1957 Corvette Airbox Car - Factory-Backed And Fully Packed

This '57 "Airbox Car" Was An Open-Track Threat Right Off The Assembly Line

Wayne Ellwood Apr 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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This freshly restored '57 "airbox car" was quite a find for Sean Hussey and his brothers, Kent and Kevin. Actually, the trio didn't really find the car so much as the car found them. We spoke with Sean and Kent about the story.

As it turns out, it was Kevin who was sitting in a bar one night, talking Corvette restoration with a friend. At some point, the friend asked what was involved in restoring a '57 race car to mint condition.

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Like the rest of the car, the interior has been returned to as-raced condition.

After seeing the poor condition of the car in question, Kevin averred that a rebuild was likely to be an expensive proposition. If the guy decided to sell, however, Kevin said he might be willing to take the Vette off his hands. He knew his brothers were interested in adding an older car to their collection, and this one looked to be as good as any other, provided the price was right. A few days later, the owner called with an offer to sell. A deal was struck, and the Husseys took possession of the car.

At first, the three were completely unaware of the Vette's impressive pedigree. It was clear the car had been raced, but it wasn't until after the resto had gotten underway that the brothers started to notice some unusual hardware. Their first thought was that the parts were aftermarket modifications that had been added by racers. But as they saw more unique equipment, the idea that these items were actually factory options started to evolve.

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Finned brake drums with sintered cerametallix linings were state-of-the-art for North America in the mid '50s.

Kevin, a longtime NCRS member, re-searched the pieces in some of his old magazines. It was there that he learned about the competition-oriented-and ultra-rare-RPO 684 and RPO 579E "airbox" options (see sidebar), both of which appeared to be present on the car. Suddenly, the '57 was starting to look like much more of a prize.

To verify the Vette's bona fides, the brothers took it to the '04 NCRS Regional Meet in Orlando, Florida. There, vintage-Corvette experts Noland Adams and Kevin Mackay handled the task of authenticating the car. At this point, only one questioned remained: Should they restore the '57 to NCRS-correct specs or rebuild it as a functioning historic racer?

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Leather trunk and hood straps were reproduced to period standards.

In the end, the decision to pursue the vintage-racer route wasn't hard. The brothers had a long history of racing Corvettes-both on drag strips and on road courses-so the idea of building an as-campaigned C1 track car appealed to them on a personal level

The decision to ship the car to Legendary Motorcar in Halton Hills, Ontario, for restoration was also an easy one. If the Vette was as rare as it seemed, it had to be restored properly. Legendary, whose handiwork can be seen regularly on the SPEED channel, had the facilities and the expertise to do the job.

The car was completed early in 2007, just in time for the Bloomington Gold event in June. It then appeared at the Corvettes at Carlisle show, where it helped commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the '57 Corvette. It even put in an appearance at the Monterey Historics.

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The airbox feature-which was mounted on the driver side, just ahead of the brake master cylinder-was designed to draw cool intake air from outside the engine bay. These engines, which carried RPO 579E, represented a high-water mark for horsepower in this era.

As for the car's competition history, the Husseys were able to determine that the Vette was delivered new to Bob Mouat, who raced it in SCCA events throughout the northeastern U.S. They suspect Mouat was one of the early members of the DC Corvette Club, which, incidentally, also listed Zora Arkus-Duntov as a charter member.

As delivered, the car came with the RPO 579E engine and a long list of other factory-installed pieces that completed the RPO 684 Heavy Duty Racing Suspension option. The $7,026.30 charge for 579E was a huge sum in 1957, representing a large percentage of the total cost of a stock car.

Also included from the factory were an electric fuel pump, traction bars, and a competition exhaust. Originally black, the car was repainted red for its last year of racing, in 1964 The change in color stemmed from the Vette's sale to a local car dealer named "Red" Huffman, who wanted to use it as a promotional tool (Mouat stayed on as the car's driver)




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