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Rapid Rat: A Gasser Corvette Straight out of the Sixties

From the Archives

Drew Hardin Apr 21, 2015
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Blair’s Speed Shop, a long-standing Southern California institution of go-fast parts, joined forces with Dan Roberts to build this wild Vette gasser in 1968. Petersen lensman Eric Rickman thought enough of the car that it not only got a full-color feature in the March 1969 issue of Hot Rod magazine, but he accompanied that story with a second one a few pages later in the issue on how Roberts fashioned the Vette’s chassis for maximum effectiveness on the dragstrip.

The “Rat” part of the car’s name came from the injected 427 in the engine bay. Hilborn injectors on a long-tube intake manifold fed the engine, which was backed by a ’67 Muncie four-speed with Hurst linkage and synchro modifications by Blair’s.

Under the bright green body was Roberts’ “really way out chassis,” as Rickman called it. Actually, Roberts’ goal was to put together a suspension that was “as simple as possible” and kept welding to a minimum. Up front was a Blair’s tube axle with ’56 Corvette spindles, sprung by a pair of E-Type Jaguar coil springs with adjustable upper mounting brackets. These allowed Roberts to raise or lower the front end 7 inches “as track conditions dictate.”

The car’s stock X-member was removed and replaced with a new crossmember to support the transmission and mount the front of a pair of traction bars. A second crossmember was mounted aft of that to provide attachment points for the seat belts and “safety rear bars,” what we assume was part of the car’s ’cage. The rearend consisted of what Rickman called a “trick floating housing” that utilized collars that slid over machined areas of the housing ends. “This system transfers maximum mid-point weight to the rear axle on take-off, thus no wheel hop.”

The setup worked. Roberts’ Vette earned the “Rapid” part of its name when shakedown runs of 10.27 seconds at nearly 134 mph showed “lots of promise” for the B/Gas race car.

1956 Chevrolet Corvette Engine Bay 2/2

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