1957 Chevrolet Corvette - Pilot Car

An early-build '57 Corvette that flew high on the road-racing circuit

Barry Kluczyk Apr 2, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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With its fender flares and simple hoop rollbar, the '57 Corvette former race car of Randy and Ann Scott is definitely a snapshot from another era—and then there's the engine. It's a big-block. In a C1 road racer. Talk about swatting flies with sledgehammer.

Who would put a huge, heavy big-block in a C1 road-race car? That's exactly what the Scotts have been trying to find out for nearly five years. They bought the car in 2008 while attending a car show near their Michigan home. It was sitting on a side street and drawing little attention.

"With its bodywork, many people assumed it was some sort of kit car," says Ann Scott. "Others didn't believe the sign that mentioned a big-block, but Randy and my son, Brian, checked under the hood. When they saw the old big-block [there], they were convinced."

While Randy and Brian continued to inspect the car's mechanicals, Ann checked out the interior, which contained a few vintage Stewart Warner gauges, the aforementioned rollbar, no radio (thanks to the work of some sticky- fingered neighborhood kids years earlier), and a dashboard missing the characteristic "humps." There was also a leather-wrapped "Duntov" steering wheel.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Front Side 2/8

On the outside, the flared fenders were definitely evocative of Cobras, while other cues—the boxy hoodscoop, a single windshield wiper, deleted door handles, and an aluminum fuel-filler cap—reinforced the race-car aesthetic. And there was another item that caught the Scotts' collective eye: The vehicle identification number (VIN) was E57S100017.

"We looked at one another and were thinking the same thing: Could the car really be the 17th car off the assembly line for 1957?" says Ann. "We were really interested at that point, thinking we'd found something pretty unique."

Apparently the owner was neither aware of what he had nor particularly concerned about finding out. He had received the car as part of a legal settlement, and it was taking up valuable real estate in his garage. He wanted it gone. The Scotts negotiated with him and took the car home.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Side 3/8

The '57 at speed. "The acceleration is instant and awesome," says Randy Scott.

As soon as it was in the Scotts' garage, they wasted little time in confirming the identification number. Unfortunately the VIN on the doorjamb was long gone, which meant squeezing under the car with a flashlight and mirror to locate the one on the frame. It matched the number on body. As it turns out, VIN E57S100017 was one of the first 24 cars produced that year. They were pilot cars, all painted Cascade Green and fitted with the range of features and options intended for production. An anomaly on the Scotts' car is a power antenna located on the passenger-side rear fender, rather than on the driver side.

When it came to tracing the car's competition history, the story became much cloudier. The Scotts found the previous owner in Texas, a pilot who lost the car in the lawsuit to the gentleman they purchased it from, who also happened to be a pilot. The Texan told them that prior to his time with the car, it had been owned by yet another pilot, this time a fighter jockey at the famed Miramar "Top Gun" Air Force Base in California who teamed up with a fellow flyboy to go racing. They set up the car for SCCA Solo events and apparently claimed back-to-back points championships at Sears Point (now known as Sonoma Raceway and previously Infineon Raceway). That's when the Corvette was apparently transformed into a race car and fitted with the big-block powerplant.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Rear Side 4/8

With its flared fenders, shaved bumpers, and other body modifications, the Scotts' '57 could almost be mistaken for a kit car.

At first blush, running a heavy big-block seems antithetical to the balance required to make a C1 competitive on a road course, but on second thought, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. The 2.52-mile Sonoma course has 160 feet in elevation changes, enough to require some serious downshifting by torque-challenged cars. The big-block, on the other hand, would enable the Corvette to squirt up the grades effortlessly. Of course, cornering and braking with the nose-heavy C1 was probably a white-knuckle experience suited to a fighter pilot, but those consecutive championships prove that the sledgehammer approach was effective, if not exactly delicate.

The four-barrel-fed big-block powering the Corvette is a 1966-vintage Corvette 427/390-hp version backed by a matching Muncie M21 four-speed transmission and connected to the original solid rear axle. It was reportedly enough to push the little C1 to 160 mph. A set of '72 Chevelle front disc brakes were adapted to the car, along with a Mopar proportioning valve mounted under the driver-side front fender. There's also a two-stage power-assisted master cylinder for the braking system.

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