Kent D 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 2dr Sport Coupe

"The Love Triangle"

In late 1969 I read an article about this brand new Super Sport coming out for 1970, with a 454 cubic inch motor and 450 horsepower. My dreams had come true. I asked my dad if I sold my 442 would he cosign on a loan for a new Chevelle. He said, “YES”. For the next few weeks, I went to every car dealer in Orange County, to drive any Chevelle Super Sport with the LS6 option. I decided to order a new one with options I liked. I ordered my Chevelle in early 1970, and waited impatiently for it to arrive. Unlike most, I ordered my Chevelle with the special domed hood, but without the “Cowl Induction” flap. I also wanted an automatic, so I ordered a column shift with a full bench seat. My idea was to have a fast car that also would be girlfriend friendly on dates. I sold my 442 to my best friend Jim. Now I had no car of my own, and resorted to using my mothers 1967 Caprice for transportation.

In late June of 1970, I was introduced to a beautiful brunette, at the roller skating rink, where I skated on a regular basis. Her name was Dawn. We skated a few times that night and I decided to ask her if she would go to a 4th of July party at the beach with me. She told me she was just 16 years old and I would need to get permission from her mom. She was very excited when her mom said she could go. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had seen my 442, and thought she was going in that car. When I picked her up in my mom’s 67 Caprice, she said, “where is that awesome looking 442”? I told her I sold the car to Jim, and had ordered a bad ass Chevelle Super Sport. She was very disappointed, and couldn’t understand why I sold my 442. Horsepower to her at that moment didn’t mean anything. When my car finally arrived at Fletcher Jones Chevrolet in Westminster, I took my mom and dad to go get it. My dad was surprised to see the sticker price was nearly $5000.00. He made a statement at that time that has stuck with me to this day. He said, “son, for the price of this one car, you could buy two, if you buy it, you better keep it forever”! I answered, let’s take a test drive. That test drive was all it took for my dad to see why the price was higher than a regular car. We signed the papers, and I handed all of them over to my mom, the bookkeeper in the family, and headed home. I dropped off my mom and dad and raced over to Dawn’s house to show her why I had given my up my 442, and waited so long to get this Chevelle. She was “not” as impressed as I hoped she was going to be. She said, “ let’s go get a coke or something, so I can ride in it.” We headed down to the Del Taco, just few miles away. After getting our drinks, she asked if she could drive it home. Now mind you, she had only had her drivers license a short time. Reluctantly, I said “O.K.”. Since the car had a bench seat, I would sit in the middle and assist her driving. We started back to her house and after a short distance had to stop for a red light. While waiting for the light to change, a Cuda pulled along side of us. He revved up his engine several times, begging to race. I was feeling very disappointed that I wasn’t driving, because I wanted to blow the doors off this guy. So, I said to Dawn, “ I am going to put my left foot on the gas pedal, when the light turns green, hold on to the steering wheel and don’t let go.” The light turned green, I punched the accelerator pedal with my left foot to the floor. The car burned rubber, threw us back in the seat, scratched rubber in second gear, and we were a car length ahead of the Cuda. I backed off the throttle and let her continue to drive. She screamed “ that was awesome”! We’ll, that’s all it took for her to get hooked. My girlfriend then, and my wife now of 43 years, was a young mans dream girl. Good looking and loves drag racing. At first she drove the car down the ¼ mile once in a while. Then as her time slips became faster than mine, and reaction times much better, I worked on making the car faster and she drove exclusively. In pure stock form, it turned high 13’s. After a few months I pulled and blueprinted the motor. I had custom headers made, and purchased a pair of M&H Racemaster wrinkle wall drag slicks and posted times, in the high 11’s, on points triggered ignition. The “JUNGLE RAT” was lethal on the street. Dawn and I each won an “All Points Meet”, running in SS/DA. I won in 1970 and Dawn repeated in 1971, both at Orange County Int’l Raceway. More of our dates were spent at the race track, than anywhere else in our courtship. If we weren’t at the track, we were probably at the drive in theatre. Remember drive ins?

1971 was a very busy year. That same year I also agreed to let Dawn participate in High School Championship Drags. There were over 300 cars entered. Katella High School, where she attended, had previously told Dawn, she couldn’t take auto shop because she was a girl. Now mind you, we were already racing on a weekly basis, and Dawn was in charge of changing the spark plugs, at the track, before racing each event. Sometimes she would also uncork the headers, while waiting for me to finish changing the rear street tires to the slicks. She also gave me instructions after each pass, on how the car was performing, to give me the edge on what to adjust, such as timing, jetting etc., for better times. Round after round she eliminated her competition, while driving with a cast on her left arm, which she had broken just a few weeks earlier roller skating, and covered it up with her racing jacket. She ended up as one of the final three cars to determine the winner. She was awarded third place. Most of the guys didn’t know they were just beaten by a girl, wearing a cast, till she got out of the car and took off her jacket and helmet. After the high school drags, the Orange County Register ran a story about her, and Katella High School wrote a letter of accommodation, The very next year, Katella High School changed school policy to accept girls into auto shop. Dawn graduated before breaking in the first class of auto shop with girls in it.

When we first started dating, we were at the drag strip every Wednesday night for grudge racing, and Saturday’s were for class racing. Every Sunday was spent at Irvine Park, under a large shade tree to wax the “Jungle Rat”. In late 1971, I proposed to Dawn, in the front seat of the Chevelle, at the drag strip, and she accepted! We were married on Feb. 25th 1972. We retired from weekly drag racing in 1976, but still competed in special events till 1982, when Orange County Int’l Raceway hosted Super Chevy Sunday, and closed for business..

From Dec. 1969 till June of 1975 I worked at Lion Country Safari. So, In 1971 I had my Chevelle lettered with the words “Jungle Rat” in gold leaf lettering on both sides of rear quarter panels. In those days, only the coolest cars had names and mine was no exception. After we retired from drag racing, the car sat under cover for the next 17 years. In 1999 I decided to repaint the car. I stripped it down to bare metal and had an immaculate paint job applied. I put all the original parts back on the car and returned the car to stock condition. We entered our first car show in 2000, in the parking lot of Lion Country Safari. Wow, imagine that, my first car show at the place that influenced the name “ Jungle Rat “. I have attended many car shows since then, and have won awards from “Best Chevelle”, “Best Muscle Car”, “Best of the Seventies” and two “Best in Show”. In October of 2012, I entered the Chevelle in the National Judging with the A.A.C.A. After being professional judged, the Chevelle was awarded 993 points out of 1000 for a perfect car.

This 1970 Chevelle Super Sport, known as the “Jungle Rat” is more than just a car to my wife and me, it is like family, lots of love and tons of memories. It has been an integral part of our relationship since we met. It has been a “Love Triangle” for 45 years.

In 2010, I dropped the gas tank down to find the original build sheet and broadcast sheet, in very delicate and brittle condition from sitting up there for 40 years. To my amazement, I read something that substantiated the fact that this LS6 was intended only for me. According to the broadcast sheet, this Chevelle, was inspected, final stamped, and left the production line on Feb. 25th 1970. This important date was not known to me when I proposed to Dawn, in the front seat of the Jungle Rat, and then married on Feb. 25th 1972. Looking back on this phenomenon, it now makes a lot of sense, why this Chevelle became and remained an important member of our family.

In my opinion, we do not just own our classic vehicles, but are the caretakers of them for the future. I am proud and honored, to be the original owner of this rare piece of American muscle car history!

Kent DeBord

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