SEMA 2017: Rick Hendrick’s Rare 1957 “Airbox” Corvette

There was probably no finer year in the C1 Corvette era than 1957, especially for the development of the line. First, the popular 265 cubic-inch V8 engine was bored out to 283 cubic-inches with the realization that there is no replacement for displacement. Understanding the some enthusiasts would pay for performance, Chevrolet offered two different dual 4-barrel carb options.

It that wasn’t enough to create a real buzz, the team also offered a Rochester Ram Jet mechanical fuel injection, born of racecar technology, and the legend of the “fuelies” was launched. It was this engine combination that finally hit the magical brick wall of one horsepower per cubic-inch of displacement. This platform became the performance benchmark for Chevrolet overnight.

A lessor known option, offered as 579E, and soon to become known as the “airbox” package, coupled with the heavy-duty suspension package (option 684) more commonly known as the “big brake” package, were coupled together to make the Corvette perform on the track.

Only 43 of the 6,339 Vettes made in 1957 were sold with the “airbox” option from the factory. There are only 17 or 18 of these original “airbox” cars surviving today. Thankfully we were able to enjoy one of these cars in the Chevrolet Performance Booth at the SEMA show this year.


  • RPO 579E: 283ci V8 with Rochester Ram Jet fuel injection, cold air induction, Borg Warner 4-speed manual transmission, and 8,000 rpm tach. Heater and radio deletions, revised spark plug wire routing.
  • RPO 684: Heavy-duty high-rate coil springs and shocks, larger diameter front stabilizer bar, additional leaf spring and heavy-duty shocks in rear, quick ratio steering, finned cast-iron brake drums, vented brake drum backing plates and brake cooling air scoops and ducts.
  • Engine: 283ci with mechanical fuel injection
  • Bore X Stroke: 3.875 X 3.000
  • Compression: 10.5:1
  • Horsepower: 283@6,200 rpm
  • Torque: 300 lb./ft.@3,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual Borg Warner
  • Rear axle: Positraction with 4.11:1 ratio
  • Wheels: 15 X 5-inch steel

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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