Out of hibernation after more than 40 years.
We measure it, attempt to save it, sometimes waste it. Yet time marches on. Weeks turn into years, years to decades, and that old race car remains in the corner. They’re out there, gathering dust in garages, old race cars with history, timeslips stuffed in the glovebox, shredded slicks hardened by time. This ’57 Corvette is just such a car, having rested peacefully from 1969 until 2012. But this is a 1960s gasser without a timeslip.
In those days, a gasser was simply the working man’s race car. In “Anytown, USA,” local tracks were filled with gassers. And while gassers were a common sight at dragstrips across the country, it seems Ohio became synonymous with the word gasser, and that’s where this story begins and ends.
The first week of October 1966 impacted two young men and a pair of ’57 Corvettes 2,200 miles apart. In San Diego, California, a young sailor named Randy Gelvin had just finished a four-year hitch in the Navy and decided to head home to Dayton, Ohio, driving his silver ’57 Corvette. During that same week another young man, Don Goodpaster, sold the ’57 Corvette he had purchased in Dayton back in 1964.
As fate would have it, Don saw Randy’s Corvette the day it rolled into town. It was October 10, 1966, when Randy arrived back home. Don remembers seeing the car parked, and it only took him a couple of days to locate the owner. By October 13, Don was driving his second ’57 Corvette. Randy would motor down to the local Chevrolet dealer to order a brand-new ’66 427/425hp Corvette.
The Vette Don purchased was an original 283/283 fuelie. While the car was in storage in California, the fuel-injection unit and Borgwarner T-10 four-speed had been stolen. Randy located a four-speed and installed a four-barrel intake and carburetor on the original motor for the drive home. The car was red with red interior when it left the factory, but it was now painted silver. Don was
just the third owner of the car.
It wasn’t long before Don started making changes. The original 283 was freshened, including balancing the engine and replacing the carburetor with a replacement 4900R 283/283 Rochester fuelinjection unit. Next, the 3.36 open rear gear was changed to a 4.56 Posi unit.
The car’s nicely flared rear wheelwells had been done somewhere in California. The teeth were removed from the grille; and after filling the holes, the grille bar was re-plated. Don took the car to Jim Thompson, who gently reworked the flares and laid down a fresh coat of silver paint. A set of aluminum Torq-thrust wheels wrapped with fresh Firestone Indy tires completed the performance look. Inside, a black rolled-and-pleated interior added a custom touch.
In this configuration, the Corvette did well at local shows and was street driven, but not during the winter months. The last time the Corvette was driven on the street was June 1, 1969, carrying Don to his brother’s wedding. By June 2, gasser fever had taken hold.
From Street to Strip, Almost
The first step toward the gasser conversion was the installation of a CAE tube front axle. Don Broyles did the unique front suspension work. The axle was located with a pair of parallel leaf springs, while the steering was via the original Corvette third arm and tie rods mounted to a custom-fabricated front crossmember. The springs, Delco shocks, and tie rods were chrome plated. Hurstairheart disc brakes were mounted to the Corvette spindles with PSI brackets. Welding required for the front suspension swap was performed by Larry Trout, a skilled welder and fabricator who was also responsible for the welding on the famed ’33 Willys Malco coupe owned by Ohio George Montgomery.
Time to Sell
Out back, the original five-leaf Corvette springs remained in service, but the ’57 Corvette rear was replaced by a beefy ’58 Olds/ Pontiac 9.3 rearend with a brand-new 5.14:1 limited-slip differential. Lakewood slapper bars were added along with a set of Gabriel air shocks.
If you were living in Dayton in the 1960s and wanted serious horsepower, the man to see was Ohio George Montgomery. A quick trip to see George ended with an order for a blown small-block. The motor was bored and stroked to 377 inches and the block was copper O-ringed. The half-inch-stroked crank was from Crankshaft Company, and 8:1 Forged True pistons filled the holes. A Sig Erson 500H cam and Erson lifters completed the short-block, which was fitted with a modified (and chrome-plated) deep-sump oil pan.
Joe Mondello reworked the Chevrolet double-hump heads, the “Mondello” stamping still clear on each head. A 6-71 blower was going to force-feed the small-block through a rare 875-cfm Autolite inline four-barrel carburetor dated 1968. This would be one of the last blower motors built for drag racing by George Montgomery, at a cost of $996.35.
The engine was brought home and mounted in the car. The hood was carefully cut out, and the hinges were replaced by four hoodpins. Inside, an Auto Power rollbar was modified, chromeplated, and installed. The entire body was stripped to bare fiberglass and treated to a couple coats of red oxide primer.
Although the car was nearing completion, time caught up with the project. It was 1976, race classes changed, life priorities changed, and the Corvette was rolled into the corner of Don’s shop. It, along with all the parts needed to complete a great gasser, would remain untouched for nearly 40 years. Since Don was still somewhat active in the Dayton car scene during the Corvette’s hibernation, we imagine more than one person attempted to buy the car. But only the seller knows when the time is right to sell a car, and in 2012, for reasons known only to Don, it was time.
