Lot #1: 1957 Chevrolet Corvette "Airbox Fuelie" (Not Available)
One of the most historically important sportscars of all time
- Purpose Built by Chevrolet for racing
- NCRS Top Flight; Bloomington Gold
- Bloomington Hall of Fame; Bloomington Great Hall
- Never before offered publicly
One of the most historically important sports cars – on either side of the Atlantic – ever designed and built, marking the definitive turning point when the Corvette matured into America’s one and only sports car capable of competing – and winning – wherever it appeared. One of only 43 factory-built “Airbox” Fuel-Injected Corvette roadsters built in all for 1957 and one of only some 17-25 known remaining today. Excellent provenance and stunning, exquisitely preserved restoration by “Airbox” specialist Dick Robinson to top show-quality standard. The most highly decorated example of these all-out performers in existence with NCRS Top Flight and Bloomington Gold awards, membership in the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame, and elite status as one of only 50 individual cars enshrined within the Bloomington Gold Great Hall.
Specifications: 283 bhp, 283 cu. in. V-8 engine, Rochester mechanical fuel injection with factory “Airbox” cold-air intake system, Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual transmission, RPO 684 Heavy Duty Racing Suspension, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and hydraulic four-wheel finned drum brakes with Cerametallix linings. Wheelbase: 102”
Historic as the turning point in American sports-car and racing development
Regarded by Corvette collectors as the finest, lowest-mileage “Airbox Fuelie”
The most highly decorated 1957 Corvette “Airbox Fuelie” in existence today
NCRS Top Flight Award Winner, 1988 and 2010; Bloomington Gold certified
Inducted into the elite Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame
One of the 50 cars enshrined in the Bloomington Gold Great Hall (2013)
Factory-built ’57 “Airbox Fuelie” with low mileage believed original
One of just 43 factory Fuel-Injected “Airbox” cars built in all
One of 51 cars with RPO 684 Heavy Duty Racing Suspension option
Exceptional rarity as 1 of 17 to 25 “Airbox” cars known remaining today
While much has been written about Zora Arkus-Duntov and his singular and successful quest to turn Chevrolet’s stylish but relatively tame early Corvette into a world-beating tour de force, the importance of his work simply cannot be overstated. During only his first three years at GM, Duntov not only helped prevent the Corvette’s early demise, he convinced Chevrolet management to build exciting cars and prove them on the racetrack to capitalize on the fast-growing and lucrative postwar youth market. Chevrolet’s engineering chief, Ed Cole, wholeheartedly agreed. Tirelessly, and even at great risk to his personal safety, Duntov whipped the Corvette into a world-beater, spearheading its development into a success story on the racetrack and showroom floor that continues uninterrupted today. Of all the great race-bred Corvettes conceived and built during Duntov’s watch at Chevrolet, the extremely rare and near-mythical “Airbox Fuelie” of 1957 is quite likely the most important in the annals of Corvette history. This stunning example is undoubtedly one of – if not the – finest of all survivors remaining today.
Following the launch of Chevrolet’s revolutionary and powerful OHV small-block V-8 engine for 1955 and its availability in the Corvette, Duntov and his engineers released Chevy’s first high-performance options including the hot ‘Duntov’ solid-lifter cam and “Dual Quad” intake setup in 1956. Stronger high-performance parts were designed, tested, relentlessly perfected, and soon populated a severe-duty parts pipeline for Chevy buyers and racers alike. Speed records quickly fell to Chevrolet, including new marks set by Duntov in a camouflaged ’56 Chevrolet sedan at Pikes Peak in 1955. At the 1956 NASCAR Daytona Beach Speed Week, Duntov went over 150 mph in a lightly modified Corvette and more records were set by the three-Corvette team, with Duntov, John Fitch, and Betty Skelton driving. For the March 1956 Sebring road races, Ed Cole hired successful racer John Fitch to prepare the Corvette and despite some of the car’s lingering deficiencies, Fitch and co-driver Walt Hansgen took a class win. The lessons gained from Sebring directly led to the development work and components that soon honed the Corvette into a true track-bound terror.
During this frenetic period, John Dolza and Chevy engineers were busy developing the Rochester mechanical fuel-injection system, which provided precise fuel delivery and eliminated the fuel starvation and flooding normally encountered with carbureted racing engines. While inspired by the fuel-injected Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a production-car first, Chevy’s Rochester FI system benefited from Duntov’s insistence on measuring the mass of the incoming airflow into the Corvette’s engine, the system still in common use today, rather than Mercedes’ simpler speed-density system. Rated power output of the “Fuelie” engine – now displacing 283 cubic inches by ’57 – was 250 horsepower with a milder hydraulic camshaft and Powerglide automatic transmission, and up to 283 horsepower with the solid-lifter “Duntov” cam and manual transmission. Famously, in this top specification, the fuel-injected 1957 Corvette earned everlasting fame as the first American car to produce 1 horsepower of output per cubic inch of engine displacement. Behind this landmark achievement, Duntov had broken his back while testing a car in April 1956, miraculously returning to work against doctors’ orders with a Scottish kilt covering his body-cast, just in time to participate in the final stages of the fuel-injected engine’s development and production-approval process!
