Amazing 1957 Chevy Gasser Find

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Even if you are not a drag racing fan, this story will blow your mind. I’ll summarize it briefly here, but really recommend you take some time to visit the original piece. It’s well written, loads of fun, and the photographs are irresistible. I grew up poring over issues of Car Craft, Rod & Custom, and Hot Rod magazine, dreaming of the day I could build my own drag racer and head for the track. It never happened for me, but my love for those early drag racers and their cars remains undiminished.

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And seeing these pictures of an original survivor with all its parts intact, even one in less than pristine condition, like this one, warms my old-car-loving heart. “Superstition” started out as a 1957 Chevy Bel Air bought new and built for drag racing by Charlie Proite when he returned home to Wisconsin from a tour of duty in the Army in Korea in 1960. The car was heavily modified and ran in A/GS class, powered by a 389 Pontiac engine fitted with a GMC blower and Hilborn two-port injection, backed by a four-speed BorgWarner transmission. He subsequently blew that engine and dropped in a 421 Pontiac mill before selling the car in 1969 to one Duane Hanson bought the car, fitted it with a ’67 Pontiac 400 engine from a GTO, and topped it off with a dual-quad Offenhauser intake and two AFB Carter carburetors.

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Hanson gave the car the name “Superstition,” painted it on the car’s doors in traditional silver leaf, plugged in a B&M Hydro-Stick from a ’56 Olds, and went racing until 1978 when he decided that the car and racing was costing him too much time and money. The Chevy sat outside at Ken’s house in Milwaukee for years and eventually made its way up to Green Bay, where it was stored behind a shed in a collector’s field of vintage cars.

And then it was miraculously discovered, purchased from Richter, and now brought back to life by Drew Hardin, who came across it while looking for parts for another car. It is indeed a stroke of luck that he recognized it for what it was and has chosen to preserve, rather than ruin the car with a restoration, as some might have chosen to do.

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In Drew Hardin’s piece, he describes the car, its history, and lovingly catalogs everything that makes it so special. And his description of bringing Charlie Proite to hear the car run for the first time since he sold it in 1969 is priceless.

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As Hardin says: “The car has a soul. It tells a unique story, and if it had a voice, it would say, ‘I was there in 1960 tearing up Midwest racetracks, and now I’m back.'” At least for me, this is one of the best lost-and-found old car stories I’ve ever read.

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This is an incredible story originally published by Hot Rod Deluxe here.

Credit (really good) photos: Brennan Van Sistine

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Comments

  1. Donnie

    Great story abought the cars history . Would be fun to pull up next to some kid in a Honda street tuner our what ever they call them cars

  2. Joe

    When I initially saw the first photograph I thought it was one of those 1:18 scaled models of a barn find in a garage diorama. :)

    • William H

      As did I. Something about the texture of the photo I guess. I almost immediately thought it was a scale model. Amazing story though.

      • Rich

        I thought the same thing.

  3. David C

    Great story and a great find. I can’t help but think of “Two Lane Blacktop”. I was a teenager in the late 60’s and early 70’s and this brings back a lot of memories.

    • David Wilk Member

      One of the best movies ever!

    • Ed Williams

      Hello David!
      Two Lane Blacktop, heh? It was James Taylor’s only movie and indeed a “gem”!
      A I saw the original film when it was new in a theatre in Hollywood. ( I am 82 years old now) and after many years later it was finally released on a DVD and I got a copy of it. I was really disappointed as it has been edited and Warrren Oates excellent part has been nearly edited out.
      I also have a 1:18 diecast model of the ’54 Chevy from the Movie.

  4. Dolphin Member

    Yes, great story, photos and memories. It does look like a diorama, but one you wish is real—and it is. I’m glad the car is still with us.

  5. Jason Houston

    If it’s a diorama (which I seriously doubt) it’s certainly worth more than if it were a real car. If it’s a real car, at least it’s good for parts. Not much left otherwise.

    • Jim Mc

      “If it’s a diorama (which I seriously doubt) it’s certainly worth more than if it were a real car.”

      Per the rules about being polite on this site, I won’t say what I really think about that statement. What I -will- say is that it’s demonstrably incorrect. The vintage parts alone are worth many times any diorama, and I bet that with a thorough teardown, inspection, abd rebuild that you could probably coax 12s or 11s out of it still. It’s an incredible machine and a great find. Just like the ones I used to see at the strip and on the TV in the early 70s.

      I’ve seen some of your comments on here, and there seems to be a negative chip on your shoulder. Are you just young or do you really not like a lot that is posted? I don’t get it.

      • JayGryph

        Honestly this behavior is really taking a lot away from this site for me. People that are always in early on the comments, always posting negative stuff that sits right at the top. It’s starting to make it like reading youtube comments, or comments over on bangshift where it’s a lot of negativity and one ends up angry and combative instead of discussing.

