I like to call John Fardone “The King.” It’s kind of a joke between us, but I say it with a bit of seriousness. The always humble John just scoffs at my praise, but he knows my words have more than a hint of truth in them. In my small slice of the automotive world, he’s the Monarch of Muscle, the Ruler of Rust. The Baron of Barn Finds.
Fardone has certainly earned his title. He’s been out there, hunting, scavenging, and sniffing for signs of these rusty gems for more than 30 years. Modest by nature and radiating a youthful aura that follows him on his trails, he pumps out a childlike exuberance whenever he talks of his favorite subject, those lost, forgotten, and stowed-away muscle rides from the factory glory years of old-school Detroit.
He calls the metro Philadelphia area home, but he’s laid claim to a much bigger empire. I’ve seen social media posts of his exploits in New England, the Midwest, and the southern Atlantic Coast. He’s always out there looking with a closed-lip group of friends who always have an eye open and Fardone’s cell number on hand, ready to summon the King to a possible jewel in the rough that’s ready to be picked and brought back to life.
The Rare LS6 Chevelle 454
Although Fardone has had the success that would make any car aficionado jealous, there was one classic that had eluded his grasp over his years. “The LS6. Even though it was tops on my list, I just never found one. I had been looking since I scored my first Chevelle. It was the next step for me … a goal which I never had the luck to reach. It’s the king of all factory Chevelles,” says Fardone.
It was also apparent from the start that just any LS6 Chevelle wouldn’t do. “I wanted it covered in dust, dirt, rat shit, and all that. I wanted a time capsule. I also wanted one with its original drivetrain intact and as factory as possible. I wanted pretty much the whole barn to find experience.” For King Fardone, that day would finally come.
Early one morning last year, Fardone was surprised by a text message from good friend Matt Kurek. “There weren’t any words, just a picture of a very dirty Chevelle on a trailer. It was completely saturated in dust and dirt, but from what I could tell, it was Champagne Gold. It had stripes. Possibly an SS.”
Fardone wasn’t sure what his friend was trying to tell him. “I figured maybe he bought it. If he did, I’d definitely be jealous; but we all help each other out, and I was happy for him.” However, receiving a text so early probably meant some sort of urgency on Kurek’s part, and Fardone took notice, even though he was half asleep.
“I texted Matt [Kurek] back. He told me that a mutual friend Mark Reed had sent him the picture. He then typed out those enumerations I was waiting for. L-S-6. All original with 50K miles on the odometer. And it was for sale out in western Pennsylvania. I was stoked.”
It didn’t take Fardone long to hit the ground running. Once he got a hold of Reed, he found out the specifics and, more important, who had a handle on the Chevelle at the present time. Enter Jim Busch, owner of Muscle Cars Only in Hunker, Pennsylvania.
The Chase for a Rare Chevelle
Busch had heard stories about this golden Chevelle for years. “This area out here is known for harboring a lot of 454 Chevys. You want to believe the rumors are true, but a lot of times they just end up being base model cars and Malibus.” After decades of pent-up curiosity, he finally got his opportunity to see this legend in person and thus was officially granted the chance to either debunk this “muscle car myth” or raise it to the next level. “A friend of mine met up with the then-owner of the LS6. The owner mentioned to my friend that he had one stashed away for a few decades. Of course, my friend told me right away. Then I ended up pestering my buddy until he got me in contact with the owner.”
The present title owner was John Morgart. He was a local Chevy fanatic who was taken by the looks and performance of the LS6 more than 40 years earlier. “I knew the original owner since I was a kid and admired the car. He took really good care of it. He also made a few small changes to the Chevelle. One thing was adding the orange paint to the underside. It was a thing back then and was considered normal. Anyway, I knew I had to have this car,” says Morgart.
So, a deal was hatched, and Morgart’s dad ponied up a loan for the young gun so he could purchase the car of his dreams. “It had only 17K on it when I got it. The car was fast, I mean very fast. It could get away from you if you were not very careful, and unfortunately, I found that out one day. I hit the front end and damaged the passenger side fender. I bought a GM fender for it and intended to fix it properly, but life got in the way.”
The owner last drove the Chevelle in 1989. During those years he also raced a ’54 Chevy that he still owns. “When I decided to sell one of my cars, I asked my son which one he would rather have. He told me he really wanted the ’54, so I made plans to pass on the Chevelle to someone who would appreciate it.”
It’s amazing that this particular Chevelle lay dormant for so many years, with so many big-time Chevy hunters and collectors in and around the greater Pittsburgh area. Since Busch owns Muscle Cars Only, a retailer of parts for Chevys and other classics based in nearby Hunker, Pennsylvania, he’s a guy who people usually pass on info about dormant cars and cool finds to.
Seeing the LS6 Chevelle in the Garage
“So, I entered the downstairs of the house, which led to this dusty, dirty garage. I had just a flashlight, there were no lights and little ambient light in the room. I got near the car and saw the 454 call-outs. The interior had a four-speed and buckets, and the last sticker on the windshield was from 1990. Then I opened the hood. It was like, uh, oh… look what we have here. I laid my eyes on all the pieces to this LS6 puzzle. The original drivetrain was intact.”
