Think back to the late '50s when Chevrolet had just introduced the ever-so-popular 1957 Chevy Bel Air. It was an iconic car to most and a dream car to so many little boys who got bit by the car bug at an early age.
As the years flew buy, Kevin Kaiser of Derby, Kansas, fed his automotive addiction by working at gas stations. Eventually he turned his nitch for working on cars into building custom exhausts for hot rodders. On Kevin's 16th birthday, his grandmother delivered on her promise and handed over her keys to her '57. Now the next question is pretty easy to answer for most of us. What does a 16-year-old do when he his handed the keys to a '57 Chevy? That's right; take it out for a run to see what it needs to make it faster.
With a tweak here and there, Kevin had his '57 prowling the streets to show off his workmanship. Then, the unthinkable happened, the car was wrecked. After searching all around for the parts needed to bring his car back to driving status, a car was located on an Indian reservation. With its red rusted-out body, no motor or transmission, he used its spare parts along with what he could salvage from his grandmother's car to rebuild. Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks, and Kevin put forth extra effort to make things right. This was not only a valuable lesson for a teenager to learn, but one that has stuck with him his whole life.
During the first part of the rebuilding phase, Kevin decided to swap out the old stock motor with a 427 big-block. The motor was sent over to Mike Schill-Saum Engineering to have it bored 0.060 over to bring its displacement up to 439 ci. Once the short-block was back from the machine shop, the motor was then handed over to Doug Botkin for its re-assembly. The stock steel crank was married up with a set of 6.385 steel Eagle rods then mated up to a J&E forged piston. That combination brought this big-block breather down to a compression ratio of 9:00 to 1.
Can't miss the wheel tubs that house the Mickey Thompson Sportsman 313/18-20s—that's just
Note the eight-point rollcage; serious tubing for a car with a serious amount of power.
A pair of '88 T-bird buckets was recovered in light gray leather while the carpeting is a
Going into the center of the block, a COMP Cams hydraulic roller cam with 0.660-0.690 lift and 0.296-0.306 duration was installed to give the whole combination a beautiful heartbeat. To exhale the exhaust gases away from those massive pistons, Kevin chose a set of Po Topline 0.320cc Aluminum heads with stainless valves and COMP Cams triple springs. On top of those heads resides a beautiful set of Harland-Sharp rollers. To complete the long block, a Weiand intake manifold and 8-71 Weiand blower was mounted up to a set of 850 Demon blower carbs. All being topped off by a BDS blower scoop with K&N air filters. To ignite this lively package, a Mallory Unilite distributor with MSD6BTM box feed the spark though a set of MSD wires to each spark plug. Up next was Kevin's domain, the exhaust system, and he wasn't just going to use any over-the-counter system. He built his headers out of 2 1/8-inch primary tubes with 4-inch collectors flowing down to a custom 4-inch mandrel-bent tubes coupled with a set of SpinTech mufflers.
Kevin knew that not just any stock transmission would do. His plan was to have the wizard known as Rucker Massey at Massey Transmission perform his magic on the Turbo 350 transmission. It was then time to mate up a Marty Chance 2,800-stall converter and a TCI Automotive flywheel, all before mounting the combination back in between the car's frame.
The rear section of the frame was narrowed 10-1/2 inches per side to be able to fit massive-sized wheels. Then stretched 1-1/2 inches over stock in the rear to center the tall tires in the wheel openings. The 12-bolt rearend was taken from a '70 Impala, narrowed and stuffed with 4.10 gears topped off with Moser axles and a US Gear Posi-Track. The 30-inch modified supper slapper bars married up to the stock leaf springs in the rear. The frontend now sits lower thanks to having one coil removed from the Moroso drag springs. A set of four-piston Wilwood disc brakes at the corners brings this horsepower beast back to halt.
Budnik was called up to make Kevin's car stand out with a set of their Teardrop-style rims; 18x7 up front and a jaw-dropping 20x15 out back. Mickey Thompson Sportsman 26-8:00-18s and 313/18-20s beautifully wrapped over the rims to give Kevin the perfect look he was after.
Immediately recognized are the Budnik wheel, Auto Meter gauges, and the B&M shifter.
A unique touch is the half-hood that flips up to allow access to the radiator.
Within the big-block Chevy are lots of COMP Cams goodies, along with a Weiand 8-71 blower
It was time to send the body over to Bruce Philbrook, Gerry Heinrich, and Jay Cheever went to work on this once-rusted-out body. A unique body mod was ordered up by making a custom two-piece hood. This allowed the '57 to keep its unique design in the front while allowing the blower/scoop to be displayed to anyone who wanted to know just what was going on in the engine bay. A beautiful coat of Sherwin-Williams two-stage black paint was laid over the now ever-so-smooth body. The final touch to the exterior was the treatment of the freshly polished stainless pieces by Bryan Cushenbery.
With the body all finished up and mated up with the chassis, the interior was next in line. Kevin took his car to the experts Scott and John at Downey's Auto Upholstery. The first order at hand was to fabricate an eight-point rollcage. The dash had the speaker grille shaved and painted gray. Pete's Fabrication polished aluminum panels were inserted into the dash. A set of '88 Ford Thunderbird seats were recovered with gray leather while the floor was covered in dark gray cut pile carpet with gray leather spider web accents around the rollcage bars. The choice of a steering wheel was a no-brainer; the Budnik Teardrop leather half wrap gave Kevin the perfect piece to hold onto while his right foot did the talking. A stereo system was kept out of the mix because who needs a stereo when you have an 8-71 big-block making all the music one would ever need?
With the '57 all back in one piece, Kevin was amazed over how it all came together. He would like to thank his wife and everyone who had a part in bringing this car to life once again.
COMP Performance Group Tech Tips
The Importance of Suction
If you want to run a Thumpr cam on a street rod and have air conditioning and power brakes you will have to run a vacuum pump. Thumpr cams are not big vacuum-producing camshafts.
Making Sense of Sensor Mounting
The FAST Wide-Band O2 Sensor should be mounted at 20 inches from the last exhaust port at an angle so that no condensation will collect in it. Twenty-four inches of pipe is also needed after the sensor so the reading will not be diluted. The exhaust system must also be free of any leaks.
The Importance of Filter Positioning
Be sure that Inglese Snap-In Stack Filters are properly secured in the stacks. They are designed specifically to not restrict airflow, but may not reach their full potential if not installed properly. You should feel some resistance as they snap snugly into the snack, ensuring that they are positioned correctly.