A Wild One: Chevelle SS 454 Gets New Life With 1,400 Horsepower LS

 

In 1970 Chevrolet introduced the mighty Chevelle SS454. This package offered consumers the now legendary LS6 454 cubic-inch big-block with a Holley 800 CFM carburetor which cranked out an impressive 450 horsepower at 5600 rpm and a monstrous 500 lb-ft at 3600 rpm of torque. Of course, this package was a hit with performance enthusiasts almost overnight as the combination would blaze the tires a will due to the big-block’s power. However, with the EPA starting to crack down in 1976, the SS 454 badge was limited and removed from the lineup after the first part of 1975, making way for more fuel-efficient engines. 

It’s probably safe to say that if most enthusiasts were lucky enough to own a SS 454 badged Chevelle, they would not touch it due to the value of the car. However, that’s not the case with this story. You see, Dameian Shepard purchased a Chevelle SS 454 from a restoration shop down south. And while this was a period-correct, numbers matching big-block, over time, his goals and aspirations for the vehicle changed as he wanted to build something unique. 

When it came time to rebuild the already immaculate Chevelle, Shepard reached out to West Bend Dyno Tuning for its services. From late summer to the fall of 2018, the company began to acquire all of the parts needed for this elaborate build as they waited for the car’s arrival. Finally, in a blustery snowstorm, Shepard delivered the Chevelle to West Best Bend Dyno. You might expect such a pristine car to be delivered in an enclosed trailer, but much to the surprise of everyone at West Bend Dyno, Shepard drove the vehicle to their facility. Upon arrival, the whole West Bend Dyno team gathered to help wash and dry this immaculate Chevelle. Soon after that, the performance modifications commenced with a plethora of obstacles ahead. 

If you’re going to remove an LS6 454 engine from a classic, you better replace it with something over the top. And that was the plan all along. Shepard wanted a unique powerplant for Chevelle that offered more power, reliability, and the all-important “wow” factor. And while the 454 might have been impressive back in its day, it lacks luster when compared to the capabilities of some of GM’s more modern powerplants. 

West Bend Dyno reached out to Wegner Automotive to get the engine build rolling. The team started with a Dart block and inserted forged internals to get the new combination ready for some serious boost. The 427 cubic-inch LS was topped off with a Holley Hi-Ram intake manifold, Fuel Injector Connection high flow injectors, flex-fuel sensor, and a pair of 68mm Precision ceramic ball bearing twin turbos. Wegner billet valve covers and a Wegner accessory drive kit were also used, while a Holley oil pan buttoned up the bottom end. Being masters in their trade, West Bend knew the perfect ECU for fueling the twin-turbo best and installed a Holley Dominator. 

At this point, there was little doubt that the LS wouldn’t surpass the big-block’s power numbers, but the Chevelle would need more supporting modifications to do so. First, the factory fuel tank was removed and replaced with a Rick’s custom tank fitted with three 450 liter-per-hour fuel pumps ensuring that the twin-turbo 427 would never go thirsty. Next, a custom stainless steel 3-inch exhaust would need to be installed to rid the engine of spent fuel. Finally, an AFCO radiator was also installed with a Chiseled Performance heat exchanger to keep the engine and air temperatures at bay on those hot days. 

The drivetrain and suspension were other areas of concern for this build. Upgrades were made since the power numbers would be north of 1,000 horsepower with this new combination. An Automatic Transmission Design (ATD) 4L80E with a trans brake was installed and connected to a Strange 9-inch Ford rear end with 3.73 gears and heavy-duty 35-spline axles. The factory suspension was also ditched in favor of Ridetech’s rear 4-link suspension with coil-over shocks and Ridetech’s upper and lower control arms with coil-over shocks upfront as well. A massive set of custom Forgiato wheels were then installed with Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes.

The interior of the car is what you might expect with a classic Chevelle. While the seats and door panels are still factory white with black carpet, the addition of a Holley 12-inch digital dash and the Forgiato steering wheel certainly set a more modern tone. Other additions include a Painless wiring harness and Vintage Air air conditioning system.

With the car buttoned up, it was time for West Bend Dyno Tuning to work its magic and see what kind of power numbers the Wegener-built 427 could muster.  At the end of the dyno session, the Chevelle cranked out some impressive numbers. The twin-turbo LS laid down 1,400 horsepower and 1,100 lb-ft of torque. 

While the LS6 did an excellent job at smoking the tires at will, we can only imagine what it’s like to drive this version with over three times the horsepower of the original big-block. You can bet that the West Bend Dyno-built machine can terrorize the tires at a moment’s notice.

About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
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