Corvette Central

Concept 57


When we set out to complete P-57, there was always one goal, written in permanent ink on the bottom line - we wanted the car to be in our booth for Corvette Carlisle in August.

We succeeded in having P-57 at the booth, along with throngs of readers and attendees stopping by to check out the car. They were not disappointed. The car is simply gorgeous, and the fact that it affords the comforts of a modern Corvette while staying true to its classic roots makes it that much more appealing. While we accomplished our goal of having P-57 at the booth, the real story is what it took to get it there, even after the wrenches stopped flying.

The early morning of August 22 found the team of Walden & Young busily wrenching on P-57. They were working out a myriad of nagging gremlins that took most of the night, and by early Monday morning, nearly all of the problems had been corrected or quarantined.
As mentioned before, P-57 was built from scratch. There was no chassis to restore, no body to disassemble and refurbish and, most of all, nearly every part had to be introduced to every other part, or at least finished and fitted to look good. That's the difference between building a car and rebuilding a car. On this day early in the morning, the car had been built, it was drivable and it was 3:00 a.m. The team of Walden & Young was headed for some well-deserved sleep before they loaded P-57 on the trailer for the Corvette Carlisle show. We originally thought of driving P-57, but because we didn't have a satisfactory shake-down period, decided not to risk it. It was better to have the car at the booth in Carlisle than to be halfway to Carlisle with a problem that we hadn't identified earlier.
One of the improvements over the original 1957 Corvette is the smaller-diameter steering wheel. It has all the feel of the original but it allows you more room between the seat and the wheel. With the power steering, turing the car is a dream, even with the smaller wheel.  

1. The goal of P-57 was to have modern amenities while still holding true to the essence of a '57 Corvette. The interior has a nice touch of both old and new. Along with the power brakes and power steering, P-57 has power widows. Because the doors never had anything mounted in them, proper placement of the window assemblies took some time to ensure it was right, but it was worth it.

2. The American Racing five Spoke wheel gives P-57 a vintage feel, and the gray complements the gray coves beautifully. Going with a slightly higher tire than the Kumho Ecsta 215/50-17 would have given us a little more clearance
at the bellhousing.

3. The indicator on the shifter boot plate may read that there's a four-speed, but P-57 has an RPM-saving, fuel-mileage-stretching overdrive under the floor, making the drive much easier on man and machine. A classic-style gauge set keeps tabs on the car's condition.

4. Henry and Dave Hill return from their trip in P-57.
All smiles!

ON THE MOVE: Once loaded onto the trailer, P-57 was on its way to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for a scheduled appearance and a Museum Xperience delivery on Tuesday morning. Henry Younger is a strong supporter of the NCM and he wanted to do a Museum Xperience, the used Corvette's equivalent of a Museum Delivery, to make completing the car official. P-57 showed up at the Museum Monday afternoon and P-57 was escorted into the Museum in preparation for Tuesday's delivery.
The Delivery Team took P-57 and gave him a cleaning, and then they positioned him in the number one spot in the Corvette Nursery where they do all the deliveries. These spots can be viewed on the NCM's Web site through several Web cams. It was great to see P-57 amid a long string of C6s that were prepared for delivery. The Museum has put a lot of thought into making this day special for owners of Corvettes, for either the R8C delivery or the Museum Xperience. When we arrived, we were greeted by Gray Cockriel and Bruce Robel. Bruce officiated the Xperience for P-57 and started off by emphasizing that this was Henry'sday at the Museum. That thought was backed up by the screen in the lobby. The Museum Xperience and the R8C Museum Delivery allow the owners to have their Corvettes presented to them inside the NCM, and they get a special, guided plant tour of the nearby Corvette Assembly Plant and the National Corvette Museum and a one-year membership to the NCM. Most of all, they get to keep all the memories.
We were working on a tight schedule, so we pulled P-57 out of the Museum for a few more photos, and then it was on the road again. We planned on making this a trip to Carlisle but, thanks to our friends at CM, we were invited to Virginia International Raceway to test drive the new 2006 Z06. While we were at the event, Dave Hill and the rest of the CM employees in attendance asked Henry to bring P-57 out for a little show and tell of our own, so just before the dinner at VIR's Plantation House, we pulled P-57 out of the trailer. Everyone fell in love with the car, especially Dave Hill. After studying the car for over an hour, Corvette's chief engineer was given an offer he couldn't refuse: Would he like to go for a ride? Who wouldn't? The smile he had on his face as they drove down the road was exceeded only by the one he had when they returned with him behind the wheel. Before Dave and P-57 parted ways, Henry asked Dave if he would sign one of the engine covers on P-57, and Dave graciously did.
The next day found us on the road again, this time headed directly for Carlisle. We arrived on Thursday and began to unload P-57. Almost immediately, we were asked, "Is that P-57?" Henry was all smiles, and rightly so. He and the entire Walden & Younger team had set a less-than-easy goal of building a car from the ground up in less than a year and bringing it to Carlisle. They succeeded, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention those who also helped so much to make this project a success. While the actual work of assembly was done at Walden & Younger's shop, many items were fabricated elsewhere.
CONTRIBUTORS TO P-57'S SUCCESS: Corvette Central's Concept '57 body facilitated the build, in that everything was new and no body panels needed replacing, as would have been the case with a used body. Also, the optional equipment like the gas shocks on the trunk lid and heavier hood hinges make the car more modern without taking away from the essence of Corvette. The body itself varies from a 1957 body in ways such that the floorboards are much thicker than the originals, helping to deaden road noise, but it can make shimming the car a little tricky when you have to move the body shims around. Also, being entirely new, there will be some adjusting of holes and drilling of new holes since nothing had ever been mounted on this body, or the body onto any chassis. There is
no other way to do it since all the parts are meeting for the first time as the car is assembled.
The Street Shop chassis laid the rock-solid foundation for the rest of the car. Everything from the driveline, engine and brake/fuel lines came as part of the kit offered by Street Shop. We went with the LS6 in our car, but they can just as easily accommodate earlier small-blocks or whatever the customer wants. The major benefit of using this chassis for our car was how it expedited the build because Street Shop has done all the R&D work and knows what works and what doesn't. We didn't have the luxury of time to find out for ourselves. The fact that the frames are made out of square tubing and run very similar to where the original would be under the car makes the installation look factory and unobtrusive. Also, when we received the chassis, the entire C4 suspension had been rebuilt and was ready to go, a definite time saver.
Henry wanted P-57 to still look like a 1957 Corvette, right down to the interior. That's where Al Knoch came in and supplied the correct interior for the project, right down to the correct waffle pattern. The red stands out in a sea of black and looks gorgeous.
Of course, using component parts like the CM Performance Parts LS6 engine saved us some time because we didn't need to modify an original or build an engine. Also, when doing such a build intended to be driven, keep in mind that there's a warranty on that engine should the unexpected happen. That's worth just as much as the time savings.
5 A blend of old and new exists under the hood as well - all the modern amenities with a feel for yesteryear. That LS6 looks right at home under those Mi-designed, vintage-style valve covers.