The sale was as unique as the car. While walking a show in Sharonville, Ohio, Don asked Steve Barrett if he might be interested in
It’s All or Nothing
buying a ’57 Corvette. Steve said he wasn’t but pointed Don toward his friend Bruce Bursten.
Bruce has been a Corvette guy and all-around hot rodder his entire life and has owned more than his fair share of Corvettes. When he discovered the ’57 Corvette, an original fuel-injected car in pieces but with all the right parts, he wasted little time in going to see it. The Corvette was tucked in Don’s shop, with the original 283 fuelie motor on a stand behind the car. It was apparent the car was a stalled gasser project, with all the pieces in place for a wicked race car. Bruce’s first thought was, “I could remove the rear flares and restore this car back to the original red paint with the correct fuelie motor and have a very valuable Corvette.” And so his initial goal was to buy just the car and all the original pieces. When you have a car as rare and unique as this one, the seller is in the proverbial driver seat. To Bruce’s offer to buy just the genuine Corvette stuff, Don simply stated, “It’s all or nothing.” This made the decision to purchase the car a bit more complicated, until Don took him on a tour of “all the stuff.”
Some of it was stored above the shop, more in a second building, and even more in Don’s basement. Most of the speed equipment was still in original boxes, including a Lakewood scattershield and a set of Traction Masters. There were chrome JR headers with outlets to plumb to a stock Corvette exhaust, plus a complete N.O.S. Corvette exhaust system. Don, apparently, planned on driving this blown gasser on the street, too! A custom-built radiator with dual outlets on the left side was included, perfect for plumbing the blower motor and yet another indicator this car was destined to be a street/strip gasser. There were two extra tube axles, chrome shocks and steering arms, chrome original 022 master cylinder, and a second N.O.S. master cylinder. Then there were the Cragar S/S wheels, super rare 16x10 with a 5-on-5 bolt pattern for the Pontiac rear. The wheels were date-coded 11/69 and had Goodyear Blue Streak slicks mounted that had never seen pavement. The list went on to include at least 160 N.O.S. GM parts. It was a bit overwhelming, but Don gave Bruce a price to consider.
After spending the afternoon taking inventory and looking things over, Bruce went home to discuss this very interesting car with his wife, Joyce. Now, Joyce has been involved in more than a few of Bruce’s deals over the years and also helps in the shop. Bruce valued her opinion, so she went with him the next day for another look. They spent several hours with Don going over the car and parts, and then Joyce turned to Bruce and said, “Just pay the man what he’s asking.”
One week later, Bruce and several pals loaded the Corvette on a trailer along with a truckload of parts. It was June 22, 2012, and Bruce Bursten had a new project.
After scrubbing off the 40-year accumulation of garage dust, it was time to decide exactly what to do with the car. It could go one of three ways. It could be built as a dedicated nostalgia drag car, which would involve firing that George Montgomery motor for the first time. Or it could be restored to original, with red paint, red interior, and the famed 283/283 fuelie motor under the hood. Finally, it could be built in the spirit of the 1960s, making it a wild street/strip gasser and completing Don’s 1969 dream. After getting to know Don, Bruce and Joyce opted for the latter route, but not with the blower motor. Bruce felt Hilborn injection would be more streetable, and he just happened to have a setup in his shop.
Work on the car began in November 2012. All the red oxide primer was sanded off the body prior to removing it from the frame. The years of indoor storage had prevented most of the typical aging problems with the fiberglass, and even the 47-year-old rear flares were in good condition. Bruce built a 327 bored to 337 inches and filled with 9.8-compression forged pistons. A hydraulic Crower cam was reground to GM 151 specs. The double-hump heads were given the hi-po treatment, and the crowning touch to the motor was the Hilborn injection.
Bruce converted the mechanical Hilborn unit 265-C-8K with 21⁄16-inch stacks to EFI. The Hilborn is dated 12/14/73 and was originally sold by Mike Smith’s Racing Equipment in Indianapolis, Indiana. By running injectors with no fuel rails and meticulously hiding the wiring, the Hilborn appears mechanical when in fact it is EFI controlled by a FAST 2.0 CPU. The MSD electronic distributor and 6AL box allow the FAST unit to also control timing. So while it may look like you would have to “squirt start” this motor,
modern technology has it handled. Early finned aluminum valve covers with Offenhauser breathers and the tach-drive generator complete the period-perfect illusion.
The frame was treated to several coats of satin black before the brake lines were routed and the exhaust installed. The original straight axle and Pontiac rear remain in the car. At first glance much of the old chrome plating looked pretty weathered, but with careful cleaning and polishing it proved to be quite serviceable. With the chassis and driveline complete, the body was returned to the chassis and the doors were hung before the car was hauled to Duck’s Place Body Shop in Trenton, Ohio, where shop owner Kenny Rudd handled the minimal bodywork and flawless Dodge Inferno Red Pearl paintwork. The paint is reminiscent of 1960s candy apple as the light plays tricks with the color, turning it from a bright burgundy by day to a deep burgundy in evening shadows. Other than the flares and the hole in the hood, the body remains as GM designed it.
