Seeking Info: 1957 Drag Corvette “Lil Twister”

Lil-Twister-Corvette

From Bob B – Hello, I ran across your site googling for pics of Corvette gauges and was very interested to see the yellow 1957 BM/SP Corvette drag car. This is because I bought a ’57 BM/SP drag Corvette back in May and I, also, am looking for information on the car.

Lil-Twister-Left-Door

The car was purchased in the early ‘70s by a Mike Stuart, now deceased, in Michigan and came out of his garage after his death about five years ago. I bought it from a guy named Rick, who bought the car from Mike’s widow. Rick spent a lot of time researching the car and trying to find its history, but came up with nothing. Not wanting to restore it as a drag car with no history, but still not wanting to destroy a possible piece of drag race history by doing an NCRS restoration back to factory original, he put it up for sale.

I was already in the process of restoring a 1957 California road race Corvette that also had sat in a garage in Michigan since the 1970s that I bought two years before. Having so many leftover NOS parts that would not be used on the road race car, I was looking for a ’57 to restore to NCRS standards. That’s when I answered Rick’s ad, got pictures and saw that it was Lil Twister, a former drag race Corvette. I bought it, but now I am in the same dilemma Rick was in. I would greatly prefer to restore the Corvette as Lil Twister, but I have got to have at least some documentation before going in that direction.

Lil-Twister-Right-Door

The car is hand-painted and lettered and this is all I have to go on in my search for its history. Mike Stuart began stripping, so I don’t know what, if anything, was painted on the front or rear. For someone to go to this much trouble to do the hand-painting makes it seem like the car would have done some sort of racing back in the day, but there are no leads so far.

Headers-by-Cyclone

BM/SP (B Modified Sports) was a class from 1961-67, so that would have been the era when the car ran. The doors have a painting of a car speeding off leaving a tornado in its wake with the car’s name, Lil Twister, in the tornado. The painted-up logo and lettering and the 96 race number would seem to indicate that the car was somewhat established as opposed to just showing up at a drag race every now and then and putting on numbers with shoe polish. The front fenders read 327 CU. IN. 350 H.P. Could the HEADERS by CYCLONE painted on the panel just aft of the front wheels indicate a sponsor?

CHEVELAND

The possible key to this puzzle is the name CHEVELAND on the rear fenders. Cheveland is a French surname, just as is Chevrolet. The problem is that it is uncommon and most Google searches default to Cleveland. Oddly, CHEVELAND appears alone, as opposed to JOE CHEVELAND or CHEVELAND AUTO PARTS or something along those lines. This may indicate that CHEVELAND was well-known enough where the car raced that nothing else was necessary.

Very little remains of racing modifications. The front sway bar links are two inches longer than factory, which may have been so the front would lift easier under acceleration? BM/SP did not allow raising the front to cause weight transfer to the rear, so the I-beam spacers would apparently not have been used, but the aluminum spacers are not there and there are only flat washers in their place. The rear springs consist of the factory main leaf and three other heavier duty leafs. The car did not have the engine or transmission and the differential is a December 1958-dated non-posi. Since this isn’t the original, it’s unknown what the car used when racing. The U-bolts that hold the axle housing are replacements, so the entire housing and differential were apparently out and it is possible that what the car raced with was all taken off when the car was retired from racing.

Lil-Twister-Right-Side

BM/SP required a roll bar, but the only possible evidence is that the body mount holes in the body behind each seat location are both fiberglassed in from where the holes had once been larger, possibly for a roll bar attached to the body mount? There are Bondo patches on the outsides only of the middle of the frame rail about a foot forward of the front leaf spring mount, suggesting something may have been mounted there. Someone suggested a ladder bar, but it would have attached only at the outside of the frame.

Two other clues are a AAA Michigan sticker and a Tau Kappa Epsilon sticker on the windows. I’d invite anyone with any information on the Lil Twister 1957 Corvette drag race car to contact me. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Bob

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Comments

  1. John E.

    Bob, when I ran a search for “Chevyland” through Bing it brings up a Chevrolet dealer in Shreveport Bossier City, LA. Your “Chevyland” may have been a sponsor the general public knew back then, (late 50’s to the late 60’s). If your racer originally is from LA, may be a search in old news papers or older still, auto parts stores still in existence today may hold some information for you. There are other dealerships who use the “Chevyland” name, I would search them all out. Antique (car) Appraisers may have leads you could check out, or pay them to do the same. The first owner of your car was from Michigan, I’d start there. Does he have any living relatives you could find? Hope my ramblings helped. Good luck.

    • Koolpenguin

      Note that it says Cheveland…not Chevyland.

  2. tom999p

    Hi Bob, I’m pretty sure I can get you going, contact me through this site and I’ll let you know..

    • Bob Baird

      Tom,

      Any help would be appreciated!

      Bob

  3. macvaugh

    The original “CYCLONE BRAND” not the Model as in Dynomax Cyclone headers. They were sold for Gen 1 and Gen 2 Chevy engines.

    They were owned by the Mr. Gasket company. And became Blackjack headers. Then Mr. Gasket sold that part of the company to Headman headers.

    I remember them well, they had a pain in the “A” 4 bolt hole collector flange.