        It’s like the difference between a heated bar argument that might break out into a fight, and jovial hanging out and BS’n that would happen in your own garage with buddies.

        If ever there was a question of why ‘kids nowdays ain’t into the car hobby” this sort of behavior is it. I wouldn’t want to be either if people so negative were my examples to follow.

        That said, this car is amazing. If you like patina, this thing has it in spades and is a history piece of how things were done.

      • Bobsmyuncle

        To be fair. There seem to be either a lot of posters lately that truly have no idea what they are talking about, or are looking to incite an argument.

  6. hhaleblian

    Gentlemen and Ladies, This is what this hobby is all about.

  7. piper62j

    Hurts to see one of these cut up like this.. but then again, it’s all about enjoying the hobby…

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Heck this is soooo much more than just ANOTHER Sunday Tri Five! I see nothing to be remiss about here.

  8. Ronniecarlo

    This is EXCATLY why I look forward to BarnFinds….

  9. Kevin Ryan Member

    Very cool story. That’s what I love about this hobby of ours. Almost all of the cars come with an interesting story. I’m in the middle of restoring a 64 Impala SS with a 409 and I know absolutely nothing about it’s history. So luckily the story starts with me I guess and I’m very excited to be a part of this cars history. Great article and thanks for sharing. Also if anyone knows where I can find a 64 dashboard for an A/C car please let me know. Thanks

  10. Barzini

    I love stories that involve reuniting former owners to their cars. What a thrill it must be for both the former and current owners. Well done, Barn Finds.

  11. ric Parrish

    It’s because of the race heritage that makes these cars so collectable. What would a Ferrari be if nobody made race cars out of some?

  12. jim s

    i hope this makes it out to oldies night at a drag strip. show it, do some fun runs or have at it. great story.

    • Joe

      Jim, yes..seems like he is showing it, sharing, and having fun. Here the owner starts it up and runs it for a fan:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA2Bsgf0C_0

      And here he talks about it a bit:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YstBhk1jRvM

      Nice to see it out and about for the world to enjoy.

      Like 1
      • jim s

        yes, looks like they are having a lot of fun with the car. thanks.

      • William H

        That’s all kinds of great!! It’s also great seeing it sitting there in a row of pristine cars like it’s not out of place at all. Thanks for searching out the videos.

  13. Bobsmyuncle

    Wow I would pay so much more than is sensible for this. The most desirable car I’ve seen in some time.

    • 433jeff

      I didnt get any of it till o saw the pic of the windshield, well done

  14. RollerD

    Best part of this story is that it was found and purchased by someone who understands the value (not in dollars) of this car and is willing to share it. It could have easily fallen through the cracks of time and disappeared.

  15. Paul R

    The old school gasser cars have made a huge comeback on tracks in the South. Some are true barn finds while others are period correct recent builds. A blast to watch run and fast!

  16. john

    At first, I thought “oh no” what has someone done to that, but then I quickly realised this car is part of automotive history. As important in its own way as any racing Bugatti or some such. Whether it is fully restored or restored retaining its patina, I don’t care as long as it stays exactly what it is, a full on representative of early sixties gasser. Such original cars had a hard life and most did not survive. This one deserves to do so, and I fervently hope its owner feels the same. Just look at that dashboard, with rough holes etc., that could only be found in a race car. If it were mine I would keep as much patina as possible, including the faded paint, but strip it down, clean it, solve its issues, and then take it to wherever I could for it to be appreciated. Including the drag strip. I would not care if it won or lost, just being there is what would count. This is history on wheels.

  17. Howard A Member

    I too like gassers. They are awesome to watch, and quite a handful to drive. If this car was from Milwaukee, it most assuredly spent time at Great Lakes Dragaway, in Union Grove, about a half hour south of MIlwaukee. It is just a small town track, but attracted all the big names, and I visited there a lot and very well could have seen this car run ( although, there were a lot of Chevy gassers then) Not sure what to do with it, as it’s far from being competitive now, and would take a lot to bring it back. Probably be a fun street car as is.

  18. Jon

    Just Plain Cool.. Nothing More.. Nothing Less…

  19. piper62j

    Just an FYI. I don’t find any of the comments offensive on this site.. Only the bad language, which has subsided substantially. We older gear heads (cough / cough) understand that the younger generation at large does not work on cars like we used to and only see these cars from a different point of view..

    My generation could easily be found under the hood, dash or belly of our cars on weekends and if it broke down, would do everything we could to repair it ourselves to save $$$. We understand the older cars we made a living on so we could enjoy the hobby,, now.

    The comments made here that don’t necessarily agree with some people are not made in anger or dissent, but only from the knowledge and experience level of the writers’ abilities and not meant to offend anyone.. This is just a blog to enjoy and with so many individuals chiming in, you’re bound to get just as many points of view.. IMHO :)

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