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Tips on How to Build a 12-Second D/Stock Fuel-Injected 1957 Chevy

Winning Figures

Drew Hardin Jan 8, 2019
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“Can you imagine a stock 283-horse, 283-inch ’57 Chevy that runs in the 12’s? And when we stay stock, we mean 100-percent legal, with nothing more than factory equipment, a set of ‘cheater’ slicks, pistons, and headers.”

So began Terry Cook’s feature in the Jan. 1968 Car Craft magazine about Bob Lambeck’s Chevy 150 sedan, which at the time held the NHRA D/Stock record at 12.85/107.14 and “surprised everyone by topping the Jay Hamilton-Ramon Lowe duo in the ’67 season’s Division 7 NHRA points chase to nail down the number one spot with a whopping 2,500 points.”

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How did he do it? Hard work, Lambeck explained. “When I built the car I was aiming for front runner, so I built it from the ground up. I pulled the body off the frame, sandblasted it, and started building from scratch. I just took my time, tried my best, and built for the class. Good tires and hard work make it run in the 12’s.”

Bob’s approach, Cook said, “goes along with the eastern Junior Stocker ‘science’ attitude—meticulous care and patience, which pay off in the form of record performances.”

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The story went deep into the car’s prep, with much of it devoted to the fuel-injected 283. Lambeck started with a 1962-vintage block as it was already “settled” after a number of heat cycles so its dimensions wouldn’t change after machining. He bored 0.058 over, leaving a bit of room under the 0.060 limit in case “piston wear and re-honing might open a 0.060 overbore past the legal limit.” The crankshaft was micropolished, and the main and rod journals were cut 0.010 and micropolished. Under the crank, a stock Chevy oil pan was deepened “to get the oil level below the crank so windage is eliminated, giving the engine 10 ‘free’ horsepower for added punch at the top end.”

A set of “used, low-mileage, factory 283 rods” was magnafluxed, shotpeened, and fitted with ForgedTrue “aluminum duplicates of the stock buckets.” While the minimum deck height allowed was 0.015, “Bob set his at 0.0165 to allow a 0.0015 legality margin.” The camshaft Lambeck chose was a Chevrolet 098, “better known as the ‘Duntov.’ Bob purchased and inspected six of them before he found one that was ‘choice,’ tolerance-wise.”

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The heads used were late-model versions for the 283, allowed by NHRA “as the ’57 heads are no longer manufactured or generally available.” Since NHRA “does not allow any grinding on the heads” other than “a good valve-seat job,” Lambeck “went to work on the cc’ing.” As with other engine tolerances, he “aimed for 56.0 ccs, providing a legality margin” over the allowed 55.7 ccs per chamber.

The intake manifold and Rochester fuel injection (from a 1961 Corvette) “are both 100 percent stock, as the regs are also very specific on this point.” Likewise the ignition, which included a Chevrolet single-point fuel-injection distributor with no vacuum advance. “At 2,200 rpm the total advance of 36 to 42 degrees is achieved, depending upon tuning conditions. Normally, Bob has a total advance of 38-1/2 degrees. The initial advance is usually not critical, as the engine rarely drops below the 4,500 rpm range during racing.”

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The headers Lambeck mentioned were made by Stahl-Moroso, “and Bob swears by ’em,” said Cook. “Lambeck credits Jere Stahl with his success, as Jere’s advice on the car was followed closely.”

The “parts and pieces view” of the engine, though, was just part of the story, Cook said. “The amazing thing about Bob’s car is the way he and Joe Alreid put the engine together. In short, double-check is the name of the game.” The miking of the crankshaft, for example, was done only after the micrometer itself was checked with a standardized bar of metal. “All miking was done at night, producing a standard temperature.” When checking the mains, “an inside mike without bearings, then with bearings then with crank and Plastigauge, was the procedure. The rods got the same treatment.” Even TDC for each piston was checked twice, with a piston stop and again with a dial indicator. The idea behind all the painstaking care “is simply to be positive that the equipment, the machine work, and the assembly are exactly correct.”

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In all, Cook said, Lambeck’s Chevy took three months and $3,000 to put together. “The 3,210-pound ‘stovebolt’ has recorded a best top speed of 107.48 mph and has belted out a storming 12.71-second elapsed time. Not bad for a 283-283—right, Chevy lovers?”

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Photography by Bob Swaim; Petersen Publishing Co. Archive

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