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A 1957 150 Chevy Gasser that Actually Gets Driven on a Regular Basis

Rising Son: Drake Kelley feeds his Gotta Getta Gasser fetish

Ro McGonegal Sep 22, 2016
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A few issues back we did a feature on Mr. Kelley’s wayward “Wile E. Coyote” 1964 Chevelle (“Get What You Need,” May ’16). It was gasser incarnate. It was all there. It elicited a time that will never be again. Historical cues overflowed, a jacked up nose, stick axle, and headers flashing in the glimmer of the past.

Well, Drake’s at it again, this time with something slightly more iconic, doing what savvy hot rodders do best—getting the most from the least and figuratively kicking ass in the meantime. In short, Kelley knows it’s a better deal to begin with someone else’s solid but perhaps unfinished rendition and carve it to personal taste.

1957 Chevy Gasser Front 2/40
1957 Chevy Gasser Side 3/40

The originator is Tim Arneson (Tim’s Rod Shop) up there in Polson, hard by Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana. Tim dug the Black Widow NASCAR sentiment and wanted to carry that theme, that emotion to the dragstrip straightaway.

Black Widows were built in Atlanta at the Southern Engineering and Development Company (SEDCO) under the auspice of former Hudson racing director Vince Piggins who’d struck a deal with GM boss Ed Cole. Piggins set up camp in Atlanta. The Widows had one-piece frames that were available from the Detroit assembly line but not the one in Atlanta, so all the cars were shipped to Atlanta. All of them were converted to six-lug bolt patterns and wore black and white paint. Production figures do not exist, nor do most of the records kept on them because they weren’t built on a factory assembly line.

Over here in the 21st century: “Tim had found the car on Craigslist,” said Kelley. “It was a complete basket case with most of the hardware and trim dismantled and sitting in the trunk.” Tim did most of the reconstruction (paint, frame fabrication, and engine assembly) and finished the body-off exercise in roughly 12 months. Tim replaced or refurbished a universe of nuts and bolts. Tim finished the work in late 2013 and promptly shopped it around the major Northwest shows, winning an Award of Excellence at Goodguys Spokane in 2014.

1957 Chevy Gasser Grille 4/40
1957 Chevy Gasser Side 5/40

At this point, according to Kelley, the car was about 80 percent complete and the show season was winding down when Tim stuck it in the back of the garage and put a tarp over it. Time slithered. Time slid. The Widow simmered for a year.

Somehow, Kelley had heard about the Widow and tracked Tim down. Through conversations, “we both agreed that the car belonged in Southern California. He hadn’t built it to be a driver and was excited to hear my plans on getting the car on the road.”

Kelley’s goal was to drive it. Frequently. On long freeway trips. His first inclination was to visit Tim Lee at Don Lee Auto Service in Rancho Cucamonga to swap the Dana 60 cogs from a jammin’ four-five-six to a more relaxed 3.55:1. Concurrent, he couldn’t resist pulling the rest of the thing apart: front suspension, calipers, master cylinder, etc. He had all of it, including the framerails, stripped and painted.

1957 Chevy Gasser Engine Bay 6/40
1957 Chevy Gasser Engine 7/40

Then it was on to LP Racing where Lang Paciulli would work the exhaust system. “Because it was solely a show car, the exhaust had only been open headers. I drew up my design and had Lang modify the headers and fabricate the full 3.5-inch system that dumps into DynoMax mufflers before exiting in front of the rear tires,” the 30-year-old Kelley offered. Lang removed the “for looks” rollcage and positioned a real ’cage from 1.5-inch OD chrome-moly.

“Given that I have a 2-year-old son and the potential for a sibling over the next couple of years, I wanted to make the car truly useable for our family while retaining the vintage look,” said Kelley. “The systems allows for two car seats to be held side-by-side or room for a single car seat and an ice chest for those days at car shows.

