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Rare 1957 Chevrolet Corvette Air Box Fuelie Race Car

Rare Finds: A Corvette Collector Walks Into A Bar…

Jerry Heasley Apr 28, 2015
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…And comes out with a 1957 Air Box fuelie? Yes, this did happen, but you can make up your own joke. I ran across a black ’57 Corvette (with number “57” in white roundels on doors and hood) parked under a white tent at the Corvettes at Carlisle display. So, was this an old race car?

Fortunately, the current owner, Frank Buck of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, had also displayed a large album full of pictures. Those pictures showed a black ’57 race car, looking just like this Vette. I was intrigued by the vintage photos of this car at Marlboro and Watkins Glen and Cumberland. Buck’s album also showed the car on a lift circled with people. Truth is definitely stranger that fiction. Buck told me a story of Kevin Hussey walking into a bar in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2003 and striking up a conversation with a man who owned a 1957 Corvette.

“They were talking Corvettes and shooting the bull and the guy happened to mention he had an old Corvette he’d like to restore some day.” At this time, Hussey did not know this Vette had a racing heritage. He just liked 1957 Corvettes. The owner, however, did know the Vette was raced back in the day.

Buck pointed to a picture of the car, painted red, and parked in a driveway. “That’s when Hussey was picking the car up from the owner,” Buck said. Early the next year, at the annual NCRS show at “Old Town” in Orlando, Florida, Corvette enthusiasts were in for a pleasant surprise. Kevin Hussey and his two brothers (Sean and Kent), who bought the car from the man in the bar, brought the ’57 to the show for all to see.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Interior 2/9

The interior was complete, including the extra gauges in the dash for racing.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Brake Cooling Ducts 3/9

“Elephant ears” to cool the brakes were intact on this race car!

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Finned Brake Drums 4/9

Also intact were the finned brake drums.

The back of one picture read, “26th Annual Florida Chapter, Winter Regional Meet, January 22nd – 25th, 2004.” Supposedly, Chip Miller of Carlisle Production was present and he “critiqued” the ’57. Miller died in March of 2004. Noland Adams was also there. Right away, attendees recognized this ’57 as a factory “Air Box” fuelie raced by Bob Mouat of Baltimore, Maryland. Buck said, “Mouat purchased the car in 1957 and went racing right away with a full windshield and hardtop.”

Initially, Mouat actually drove the car to races. Later, he modified and towed the ’57 to races—and apparently many, many races, as evidenced by the photos in Buck’s large album. Buck, who has probably owned more Air Box ’57 Corvettes (six total) than anybody, believes Mouat raced this car in more than 100 races and had “probably 85 podiums.” (A “podium” is a finish of First, Second, or Third place.)

Viewing the old pictures I came across a photo of the tachometer on the steering column. Yes, that is the factory tach, part of the Air Box (option code 579E) package. Buck’s album also showed such Air Box features as “elephant ears” on the heavy-duty brakes and rear brake cooling ducts. Apparently, the car Hussey bought from his bar contact came with most of the original Air Box parts, plus the modified racing parts, such as the “hogged out fuel injection” done by famous race car driver Bill Thomas.

“This car was a real humper,” Frank Buck said. And finding the original tach is insane. You never see that and this is the original factory unit!” Mouat also modified the dash with extra gauges, which Peter Klutt at Legendary Motorcars in Canada retained in the restoration.

Buck tried to buy the ’57 right after the car showed up at Old Town. People knew he was “into” Air Box fuelies. “A couple of friends called me and said ‘You are not going to believe this. A guy showed up here with an original Air Box race car that belonged to Bob Mouat. The Hussey brothers just bought it.’” Buck got Kevin Hussey’s phone number. However, the car was not for sale. Not until after Legendary restored the car and Mecum tried to get the big bucks at a 2009 Mecum auction in Houston did Buck get his chance to buy this ’57.

Buck was very pleased with Legendary’s restoration. “They restored the car like it raced in 1963. It has the aluminum radiator, the cut panel windshield, the low rollbar, and an overflow tank dated 1961 or 1962.” Restoring to factory Air Box would be foolish because Mouat put the car on the track immediately. Of course, Chevrolet built these cars for enthusiast to race.

The ’57 is in the hands of a great collector who paid a significant amount of money for the pride of ownership. However, if any one of us had just walked into a certain watering hole in St. Petersburg in the fall of 2003, we might have had one of the great C1 racing Vettes of all time. Hell, Mouat was Roger Penske’s SCCA racing instructor. They borrowed brake parts off this car in 1958 to put on Penske’s 1957 Corvette racer (not a factory Air Box), so he could qualify to get his SCCA license!

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Racing Harness 5/9

The racing seatbelts look exactly like those used in 289 Cobra race cars of the era.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Racing Watkins Glen 6/9

With the car, Frank got a ton of vintage racing pictures from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Looking at original racing photos from so many years ago is enough to give Corvette-lovers goosebumps. This car was really there and helped build the performance heritage of an icon.

1957 Corvette Racecar Ncrs Fl Show 7/9

NCRS members went nuts when this vintage race car showed up out of nowhere in 2004 at their show in “Old Town” in Orlando, Florida.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Air Box Racecar 8/9

Frank Buck displays the car as seen here, restored to the way Mouat configured and raced the car in its latest iteration in the early to mid-1960s.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Front 9/9

Here’s the way the car looked when the Hussey brothers picked up the car in Florida in 2003. The second owner was the “wrench” that worked on the car and kept it going, Red Hoffman. Red painted the car red, and Mouat continued to race the ’57.



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