Over the last few years, John Lipori's cars have appeared on these pages more than once. One of his cars, a yellow '69 Z/28 was a cover icon. This month, another Lipori car has snatched him a brass ring for a second time. Perfect cover material: a big, red, curvy Chevelle done right. Lipori admits that he got lucky.
"To own a Cranberry Red 1970 SS 454 has been a lifelong dream," he said. "And after years of searching, this car literally fell into my lap. 1970 was the absolute pinnacle of muscle car performance and Chevrolet knew the end was near. It was clear to see just by reading their ads for this model. It was almost as if they were taunting the insurance companies.
"You see a ton of red Chevelles but this is an original Code 75 Cranberry Red car built in LA [Van Nuys assembly plant]. Here is a car without a spoiler to be found front or rear and it just drips with sexiness. Each powerful bugle forms one of the most exciting body styles GM ever created. With the current wheels and stance, to me it is one of the most menacing supercars of the day and has aged very well, looking just as sexy today as the day it was built."
John bought the Chevelle complete and has wisely determined to leave it pretty much the way it rolled off the line. It's got plenty of annihilation to spread around, the body is perfecto, and the stance would make you think twice about attacking it. Folks, it's a cruiser. Lipori likes nothing better than gliding up to Big Sur with "my lovely wife, Raina."
He pals around with guys from the Rocket Science Musclecars club. He appears at local gatherings and brings home citations and certificates of merit. Between his '69 Z/28, '70 R/S Z28, and Big Red here, he has plenty of stable from which to choose. But more than anything else, John Lipori doesn't abide lounge lizards. He likes the challenge of chance. He lives and drives an incendiary piece of automotive history.
Engine & Drivetrain
Presumably, the transmission was freshened by the detail-driven Lipori. Otherwise, it, the torque converter, and the shifter are original or N.O.S. parts. Keeping the stock stuff allowed Lipori to reuse the driveshaft as well as the ZQ9 12-bolt that's equipped with 4.10:1 gears and a Posi-Traction differential. He sent the 454 to Jerry's Machine Shop in Sand City, California, to be worked over and assembled. JMS balanced and blueprinted the internals, ported and polished the iron cylinder heads, gave it a Pertronix distributor, a Holley 850-cfm DP carburetor, and a K&N element in between the stock lid and baseplate. Further, the exhaust system is completely original, including those woefully inefficient, highly restrictive cast-iron log manifolds, basically 396 items included for cost reasons; long-tube headers were worth 80-100 horsepower, depending on application. The factory determined (correctly) that anyone who bought the car would not hesitate to institute a free-flowing exhaust system. Unfortunately, the OE 2.5-inch system packs some fairly restrictive mufflers. No official power numbers, but figure somewhere north of 525 hp at the flywheel.
Wheels & Brakes
Though he could have secreted some aftermarket whoppers beneath those decidedly unflashy hoops, Lipori stayed the retro course and included the stock disc/drum setup. Remember, this car's a lover, not a fighter. In fact, the only changes he made were for the sake of the stance. Forged Bonspeed Huntington rims (18x9, 18x10) have optional matte black spiders and support Nitto N555 275/35 and 305/30.
The body is complete and original and the paint was already on the car when John took it home. Looking like liquid, the GM Code 75 Cranberry Red with requisite black stripes.
The care and feeding of a rare machine did include an adjustment in appearance to coincide with the norm. Not to do it would be tantamount to a car on jack stands versus one on the ground and rolling. To set the stance, Lipori inserted Hotchkis 2-inch drop coils front and rear and did the rest with the tire and wheel combination that offsets the ocean of red with flat-black centers. Alston VariShocks help control wheel movement and stock (but chromed!) anti-sway bars assist in tempering body motion.
At 69,000 miles, the 40-year-old gut is still pristine, but worn-warm like an old leather jacket. Again, Lipori chose the vintage path, leaving the place wholly intact from original. Though it all looks new, it isn't. Lipori could have added an aftermarket HVAC, a new wiring harness, audio preference, and a lot of other non-stock stuff. Extras? Sure, but only if they are original in nature, such as the SS gauge package and the Comfort-Grip GM steering wheel.