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1957 Chevrolet NASCAR Black Widow tribute – Click above for high-res image gallery

For most all of its 62-year history, NASCAR has been a battleground for U.S. automakers, each of whom sought superiority on the race track as a way to sell more of their cars.

In 1957, Chevrolet decided to create a race car that would dominate NASCAR and establish Chevrolet as the car to beat in the minds of buyers across the country. Known as the "Black Widow," the 1957 Chevrolet was one of the most feared race cars of the decade.

Live on SPEED Thursday at 8:30 PM ET, a professionally restored "Black Widow" tribute car will be auctioned off at the Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas Collector Car Event. Like all cars at Barrett-Jackson, it will be auctioned at no reserve, meaning the highest bid takes it.

The story behind the Black Widow is an interesting insight into how NASCAR and the automobile manufacturers functioned back in the day. Bone up on your history after the jump.




On June 6, 1957, the Automobile Manufacturers Association, a coalition of U.S. automakers, formally banned automobile racing, prohibiting advertising of race results, speed features of race cars, providing pace cars to tracks and other promotional activities. This came in response to heavy Congressional pressure in the wake of a crash at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans that killed more than 80 people when a car went off course and crashed into the stands, exploding in a ball of fire.

Rather than have Congress legislate a withdrawal from racing, the automakers did it themselves.

At the same time, the automakers were doing everything they could behind the scenes to get around their own restrictions. In the case of General Motors, they hired former Hudson lead race engineer Vince Piggins and moved him to Atlanta where he established a business known as the Southern Engineering and Development Co., or SEDCO, which was run out of Nalley Chevrolet in Atlanta.

Under Piggins' watchful eye, SEDCO built the first Black Widow for competition. The car was based on the economy Chevy One-Fifty Utility Sedan – or 150, for short – and featured a host of special go-fast items: a fuel-injected, 283-cubic-inch, 283-horsepower small-block Chevy engine, three-speed manual transmission, six-lug wheels, 20-gallon gas tank and no radio, cigarette lighter or arm rests.



In April 1957, Piggins put together a manual called the "1957 Chevrolet Stock Car Competition Guide," which explained in great detail how Chevrolet dealers could build their own Black Widows. The manual, which was mailed to 411 Chevrolet retailers, contained 170 individual GM-made parts that were needed to convert a stock Chevy 150 street car to a full-on NASCAR race car.

"This valuable brochure is provided to acquaint dealers, as well as performance-minded individuals, with the techniques that permit greatly safety and entertainment value for all who enjoy stock-car competition in the highest traditions of the sport," GM wrote in the introduction of the manual.

The guide had some interesting details. On color choice, it noted "green is taboo in most American racing circles," an old superstition about the sport.

And it recommended the 150 as the model to race because, "It is rugged and dependable, low in cost, with no unnecessary weight to hamper performance; and conforms with all (NASCAR) sanction requirements."

GM ordered SEDCO to be shut down after the racing ban, but in private hands and with – allegedly – no factory support, the Black Widows were raced successfully all season long. Buck Baker would go on to win the 1957 NASCAR Grand National championship, today's equivalent of the Sprint Cup, in a Black Widow. This despite the fact that rules were changed in mid-season to outlaw fuel injection. Others who drove them included Speedy Thompson, Rex White, Bob Welborn and Fireball Roberts.



To this day, the Black Widow remains a subject of much discussion and intense debate among Chevrolet fans. No one knows exactly how many Black Widows were built or how many survived, and the details of the car are a source of fascination among hard-core fans.

The car being auctioned off tonight at Barrett-Jackson is a two-year rotisserie restoration, done completely by the "1957 Chevrolet Stock Car Competition Guide" specs created by SEDCO.

It comes with the correct 283cid, 283 hp motor and fuel injection unit, 20-gallon gas tank, two shocks per tire, six-lug wheels, tire well delete, radio delete, lighter delete, no arm rests, one visor and the correct Firestone tires. "No expense spared and attention to detail is very evident," the sellers said. "This example is about as close to what SEDCO produced in 1957 as you can get."

Look for it to sell tonight live on SPEED at 8:30 p.m. ET.

