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1970 Chevelle SS: The Executive
A Story of Restoration & Performance

Presented By Original Parts Group Logo Motor Trend Logo Hot Rod Garage Logo JH Restorations Logo

The original coverage of the OPGI and Hot Rod Garage Project 1970 Chevelle SS known as "The Executive" spanned over a year's time. The story was told in two "Parts" and in four "Episodes." As the project neared completion, different editors and videographers from both Hot Rod Garage and OPGI contributed to the effort. Now that the Chevelle's total transformation is finally complete, everyone who sees the car agrees, this is one serious muscle machine for the street and a project well worthy of all the time and effort put into it. The tale of the transformation is a lengthy story, one that covers a lot of good how-to information and contains many interesting details along the way. It is definitely worth reading.

The entire "The Executive" Chevelle project has now been repackaged here in one place and it is all in chronological order. Part #1 of the story contains four video episodes (be sure to check them all out) and Part #2 stands alone without videos. Now, it's time to start reading!

Part One:


Original Parts Group (OPGI) has teamed up with Hot Rod Garage to transform OPGI's daily driver '70 Chevelle Malibu into a fully restored machine. This car is actually owned by OPGI owner Dave Leonard. Back in the '80s, Dave used to own a '70 Chevelle similar to this one, and just recently, he decided he wanted to bring back those memories, only this time with some modern day conveniences and power upgrades. You might call this car Dave's "Executive" order - a car like the one from his past, only this time ordered up just the way he wanted it. This beast will feature all the classic styling cues of the original, plus it'll be packed with modern components that deliver state-of-the-art braking, handling, modern conveniences, and of course - more power! When we're done, we'll have a modern day interpretation of a classic Chevelle SS tribute car.

Along with new suspension, brakes and a host of related components from Original Parts Group, the standard 350 small-block will be axed in favor of a GM Crate HT 502 cube Chevy motor. This snarling big-block will be fed via an Atomic electronic fuel injection system by MSD - all backed by a Gearstar GM 4L80-E Performance Transmission. Oh yeah!

Details of the parts and procedures used to build the OPGI.com '70 Chevelle are presented in the following videos. Click on each one to follow the project's progress, and be sure to check back often as more are added. This is one Chevelle restoration project that you can follow along with, and pick up some ideas for your own car at home. Let's get started!

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Episode 1
Engine Dress

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In this episode of HOT ROD Garage, the crew begins working on the OPGI.com 1970 Chevelle project. Because Original Parts Group, Inc. (OPGI), carries every part and component needed to restore a classic Chevelle to better than new condition, expect this project to utilize plenty of those parts! Going beyond a straightforward restoration job, the HOT ROD Garage team also wants to inject some modern technology into this classic ride to create a car that has the clean look of a 1970's muscle car on the outside with modern power and reliability hidden inside. Follow along as HOT ROD Garage's Tony Angelo works with OPGI's own Jorge Lopez to transform a modern GM Crate HT 502 cubic-inch Chevy engine into a look-a-like original big-block 454. Be sure to check out all the episodes as the OPGI.com 1970 Chevelle is transformed into a stunning Chevelle SS 454 tribute car.

paint mask engine spray paint Chevelle engine install carburetor into Chevelle

Episode 1 Parts List

Episode 2

The OPGI.com Chevelle gets a new powertrain and goes to the track in this episode of HOT ROD Garage. Tony Angelo installs a fuel injected HT 502 crate motor disguised as an original 454 in our project Chevelle. Tony then sets up the fuel injection and a new 4L80-E transmission before taking the Chevelle to the drag strip for its tire-shredding debut!

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chevelle brake booster and master cylinder chevelle about to get new engine chevelle transmission

Episode 2 Parts List

Episode 3
Rear End

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In Episode 3 of HOT ROD Garage's ongoing project to turn the OPGI.com 1970 Chevelle into a daily driven SS 454 tribute car, HOT ROD Garage's Tony Angelo notes that although the car performed well at the drag strip in Episode 2, the stock rear end limited the GM Crate HT 502 cubic-inch powered Chevelle to humble one-wheel burnouts.

