Texas native Jerry Richardson has personified the old adage “if you can dream it, you can build it” with his absolutely breathtaking 1957 Chevrolet — a project inspired by the Pro Street-style vehicles he saw in his youth. He carried that inspiration well into adulthood. In particular, he cites an early Anglia sighting. The car had a racing-inspired parachute, wing, and wheelie bars. It was sighted when he was six years old and was the blueprint for his ultimate ride.
“I remember that Anglia was at a gas station, and my dad and I turned around and went back and looked at it. After that, I would buy the CARtoons magazines, and they were full of Pro Street cars and drawings of guys working on them in their garage. So I’ve always been a Pro Street geek,” Richardson says.
Richardson has had a lifelong affection for cars and has owned numerous “fast cars and hot rods,” from Mustangs with bolt-ons in high school to a self-built ’67 Camaro that he assembled and painted. All were built in his two-car garage. Swearing to himself he’d never build another one from the ground up, he bought a host of cars, each one “getting better than the one before it. But he would always find something he just didn’t like about the car…it wasn’t the right color or have the right stance. “Some were really nice cars, they were just never quite what I wanted, so I finally told myself I was going to build another one,” he says. “When I envisioned this, I wanted a car that looked like it shouldn’t be on the street — like a real Pro Modified car. However, I wanted air-conditioning, power windows, stereo, etc., all the comforts of a daily driver. I didn’t think it was going to go over too well, but I didn’t care, because I was building it for me.”
The process unfolded over a five-year period of continuous work, and Richardson spared virtually no expense in bringing his vision — his dream — to reality.
He started with an original ’57 Chevy body that, after a deeper dive, proved itself a rust-bucket unworthy of use. In the end, only the roof was carried over to the new build, and even that was later replaced. He turned to Danchuk Manufacturing for remanufactured panels, trim, bumpers, windows, and other parts to assemble what is essentially a brand-new 1957 Chevrolet. Rick Stevens Race Cars constructed the 25.3 double-framerail chassis as a roller. When the body was hung, Richardson then dropped it off with Ray Dellumo at Rays Thunder Garage in Louisiana, where over the course of a year all of the trim was installed, the body tweaked and perfected, and the striking “Viper Red” and Chevrolet base-white color scheme applied. CG American Muscle Cars, headed up by Nick Chauffe and Steven Garcia, then handled the task of dropping the drivetrain in, plumbing, wiring, and finalizing the entire project.
“The best part of the car is how sanitary and clean it is — there are no wires showing, everything just looks clean,” Richardson says, is a testament to the time and creativity that Chauffe and Garcia invested in their part of the build.
The immaculate car is powered by a 427 cubic-inch LS, with a Dart SHP block with splayed mains as its focal point, assembled by Don Hardy Race Cars in Texas. Hardy utilized Oliver connecting rods, a Dart eight-counterweight crankshaft, Diamond LS2K pistons, and a Cam Motion camshaft in the short block assembly — the latter of which spins COMP Cams valvetrain components in a set of Dart Pro LS3 cylinder heads. The final product has a 9.5:1 compression ratio, and on the dyno and at 11.6 psi, produced 650 horsepower and more than 800 lb-ft of torque to the tire; a swap to a larger pulley to achieve 16-17 psi should get it north of 800 horsepower.
Richardson is running a Melling oil pump with a Clear View see-through oil filter to deliver the vital lubricants to the rotating assembly and the valvetrain. A pair of Holley 450 fuel pumps and Fuel Injector Clinic 1050cc injectors deliver the fuel from a custom 15-gallon fuel cell to the Magnuson 2650 2.3-liter supercharger, which features an LS3-specific lower manifold and intercooler. The supercharger sports a Nick Williams 109mm throttle body. An Edelbrock supercharger heat exchanger with Spal fans allows Richardson to keep the power adder cool while street driving.
After being released by the exhaust valve, the spent gases are sent out through 2-inch customer headers to a 4-inch oval stainless steel exhaust fabricated by Rick Stevens Race Cars. Those pipes navigate their way to the just fore of the rearend housing, then take a 90-degree turn and spill out just in front of the big rear meats. Richardson has used small 6-inch mufflers, ensuring most of the decibels produced by the engine reach the eardrums. The exhaust setup, as you can see, follows the long-standing trend of semi-full, side-exit exhaust configurations found in Pro Street-style cars.
A Holley Terminator ECU serves as the nucleus of the operation under the hood. Braided lines and AN fittings for the fuel and oil systems give the whole under-hood look a classic, quality appearance.
Behind all that power is a Rossler Pro-Mod Turbo 400 automatic transmission, with a TCI billet flexplate, and a RoadRunner 4,000-rpm-stall billet torque converter. Richardson is also utilizing a Gear Vendors Overdrive to maintain proper streetability. A carbon-fiber driveshaft feeds a custom-fabricated 9-inch from Rick Stevens, sporting a Strange Engineering aluminum center section with 40-spline axles. Strange brakes are also found at all four corners.
A lot of people give me shit…they ask why I built a racecar if I’m not going to race it, but this is the way I wanted to build my car. It’s just a ‘look’ thing.
