Bob Updike’s ’70 Chevelle
By John Machaqueiro – Photography by the Author
Automotive tastes are often a moving target. Staying true to them is probably rare, thus making Bob Updike’s unshakeable endearment with the Chevelle notable. From an early age he had a soft spot for late ’60s and early ’70s models, and just as he turned 15, he purchased a ’72 Chevelle. He explains, “I initially thought about buying a Camaro, but I didn’t have enough money, so I ended up getting a Chevelle. I completely took it apart and rebuilt everything with my uncle. I eventually ended up adding an SS hood and had the car repainted, and then drove it for 13 years until I needed to buy a house.”
By his mid twenties any idea of playing with cars was placed on the backburner, however, he points out, “When I was 40, I went looking and bought a salvaged ’70 Chevelle.” With the help of his sons and a few friends, they took the body off the frame and restored it. In the process it was back halved, and within two years it reached the paint stage. At that unpleasant point, he explains, “My in-law’s truck was stored in the barn for the winter, and it had a short under the dash and caught on fire. By the time I got to the garage it had already burnt to the ground. The car got so hot that the front and rear bowed over the jackstands.” The total loss of the Chevelle was a big demoralizing blow. After a few months of disappointment, he was read the riot act. His wife Katrina told him, “You’re going to get back out there in the garage. There is no way in hell that you’re going to be sitting here with me the rest of the time.”
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His search began for another ’70 Chevelle. That took a solid year of trolling through Craigslist to find one reasonably priced. Bob notes, “This one was a good candidate. It looked good from 10 feet, but it needed a lot of work.” As advertised, it was a ’70 Chevelle SS 454—if you’re a purist, rest assured it was only playing dress-up, a real SS was not sacrificed.
Kicking things into gear with this car started with a trip to East Coast Muscle Cars (ECMC) in Craley, Pennsylvania, for its makeover. At that point Bob states, “I was better off financially, but still chasing an old-school Pro Street with a big-block. I wanted either a Kinsler or Hilborn stacked injection, a three-speed automatic, narrowed rear, and an all-steel body painted in black with red stripes.” That was the plan. Regrettably, life has a way of sometimes throwing curve balls, and in Bob’s case that came in the form of a prolonged medical condition. While he was dealing with his health issues, Lonny, the owner at ECMC found cracks in the frame and suggested the installation of a tube chassis. Bob’s son, Josh concluded, “That is exactly what Dad would want!” What Bob ended up with was a full tube chassis from the folks at Precision Chassis in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
With his health on the mend, Lonny also began a long recovery from prolonged health issues as well. That convergence of lengthy ailments severely impacted the progress on the car. As things eventually got back on track, the crew at ECMC began to reskin the car with new sheetmetal from Auto Metal Direct in preparation for bodywork that was capped off with the Axalta Black basecoat/clearcoat and the much-desired red stripes.
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When it came to propulsion, Bob’s view was simple: bigger is better, which led to the installation of a 565ci big-block. The guys at RaceKrafters Automotive in Lancaster, Pennsylvania were given the task of building the Dart Big M cast-iron block with Mahle 10.9:1 pistons, Eagle rods, and an Eagle forged crank. On the top-end they installed Dart Big Block Chevy Pro 1 aluminum heads, Comp Cams hydraulic roller camshaft, and capped it off with the coveted Kinsler Dragon Claw 2.5 throttles and Holley Terminator EFI. Backing up that potent combination is a Coan Engineering Turbo 400 three-speed with a 4,000-stall converter and a hand-built 9-inch rear shod with 4.11:1 gears and a spool centersection. Exhaust duties are handled by a set of custom-made 2.5-inch headers mated to Spintech Super Pro Street mufflers. It’s an assemblage that cranks out a stout 865 ponies.
The suspension was set in stone as part of the tube frame construction. Up front it is all Strange hardware with their coilover struts and spindles. At the rear they installed a custom-made four-link with a Panhard bar and PRS shocks. Strange binders enhance stopping with one-piston calipers up front and four-piston units out back clamping down on 11-inch rotors at all four corners.
