Rare 1957 Airbox Corvette Auctioned for $500,000: the Story Behind the First Fuelie Corvette with Pilot Car Status
Today we are looking back at the 1957 Corvette Big Tank Airbox Serial No. 4007 and some of its history. We originally covered this in 2018 when it was headed to Mecum Auction in Kissimmee. This tare 1957 Airbox Corvette Auctioned for $500,000: Only 22 Known to Exist.
The earliest known Airbox Corvette, Lot S140, was auctioned Saturday, January 12, 2019, at the Mecum Kissimmee Auction. The 1957 Airbox Corvette bid up to $500,000 but did not sell on the block. It is one of 43 Airbox Cars produced, of which only twenty-two are known to exist.
This award-winning 1957 Corvette is Serial No. 4007 and was completed on May 15, 1957.
The car was ordered by a Chevrolet dealer and racer, Bill Howe, in Middleton, Ohio, during a special SCCA event in which GM announced the car’s development. That was in January 1957. After waiting months, he finally flew to St. Louis to take delivery at the plant. This was only days before the Cumberland, Maryland, road races. He drove the C1 Corvette to the track with just two hours of rest, where Bill Howe took third place, right behind Dick Thompson and Carrol Shelby, both driving similarly equipped Corvettes. He raced for the remainder of the SCCA season.
Howe later sold the sports car, and it changed hands a few times. Joel Lauman, an Ohio farmer and drag racer, bought the car in the early 70s and was planning to restore it.
In 2004 Lauman sold the car to his friend Bill Connell. Lauman and Connell asked former GM engineer and fuel injection expert Ken Kayser to perform a forensic examination. Ken Kayser and several other Corvette experts (including Joe Trybulec and Jack Knab) determined that it was, in fact, the pilot car for the Airbox induction system introduced on 1957 Fuelie Corvettes. Jack Knob signed a letter of verification to document that finding. Joel Lauman did a comprehensive restoration.
For a little history on the Corvette Airbox Option:
The Airbox option package designated RPO 579D came with the Duntov-cammed, Rochester fuel-injected 283/283 HP V-8. It incorporated a fiberglass intake plenum on the drivers-side inner fender. Fed by an opening in the radiator bulkhead, it channeled cooler, denser outside air through an internal filter and along a rubberized duct to the Rochester fuel injection unit for maximum output. This racing-purposed system was available only with the new BorgWarner 4-speed manual transmission (the first 4-speed offered by Chevrolet), a steering-column-mounted AC tachometer driven by a cable from a specific Delco 908-series distributor, and radio/heater delete, which eliminated the need for ignition shielding beneath the hood and allowed the ignition wires to be more directly routed to the spark plugs.
Corvette Big Brake Option:
Most of the 43 Airbox Corvettes were destined for competition. Because of this, they were also built with the RPO 684 Heavy Duty Racing Suspension package. Referred to as the “Big Brake” option, it comprised a heavy-duty front coil and five-leaf rear springs, heavy-duty shocks, metallic linings inside finned brake drums, internal fans to draw air in through screened backing plates, a heavy-duty front stabilizer bar, fast steering adapter and “elephant ear” front brake scoops. The same under-hood ducting in the Airbox system was employed to channel cooling air to the rear brakes through tunnels in the rocker sills.
Here are some of the features of this Airbox Corvette:
- Fuel-injected 283/283 HP V-8 engine
- Engine date code of May 2, 1957
- 4-speed manual transmission
- Heavy Duty Racing Suspension
- 8,000 RPM column-mounted tachometer
- Radio and heater delete
- Special Delco 908-series distributor
- Black with Red Interior
Here is a video of this 1957 Airbox Corvette racing:
The first 1957 National SCCA race of the season in Cumberland, MD, featured three racecars driven by Dick Thompson, Carol Shelby, Bill Howe, and Ed Rose. Filmed by Jack Nabb. Commentary by Ken Kayser. Features the first race of a 1957 Airbox Corvette. Also features clips of the Rosentall Corvette.
Here is another video of 1957 Airbox Corvettes racing:
The 1957 SCCA Regional Race at Saginaw includes footage of 57 Thunderbirds. B Production race with 57 Corvettes and the new 57 Thunderbirds. The footage was taken by Jack Nabb’s wife, which explains why he appears in so many shots.
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