I was on business travel several weeks ago, as I had referenced in my earlier Ford Granada post. I consider myself something of a “practiced extrovert”, and most of the time I just want to be in my own space and other environments of my choosing. Part of the key to embracing travel for work has been to make each trip my own – to decompress, explore and find ways to re-center myself once I’ve finished work for the day. It was during one such foot trek in beautiful downtown Des Moines, Iowa that I found myself in the eclectic East Village neighborhood, with arty clothing and furniture shops, ethnic restaurants, and bars and bistros from gritty to upscale.
As I was walking down Walnut, one of DM’s major thoroughfares, I almost didn’t notice this beautiful, black beast street-parked in front of Zombie Burger. But when I did, it was like recognizing another Flint expatriate – one who had hit the big time, like one of the guys from Grand Funk Railroad or Ready For The World. The 1970 Chevy A-bodies were the last, production Chevrolet automobiles that rolled off an assembly line in my hometown, with the very last one being an example of the exciting, new-for-’70 Monte Carlo personal luxury coupe.
I have spoken with guys a few years older than me who also grew up in Flint, some of whom had worked in the factories (or the “shops”, as we call them). One of my buds recalled the thrill of hearing the tires squeal on a ’69 Chevelle during the braking test at the end of the production line. To witness the “birth” of an early split-wheelbase Chevelle would have given me goosebumps. I have toured that same factory in 2011 and just this past summer (2015), though production now consists of Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. A tour of the GM Flint Truck Assembly Plant is fun, fascinating and completely free. I imagine quite a few ’70 “Code F” (for “Flint”) Chevelles rolled off the assembly line at Van Slyke & West 12th.
There were 8,773 total SS 454’s produced for 1970, which consisted of 4,298 “base” LS5’s which made 360 horsepower, plus an additional 4,475 LS6 models (with their performance enhancements) making 450 hp – the latter very nearly making the “golden” 1:1 ratio of cubic inches to horsepower. Both engines made 500 lb.-ft. of torque. With the LS6 and standard Muncie 4-speed manual, 0-60 came in a blistering 6.1 seconds – a figure that would remain crazy-impressive until only relatively recently in the automotive landscape, with new, workaday V6 Toyota Camrys now capable of the same. Whether this SS 454 was genuine or a tribute (or had either engine) really doesn’t matter to me. Just the idea that such a car ever existed was enough for me in the moment.
A man I presumed to be the owner and his companion materialized as I was photographing the car. My car-geekness and genuine enthusiasm has probably gotten me out of a few potential jams, with owners warming up to my adoration of their vehicles after witnessing me (sometimes obliviously) taking photos. He let me get a few more shots before they got into the car and fired it up. The 454 big-block V8 played a sweet melody out of those duals, as the car and its occupants zoomed back into the central core of downtown in the Des Moines dusk. My night was then complete, no matter what could follow.
As photographed by the author in the East Village district of Des Moines, Iowa.
Monday, October 26, 2015.