6 The vacuum can for power brakes is always a problem with straight-axles. This Hydro-tech unit available through Street Shop fixes the problem of space and gives great braking. It also allows a clean installation.

7 After the drive, Dave signed one of P-57's engine covers - "48 years young! August 24,2005.2006 Z06 Premier @ VIR - Dave Hill" Thanks, Dave!

8 Henry in front of the NCM with P-57.

9 Because of the size of the exhaust pipes, Henry had the shop run the pipes under the rear of the car rather than through the original openings. He filled the holes with reflectors to disguise their appearance.

10 One of the benefits of the NCM Xperience or Delivery Program is that you are entitled to purchase special items reserved for members of the program. Henry's new windbreaker will have a black straight-axle and "P-57" embroidered on the front.
NOW THAT IT'S DONE: What is the finished car like to drive? It's very stable and it takes very little effort to do anything. Maybe too little. P-57 has power brakes and power steering, which makes the drive effortless. But you have to keep in mind that you're not in an original straight-axle when you hit the brake pedal in P-57, or
you'll be peeling yourself off of the windshield. The brakes, even with the original C4-style calipers and rotors, are fantastic. You would have to install much stickier tires to make use of more braking power.
The steering took some getting used to as well. Because of the power steering rack and pinion, there was very little feel in the steering wheel. Henry plans on adjusting the valving in the system to give a little more feedback in the steering wheel.
The Keisler transmission allows the car to enjoy a leisurely drive down the Interstate while just sipping on the gas. There was a little adjusting to do on the clutch and hydraulic throw-out bearing to get the clutch-pedal travel perfected, but for the time being, a remedy allowed us to get P-57 out and about. Henry intends to replace the original hydraulic clutch master cylinder with another unit from Keisler, which should correct the pedal travel.
11 After all the traveling, P-57 assumed center stage at the Cf booth during the Corvettes Carlisle event.

12 Henry and P-57, flanking a line of new C6s waiting in the Corvette Nursery in the NCM.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Now that the Carlisle trip is over, there are a few items on the list to make P-57 more enjoyable. Since P-57's body is heavier than an original '57 Corvette body, Henry is working with Street Shop on the proper springs/shocks combination to keep the rear of the car from sagging or dipping when hitting bumps, while still giving a satisfactory ride.
Also, a slightly taller tire sidewall would help raise the car up a little. As it stands, the bellhousing provided with the Keisler transmission is a bit too close to the ground to suit Henry's tastes. He'd like to keep the stance and the wheel's position in the wheel openings but raise the car up to give the bellhousing more clearance.
A question that we've been asked ever since we started P-57 was, "How much does it cost?" To be honest, until it was finished, we didn't know. Now we do. Henry reports that to do a car similar to P-57, you can expect to pay
about $130,000. Remember, the only things originally from a 1957 Corvette are the seat frames and the windshield. The more of a '57 Corvette you already have, the less you have to buy, and some of those parts start adding to the bottom line with a lot of zeros from the beginning. Also, we used a crate LS6 engine, but if you wanted to use a carbureted ZZ4 or similar engine, that cost comes right off the top, as much as $10,000.
With that said, we asked Henry the question probably on everyone's mind, "Was it worth it?" Take a look at the smiles on the faces of Henry and everyone else who had a chance to experience P-57 first hand and you'll get your answer. It's a great ride.

Thanks to Corvette Enthusiast - Written by: Andy Bolig
Copyright 2006