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The mention of pilot cars in the modern age brings up images of vehicles used to escort large semi-trucks with oversized or wide loads on the highway. In the 1960s and 1970s, automakers used the term “pilot car” for something entirely different. These test cars typically never left the factory, but one lucky 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS escaped the confines and hit the road.

How did automakers utilize pilot cars?

Automakers built pilot cars to evaluate and verify various aspects of new models and trims. Many automakers built limited numbers of these cars to verify the fitments, finishes, and accessories before beginning production. This limited run would enable automakers to adjust the tooling to ensure the production models would work properly. One special Chevelle bucked the trend and left the factory. At the time, most pilot cars never left the confines of a factory and were unfinished products.

1970 Chevy Chevelle SS Pilot Car at the Mecum auction house.
1970 Chevy Chevelle SS Collage | Mecum Auctions

What makes this 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS special?

As time was running out on the Muscle Car era, consumers clamored for a high-powered midsize production car with a massive, big-block V8 engine. This 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS was a pilot car with a matching-number LS6 454 Turbo Jet V8 engine. The number matching engine made this car more intersting. This massive engine pumped out 450 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. A vnerable TH400 three-speed automatic transmission sent this power to the rear wheels, making this one of the most powerful drag racers of the era.

Beating the odds

Somehow, the pilot car Chevelle SS received a VIN. It left the Leeds assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri, and arrived at Haney Garage Limited in Haney, British Columbia. This was an unusual event because most pilot vehicles made during the Muscle Car era got scrapped and never released.

Motortrend reports Mecum Auctions recently sold at their 2024 opener. This auction took place in Kissimmee, Florida, with the classic Chevy selling for $220,000.

Most pilot cars aren’t complete, but this Chevelle SS has everything expected from a 1970s car. Many times, the incomplete pilot cars wouldn’t have numbers-matching and had handwritten markings, signifying necessary changes to how the parts fit together. That doesn’t seem to be the case with this special 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS.

An escape that tells the story

This special car is only one example of how sometimes one vehicle would make its way from the factory, even when it wasn’t supposed to. This 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS has a unique story and an impressive LS6 V8 engine, making it the pinnacle of all 1970s-era muscle cars.