Rod and Custom in Carl Junction, Missouri, through a mutual friend. A change in direction was in order, and Ryno’s shop was just the place to breathe new life into this automotive endeavor.

With the stripped shell of the car in Ryno’s capable hands, the journey took an unexpected turn. Zach, armed with a 427 LS engine with Dart block and heads, initially equipped with a 4.5L Whipple supercharger, had grand visions of colossal power. However, Ryno, ever the voice of reason, advised against the supercharger that wouldn’t fit under the stock hood. A swift adjustment to a 2.9L blower ensued, complemented by a TREMEC T56 6-speed transmission with Bowler shifter/knob/bezel and a fully built Ford 9-inch from Quick Performance.

The road to resurrection continued with a nod to the exterior. With help of restoration pieces from Original Parts Group and H&H Classic Parts, this car was whipped back into shape. Zach’s desire to maintain the original charm led to Jason and Erika Ballard of Ballard Auto work the body straight, spray the ‘70 Chevelle in Cranberry Red (code 75), and adorn it with classic black stripes. A set of 18” Billet Specialties Hydro wheels wrapped in Nitto NT555 G2 tires and equipped with 14” Wilwood brakes ensured that the power could be efficiently harnessed and confidently stopped.

Inside, the story remained one of balance between the old and the new. Ryno worked his magic on the seats, stripping them down to the frames and refining them, while Jeffery Truillo stepped in to inject new life into the interior with black leather and suede upholstery. A Vintage Air climate control unit, an Ididit steering column with a Billet Specialties wheel, and a Ridetech roll cage rounded out the interior. For entertainment during those long road trips, Ryno installed an MB Quart 7” touch screen head unit and speaker system with two Hifonics 10” subwoofers and amplifiers.

Eight painstaking years later, the finish line was in sight, and the ‘70 Chevelle was set to make its grand debut at the 2023 SEMA Show, proudly displayed in the MB Quart booth. Of course, no great tale is complete without a touch of suspense, and Ryno faced some last-minute trouble getting the 900hp monster to run in time for the show. Enter Tuned by JP, working some magic behind the computer and on the dyno, ensuring that the beast roared to life just in time.

This incredible journey stands as a testament to the resilience required in the realm of car projects. The ‘70 Chevelle, now a 900hp marvel, serves as a reminder that patience and focus can turn a prolonged project into a stunning reality. As Zach plans to take his creation on road trips and shows across the nation, envy abounds because, let’s face it, this ride isn’t just good-looking – it’s an invitation to an unforgettable adventure on wheels. Buckle up, because Zach Hightower’s ‘70 Chevelle is more than a car; it’s a testament to the thrill of the ride and the triumph of perseverance in the face of automotive challenges.

GM Scene Magazine®