Only three years after its introduction, for 1956 Chevrolet introduced a restyled Corvette that was a significant departure from earlier models. Fast, sleek and extremely clean in appearance, the new body style was more than just a work of art – the now-iconic design lent America’s sports car a much more sporting identity. As a result, the overall excitement surrounding Corvette soon notched into high gear, and the ’56 model outsold previous versions by a margin of nearly three to one.
Wisely, GM elected to not deface a figure of beauty for 1957, and the dramatic body styling remained unchanged – although it would mark the last year for the simplistic two-headlight design. Engineering enhancements were another matter entirely. With aggressive competition from Ford’s Thunderbird and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Chevrolet was serious about putting its adversaries in the Corvette’s tire tracks, and the arrival of engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov to the team fortunately meant a sharpened focus on racetrack-quality performance. The Corvette was soon available with an array of high-performance V8s, including a dual four-barrel carburetor setup good for 270 horsepower, and a fuel-injected version with 283 horsepower – a laudable one horsepower per cubic inch. This increase in power necessitated other optional upgrades to round out the sporty two-seater’s performance, including heavy-duty racing suspension, front brake air scoops and finned brake drums as found in Regular Production Order (RPO) 684.
With an intimidating front-end chrome grill that resembled a shark’s mouth, the roadster ate up the competition. In fact, it was promoted as one of the fastest production cars of its time. Published data of the day illustrated a 283/250 fuel-injected example achieving 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.7 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds.
The 283/250 example offered here was acquired by R.E. Monical about eight years ago. It is an original, correct-numbers fuel-injected car as confirmed by the original engine stamping “F702EM,” wherein “EM” denotes the 250-hp fuel injected engine with manual transmission – a $484 option when new. The Rochester FI unit carries part number 7024520, which was the second version utilized by Chevrolet on the 1957 Corvette. This is not only the correct part number for this car; it is also believed to be the original unit. The optional manual transmission added an additional $188.30 to the price tag.
Finished in Venetian Red with beige coves and a red and beige interior, this example is well appointed. It features the desirable Wonderbar radio, plus a clock, emergency brake warning light, spinner wheel covers, and the vastly preferable four-speed transmission (one of 664 installed). Also of note, 931 ‘57 Corvettes were ordered with the RPO 491 auxiliary hardtop in place of the soft top, and this is believed to be one of those examples. In the day, this Corvette’s overall cost would have been more than $3,875 compared to $2,611 for a base Bel Air convertible.
Recently, the staff at the Monical Collection removed the fuel injection unit and had it completely and correctly rebuilt. Today the fuel-injection system functions extremely well, and the engine runs as it should. Although the body-off restoration is now about 17 years old, this Corvette remains in excellent condition with paint and chrome finishes appearing fresh. Only nine miles have turned on the odometer since completion. The engine and its surrounding bay are tidy with very nice details, the underbody is clean, the trunk is neat, and the chrome is very presentable. Additionally, the body fit is quite good for a Corvette of this vintage.