Dallas Area Classic Chevys

Feature Car
November 2009




1957 was a big year for me.

I was 11 years old.  What’s not great about life when you’re 11, living in a small
town in S.E. Oklahoma?  Especially in the summer.  Summertime in the 50s was made for young boys.  Ride your bike across town, your dog running alongside everywhere you went.  Leash laws?  What’s that?  Hunt birds with a BB gun in the woods.  Decide on a moment’s notice to go swimming in a farm pond.  Play Little League baseball.  Watch ‘Fury’ and ‘Superman’ on Saturday morning TV.

We’d had a television set for about a year.  It was black and white but we had one of those green plastic films that you could spread over the TV screen and it gave some semblance of ‘color’...at least that’s what we convinced ourselves of at the time.

But even with a TV, a big treat was still going to the Erie Theatre on a Saturday afternoon.   Admission was ten cents.  If I could manage talking my Dad out of a quarter, I could go to the movie, buy a Coke for another ten cents and a small bag of popcorn for a nickel.  I was set for the day!  I rode my bike downtown to the
theatre, but my dog had to stay behind.  (He probably wouldn’t have liked the movie anyway.)

Since Oklahoma had joined the union in 1907, the summer of 1957 marked a half-century of statehood.  And in virtually every little Oklahoma town, including mine,
Hugo, there were carnivals, festivals, and celebrations of all kinds.  They called it the ‘Semi-Centennial’.  I didn’t know exactly how they arrived at that term, but frankly, I didn’t care.

That fall, the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik.  I remember lying on a quilt in the grass late one night, staring up at an endless canopy of stars.  I swore one of them was moving...slowly, across the sky.  It surely must have been Sputnik.  But over the years I’ve decided it may have just been a wayward firefly.  We called them ‘lightning bugs’ back then.

It was 1957...and life was good.

As a future car collector, it was even better than I could have imagined at the time.

In 1957, General Motors, building on a classic design change they’d made two
years earlier with the radically-altered and improved styling of the ’55 Chevrolet, introduced the ’57 models. (Actually, you’ll remember, they all hit the showrooms in the fall ’56...how exciting were those days when the new models arrived?)

Could we have guessed that the ’57 Chevrolet would one day be known as the final bookend of the ‘Tri-5s’...and how much we’d appreciate that fact many years

Included in the line-up of Chevys for the ’57 model year was the 5th incarnation of the Corvette.  I can’t say for sure that I was aware of the Corvette all that much at the time.  In fact, it was probably another 4 years or so before I’d even see one...and that came about by watching ‘Route ’66’ on that green-tinted TV screen.

I surely never saw one drive through Hugo, Oklahoma.

Flash forward almost a half-century and here I sit, still mentally touching base with the 50s in general and 1957 specifically, as I drive my ’57 Corvette on the open road with the top down.

I’ve been fortunate over the years to be able to put together a little collection of Corvettes (See www.hookedonvettes.com) which covers some of the very earliest
models to the latest and fastest.  But my ’57 Corvette is in a class and special part of my consciousness by itself.

If 1957 was special to me for the afore-mentioned reasons, it must also have been special to
GM and their car-buying customers of the day.  General Motors sold more than one and a half million cars in 1957.  Considering the problems they’ve had in recent years, how GM must long for those days, as well.

The ’57 models not only set a new benchmark of design that most of us ‘Boomers’ would still be appreciating many, many years later, but they also
brought us new options to spend money on when we bought a car.

Among the
offerings in ’57 that were first-time options on GM cars:  A fuel-injected engine that allowed for ‘one horse per cubic inch’ in the 283 V8.  It was an expensive option, jacking up the price of the ’57 Corvette by almost a fourth.  And even though the base price was ‘only’ $3,176.00, another 25% was a good chunk of cash in ’57.  Remember, in 1957, the average annual income was just short of $4,500!   No doubt because of that, only 240 of the 6,339 Corvettes sold in ’57 were ordered with fuel-injection.

Also new for ’57 was a four-speed manual transmission.  664 ’57 Vettes were delivered with that option...it was a little more affordable as a $188.30 add-on.

My ’57 Vette was originally ordered with both factory-equipped 4-speed and ‘fueilie’ options.  I’m not sure who initially bought it that way, but I sure am glad they did.  It makes it a fun car to drive with the top down and hair blowing in the wind...(OK, even with less hair blowing in the wind than there might have been in ’57!)

And, you probably want to know if I restored it.  Sorry, no.  I don’t do restorations
on my vehicles.  It’s not that I’m in any way implying that I’m above getting my hands dirty.  Much more than that, it’s that I’m incapable of restoring a classic car, and I admit it.  Ironically, my late Dad was a salvage yard owner and mechanic extraordinaire.  I always say, I inherited his love of automobiles, but not his ability to work on them.

I’ll go even further in saying that I continually appreciate the people who do restore classic cars.  It makes it possible for those of us who are ‘dexterity-challenged’ to enjoy an outstanding older automobile in its original condition.

My ’57 Vette came to me from the upper Midwest several years ago and my fondness for it continues to grow.   It was the last of the single headlight Vettes
and few would argue that its design is classic and timeless.

Made in 1957.  Hard to believe it’s as old as it is.  In fact, it’s hard to believe I’m as old as I am!   Ah, but in my mind, I’m really just 11 years old...and it’s 1957.

1957 was a big year for me.

Michael Brown
Arlington, Texas