For car guys, we never forget the cars of our childhood. Be it our parents everyday driver, to the "guy down the street's" asphalt-eating monster, when we're young, certain cars permanently stamp our brains with a memory of loud exhaust and screeching tires.
Growing up, it was almost assured that Miami brothers Gary and Keith Gittleman would become obsessive car nuts. It began when their grandfather, Joe Gittleman, passed his love of fast cars on to their dad, Bob. Not long ago, the brothers sat down and made a list of the high-performance cars the family has owned. The collective number stoodat more than 350, and Keith quickly noted: "Yeah, I guess we've always been into fast cars."
Later years saw several vintage Ferrari's join the family's collection, but the Gittleman clan has always been particularly partial to good old American horsepower--most notably that found in the rumble of a Chevy V-8.
Joe Gittleman got the musclecar bug back when he bought a '60 Chevy Impala, with the tri-power, high-performance 348 W-motor. The white-on-black Impala won plenty of B/Stock trophies and Stock Eliminator titles in its day. Joe's son, Bob, acquired his taste for tire smoke early, going racing with his dad and watching and learning. By the early 1960s, Joe decided to build a car for son Bob to drive--one that was competitive and unique for NHRA's F/Stock class. When they came across a mint, '57 two-door, Two-Ten station wagon, they knew their search had ended. For motivation they decided on a dual carb 270hp 283small-block V-8, the same engine in street animals such as the Corvette. The 270/283 was factory-equipped with a solid-lifter, Duntov "097" cam (last three part number digits "097") and a pair of Rochester 4GC, four-barrel carbs mounted atop a factory aluminum intake. Even withless power than the "283/283" fuel-injected 283, the carb-equipped motor responded better to tuning and modifications. When properly set up, it reportedly produced better power than the FI-equipped engines.
The car itself was exceptionally inconspicuous. Instead of flashy paint, they left it the factory two-tone--bronze and white. For several years they ran the car unmarked with only white shoe polish class and entry numbers applied. No mag wheels, just painted factory steel wheels with Chevy "dog bowl" wheel covers. In those days, Stock Eliminator cars could only run a rear tire with a maximum 7-inch tread width, plus a minimum of two tread grooves. Ludicrous perhaps, but the idea was to keep the class entries as close to stock as possible. Joe and Bob complied, installing a set of Casler 7-inch "cheater slicks" made from a racing rubber compound, with the two mandatory grooves. A set of homemade traction bars cancelled wheel-hop and planted the tires on asphalt or concrete, allowing the high-winding 283 to leave the line at almost any rpm that driver Bob chose. After it became well known in the southern region, the car was treated to bold, hand-painted lettering and crowned "Xcellerator," a name that proved exceptionally accurate.
Never ones to embrace shiftlessness, Joe opted for the optional Borg-Warner, T-10 four-speed to transfer power from the 283 to the rear wheels. Bob quickly showed his prowess for timely starting line "leaves" and wide-open-throttle power shifts. To build the 270/283 engine, Joe and Bob chose Bob Fulp, a Ft. Lauderdale engine whiz with a solid reputation for stout drag motors. Fulp had come to South Florida via California, learning plenty of engine building techniques from the "Left Coast" racers.