Seeking to remedy that fact and get the Chevelle to spin both rear wheels, Tony enlists the aid of an expert (Frank from South Bay Truck & Differential in Hawthorne) to help him set up an Auburn locking rear differential along with a new lower ratio 3.73 ring and pinion, axles, bearings, seals and U-joints. Tony also adds Wilwood Superlite 13" rear disc brakes and fits new BFG G-Force Sport Comp-2 tires (275/40ZR17) on 17" x 9" Aluminum Super Sport wheels before installing the revamped rear end.

Taking the car back to the track, Tony is pleased to note that in addition to performing two-wheel burnouts, the overall quarter-mile elapsed time dropped from 14.156 seconds in one-wheel mode, down to 13.401 seconds with the new rear end setup.

The episode winds down with another random Roadkill session wherein Finnegan asks Freiburger "Are you afraid of diesels" and several other burning questions.

Episode 3 Parts List

Chevelle Rear End Gear Assembly Gear Set chevelle rear differential install wilwood brakes for chevelle

Episode 4
AC, Brakes & Suspension

In the 4th episode of Hot Rod Garage's ongoing process of turning the Original Parts Group, Inc. (OPGI), 1970 Chevelle into a modern-performing, yet classic-looking, SS 454 tribute car, Tony Angelo takes us through some final steps. Working inside the car, Tony installs a brand new Super Sport Chevelle Dash Conversion Kit (including Dash Pad) from OPGI. In order to replace the dash, the steering column must be lowered, so Tony decides to remove the stock column entirely and replace it with a new OPGI Steering Column. Tony also installs a complete new air conditioning system from Vintage Air at the same time.

Moving to the front of the car, Tony removes all of the original factory suspension and brake components and installs a Hotchkis Stage I Total Vehicle System Handling Package complete with Ridetech Q-Series Shocks. New Chevelle spindles, steering arms, tie rods and center link from OPGI are also installed. The worn-out factory brakes are tossed and Tony finishes up the front end with a set of Wilwood Superlite 6-piston 13″ Big Disc Brakes.

Moving to the rear, Tony installs Hotchkis Stage I TVS Handling Package components (including Ridetech Q-Series Shocks). With the new suspension and brakes in place, the OPGI Chevelle is driven to the California Speedway in Fontana where Tony puts it through the paces at the autocross track. Prior to installation of the new running gear, the OPGI Chevelle managed a 46:19 second run on the autocross track. With the new components in place, handling was drastically improved and Tony was able to shave over 4 seconds off the time with a very respectable 42:13 second run. Episode 4 of the HOT ROD Garage OPGI Project Chevelle ends with another Roadkill session wherein Finnegan and Freiburger answer viewer's (somewhat random) questions in the usual informal setting.

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Episode 4 Parts List

Part Two:

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OPGI teamed up with HOT ROD Garage to help put together OPGI's 1970 Chevelle Malibu Daily Driver Restoration project. The plan was to create a car that has the clean look of a 1970's muscle car on the outside with modern power and reliability hidden inside. Along with modifications to deliver better braking, better handling, more convenience and more power, the car would also be cosmetically reworked into Chevelle SS tribute car appearance. The first four installments of the build took place at Hot Rod Garage and were covered extensively on the OPGI website in part 1. Full listings of all of the parts used to build the car can be found within those first four installments as well.

Highlights of those first episodes included the installation of a modern fuel injected 502 H.O. crate motor disguised as an original 454 big-block, a brand new 4L80-E transmission, an Auburn locking rear differential with a 3.73 ring and pinion set-up, new axles, bearings, seals, U-joints and Wilwood disc brakes. A Hotchkis Stage I Total Vehicle System Handling Package along with Ridetech Q-Series shocks, new Chevelle spindles, steering arms, tie rods and center link were also installed. Needless to say, after the mods, the power and handling performance of the car were greatly improved. To give that improvement a real world number, before and after testing at the California Speedway autocross track showed the blue Chevelle ran the course a full 4 seconds faster in modified mode. Four seconds is a whole lot of time on a short autocross track!

Power Mods

After the braking, handling, and power modifications were completed, it was time to address the cosmetic part of the transformation into full Chevelle SS tribute car appearance. That meant a trip to JH Restorations in Riverside, California was in order. JH was tasked with a full frame-off restoration. On the inside, a new black interior would look great and finish things off nicely. We'd already done the Super Sport Chevelle Dash Conversion Kit along with new air conditioning from Vintage Air.

