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1958 Chevrolet Corvette Sets Record at 1960 Bonneville Speed Trials

From the Archives: World’s fastest Corvette, 1960 style

Drew Hardin Aug 28, 2015
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Many Vettes have laid claim to being the “world’s fastest,” but this blown and injected ’58 Corvette was the real deal, setting a B Grand Touring Sports record of 171.746 mph at the 1960 Bonneville Speed Trials.

Even more interesting, the car belonged to Brian Chuchua. That name may not be well known in Corvette circles, but ask a Jeep owner who Brian Chuchua is and they’ll light up with tales of his off-road racing exploits, here and abroad. Chuchua was also among the first to sell aftermarket equipment for Jeeps, and he was a founding member of SEMA in 1963.

As a teenager in Southern California, Chuchua learned to drive—and drag race—in a Jeep. But with his sights set on going faster, he bought a brand-new Vette in 1958 and promptly fitted it with a McCulloch supercharger. That setup worked fine until an engine fire destroyed the entire front end of the car. Chuchua bought the totaled remains from the insurance company and then set out to build a full competition Vette from that charred carcass.

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Longtime tech guru Don Francisco outlined Chuchua’s build strategy in a March 1961 Hot Rod magazine article called “Double Threat Corvette.” It turns out the McCulloch blower was just an appetizer for bigger things to come—a GMC 4-71 supercharger that he joined to the front of a ’57 283-inch V-8 that was bored and stroked to 316 ci. Moon Equipment Company built the engine, which had ’59 fuelie heads (polished and fitted with big valves), a Potvin Engineering kit to adapt the blower to the engine, and a Hilborn injection system to send fuel from the cockpit-mounted Moon tank to a Hilborn injector plumbed on the supercharger’s inlet flange.

Because he wanted to race the car both at Bonneville and on the dragstrip, Chuchua adapted a Halibrand quick-change centersection into the Vette’s rear, using a combination of Chevy and Ford gearsets, Ford axlehousings, and Chevy axleshafts. The whole assembly was trimmed so it would fit within the Corvette’s bodywork and so that the spring pads would line up in their original location. Chuchua retained much of the Corvette’s stock chassis, save for competition springs and shocks front and rear.

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Francisco noted that Chuchua “pulled everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary out of the car to cut its weight to the minimum.” That strict diet is evident in the photos of the empty trunk—with the quick-change sticking through a hole for gear swaps—and the denuded interior. The bare dash panel is still there, but Chuchua swapped the stock instrument panel for a crude gauge cluster holding a minimum of instruments: tach, ammeter, oil pressure, and water temp. The Moon fuel tank sits next to him, as does a fuel pump to prime the system and a generator, which wouldn’t fit underhood with the blower on the front of the engine. Ahead of the generator is the lever for the three-speed manual transmission.

Chuchua enjoyed some success with the Vette. Not only did his car set the Bonneville record (with Kenny Light driving), but he also set a half-mile dragstrip record of 138 mph at Riverside, California. Yet at the time of Francisco’s article, Chuchua was looking to sell the Vette to build a small-displacement streamliner. We’d love to know where this car wound up.

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