In 1957, the Chevrolet Corvette was introduced with the new 283ci fuel-injected V-8 engine. Touting one horsepower per cubic inch, it was a real breakthrough at the time. Many moons later, one may have thought that any improvement on the iconic design of this classic factory hot rod would be sacrilege. But as coachbuilders and designers of the ages have always done, there are just a few more touches that can be made. This design theme is inspired by GM’s Motoramas and the advanced styling (Bill Mitchell) and race heritage (Zora Arkus-Duntov) of the C1, C2 and C3 Corvettes.
This ’57 is a combination of those previous design cues and some current ones. Those lines, blended with the Corvette knowledge of Steve’s Auto Restorations (SAR) owner Steve Frisbie, painter Jay Spencer and car owner Don Habben, have culminated in the car shown here. Habben purchased the car some time ago from a friend, and after doing two other cars at SAR, finally got to the Corvette for a redo.
Reminiscent of a new coachbuilt sports car, the grounds for the build is a custom tube frame from SRIII Motorsports. The new frame uses Corvette C4 and C5 suspension and brakes, with additional engineering by Chuck Barr at SAR. A Cadillac supplied the LSA supercharged V-8, backed by a TREMEC six-speed manual transmission engaged by a period-correct Corvette shifter.
This well-worn 1957 Corvette body was attached to the new chassis and test driven. The fiberglass was analyzed, and aging wear and tear repaired. The floor and frame/chassis relationships required additional bracing and strengthening to prohibit body flex. Door, hood, decklid and top cover hinges were rebuilt or replaced so that the proper gaps could be maintained. Everything remained on the car, including the grille and trim to make sure all the pieces had the best possible fit. Every inch of the body, top and bottom, is the same as the exterior finish level.
Making the original body perfect, and a plethora of body mods, was the next step. The front fender cove stainless and valances were extended. A ’54 windshield, which is 2 inches lower than the ’57, was fitted to a modified cowl. The stinger-inspired hoodscoop and modified ’57 hood bullets were built into a new hood, along with filled parking lights. Custom-made chrome door tops were added after the removal of door windows. One-off engine compartment and inner fender panels conceal the battery, A/C hoses and wiring. The rear fenders were flared using C3 edges. Out back, a 1953 decklid, including the license plate housing, is used and the body notched for C6 exhaust tips.
The folks at SAR are not ones to go halfway in designing and building cars for discerning customers. With that in mind, we move on to more custom mods on this unreal ’57 Corvette. Jay Spencer continued the design concept by starting with the engine shroud, built to extend to the firewall to cover the usual cluttered situation found in modern cars. The front and rear bumpers were created in a computer sketch, shaped into a fullsize mockup, then fabricated in sheetmetal at SAR. Chrome was handled by Sherm’s Custom Plating in Sacramento, California. Interestingly enough, the front parking light lenses match the headlamps, but were purloined from an early ’30s Buick’s fender lights.
Turning to the interior, we see the knockout look and feel that extends beyond the original. The aura is still Corvette, but is done to the standards of today’s custom cars. It is fully fashioned in leather, including the trunk. New foam was restyled over the original seat frames. The leather-covered dash is done in French seams, melding into the cap, which extends to the hand-fabricated door top covers. The door panels are one-off, with new coves, painted dash extensions and new steel armrests that are chrome-plated and upholstered.
Powerplant info is supplied with modernized instruments made by Classic Instruments, using 2004 Z06 gauge fonts and checkered flag backgrounds. Completing the visual effect of mixed design from different years, a C2-inspired vertical console, below the dash, complements the overall look of the interior.
SAR designer David Brost conceptualized a theme using components from of all seven generations of Corvettes. These included the one-off steering wheel and horn button, combining the spokes from the C1 and C2 Corvettes. He then returned to echoing the race car look in the billet gas, brake and clutch pedals. Sketches of these pieces and of the wheels were then sent to EVOD Industries in Escondido, California. They then sent back incredible images of what the part would actually look like. With final approval, they started with blocks of metal and whittled the amazing pieces that you see on this car.
EVOD also got the ball rolling with the 18x8 and 18x9.5 wheels designed by Brost, to appear as early Halibrand wheels, emulating the race and prototype concept performance Corvettes of the ’50s. The flush, knock-off smooth rims have a modern look enabling room for a larger diameter wheel face. This makes the shoeing of the Bridgestone 245/45R18 front and 275/45R18 rear tires to the one-off wheels possible.
Since completion, this beautiful Corvette has toured the country, garnering trophies as it goes. Corvette guys across the board have given it the thumbs up. From the incredible paint by SAR’s Jay Spencer to the out of sight upholstery by Dan’s Custom Upholstery in Portland, Oregon, this is one of the finest examples of modern day concepts of a tried and true historic design. Vette
Photos by: Dale Moreau