In addition to the Corvette’s world-beating RPO 579E fuel-injected engine, the 1957 Corvette was also available with Regular Production Options (RPO) including RPO 684, the Heavy-Duty racing suspension package including all the developments from the Sebring racing cars, including heavy-duty springs and shocks, an extra leaf in the rear springs, and finned brake drums with Cerametallix linings, vented backing plates, and cooling scoops, plus air ducts running into the rear fender wells and through the rocker panels to direct cooler air to the rear brakes. Larger 15 X 5.5-inch wheels, a Positraction differential with three available gear ratios, and – for the first time – a 4-speed manual transmission, were key components of RPO 684. Just 51 Corvettes were so equipped. While the Rochester fuel-injection system was indeed a quantum leap forward, updates to the FI system developed by Fitch were available by April 1957, the biggest of which being the now-legendary fiberglass “Airbox” mounted to the inner-fender panel at the driver’s side drawing cooler, higher-density air from a space cut out of the left side of the radiator support. Special ductwork on both the left and right sides of the radiator support cooled the rear brake drums and the front brakes were cooled with special air ducts built into the backing plates for each drum. In addition to ensuring a proper cold-air charge for the fuel-injected engine, the “Airbox” was perfected to correct unfavorable pressure differentials with input from legendary racer and engine expert “Smokey” Yunick. Duntov received patents on his fuel induction system, the manifold for it, and the cold-air enrichment device or “Airbox.”
Producing 283 rated horsepower, the “Airbox Fuelie” was a ferocious performer capable of 0-to-60 acceleration in just 5.7 seconds, with Road & Track declaring it “…faster in acceleration than anything else that can be bought for use on the road.” Ample proof was delivered by Dr. Dick “The Flying Dentist” Thompson, who won the GT 5.0 Class at Sebring with Swiss co-driver Gaston Andrey and the SCCA B-Production National Championship in 1957 with this potent Corvette. Just 43 fuel-injected Corvettes – dubbed “Airbox” cars – were purpose-built for racing in 1957 including RPO 684. In June 1957, only a few months after this car’s release, the infamous and short-lived Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (AMA) racing ban halted GM’s factory racing activities, making the ‘57 “Airbox Fuelie” the only solid rear-axle Corvette designed and produced with the full energy, support, and resources of Chevrolet behind it. Of course, despite GM’s exit from overt factory-backed racing, cars and parts still trickled out to capable privateers with the right factory connections. Depending upon the source consulted, between 17 and 25 “Airbox” cars exist today.
Simply stunning in presentation, this 1957 “Airbox Fuelie” is quite likely the finest and most-decorated example of these extremely rare, race-bred performers. In addition to the legendary RPO 579E engine, features include a 4.11:1 Positraction differential, large 15 X 5.5-inch wheels, an auxiliary hardtop only (no soft top), heater and radio delete options, and an 8,000-rpm tachometer. It retains the original 1957 fuel-injected engine and factory “Airbox.” Only an approximate 12,700 miles – believed original – have been traveled. Built on August 5, 1957, known owners date back to circa 1970, when it was purchased by Daniel Lee Hall of Cerritos, California. Mr. Hall retained it until March 15, 1987, when he sold this very special Corvette to Frank and Loni Buck of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dick Robinson, an “Airbox” Corvette specialist, restored the car in 1987-1988. According to a conversation between the Consignor and Mr. Robinson conducted during February 2014, the car was thankfully never raced. He further confirmed the Corvette retained the all-original fiberglass body panels and mechanicals which were in great condition. Even the car’s specific 8,000-rpm tachometer and its mounting bracket were all original. He also verified that the engine was a 100 percent original ‘57 FI engine and while there is no way to guarantee the engine was original to the car, because no date stamps were applied to the engine blocks in 1957, Mr. Robinson was able to verify that the “Airbox” assembly was 100 percent original and that these units were assembled to the fender by Chevrolet at the Corvette factory. During the call, he further stated “…this is the finest example I have ever seen of an original 1957 “Airbox.” In October 1990, Irwin Kroiz of Ambler, Pennsylvania purchased this car from Frank and Loni Buck; in late 2013, it was sold by Mr. Kroiz to the Consignor.
Along the way, this exemplary 1957 Corvette “Airbox” was awarded NCRS Top Flight (1988 and 2010) and Bloomington Gold certification. It was also inducted into the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame and most recently in 2013, it was selected as one of 50 individual Corvettes to be enshrined within the Bloomington Gold Great Hall. It was also invited to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was displayed in 2014. Judging sheets, awards, and an impressive document binder accompany the rare Corvette at auction. Collectible and coveted today for so many reasons, from its rarity and all-out racing specifications to its expert restoration, this top-echelon, multiple award-winning 1957 “Airbox Fuelie” marks the definitive origins of the Corvette as a factory production-ready racing car and it stands today as a simply wonderful piece of living motorsports history. Steeped in racing lore with development including such luminaries as Zora Arkus-Duntov, John Fitch, and many others, it is an outstanding example of the car that forever changed the course of American sports-car development and engineering. It forced the long-dominant European manufacturers and racing teams to finally acknowledge that the upstart Americans had finally set a new standard for the world to follow, one that continues today.
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