At this point, the car is nearly finished - but it's not quite ready for the street just yet. The interior, glass, bumpers, trim and hardware still need to be addressed. However, as you can tell from the photos here, it doesn't look like it will be too long before our Chevelle ready. OPGI has plans to unveil the car in our booth at the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas - and since that event is creeping up fast, you'll need to stay tuned for coverage of the completed Chevelle Daily Driver project right here on the OPGI website.

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JH Restoration


OPGI's blue 1970 Chevelle arrived at JH Restorations with a host of modifications that delivered better braking, better handling, more convenience and more power - but the cosmetic appearance inside and out still left a bit to be desired. After some serious back and forth debating, a major decision was made to take it to the max. The car would be completely taken apart, media blasted and finished in iconic Cranberry Red - a '70 Chevelle "must have" color if there ever was one!

Car Body


After separating the rolling frame from the body, it was time to put the Chevelle on a rotisserie to begin the restoration process. Here the body is bolted to the rotisserie, awaiting media blasting.



After a thorough media blasting, the body was ready for final preparation prior to the red with black stripes SS paint job to be performed by Doug Starbuck at Starside Design in Riverside, California.

Red Paint


Wearing its new Cranberry red and black exterior colors, the interior was treated to a full R-Blox Extreme heat and sound insulation treatment prior to reassembly. Notice the Vintage Air "Sure Fit" system that bolts in the stock dash location.

The Frame


A Frame FX kit from Hellwig was installed to improve the stiffness and handling of the car by boxing parts of the factory frame. The kit includes pre-cut heavy-gauge steel panels that match the thickness of the factory frame and fit into the weak points of the original chassis. The "out-of-place" looking piece of square tubing was used for location only and was removed after the frame was boxed.

Satin Black


The boxed frame/rolling chassis was media blasted and powder coated in satin black before the Hotchkis-improved suspension was re-installed along with the Auburn rear end and new shocks, springs and brakes.

End of
The Build


After looking at the completed "Executive," it is hard to believe that this is the same 1970 Chevelle we started out with last year. The "old" car was a faded blue "daily-driver-condition" Chevelle with your average (and tired) small block under the hood. Certainly nothing to write home about. The "new" car...well, what can one say that isn't already apparent just from looking at the immaculate, bright red rocket of a Chevelle that it is now. This Chevelle has it all. It has the class and almost graceful poise of GM's best A-Body car done to perfection. It boasts updated creature comforts that make it a joy to drive. And when you press the accelerator, you're rewarded with the brutal power of a fuel-injected big-block. Add some flash with the conversion to an SS Tribute car and you've got one heck of an all-around ride.



Although OPGI builds and maintains its own fleet of historically accurate, restored GM classics, The Executive stands out as one-of-a-kind build because this is the first car that OPGI has 'modernized' with a fully revised drivetrain and suspension. The interior is also an area that received a lot of attention and new appointments, to the point that the car is most certainly better at everything a car can be asked to do. The Executive is the only car in the OPGI fleet with fuel injection too, everything else in the fleet is carbureted. Because OPGI is in the restoration parts business, and traditionally builds its cars to factory-exact specifications throughout, we thought The Executive should be a bit different to more accurately reflect what our customers are doing with their cars. Aside from all of the exact reproduction factory-style parts used on the car, things like big disc brakes, racetrack-bred suspension mods, fuel injection on a new crate motor, and new air conditioning, are all the same type of modifications that our customers seem to make too. Beyond the people who build for-show-only, historically accurate vehicles, it seems most of our customers like to drive their restored classics and things like fuel injection and freeway-capable braking systems make a lot of sense in the real world.


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We stated above that "The end of the build is not the end of the project." That's because The Executive will not just sit in our warehouse gathering dust. In just the last few months since completion, the car has already been pressed into service as a star in the OPGI booth at the SEMA Show, it took center stage at the recent Seal Beach Car Show and it has appeared in numerous different Web and print advertisements too. We expect many more appearances for The Executive in the coming months too, you just never know where it might be next. This is one restoration project car we predict will continue to be a "show-off" for a long time to come.

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