The strength of inspiration has always been immeasurable. And its origin can go undetected for years; that is until it hits you right when you least expect it. But hot rod builder Barry White wasn’t caught off guard in the least. Barry’s inspiration came in the early ’70s while spending most of his weekends indulging in the SoCal drag racing scene. From OCIR to Lions Drag Strip, he and his brother spent many Friday and Saturday nights watching some of the most famous gassers in all of drag racing tear up the quarter-mile. We’re talking Big John Mazmanian; Stone, Woods & Cook; K.S. Pittman, Bones Balogh, and all the other big-time players of the A/Gas class from back in the day. The field was plentiful and there were many “also-rans” that took part in what many drag purists believe to be the most memorable era of the sport. Some of those racers went unrecognized for their efforts, but the images of their cartoon-like drag cars remain embedded in Barry’s mind some 30 years after the legendary dragstrips closed their doors.
“There was just something special about the gassers. They always looked the coolest,” remembers Barry. “Even today when you look at some of the old drag magazines, those Willys or Chevys with their nose way up in the air, there’s just nothing cooler. And today when you go to a car show, there always seems to be a crowd huddled around the straight-axle hot rods.”
Although it’s not in writing, and there are no rules to abide by, but sometimes functionality has to take a back seat to coolness. We’re not sure exactly why, but gassers are just that way. To some, cutting up the front end of a perfectly fine, vintage Tri-Five Chevy is nothing less than taboo. To others, it’s a bold statement better left in the hands of some other reckless rodder. Not many guys have what it takes, physically or mentally, to chop up a perfectly fine, vintage Tri-Five just to hang a straight-axle. It compromises ride-comfort and handling, but it does get you plenty of extra attention.
Barry doesn’t mind attention, and he’s not one to sit on the proverbial sidelines when the opportunity arises to build something a little off the beaten path.
At the time of this build Barry was working on a television show called Wrecks to Riches on Discovery Network’s TLC channel, which afforded him the opportunity to create some over-the top hot rods. For the show’s second season, Barry had to come up with ideas of what cars to build. “When car designer Chris Brown, shop manager Adam Ramsey, and I got together to discuss which cars we should build for the upcoming season, a gasser was on top of the list,” recalls Barry. “In fact, this is the second gasser we’ve built for the show. In Season One we built a first-gen Nova gasser. So when we came across this ’57, we couldn’t help ourselves, it just had ‘gasser’ written all over it.”
The decision was made to go full retro on this car. So the crew decided to go with E/T Gasser 15-inch wheels up front and deep-dish E/T Classic Five 15s in the rear. The vintage styling continues throughout the exterior, including PPG’s Oh So Sexy Red pigment meticulously applied by Tony Correia at Speed Shop Custom Paint in Corona, California. The master of pinstripe and lettering, Phil Whetstone of Miracle Design, brushed on the gold leaf lettering.
To keep the period-correct look, the interior is flooded with retro-style goodies, including a Moon Equipment California Metal Flake Red steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges, and a B&M Pro Shifter. Kirkey Racing supplied the Economy Drag Seats in classic black tuck ’n’ roll. The familiar theme continues on with stitching on the door panels by Katzkin, while Danchuk took care of the black loop carpet. Barry’s Speed Shop collaborated with Danchuk on the custom-built, engine-turned aluminum dash in order to keep the look legit.
To achieve full “gasserness” Barry went with a 427ci John Barrett Racing Engine and defiantly topped it off with a Hilborn four-port injection system and Weiand 4-71 supercharger. The whole conglomeration is rated at a whopping 700 hp with torque estimated at 700 lb-ft.
Although the car is dragstrip willing, COMP Cams whittled a relatively mild piece in order to keep the internals happy while still enabling the car to command respect at the local burger joint. The Performer RPM cylinder heads came from Edelbrock and are held snugly in place with an ARP stud kit.
The car was built in just a month before being sent to auction at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona, California, for the Wrecks to Riches television show. This was no “half-baked” reality show; the auction was real, and no less than six bidders where bashing egos with the sole intention of being the proud owner of one bad gasser-style ’57 Chevy street machine. With the auction coming down to the final two bidders, the price was up over $70,000, and when the last bid was pulled out of the box, Palm Springs, California, resident Murray Bryant had brought the house, and a few egos, down with a final bid of $81,000 – good enough to take the prized hot rod to his desert hideaway.
We’ve learned Murray’s no stranger to car auctions, as this is his second time winning one of Barry’s television cars. And with the addition of his latest machine, he’s on his way to putting together quite a collection of vintage muscle.
We’re not sure what Murray has in mind for this vintage hell-raiser, but one thing’s for sure; his neighbors will know exactly when he and his freshly built gasser rolls into town.