This article originally appeared on SPEEDtv.com and is republished with permission. Check your local listings for SPEEDtv's live coverage at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas on SPEED tonight, Friday and Saturday (September 23-25, 2010).


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 18 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Todd,

      Its a 1957 !!

      You are probably used to seeing the 2 door hardtop Bel Air ! This is a 150 2 door Post !

      Back in the day they had a million different trim levels,chrome,no chrome,more,less..

      This is a 2 door post,2 door hardtops look a bit different !!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I stopped caring about NASCAR when they banned winged cars, hemi's and when they went to restrictor plates. It's about going fast and car brand identity. Now all anyone can relate to is who’s relative died in a crash and which to guys got into a slap fest over who cut off who. Just plain silly. I never cared who was driving the car, I just want to see the cars go fast not see the new all same bodied cars have now put manufactures at a disadvantage, so why would anyone care if the car says Tide or Shell or Sears on it. It’s not a Ford, a GM, or Mopar anymore...It a bastard
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ah, back when they were real cars with variation to them instead of the shells with stickers we have now.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, Elmo, at least they don't all look the same.

        Nascar sucks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You know, I'm getting tired of how NASCAR is being singled out as a spec series with just shells and names that are the only relation to the production car.

        Tell me what Grand Am, DTM, Aussie V8s, and NHRA are then.

        Aussie V8s is a spec racing series that can be compared to NASCAR. They all use roughly the same size engines with the same output.

        Grand Am's GT class is all tubed-chassis cars except for the Porsches. Other than the Porsches and Mazdas, the rest are using dated engines such as the Corvettes, Camaros, and BMWs, exactly like the dated engines used in NASCAR.

        DTM cars have absolutely no relation to their production counterparts. All cars are tubed-chassis and they are powered by engines that aren't even mass produced for the public, let alone does the technology trickle down to the production cars.
      • 4 Years Ago
      1. no one cares about clones/replicas/tribute cars. they are soulless.

      2. no such thing as a no reserve auction at barrett jackson. the seller always has a friend who will bid it up if the seller is unhappy with the way the bids are coming in.

        • 4 Years Ago
        You may be right about the BJ business, but I see value in tribute cars. What if you want to know what it was like to drive an old car when it was new? What if you could not afford the real thing or could not bear to drive the real thing once you did own it? As long as people are honest about what it is, I see no real reason to hate tribute cars.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just another clone for the BJ auction.......
      • 4 Years Ago
      The late 70's I believe.

      If this was the black widow that they found in terrible shape in that dusty garage years ago I could see it being worth a ton, but its just a clone.

      Who cares.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I love how clone's and knock off are now called 'tribute cars.' Give me an f-ing break.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Clone or not it looks nice.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "1. no one cares about clones/replicas/tribute cars. they are soulless."

      I dunno, I think it would be pretty cool to drive, to see what one might have been like. If there is no surviving example, or the surviving example is so rare and priceless that it cannot be appreciated, I see the point of a clone. Just so long as people don't pretend it's anything except what it is. Building replicas to better understand history is incredibly important to expanding knowledge of a topic.

      "What was the last year that NASCAR raced real cars that you could buy and fix up like this?"

      I think it was some time in the 80s, when all the automakers went FWD drive. When you look at cars from that time, I can kind of understand why they switched. Imagine a race between a "real" 1989 Ford Taurus and a "real" 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix - not very exciting.
      • 4 Years Ago
      At least the DTM series and Aussie V8 series aren't a bunch of "2-door" shells of their actual 4-door street versions. Take away the stickers (read: "headlights", "grilles", etc) and they're all the same boring shell.

      NASCAR is truely the meaning of "boring".
      • 4 Years Ago
      @Elmo
      NASCAR = National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing

      Stock Car being the part everyone keys on, and the actual history the race series has of racing modified street cars. It's like if the NFL changed the rules from full contact to two-below touch.

      The NHRA has a Stock class in which the racers must keep the stock body to compete.
      (http://www.nhra.net/aboutnhr/classes.htm)
      • 4 Years Ago
      What was the last year that NASCAR raced real cars that you could buy and fix up like this

      In other words what did they "Jump the Shark"
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