Once a Vetterod, always a Vetterod.
That's the history behind Don Laustrup's '57 Corvette, which he originally hot-rodded back in the early '60s, and later had restored and modified.
Bought in 1960 for $2,050, the Vette was Laustrup's daily driver and drag-race car while the Navy stationed him in Northern California. Early on, the original 283 gave way to a new-in-the-crate high-performance 327, compliments of his father. "At the time I put it in the car, it was the third high-performance 327 Chevrolet built that didn't go into a production car," Laustrup recalls. "At least that's what the guy at the dealership told me," he adds, while saying that he still has the crate that 327 came in.
During that time, Laustrup bought a '55 Chevy Nomad, which became the Vette's tow car during its racing days, and also towed it when Laustrup and his family moved during his Navy career. Another Nomad (a '56) also joined the Laustrup fleet in those years, with the Corvette seeing more and more garage time as his family grew.
After Laustrup left the Navy and became a civilian flight instructor, the '57 was stored as his work took him around the western United States, from California to Nevada to Colorado.
In 1985, Laustrup and his wife, Vyanne, decided to restore the Vette. "It had 79,000 miles on it then, and a lot of those were tow miles," he says.
Unfortunately, a job change the next year shelved those plans while the '57 was in pieces. Laustrup decided to keep the less-than-intact Vette instead of selling it or parting it out. "I had to put it in the back side of the garage until I found another job," he says.
Sometime later, the project got going, and it was completed about three years ago. That was thanks in no small part to the help of his son, Chip, as well as Billy and Randy Summers at F&M Performance and Machine in Wheatridge, Colorado. They assembled the "long-rod" 400-inch small-block that now powers the '57, to the tune of 311 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, per the dyno.
Laustrup says the 400's output so impressed Barry Lynch, owner of Dyno Pro in Denver (and weekend racer), he told Chip the '57 was the most powerful car he had ever driven on the street. Laustrup adds, "It does it all around 6,000 rpm—you don't have to push it to get the power out of it. You can take it further up, but its comfort zone is 6,000."
The long-rod 400 was originally the idea of Chevy-engine guru Bob "Dr. Horsepower" Hahn. Its muscle comes courtesy of its long-rod design, which uses 350-length rods with wristpins mounted farther up inside the piston than the original Chevy small-block 400. This configuration keeps the same stroke while also holding the engine together at high rpm, as the angular velocity of the long rod bearing is slower going around the crank journal than a stock 400's is.
The heads are Edelbrock Performer RPMs, and two Carter 625 AFB four-barrels sit atop a vintage Edelbrock 2x4 intake that Laustrup found in a salvage yard in Idaho Falls, Idaho, years ago.
Backing the 400 is a Tremec five-speed, which necessitated a shorter driveshaft. The original '57 rearend housing is filled with a Positraction unit and 3.70 gears.
Laustrup kept the original '57 Corvette suspension design, but added rear lowering blocks and lowered front uprights to subtract 2.5 inches of ride height all around, turning this C1 into a road-grabbing canyon carver. (A set of custom-built Rally wheels by Jim Lyon at True Design Wheel in Wheatridge, shod with Goodyear radials, also help with the handling.)
The body is all original and wears its Porsche Arctic Silver paint proudly. That paint color was chosen by Laustrup's youngest daughter, Anna, and the "micro sequins" in it are thanks to his third granddaughter, Aubrey. The bodywork and paint were done by Jeff Showalter at ColorWorks in Denver. Before paint, Kelley Fitzgerald made sure that the body was mounted correctly, and that the gaps in the doors, hood, and trunk matched, (He also handmade the radiator shroud and custom-built the wire loom after Laustrup burned up the first one.) For comfort, there's a Vintage Air HVAC system, installed by Lee Bumgardner at Zoomers in Denver.
When the '57 was finished, Don and Chip took it to Goodguys' Del Mar (California) Nationals. "We trailered it out there, and took it out of the trailer when we were about 100 miles outside of San Diego," says the elder Laustrup. "We drove it in to Del Mar just to make sure that we'd be able to drive it, and it ran just fine."
Unlike a lot of resto-rodded C1s, whose first-generation fiberglass covers fourth- or fifth-gen powertrains and chassis, Laustrup used vintage Chevrolet hardware to build what you see here. Also unlike those others, which spent many years in stock configuration before they were modified, Laustrup's '57 was—and still is—the very definition of a Vetterod.