In the late-'50s, John decided it was time to run with the big dogs. From 1958-62, an assortment of different events were tried-from drag strips and gymkhannas to runs and ovals. In 1961 he installed a 327 fuel-injected small-block and gave the Midwestern Council of Sports Cars Club a try. This seemed to put him in front of the pack, as he placed first on his maiden race. Soon after receiving a racing license, life intervened. His girlfriend at the time, Alice, reminded John that he was going to have to stop racing soon because they were going to get married in the fall, and they needed to save money. So, as it happens to the best of us, the dog was kicked out of the bed and into the garage, where it stayed until 1978, when it was placed back into running status. Then, in 1987, John was at Road America in Wisconsin and coming down the front straight reading a steady 8,500 in high gear. Not bad for a tired-out motor-until a connecting rod came through the side of the powerhouse. "It was time for a new motor," John stated, "I used a blueprinted '57 block, and although I thought the 327 ci was good, this old 283 was something else! It dyno'd very high for what it was. I just had to replace the block in 2001. I used another '57 block, since I could reuse most of the parts on the old one."
With all this talk about engine, tranny, and differential changes, you might just be surprised about what has not been changed. John is actually a stock-car type-of-guy. He loves racing, but he loves his car just as much. For instance, the frame is original and, yes, that is the original, stock paint! "The women, including my wife, razz me a lot about the paint. I just tell them, 'With 170,000-plus miles on you, you'd be the same way.' The NCRS tells me not to repaint or restore it. It'll ruin the character," John declared. The recent addition of a 283ci engine mated to the Muncie four-speed transmission, which moves 15X7s wrapped in Goodyear 255/60-15s, puts the power to the floor every time John feels the need to put the peddle to the metal. And with this current combination, a top speed of 145 mph can be reached. So far, the best quarter-mile John has done was 13.94 seconds at a speed on 103.44 mph. And if you think that this old 'dawg can only make it short distances, you'd be wrong! Joh's longest trip so far has been Chicago, Illinois, to Keywest, Florida. So, when you see John Luther coming down the street in his pride-and-joy '57, we suggest taking a moment to see what's really in front of you. It's not pretty by Top Flight standards, it's not a Bloomington Gold winner, and it's not ashow-stopping trainer queen. It's exactly what John wants it to be-his. And for those of you that might pester him about the use of his vehicle, watch out...It may bite.