Lean, Mean and (Happily) Not a Garage Queen: 1970 Chevrolet Corvette LT-1 4-Speed

  • January 20, 2021
Why We Like It

Famously foisted upon astronauts as tokens of appreciation for their bravery, these 3rd generation cars embody the aspirations of a nation seeking to win the space race. An effective marketing ploy, but the iconic sports car could also still walk the talk on the street. The lopey lanky curves of the fenders roll like a giant wave toward the pointed aerodynamic front end, a real departure in body styling compared to the prior generation despite the entire chassis and powertrain being carried over from the 2nd gen. Though the fastback design is still considered a coupe, you could remove the roof and the rear window for more sun and sound. The ability to have one’s cake and eat it enabled the coupe bodystyle to surpass the convertibles during this generation, selling 57% in that trim. By the time the factory workers returned in 1970 after a strike in the latter part of ‘69, the Vette received new “egg crate” style side vents that matched the revised grill design. Considered the last of the chrome era cars, these early 3rd gen models retain a pre-malaise era appeal relative to their late 70’s brethren.

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queen-1970-chevrolet-corvette-lt-1-400q0q cAi4nShzuDEz 0gw0co 1200x900The LT-1 motor was the hottest version of Chevy’s small block V8 offered at the time. It was the standard motor fitted to all Corvettes with the minimalist ZR1 suspension package, offering the perfect balance of high power and lower weight those cars were seeking. The horsepower increase was a healthy bump from 300 to 370, achieved by fitting a hot cam, a larger 4 barrel Holley carburetor borrowed from the 427 big block motor, and solid lifters that gave an audible signal of its factory hot rod treatment. The Muncie M-21 4-speed close-ratio manual transmission was a no cost option at the time, but will net you more money at the auction block today (more on that later). In the listing for our subject car, we learn that only 1,287 cars were fitted with LT-1 motors, with 11,556 opting for lower output small blocks and 4473 choosing the big block 427 – in terms of factoring for both rarity and performance, this is the enthusiasts’ choice.

While the seller states the side exit exhaust was not original to the build, it wasn’t unheard of in the era. Truth is, only so many cars can get away with this, so screw originality. Aesthetically it makes the car more interesting and also ties the other chrome elements together, providing a visual flow from the front bumper, past the beauty rings to the rear. We’re sure the decibel levels are correspondingly high also! The color change respray is unfortunate for those seeking originality, but the photos don’t reveal any of the Donnybrook Green still showing in the door jambs or engine bay. Regardless, the white really brightens up the mood and the detailed pinstriping and LT-1 decals gracing the hood vents look cherry to our eyes. The seller mentions various bumps and bruises, a few paint chips, and pitting on the exhaust. We’ll consider these beauty marks to entice the next owner into keeping this car on the road instead of under a cover. A long list of recent refurbishment includes all the items that one would hope to find, making it turn-key and ready to roll. Fluids and hydraulic systems, pesky hoses and various seals, a valve adjustment and an alignment all tended to so you don’t have to. Lastly, if you need fresh shoes for your American muscle there is only one best option in the BF Goodrich Radial T/A, and this car wears the white letters well.queen-1970-chevrolet-corvette-lt-1-400101 1BYQNKv5cEnz 0gw0co 1200x900

queen-1970-chevrolet-corvette-lt-1-400j0j 5VAPYfnmCTLz 0gw0co 1200x900 This Vette left the factory with the new custom interior option which provided leather seats, sturdier cut-pile carpeting, more luxurious door cards with carpeted lower sections, as well as wood grain features throughout the cabin. The seats may appear to have minimal bolstering, but while you won’t mistake them for Recaros they offered more lateral support and an additional inch of headroom compared to the prior year’s offering. Equipped with enough gauges fit for an astronaut, everything appears of the period, with sprinkles of chrome to offset the black leather surfaces. One of the details that make this car special would start a trend that continued throughout the Corvette’s life, the plaque providing details of the engine’s performance figures as bragging rights for the owner. “370 horsepower, 380 lbs ft torque, 350 cubic inches, 11.00:1 comp ratio” Period. Some may find it a little braggish and tasteless, but it fits the Vette’s personality. Overall, the interior on this car is perfectly patinated and ready for some Sunday cruising.

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There’s always a market for Corvettes, and their extensive trading enable the market to track itself pretty reliably. Hagerty’s pricing guide lists #3 “good” examples like this one at $40,600. With the price bump allowances for custom interior (+$900) and close ratio transmission (+$1,800) we arrive at $43,300. It’s interesting that the seller is willing to trade up for a more modern Vette experience while also threatening to jump camps to Mopar if a deal on a Viper is right. With family ownership since 2006 and fastidious maintenance of late, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to find the next caretaker for this baby. We’ll say this is bang on fair market at the moment and as good a place as any to park your money.

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