Bred To Race - 1957 Corvette

The 1957 model year marked the true beginning of Corvette performance. One ride in this un-restored '57 confirms it all.

Jim Richardson Nov 13, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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Corvette had finally hit on the winning combination. Of course, only 240 out of the 6,339 Corvettes produced in 1957 came with fuel injection, and relatively few had the four-speed T10 transmission introduced in midyear. However the car was equipped, it was a fun car to drive, with performance enough to scare all but the most resolute and committed. Our test car had neither feature, but was still a real brawler on the road.

Unfortunately, racing had become progressively more dangerous, and the '55 crash of Pierre Levegh into the crowd at Le Mans that killed over 80 spectators had put a damper on factory racing to the point where the AMA (Automobile Manufacturer's Association) banned all factory sponsorship in 1957, just when Corvette was poised to make a real name for itself. Of course, Corvettes were raced privately, and Duntov continued his efforts out the back door at GM, but it wouldn't be until 1963 that General Motors would get into officially racing again.

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But that was then and this is now, and if anything, our red '57 Corvette roadster is a bigger hit today than it was in its own time. Sporting around town in this stunning classic, nimbly out performing most of the modern iron is just as big a thrill as it was 49 years ago. The sound, smell, and feel of an open roadster with all the horsepower you can use is hard to beat. The '57 Corvettes weren't cheap when they were new, and they are not cheap now, but they were worth every penny of the sales price then and still are at today's prices.

This exceptional '57 belongs to Ray Najjar of Thousand Oaks, California. He is only the third owner of this immaculate example. Ray purchased the numbers-matching car five years ago as a show car project, but discovered that it was just too good to be restored. oddly enough, this rare, original, dual-quad car with a three-speed standard tranny and a 4:11 rearend was sold with heater and radio deletes instead of these common accessories.

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Ray says he loves driving the car, but his wife prefers his '06 model because of its creature comforts and amenities. "It's a handful to drive with its solid axle and drum brakes all around, but it is certainly exciting, and everywhere we go people have to stop and look at the car. Its original bias-ply tires don't grip the road the way modern radials do either. But one thing I really like is, I can still tinker with this car because it's all right out there where you can get at it in the engine compartment. With my 2006, I had to buy the six-year maintenance contract. I'll never sell the '57. It'll go to my son, and perhaps grandsons."

Ray Najjar's
'57 Corvette by the Numbers

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General Information
Year: 1957
Make: Chevrolet
Series: E
Model: Corvette
Engine: 283 ci
Horsepower: 270
Transmission: Three-Speed Saginaw
Engine Code suffix: EG

Casting No.: 3731548
Main: Two-bolt

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Cylinder Head
Casting No.: 3740997 (Cast Iron)
Intake/Exhaust Valve Size: 1.72/1.50
Combustion Chamber: 55.6685

Intake Manifold (Aluminum)
Casting No.: 3739653

2x4 Carter WCFB

Exhaust Manifolds
Casting (Left Hand) No.: 3733975
Casting (Right Hand) No.: 3733976

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Stamping No.: 1110891
Engine/HP/Application: 283/270 HP
Housing: Cast Iron Bowl Distributor
Point: Dual
Notes: No Vacuum Advance, Standpipe Oiler

1102043 30 Amp Std., Tach Drive

Three-Speed Saginaw (Close Ratio)
Maincase: Cast Iron
Tailhousing: Cast Iron
Type: Synchromesh
Gear Ratios:
1st: 2.21:1
2nd: 1.32:1
3rd: Direct
Reverse: 2.21:1
Maincase No.: 3845122 All
Tailhousing No.: 3737450
Sidecover No.: 3731911
Special Information: This tailhousing transmission is different on Passenger and Corvette. The Corvette tailhousing has three tapped holes cast into the housing to accept the Corvette-only floor shifter. All Passenger models used the column shifter. Early 1957 No. 3737450 tailhousings do not have casting dated codes. Later tailhousings are dated in the same way as are the maincases. Very early '57 Corvette three-speed transmissions carried the No. 3722946 tailhousing, which was a non-vented, non-dated tailhousing. The No. 3730450 was initially vented, but not dated until mid-April of 1957 when dates were added to the left side of the casting.

1957 Rear Axles
All '57 Corvette rear axles are stamped with an alpha-numeric code, which identifies the build source, axle ratio, and date of manufacture.

The axle code is located on the front right or passenger side of the differential carrier at the same height as the axle tube. The axle code will read from left to right or bottom to top. The prefix or two-letter code designates the gear ratio and any other specific information about that rear differential. This code also refers to the manufacturer or source which built the rearend.

The numbers following the letter prefix designate the calendar month and day that axle was produced. From the 1955 through 1962 model years the calendar month was designated by a one-number code from January (1) through September (9). The October through December codes were designated as 10-12 respectively. Beginning with the '63 model year, all month designations begin with a "0" so the January date code would show "01" instead of "1" as in previous years.

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These rear axles were part of number 684 option code released approximately 3/1/57, which included heavy-duty brakes and suspensions.

From Corvette by the Numbers by Alan Colvin, used with permission of Robert Bentley Publishers.


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