No bumps or stacks mark the ’57 Corvette as a real powerhouse.
With America on the rise in the early 1960s, spirits of Americans were also on the climb. It’s no wonder some of the greatest automotive innovations were conceived during these times. Case in point, the hot rodding scene in and around the the Los Angeles area and Ernie Landel’s supercharged ’57 Corvette.
The Jalopy Journal recently came across the story of a legendary ’57 ‘Vette, which published in the June 1959 issue of Motor Trend. Much like The Jalopy Journal fell in love with this car, so did we.
In 1962, Ernie Landel was a 20 year old working at his father’s container manufacturing plant. His family pretty much covered his daily expenses, so every dime he made went into one quest – going fast. That quest started with a ’57 Corvette. The little sports car was pretty hot in stock form, but like a lot of us, Ernie couldn’t leave anything well enough alone. He wanted more horsepower.
To start, the young hipster got himself a Latham blower capable of about 8.5 pounds of boost. To support all of that extra air, the bottom end was stroked 1/8-inch as was the bore to hog enough room for 327 inches of displacement. Add a Chet Herbert 270 roller cam, some reworked heads, and a total of four Carter side draft carbs and you end up with around 415 horsepower – a number that was out-of-this-world in 1962 for a mild mannered street car.
Somewhere down the line, the Motor Trend people heard of the little Corvette and decided some testing was in order. They installed a third-wheel timer and headed for the nearest airstrip. Off the line, the cheater slicks hopped like a tweaker-bunny rabbit so they threw a bag of cement in the trunk and added a passenger for good measure. By the end of the session, they were running 13.4 second quarters at just over 106 mph.
Bouncing slicks left ladder tracks on the dragstrip surface before a bag of cement was placed in the spare tire well to reduce wheelhop. Inglewood slicks are well camouflaged by white sidewall tires. The bicycle wheel is part of instrumentation for timing speed runs.
Still not satisfied with the testing, Motor Trend then let the young man loose on Riverside Raceway. Ernie had never driven on a road track, but had a ball learning his way through the corners. He quickly figured that a car set up for drag racing wasn’t much on a road course, but everyone was pretty tickled to see the little Vette hitting speeds of up to 130 mph on the long Riverside straight… And that’s with 4.11 gears.
While 415hp and mid 13-second passes doesn’t seem like a ton of power or speed these days, back then those numbers would make any serious hot rodder drooling with envy. Nonetheless it’s an awesome ride. In our book, Ernie Landel is a Saint. Pretty cool, huh.
Ernie Landel explains to Charles Nerpel (Motor Trend editorial staff) how it was necessary to cut and remove only one hood reinforcing strip to clear the top-mounted supercharger. The burnout clearly shows the 'Vette was no chump.