In the Pro Street world size matters, so the choice came down to Billet Specialties wheels at all four corners. Up front it wears 15×4 Stilleto, and at the rear 15×14 Double Bead Lock. They’ve been wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber with a set of ET Front 26×4.50 tires and massive ET Street 33×18.5-15LT skins at the rear.
The final chapter was the custom red interior. For that, it was sent to Bux Customs in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Chris McClintock, the owner of Bux explains, “We did a ton of tricky wheeltub and headliner work around the Pro Mod ’cage.” That included reworked Kirkey racing seats and custom door panels with Relicate NappaTek. The dash and console were custom pieces that ECMC crafted. AutoMeter Phantom gauges and a Moroso control panel were installed, along with a Hurst shifter.
The Chevelle was deemed finished in August 2022 after eight years. When asked what he would do differently, he will tell you, “Not a thing. I’m happy and it brings a smile to my face. I’m driving it. I am not going to treat it like a piece of furniture.”
Owner: Bob Updike, York, Pennsylvania
Vehicle: ’70 Chevelle
Type: Dart Big M cast-iron big-block Chevy
Displacement: 565 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Bore: 4.600 inches
Cylinder Heads: Dart Big Block Chevy Pro 1 aluminum
Rotating Assembly: Eagle 4340 forged crank, Eagle H-beam rods, Mahle forged pistons
Camshaft: Comp Cams hydraulic roller
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Induction: Kinsler Dragon Claw 2.5 throttles, Holley Dominator EFI, 66-lb/hr Holley injectors
Exhaust: Precision Chassis 2.25-inch custom headers, Spintech Super Pro Street mufflers
Ancillaries: Meziere water pump, Melling oil pump, Moroso oil pan, SPAL electric fan, Ron Davis radiator, Powermaster alternator, Moroso valve covers
Output: 830 hp at 5,800 rpm, 820 lb-ft of torque at 4,900 rpm
Built by: RaceKrafters (Lancaster, PA)
Transmission: Coan Engineering Turbo 400 three-speed, Coan Engineering 4,000 stall speed converter
Rear Axle: Hand-built 9-inch, 4.11 gear ratio, Strange axles, spool centersection
Frame: Custom-built chromoly
Front Suspension: Strange coilover struts, Strange spindles, rack-and-pinion steering
Rear Suspension: Custom-made four-link, Panhard bar, PRS shocks
Brakes: Strange 11-inch rotors with one-piston calipers (front), Strange 11-inch rotors with four-piston calipers (rear), Strange master cylinder
Fabrication by: Precision Chassis (Pottstown, PA)
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Stilleto 15×4 (front), Billet Specialties Double Bead Lock 15×14 (rear)
Tires: Mickey Thompson ET Front 26×4.50-15 (front), Mickey Thompson ET Street 33×18.5-15LT (rear)
Seats: Kirkey modified, Simpson harness
Door Panels: Steel and carbon-fiber custom-built by East Coast Muscle Cars (Craley, PA)
Steering: Precision Chassis column, Strange quick-release hub, Grant steering wheel
Dash and Console: Steel and carbon-fiber custom built by East Coast Muscle Cars (Craley)
Instrumentation: AutoMeter Phantom gauges, Moroso control panel
Upholstery By: Bux Customs (Pottstown)
Rollbar: Custom made by Precision Chassis (Pottstown)
Body: Stock GM with Auto Metal Direct sheetmetal
Paint: Axalta 7900 S basecoat/clearcoat black and red
Lighting: Vision X (front), Digi-Tails LED (rear)
Hood: Glasstek fiberglass
Grille: GM stock
Bumper: GM stock (front), Original GM shortened and tucked
Glass: Vintage Glass
Bodywork and Paint By: East Coast Muscle Cars (Craley)
Chrome: Jon Wright’s Custom Chrome Plating (Grafton, OH)
Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Staying True.