Leadfoot Jim

The Chevrolet V8 was introduced in late 1955 as a 265 c.i.d. (4.3 L) engine. In 1957, the famous "283" (a larger 4.6 L version) made its début. It proved to be the "hottest" passenger car engine ever developed. Throttle response was phenomenal and the engine would "wrap" to 6600 RPM with ease.

Jim bought a Bel Aire in 1957 with the 230 HP engine (270 HP was available for the Corvette) and immediately set out to "out drag" the hottest on the road which included the 1952 Olds 88, then the favorite for young men with heavy feet. In our area, the only thing which could "wipe out" Jim in the 1/4 mile drags was the 1939 Chevy coupe (270 c.i.d. GMC 6 cylinder) belonging to yours truly – Robert.

In 1960, Jim bought the model pictured above, again with the 230 HP engine. He came to me – the best engine builder in the area at that time – for a little "soup job." I stuffed in a Racer Brown camshaft capable of "revving" to 9400 RPM plus the addition of 3 Rochester 2-barrel carburetors. My now deceased brother – a certified A.E.C. heliarc welder – tacked on muffler bypass extensions. The result was a "screamer" to say the least. Jim used to run 1/8 mile drags using low gear alone.

When preparing for the Class E state championships, we had to add 900 pounds of boiler plate in order to get the car into the class. Over-loaded and weighing about 4400 lbs., Jim could still get his car to manage over 96 MPH in the 1/4 mile. Needless to say, each race belonged to him. Unloaded, and on the street, he made several Corvette owners wonder why they spent so much money.

During the heyday of that 283 engine, nearly 80 percent of all drag race records were established by that one engine alone. As my old Road and Track friend once said to me, "We were lucky to have lived in the 50's. The young arrogant kids of today don't know shit."