In the world of 1957 Corvettes, there are Fuelies and then there are Airboxes. Fuelie, of course, is collector-speak for fuel injection, which was a brand-new and milestone status for 1957 Corvettes. The collector’s term “Airbox” refers to fuel injection plus factory Ram Air, which was a brand-new feature that was meant to pump up the Corvette on the racetrack. Milton Robson’s ’57 convertible is one of a mere 43 Airbox Corvettes built in 1957.
Specifically, engine option code 579E was the very pricey $726.30 racers had to spend if they wanted to compete on the track. Just 43 buyers anted up the big bucks to turn their 1957 Corvettes into potential world-beaters.
Corvette’s 1957 engine lineup provides the necessary perspective to appreciate the storied Airbox. The base, no-extra-cost 283 was the 220-horsepower, 4-barrel engine. Chevrolet offered a pair of very hot—but traditional—dual 4-barrel 283s with 245 and 270 horsepower, respectively. The really big deal for 1957 was the arrival of Ram Jet fuel injection. Chevrolet offered four choices. Both option codes 579A and 579C rated 250 horsepower. Both 579B and 579E rated 283 horsepower. The 283-horsepower 283 is the fabled one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch V8, a milestone in a passenger car engine that Chevrolet highly publicized.
Of the two option codes with 283 horsepower, 579E has tremendous bragging rights over 579B. With 579E, Chevrolet mounted an 8,000-rpm tachometer on the steering column. This tachometer looks very much like a hot rodder’s mount. However, the white gauge is 100% factory original and so rare that only the privileged have seen one. Its location was more driver-friendly than the factory pod in the center of the dash. With 579E, Chevrolet pulled the factory tachometer and placed a Corvette medallion, as seen on the rear deck lid, in the vacated opening.
There’s considerably more to Robson’s Airbox Fuelie than the specially tuned Ram Air 283. Option code 684, called the “Heavy Duty Racing Suspension,” was a necessity for track action. Milton’s fully restored, Venetian Red convertible is one of 51 Corvettes so equipped in 1957. Chevrolet engineers, including Zora Arkus-Duntov, tuned the Corvette for the track with heavier-duty springs and shocks, front and rear. They upped the size of the front stabilizer bar. Nothing less than Positraction would do for the rear differential. A quick-steering adapter reduced turns lock-to-lock from 3.5 to 2.9. And last but not least, Chevrolet fitted each wheel with ceramic metallic brake linings with ventilated finned drums. Extra stopping power is extremely important on the track, even if racers did have to heat up the brakes for them to work best.
The Airbox Fuelie was capable of 0-60 mph times in the “fives.” Quarter-mile speeds eclipsed the magic 100 mph mark with elapsed times in the low 14-second range. These figures are stunning considering the bias ply tires of the 1950s—and the fact that Chevrolet wasn’t building a muscle car for the dragstrip.
To date, Corvette authorities have located 29 Airbox Corvettes, making this particular example very rare indeed.