Have you ever heard of a ’57 Chevy pace car? Before you answer that, you should know it’s a trick question. While Chevrolet did commission these pre-race rolling advertisements for various years, the company didn’t actually do it during this memorable year of automotive history. However, even though Chevrolet did create many “sanctioned” pace cars throughout the last several decades, many models of Chevrolet cars and trucks became pace cars at various small-town racetracks, courtesy of track owners and local Chevrolet dealerships.
So, if I told you this ’57 Chevy convertible used to be a pace car, it sounds plausible. In fact, thanks to a partnership with Adams Motors in Greenwood, South Carolina in the late- ‘50s, this car did pace many races at a small dirt track in Greenwood. Every weekend, spectators would witness this car driving the clay-packed oval. The car surely delivered many enthusiastic car buyers to the Adams Motors dealership on Monday morning. At least, that was the dealership’s hope.
As you can imagine, the life of a dirt-track pace car can be grueling, and eventually, the car’s usefulness was deemed complete. Unfortunately, we’re not completely sure what year that was. All we can say is, for an undetermined length of time after that, the car sat in storage around the track until a local collector decided to bring it back to life.
“In 1992, a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. McCullough, purchased the car from the Greenwood Racetrack,” says the car’s current caretaker, Jim Simpson of Williamston, South Carolina. We’re betting the life it led driving in circles and through small-town parades means it wasn’t subjected to the grueling life a typical street-driven, everyday commuter would encounter. Because of that, one would think the restoration was easy. Let’s just say, easy is a relative term.
“With the help of famed Tri-Five restorer, Chuck Miller, the car underwent extensive rebuilding,” says Jim. As you can see by looking at the pictures, the car was in decent shape, but definitely needed help. The car was completely disassembled, meaning the frame was even separated from the body. This was a true, frame-off restoration. Once the car was restored, the couple enjoyed the car for several years until Mr. McCullough passed away. Sometime after that, his widow decided it was time to see the convertible bring someone else the joy it brought her and her husband.
“I am a friend of Mrs. McCullough’s nephew, Tony Little, and he reached out to let me know about the car being for sale,” says Jim. “I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase the car with all of the restoration documentation and even the trophies Mr. McCullough had won while he owned the car.” According to Jim, that was in 2008.
While paying careful attention to detail, Mr. McCullough and Mr. Miller painstakingly rebuilt the car back to as-new condition. As you look at the images, keep in mind, the restoration was done in the early ‘90s. To say the car has held up well is an understatement.
Although it spent a lot of its life driving on dirt, the frame was in decent shape, and it — and the suspension — just required a good cleaning, painting, and a plethora of suspension parts. By looking at the car, it’s easy to imagine the car still stopping via four-wheel drum brakes and enjoying a comfortable ride — by 1957 standards — by way of traditional gas shocks.
In regard to the drivetrain, “the car was restored to absolutely original condition,” affirms Jim. “It has all the original drivetrain, consisting of a 283 Power Pack engine, Powerglide automatic transmission, and the original rearend, all restored to original specs.” That means, it delivers 220 horsepower with a 9.5:1 compression ratio and four-barrel Carter carburetor. Rounding out the drivetrain is the original cast-iron Powerglide and rearend.
Looking at the interior, it’s instantly apparent the stock theme is what this car is all about. As you climb into the area behind the factory-fresh steering wheel, it’s easy to imagine it is 1957, and you’re getting ready to take your first test drive in this new car. However, this is not a new car. In fact, we all need to remember it’s not even a freshly restored car.
As nice as this car is to look at, Jim’s drop-top is not relegated to spending its days stuck in the corner of a garage. Jim enjoys his cars, and this Tri-Five gets its fare-share of highway miles when the weather allows. “Even though more than 10,000 miles have been put on the car since the restoration, it is still in amazing condition due to the quality of the restoration the car received,” Jim states with a huge smile on his face.