Image credits: © Chevrolet. GM Corp
1957 Chevrolet Corvette C1C
hevrolet introduced the two-seat Corvette in 1953 and the Motorama-show-car styling was much admired however the lackluster powertrain left much to be desired. Chevrolet responded to this criticism in 1955 with an all-new overhead-valve V8. Styling became cleaner in 1956 and engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and his team worked to improve its performance and competitiveness. During his first three years at GM, Duntov helped prevent the Corvette's early demise and was instrumental in convincing Chevy management to build exciting cars and prove them in competition to capitalize on the lucrative postwar youth market. He was not alone, as Chevrolet's engineering chief, Ed Cole, thoroughly agreed.
At the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956, the Corvette was fitted with a fuel injection system. It was a Rochester Ramjet injection unit that solved the fuel starvation problem caused during high cornering with carbureted engines. Driver John Fitch and co-driver Walt Hansgen took a class win. That technology made its way to the production cars in 1957, with the 283 cubic-inch engine developing 283 horsepower, resulting in 1 horsepower per cubic-inch of displacement. Inspired by the fuel-injected Mercedes-Benz 300SL (a production car first), the Rochester Fuel Injected system of the Corvette benefitted from Duntov's insistence on measuring the mass of the incoming airflow into the Corvette's engine, the system still in common use today, rather than Mercedes' simpler speed-density system.
High-performance options were first introduced on the Corvette in 1956, including the 'Duntov' solid-lifter cam and 'Dual Quad' intake setup. This trend continued into 1957 with stronger parts designed, tested, and relentlessly perfected eventually making it into the pipeline for Chevy buyers and racers alike. Chevrolet vehicles soon claimed numerous speed records, including new marks set by Duntov in a camouflaged 1956 Chevrolet sedan at Pikes Peak in 1955. At the 1956 NASCAR Daytona Beach Speed Week, Duntov went over 150 mph in a lightly modified Corvette and more records were set by the three-Corvette team, with Duntov, John Fitch, and Betty Skelton driving.
The body of the 1957 Corvette was unchanged from the 1956 version, which had received a sleeker look that included roll-up windows and an optional hardtop. The base price was increased slightly to $3,176 and the V8 became the standard engine, with a choice of a three-speed manual or the 2-speed Powerglide automatic. Backed by a new T-10 Warner four-speed manual transmission, and posi-traction rear axle, the Corvette evolved into a true sports car. The four-speed unit arrived in May and was a $188 extra. The heater, the car's most popular option, still had not become standard equipment. Axle ratios went as low as 4.11:1 and the 'heavy-duty racing suspension' listed at $725. Standard equipment included dual exhausts, all-vinyl bucket seats, and a three-spoke 'competition' steering wheels. Five engine options were available beginning with ratings ranging from 220 horsepower up to 283 hp. The 283 cubic-inch Fuel Injected engine developed 250 horsepower with a milder hydraulic camshaft and Powerglide automatic transmission. With a manual transmission and the solid-lifter 'Duntov' cam, horsepower rose to 283, the magical 1 horsepower per cubic-inch figure. In addition to the Corvette's world-beating RPO 579E fuel-injected engine, the 1957 Corvette was also available with the Heavy-Duty racing suspension package including all the developments from the Sebring racing cars, including heavy-duty springs and shocks, an extra leaf in the rear springs, and finned brake drums with Cerametallix linings, vented backing plates, and cooling scoops, plus air ducts running into the rear fender wells and through the rocker panels to direct cooler air to the rear brakes. Larger 15 X 5.5-inch wheels, and a Positraction differential with three available gear ratios.
Development was ongoing and by mid-1957 the fiberglass 'Airbox' was introduced, helping to resolve unfavorable pressure differentials. It was mounted to the inner-fender panel on the driver's side, drawing cooler, higher-density air from a space cut out of the left side of the radiator support. On both sides of the radiator were special ductwork that helped direct cool air to the rear brake drums. The front brakes were cooled with special air ducts built into the backing plates of each drum.
The 'Airbox Fuelie' was capable of sprinting from zero-to-sixty mph in 5.7 seconds which was faster than anything else on the road.
At the 1957 Sebring race, four Corvette sports cars were entered including a magnesium-alloy bodied Corvette SS powered by a 4,638cc engine complete with lightweight aluminum cylinder heads. Another example was an SS development mule powered by a standard Corvette engine but clothed with a plastic body. The 4.6-liter Corvette of John Fitch and Piero Taruffi was positioned in first place on the starting grid. Since there was no qualifying session, the starting positions were decided according to engine size. The next three places were Corvettes followed by two 450S Maseratis.
Early in the race, the Corvette SS experienced brake issues and was forced to pit. It later withdrew from the race due to persistent overheating problems, although the official classifications show the cause to be failed rear suspension. After twelve hours of racing, the car of Dr. Dick 'The Flying Dentist' Thompson and Swiss co-driver Gaston Andrey was 12th overall, and first in the Grand Touring 5000 (GT 5.0) class. The corvette won the Production Sports Car title and another won the modified class. Although this race was on American soil, the Corvette was the only American built car to compete at Sebring.
Just 43 fuel-injected 'Airbox' Corvettes were purpose-built for racing in 1957. Shortly after the car's release, in June of 1957, the infamous and short-lived Automobile Manufacturers' Association (AMA) racing ban halted GM's factory racing activities. Despite GM's exit from overt factory-backed racing, cars and parts were funneled to capable privateers who continued to expand the Corvette's racing pedigree.
Additionally, the Pontiac Bonneville - also part of the GM lineup, was introduced in January of 1957 and came equipped with a Rochester mechanical fuel injection system. The 347 cubic-inch V8 developed 315 horsepower and provided a zero-to-sixty mph time of 8.1 seconds. A total of 630 examples were built with a base price of $5,782 which was $1000 more than a fuel-injected Corvette.by Daniel Vaughan | May 2020
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Chassis Num: E57S104676
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Chassis #: E57S 105626
Chassis #: E57S101475
Chassis #: E575106130
Chassis #: E575106007
Chassis #: E857104007
Chassis #: E57S104387
Chassis #: E57S102540
Chassis #: E57S102825
Chassis #: E57S105940
Chassis #: E57S106241
Chassis #: E57S102166
Chassis #: E57S104676