“Since its completion, I’ve driven the car several hundred miles, including Friday 100-mile round trips to work and back. I think my favorite part about the car is the conversation it starts. I love getting the opportunity to meet and talk to new people. I’m a gasser fan for life and see my family enjoying this car for many years to come.”

1957 Chevy Gasser Interior 8/40
1957 Chevy Gasser Interior 9/40

What’s it like to drive? Does Kelley need a periscope to see beyond the hood?

Kelley: “There are two separate reactions that frequently occur while out on the road. The first is from the guy who knows what he is looking at and loves that fact [and] that I am actually out driving the car on the road. The second is from the person who has no idea what they are looking at and is confused and a little scared at what they are seeing. Either way, the car starts wonderful conversations whenever you stop somewhere.

“As for the experience of physically driving the car, the most unique aspect has to be the stance and running the car down the road with the nose sky high. It has a very different feel when you see nothing but sky going down the highway.”

1957 Chevy Gasser Rear Side 10/40

Tech Check
Owner: Drake Kelley, Canyon Lake, California
Vehicle: 1957 150
Engine
Type: 1974 Mark IV
Displacement: 461 ci
Compression Ratio: 10:01
Bore: 4.280 inches
Stroke: 4.000 inches
Cylinder Heads: GM iron oval port, 2.19/1.88 valves, 118cc combustion chambers
Rotating Assembly: GM steel crankshaft, 4340 GM steel connecting rods, SRP forged pistons
Valvetrain: OE 1.7:1 rocker arms, Manton pushrods, Comp Cams springs/mechanical roller lifters
Camshaft: Comp 294 (250/256-deg. duration at 0.050; 0.588/0.593-inch lift), M/T rocker covers
Induction: Edelbrock Torker II intake manifold, Holley 850-cfm carburetor, Edelbrock mechanical fuel pump, K&N velocity stack
Ignition: Crane FireBall Hi-6 box, Hi-6 coil, billet distributor
Exhaust: Speedway Motors ceramic-coated headers with 2.5-inch primaries and 3.5-inch collector, LP Racing 3.5-inch mild steel system, DynoMax Race Bullet mufflers
Ancillaries: Milodon oil pump and 7-quart sump, Moon Barefoot gas pedal
Output (est.): 450 hp at 5,500 rpm, 475 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm
Machine Work: Robin Ellenwood (Polson, MT)
Built By: Tim Arneson, Tim’s Rod Shop (Polson, MT)
Tuner: Tim Lee (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
Drivetrain
Transmission: Muncie M21 (built by Tim Arneson), 11-inch clutch assembly
Rear Axle: Dana 60, limited-slip differential, 3.55:1 ratio, custom driveshaft, built by Tim Lee
Chassis
Front Suspension: Speedway Motors straight-axle kit, Speedway shock absorbers, rounded and smoothed frame extension by Tim Arneson
Rear Suspension: Leaf springs with Speedway shackles, custom ladder bars, Speedway shock absorbers, four-point chrome-moly ’cage built by Lang Paciulli at LP Racing (Ontario, CA)
Brakes: Speedway 10-inch disc conversion front, 11-inch drums rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Rocket Launcher 15x4.5 front, Rocket Injector 15x8 rear
Tires: Firestone Vintage 5.60 front, Firestone Dragster 8.20 rear
Interior
Upholstery: Tim Arneson
Material: Vinyl/cloth
Seats: OE 150 Chevrolet, Seatbelts Solutions Unlimited safety belts
Steering: Speedway Motors Vega-style box
Shifter: Hurst Competition Plus
Dash: OE
Instrumentation: Rebuilt factory gauges by Tim Arneson, Auto Meter Auto Gage gauges, Sun tachometer
Audio: None
HVAC: Windows Down
Exterior
Bodywork: Tim Arneson
Paint by: Tim Arneson, lettering by Pete Sifentes (Lakeside, MT)
Paint: R-M Diamont Black/White base and clearcoats
Hood: OE
Grille: Danchuk
Bumpers: OE, Rear

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