Once Busch talked to the owner and made it clear he was interested in the car, the two hashed out a deal. “He knew what he had and gave me a price. We had just a handshake on the deal. He told me it might take a couple of weeks to happen, and I then got pessimistic. Obviously, it finally came together, and he asked me to meet him at a notary. When we got back to the garage, he already had it pushed out.”
Out in the open, Busch got to see with the daylight what he finally bought. “I was amazed at the condition of the Chevelle and how clean it was. It had an NOS fender hanging on it from where there was supposedly a run-in with a deer or something over the years,” says Jim. Besides that, and the fact it was entirely encrusted in dust and dirt, the Chevelle appeared to be in amazing shape.
Busch’s ownership of the LS6 would be short-lived. “I do restorations. I really had no real need for this car. I just knew it had to go to someone who would appreciate it. I didn’t want it to be flipped. I called a guy who bought all the NOS parts I had. He couldn’t do it, but he knew of a guy who might know a guy. John Fardone turned out to be that final guy at the end of the line,” says Jim.
Turns out it was the daisy-chain telephone exchange between Busch and several Chevy enthusiasts that helped this saga play out in Fardone’s favor. Once he talked to Busch, the negotiations went smoothly. “When he [Fardone[ came here to look at the car, it was like a kid getting a look at his new bicycle for the first time. He was just that excited. I knew he was the right guy,” says Busch. After the title changed hands, Fardone was now the owner of a garage-fresh LS6 that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades.
Once the Chevelle was in his possession, Fardone immediately tended to the semi-installed fender on the passenger side. “The radiator support had a bend in it so the fender wouldn’t line up. We figured that out pretty quick.” Also on the list was a good cleaning. “The interior cleaned up amazingly well, and I noticed how little wear there was to the upholstery. But what I was really shocked about was how the Champagne Gold paint held up. This just glowed in the sunlight.”
As he went through the Chevelle’s interior, Fardone found a piece of the LS6’s past that he was looking for. “Underneath the seat I found the original owner’s card from 1971. I looked up the name online and found a similar match on social media. I contacted this person, and he told me it was his once his parents’ car. He gave me his mom’s phone number, and that’s when I called her. It was a nice lady named Jeri.”
The History of the LS6 Chevelle
Jeri Capaccione met her future husband, Peter, after his tour in Vietnam was over in 1970. “Peter was always a Chevelle guy. When he finished up in the service, he came back home and bought his dream car, this Champagne Gold LS6. Not only did he buy that car, but he also bought a matching gold 1970 C10 to use as a daily driver. He was working at a local foundry at the time and making good money,” says Jeri.
Jeri remembers how incredibly cautious her husband was with the LS6. “When we went on our first date, he showed up with his brother’s silver Corvette. He didn’t even want to take Chevelle out. When I finally got to go out in the LS6, it had rained, so he drove around every puddle in the road. Then that night he went to an all-night car wash and cleaned the car and the undercarriage. Those late-night cleanings happened pretty much every time he took the car out!”
Although the Capacciones didn’t have a garage at their place, that didn’t stop the owner from trying his hardest to keep the car safe. “Peter would park it at my parents’ house. They were out of the area and in a quiet locale. He always felt that people were eyeing the Chevelle up around our place. He would park it at my parents’ and drive his beater Volkswagen back to our apartment.”
Over time, the fact that they didn’t have their own place to store it, the astronomical insurance rates on the car, and the fact that Jeri and Peter were starting a family would lead the couple to sell the car. “It just wasn’t the best option for a daily driver at the time. Plus, he had put a heavy racing clutch in it as he was thinking of bringing it to the local track. It was hard for me to drive. We both loved that car so much, but we knew it had to go. We decided to sell it around 1975 and got a good penny for it. We put the money into our house.”
Peter passed away in 2013 due to the effects of Agent Orange. The couple had always thought about buying back the car, but the finances just weren’t there. “We knew the guy we sold it to [Morgart]. He was a local guy that collected a few Chevys. We always kept our eyes and ears open. We heard the guy had an accident with it and pretty much parked it after that.”
This Chevelle LS6 sat dormant for decades, just waiting for someone to come along and save it. What it needed was a caretaker, someone who would look out for it and keep it safe and secure for years to come. And there’s no better person than someone who has pined for one like Fardone has for the last four decades.
“There’s nothing like an LS6. It’s the top dog as far as I’m concerned. Hemi this, Cobra Jet that… if that’s your thing, great. I like them too. They deserve the accolades. But to me, there’s nothing like this LS6 Chevelle on earth. It can’t be duplicated. It’s my holy grail.”
It took a chain of car aficionados to haul this one in, but in the end “King” Fardone got his golden jewel. It certainly went to the right guy. He is a lover of all things Chevy A-body. “This car will stay with me forever. It’s got a permanent place in my garage and in my heart.”
Watch: Check out this footage of a 1970 Chevelle SS454 found in a field.
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