    You will find a lot of older headers are much better than econo headers of today, they had heavy flange, thick tubes.
    you will also find them to be a pain in the “A” in some applications. They did not have quality bending machines back then. They were assembled in a crude way with a man made jig. Heavy welds!

  4. Alan (Michigan)

    And… If the car is still in Michigan, I have just the guy to hand-repaint all of the graphics after a restoration. He owns a commercial sign business, but his real passion is in hand-painting and lettering, with a truly artistic flair. My nieghbor, great guy. http://articulatesigns.com

  5. Mark in Medford

    I would put an ad in ‘National Dragster’ the official news of NHRA and see what happens.

  6. Mike A in MD

    I’d be tempted to follow the small thread attached to the TKE fraternity decal.
    I’m a fraternity member of theirs (joined in 1969-70), and after reading your posting, I sent
    an exploratory note to their Events Chairman asking about an internal message board.
    I will re-post once I get an answer (positive or negative) from him, and perhaps an info
    channel can be found that way.

    • Bob Baird

      I sent three notes to various places of TKE, one was to an Alex Swenson, so maybe between the two of us, we can get some info. Since Lil Twister came out of E. Lansing in the early ’70s, I looked for a TKE Chapter there, but found nothing. However, I did find reference to a Rho-Beta alumni association for MI State, but the contact and info fields were blank, hence my inquiries. Maybe they had one at MI State, but it disbanded?? Thanks!

  7. Rancho Bella

    See if you can get a response from Steve Magnante.
    http://stevemags.com/

    • Bob Baird

      That website isn’t good, but I was able to post on his Facebook. Thanks!

  8. gunningbar

    I know the car looks very rough but I think the “old race car ” patina is beautiful and should be kept. A sympathetic preservation would be my choice….way more interesting than another shiny restoration. Spend the money sourcing appropriate drivetrain…how great would it be if you could find the original! Best of luck!! Great story.

  9. Dolphin Member

    Bob, I thought I was going to get a bit of history on your car when I found this giant collection of vintage Corvette gaser photos, but although I found lots of photos of cars similar to yours I didn’t find your car in there. The photos are worth looking through if you want to see lots of Corvettes at drag strips. Go to the link below and click on the different categories in the column on the left side and that will keep bringing up dozens of photos in those different categories.
    http://public.fotki.com/VincePutt/drag_racing/gassers/corvettegassers/

    Good luck with the hunt.

  10. Bob Baird

    Hi all,

    I really appreciate everyone’s help and all the comments and suggestions! I have a writeup coming out in the next Hot Rod Deluxe Magazine and I will try National Dragster. The hood was sold by a previous owner’s widow and the front is stripped and the trunk lid is stripped. So, I will take lots of pics for documentation, but finally decided that I’ll have to finish stripping and repaint. I’m in Ol’ Virginny, but I was able to find someone who used to do the hand-lettering and painting, so it will go back exactly as you see it, but I will use ideas from some of the old drag race Corvette pics on that website to help me decide what is plausible to put back on the front and rear unless I find old pics or someone who remembers.

    Doing the drivetrain, suspension and roll bar will be period correct, but I’m hoping to find someone who actually knows what it ran with back in the day. I currently have an early ’60s Klentz Quick-Change Differential for it and a 2×4 tunnel ram made from a 1957-58 Corvette fuel injection unit to use unless I find out actual information.

    Thanks,

    Bob

  11. Oldstuff 1941

    Bob,
    If you decide you want to go the more traditional route for the factory type set up, I have a complete original all date coded, 1957, 283/2-4’s, with Fuelie Heads. complete down to the Corvette exhaust manifolds. I have been told this was a ‘Black Widow’ Engine, It appears I’m not going to be able to find and build the Black Widow I always wanted, so what better way to use it than to help someone else do a period rare resto… If you might be interested, just contact me.

  12. Andy Anderson

    Bob, just a thought…….
    CHEVELAND could be a marriage of CHEVY and CLEVELAND indicating that it was raced somewhere around Cleveland Ohio. Cleveland ain’t that far from Michigan either. The car
    could have possibly been from around there, like bought (or owned at one point) in Michigan, then transported to Cleveland by another owner to race. Just a thought, but it’s what came to mind as soon as I saw CHEVELAND.
    Good luck with finding out more about this extremely cool old Vette!
    Andy Anderson

  13. Lungs_of_Steel

    I think Andy makes a good point.

    Anyway, I don’t know if this helps, but the L79 327/350 was available starting in 1965.

  14. Bob Baird

    Andy & Lungs of Steel,

    I’ve considered the possibility of Cheveland being a play on words of Cleveland and Chevy and have checked with various race tracks in Ohio, but nothing yet, although I will keep that going. Right now, I’ve got info wanteds in upcoming Hot Rod Deluxe, National Dragster and Hemming’s.

    Since the L79 is a hydraulic cam engine, I wonder if it would have been used in a drag car or maybe they used solid lifters with it or maybe it was a 327 built to 350 HP some other way?

    Thanks for your help!

    Bob

  15. Keith

    I wonder if it had a ford 302 Cleveland motor stroked to 327 dropped in. I was thinking that maybe “chevland” referenced a Cleveland engine in a chevy

  16. Lungs_of_Steel

    I don’t think the 302C fits in the timeline, but I think that’s clever thinking nonetheless.

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