Chevrolet Corvette C1 283/283 Convertible Airbox

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Corvette C1 283/283 Convertible Airbox





There was no doubt Chevrolet was in the sports car business with the release of the 1956 model. It featured a new body, a much better convertible top with power assist optional, real glass roll up windows (also with optional power assist), and an optional hardtop. The 3-speed manual transmission was standard. The Powerglide automatic was optional. The six-cylinder engine was gone. The V8 remained at 265 cubic inches but power ranged from 210 hp to 240 hp. The volume was 3,167, a low number by any contemporary standard and still less than 1954's 3,640, meaning this was the third lowest-volume model in Corvette history. Rare options: RPO 449 special camshaft with the 240 hp engine (111), power windows (547). Delco Radio transistorized signal-seeking (hybrid) car radio, which used both vacuum tubes and transistors in its radio's circuitry (1956 option).

 Visually the 1957 model was a near-twin to 1956. Engine displacement increased to 283 cu in (4.6 L), fuel injection became optional, and a 4-speed manual transmission was available after April 9, 1957. Fuel injection first saw regular use on a gasoline engine two years prior on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing". Although the Corvette's GM-Rochester injection used a constant flow system, as opposed to the diesel style nozzle metering system of the Mercedes', the Corvette's engine nevertheless produced about 290 hp (216 kW) (gross). This was underrated by Chevrolet's advertising agency for the 283 hp (211 kW) 283 small-block V8 one hp per in³ slogan, making it one of the first mass-produced engines in history to reach 1 hp/in³. Pushed toward high-performance and racing, principally by Zora Arkus-Duntov who had raced in Europe, 1957 Corvettes could be ordered ready-to-race with special options. Fuel injection was in short supply and 1,040 Corvettes with this option were sold. Rare options: RPO 579E 283 hp (211 kW) engine with fresh air/tach package (43), RPO 684 heavy-duty racing suspension (51), 15" x 5.5" wheels (51), power windows (379), 4-speed transmission (664).

In the world of 1957 Corvettes, there are “Fuelies” and then there are “Airboxes.” “Fuelie,” of course, is collector-speak for fuel injection, brand new and milestone status for 1957. The collector’s term Airbox refers to fuel injection plus factory ram air, brand new and meant to pump up the Corvette on the racetrack. Milton Robson’s ’57 convertible is one of a mere 43 Airbox Corvettes built in 1957, of which maybe half remain today.

Specifically, engine option code 579E is the very pricey $726.30 extra racers had to spend if they wanted to compete on the track. (A base Corvette was $3,176.32 for a whole car.) A mere 43 buyers anted up the big bucks to turn their 1957 Corvettes into potential world-beaters. By 1957, Chevrolet’s Corvette was that. In the GT class at the prestigious Sebring road races in Florida, Corvettes finished 1-2, a full 22 laps ahead of the nearest competitor, a Mercedes.

Corvette’s 1957 engine lineup provides the necessary perspective to appreciate the storied Airbox. The base, no-extra-cost 283 was the 220-horse four-barrel. Chevrolet offered a pair of very hot but traditional, dual four-barrel 283s with 245 and 270 horsepower, respectively. The really big deal for 1957 was the arrival of “Ramjet” fuel injection. Chevrolet offered four choices. Both option codes 579A and 579C rated 250 horsepower. Both 579B and 579E rated 283 horsepower. The 283-horse 283 is the fabled one horsepower per cubic inch V-8, a milestone in a passenger car engine that Chevrolet highly publicized.

Of the two option codes with 283 horsepower, 579E has tremendous bragging rights over 579B. With 579E, Chevrolet mounted an 8,000-rpm tachometer on the steering column. This tachometer looks very much like a hot rodder’s mount. However, the white gauge is 100% factory original and so rare that only the privileged have seen one. Its location was more driver-friendly than the factory pod in the center of the dash. With 579E, Chevrolet pulled the factory tachometer and placed a Corvette medallion, as seen on the rear decklid, in the vacated opening.

The other 579E specialty is the highly visible large ducting that funnels outside air from the passenger’s side fender well into the infamous Airbox housing. From here, high-pressure wind blows through the air cleaner element into the mechanical Ramjet fuel injection. This location required Chevrolet engineers to move the interfering generator to the right side of the engine. Here, the fan belt did a better job of spinning the water pump, ultra important with a high-revving engine. The 283’s horsepower peaked at 6,200 rpm.

Sold for: 450000 USD
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