1957 Chevy Black Widow - Changing Horses

This New-Age Black Widow Switched Owners Mid-Stream

John Lee Jul 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)
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Unlike some of the Johnny-come-latelys who believe a '55-56-57 Chevy is the only way to fly, Bill Smith remembers them well when they were new cars. In fact, if he hadn't had all his available cash tied up in a new '56, he might very well have stepped in line to order a fuel-injected Black Widow in '57.

As it was, he was struggling to build up his five-year-old business, Speedway Motors, while enjoying both drag and circle track racing on the side. Sticking to business proved to be the right way to go. Bill and his wife, Joyce, built Speedway into the largest mail order speed equipment enterprise in the land, and they're both still at work every day to keep it that way. Speedway's success has made it possible for Bill to assemble The Smith Collection, probably the world's most extensive collection of rare and exotic racing engines, pedal cars, tether race cars and, of course, fullsize classics, hot rods, and street machines. When he heard about the '57 Chevy Dale Boesch was building for a customer, Bill saw a chance to acquire in one package two treasures his collection lacked: An outstanding example of the icon of the '50s, the '57 Chevy, and an example of the work of one of the country's top car builders.

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Rather than changing horses in mid-stream, as the saying goes, this became a case of the horse changing owners in mid-construction. Bill came to terms with Jim Harman, who had commissioned the car, and Dale finished the project for the new owner in his Humphrey, Nebraska, shop. His intention from the outset was to build a '57 150 two-door into a modern version of the legendary Black Widow. The Black Widow was Chevrolet's factory-legal race car, a 3,000-pound two-door sedan with the new fuel-injected 283 between the fenders. Boesch's idea of bringing the concept into the late '90s was to swap in a new 502 crate motor with fuel injection by Street and Performance, along with an HEI ignition and HPC-coated exhaust. This powerplant was fronted by an aluminum Griffin radiator and backed by a 700-R4 trans and a Currie Enterprises 9-inch rear with 4.11:1 gearing and Explorer disc brakes.

With the chassis updated to match the new power source, only the original frame rails remained. Boesch mounted the rearend with an Air Ride Technologies suspension kit designed for a '90 Chevy pickup and modified the same company's '57 air spring kit for the front, while also installing Fat Man Fabrications narrowed tubular control arms. A 605 power steering box was hooked to an ididit-built GM tilt column, and a Chevelle donated its front disc brakes. Boesch moved the rear inner wheelwells in flush with the frame rails to accommodate specially-built Budnik 18x12-inch rear wheels and 28x12.5x18 Goodyear Eagle rain tires. The 17x8-inch Budniks up front were fit with 235/45R17 Goodyear rubber.

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Most of the body trim was removed, with the rest painted to match the body's black DuPont Chromabase paint. The Moss Green pearl two-tone on the upper rear quarter panels is barely discernable. Jack Edwards, of Omaha, Nebraska, finished the Black Widow hoax by airbrushing on the simple 150 trim and fuel injection emblems. Both front and rear bumpers were welded into one piece and the bolt holes filled. The front bumper bullets were removed and the mounts filled, then the grille opening was filled with a Carriage Works billet grille. Speedway headlight lenses replaced the originals, and new gray tint glass was installed all around.

True to the Black Widow tradition, this '57 is no-nonsense-radio and heater delete, no air conditioning, wipers or power brakes, and crank-up windows. The only concessions to creature comfort are '95 Grand Prix bucket seats front and rear and sumptuous black leather upholstery by Tracy Weaver of The Recovery Room in Omaha. "Go" and "Stop" pedals are from Lokar, and Custom Rod gauges replace the originals. Otherwise the dash has been smoothed with control switches housed in the glove box.

Like its namesake, this Black Widow is one fearsome creature!

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