The car rides on RC Components 17×3.5-inch fronts wrapped in Hoosier 26×6 rubber, and 15×15-inch double-beadlock rears with 33×22.5 rear tires. Strange Engineering struts rest upfront, and coilover shocks are positioned at the rear, working in tandem with the four-link built by Stevens, and Strange brakes are located at all four corners.
The inside, as you can see, is just as immaculate as its exterior, with factory-style door panels, Braun faux-leather bucket seats, and the original ‘57 dash with all the old-school metal push-buttons and air vents. Richardson relies on a Dakota Digital and Holley 12-inch digital dash combination to monitor all the vitals going down the road. A Richardson Boyz chrome steering wheel adds some flair, as do the carbon-fiber wheel tubs and interior panels, and the aforementioned power windows, stereo system, and air-conditioning comprise the basic creature comforts for Jerry and his wife as they cruise the boulevards in their oh-so-epic machine.
All that remains is the installation of a custom carpet floor in the coming weeks to cleanly blanket the floors and the double framerail and transmission tunnel.
While the (nearly) finished product looks like sheer perfection to most, the project was not without its compromises and challenges.
“There were a lot of obstacles along the way…a lot of two steps forward, one back. And there are some things that if I had to do it over again, I would,” Richardson shares.
The car was, for example, originally envisioned with a twin-turbo setup. But when Richardson switched gears to a supercharger, clearing the hood became a problem. Determined to keep the car entirely steel, he opted to go the nuclear route and had a hole cut to accommodate the Magnuson ‘huffer’, rather than purchase a fiberglass hood.
Another challenge that was presented — but turned out rather trick in the end — is the fabricated frame under the trunk lid. As Richardson explains, the factory-style bracing inside the trunk couldn’t be utilized to mount the parachute and the wing too, so it was instead riveted to the trunk lid. But the weight of all of that hardware pulled the rivets out of the sheetmetal. Only after the car was painted did Richardson recognize the problem, and as he says, “you can imagine the feeling I felt when I saw it. It was a nightmare.”
To alleviate the problem once and for all, he bought a new trunk and Stevens removed all the bracing and fabricated a chromoly frame and brace inside to support the weight. The heavy trunk lid is raised electronically with actuators, exposing the ultra-clean trunk with the intercooler tank and batteries.
As noted, among Richardson’s many wishes for the project was to utilize steel from nose to tail, and despite that, it tips the scale at a relatively scant 3,360-pounds.
For Richardson, the project was an exercise in patience and perseverance, as the costs piled up and progress was slowly made over the course of those five long years. That kind of time, of course, is what it takes to construct something to such an exacting level.
People say, ‘dude, how are you going to drive this car, it’s too nice,’ but I don’t care, I built it to drive it, and that’s what I’m going to do. Every chance I get, I’m driving it.
“My wife was a big part of this…the car wouldn’t be finished if it wasn’t for her,” Richardson is quick to say. “When you’re throwing out 10, 15 thousand dollars a month and you don’t even have anything to go out and look at, it gets very frustrating; you get discouraged real easy. But my wife was like, ‘look, you’ve come this far, you can’t stop — this is your dream car, if you don’t do it, you’re never going to be happy.’ I stuck with it, even though a lot of times I didn’t want to, but now I go out and look at it and I’m so happy. Every piece on the car was built exactly the way I wanted it, so it makes me proud that I finished it. It’s just everything I wanted in a car. But if you don’t have a supportive wife, there’s no way you can enjoy this sport the way it’s meant to be, because you’ve got to have that ‘rock’ to help you when you get down.”
Richardson, like any red-blooded hot rodder with a curiosity for the ultimate capabilities of his handiwork, is intrigued by the dragstrip, but is quick to admit a couple of things: one, he’s highly competitive and knows that the project would have snowballed into another financial dimension had he built it to race; and two, the car is simply too valuable to ever be replaced if it were crashed in a drag race. Despite those points, though, he suggests a visit or two to the 1/4-mile may be in order in due time.
“A lot of people give me shit…they ask why I built a racecar if I’m not going to race it, but this is the way I wanted to build my car,” he says. “It’s just a ‘look’ thing. I could put 4,000 horsepower in this car…we could throw a Hemi and twin turbos in there…and it’ll compete, but it’s just not the way I have it set up, and that’s that.”
The response, as expected, has been overwhelming to this gorgeous ’57.
“The first time I had it out we went to Cruisin’ The Coast, and it was chosen in the top 12 out of 10,000 cars. It had the biggest crowd of any car…I mean, it’s loud, it sounds the way it looks. When we pull up, people are looking around. And it’s low and mean-looking, people just loved it. I had so many people come up and say, ‘this is the nicest car I’ve ever seen.’ And it makes you feel good, because the five years, and all the money, it makes you proud to know that people appreciate what you put together.”
While it may not be a thoroughbred racer, Richardson makes up for it by ensuring it is very much so a driver.
“I drive the shit out of it when the weather permits. People say, ‘dude, how are you going to drive this car, it’s too nice,’ but I don’t care, I built it to drive it, and that’s what I’m going to do. Every chance I get, I’m driving it. And it drives so well, with the Gear Vendors and the air-conditioning and all, we could take it across the country. My wife loves it, my kids love it…we pick up my kids at school and take them cruising in it, so it’s cool that I can enjoy it with my whole family.”