While the bodywork was being done, Bruce busied himself restoring and buffing all the original trim for the car. The chrome on the bumpers was placed there in 1957 by GM, and the original single-bar grille and grille surround were reinstalled on the body. One rear exhaust port now carries a gasser-style kill switch, while the other is neatly blocked off.
Moving inside the car, the chrome plated Autopower rollbar was reinstalled along with the original black rolled-and-pleated interior, which had been carefully stored by Don and was in likenew condition. A set of winged Stewart-warner gauges fills the dash along with an interesting Chevelle SS emblem. That emblem was on the car when it arrived from California, and Bruce felt it should remain on the car. In true race car fashion a GM radio delete cover is in place, and the car is now a heater delete car. The 1960s-vintage Hurst shifter and aluminum “go pedal” complete the gasser inspired interior. The vintage Cragar mags were cleaned up and now have new Coker Firestone cheater slicks on the rear with Firestone bias-ply 560-15 tires up front.
Finished in Time
By August 2013, a mere 10 months after the project began, Bruce and Joyce Bursten were cruising in one outrageous ’57 Corvette gasser. We first discovered the Corvette at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, the perfect venue for this car.
Don Goodpaster had moved from Dayton to Utah, but on a recent return to Dayton he stopped by to see “his” finished car. Don was pleased to see the car built to such a high standard. He took a lot of photos, reminisced with Bruce and Joyce for a while, and headed home.
So you see, gasser dreams do come true. Sometimes it just takes time.
> The CAE axle was located by parallel leaf springs, while the unique steering system employs the stock ’57 Corvette third arm and two tie rods. Bruce reports the car steers perfectly. This fabrication was done by Don Broyles in 1969. > Same wheels,...
When Bruce Bursten walked into Don Goodpaster’s shop, he was greeted by a 1957 Corvette resting on four flat tires. The car had been in that same spot since 1976. After mounting some fresh rims and rubber, the Corvette was rolled out into the daylight...
> This super rare 875-cfm Autolite inline four-barrel carburetor was originally destined to sit atop a 4-71 blower to force fuel into the Montgomery-built small-block. This is a very rare N.O.S. carburetor that has never flowed fuel. > The driver-side...
> The 1957 Corvette seats were given the rolled-and-pleated treatment in the 1960s, and the modified Autopower rollbar was chrome plated around the same time. The column mounted, cable-drive tachometer is mounted in front of the original speedometer...
> Stewart-warner winged gauges fill the dash along with a small aluminum panel mounted to the transmission tunnel. That early Chevelle SS emblem was installed in the dash prior to 1966. Bruce felt the emblem should remain on the car.
> The Corvette was going to do battle in the GS class, and power would come from this George Montgomerybuilt, bored and stroked small-block. Joe Mondello did the headwork, and the “never been run” motor is filled with the best of everything. The...
> While the car was originally destined to have a blown small-block, Bruce opted for an early Hilborn injection unit. Bruce skillfully converted it to EFI using a FAST 2.0 computer to control the flow of fuel. Note the early tach-drive generator is...
> This is the original fuel-injected motor that was installed in the car in 1957. The motor was freshened and balanced in 1967 but remains completely stock.
> This street-going gasser has been in the works since 1966. Finally completed in 2013, the car rides high on a CAE straight axle. Most of the parts on the car were purchased in the 1960s and early ’70s.
> A sinister symmetry is built into the car. Peering through the perfectly cut hood, the two rows of injector stacks align with the rearview mirror, the chrome Autopower rollbar, and the divided bucket seats. Steve Lainhart pinstriping completes the...
> This photo could have been taken in 1969, with a well-crafted Corvette gasser sitting in front of a home shop. Inside the shop, an original George Montgomery- built blown small-block is on the engine stand, while the Vette’s original Rochester...
Diego to Dayton, Ohio, in > The Corvette was driven from San purchased the car in 1966 by Randy Gelvin. Don Goodpaster a very clean fuelie Vette. 1966, and it wasn’t long before it was done sometime prior Note the flared rear fenders; they were to 1965.
> This close-up shows just how perfectly the hood fit the blower.the photo was snapped in October 1976, almost 10 years to the day after Don Goodpaster purchased the car. The car would be rolled into storage shortly after this photo was taken.
> Corvettes and hot rods tend to attract pretty women. In this 1967 photo, one of the candidates for Queen of the Dayton Hara Arena Car Show strikes a pose in the Corvette. All we know about the young lady is that her name is Jan. If anyone knows Jan...
> The gasser was getting close to completion, as we can see in this photo of the car assembled with the classic gasser stance and a big blower protruding through the hood. However the car would never make a pass down the quarter-mile.
> A young Don Goodpaster stands next to his gasser project. Note the blower protruding almost to the top of the windshield and the wheelwells filled with chrome headers.
> In 1969 the car rests on the freshly modified chassis. The final rendition of the car would sit considerably lower.