Looking back on Stan Shaw’s sensational blown big-block ’57 Chev
This article on Stan’s Chev Bel Air was originally published in the December 1991 issue of Street Machine
STAN SHAW of Conyers, Georgia, finally reached the point where he had to ask himself where this drag racing thing was getting him.
After a lifetime of running around in fast cars and ending up with his own successful Pro Stock operation, he’d reached the stage where he was doing “well enough” on the race track – but was disposing of more bucketloads of money than he really cared to. Incoming didn’t quite match outgoing. Says Stan: “We (Stan and his partner Ed Carmichael) did well but we didn’t make any Pro-Stock history and the cost was incredible.” So when wife Christi gave birth to a daughter in 1988, Stan decided it was time to quit the drag racing business. “Racing was a bit too costly and time-consuming so I sold the new Jerry Haas Trans Am we had. Some people at that point might have thought Stan’s car days were over.
Of course, that wasn’t the case. Far from it.
When you’ve been fixated on cars since you were 12 and you’ve been driving them since you were 15, activities as varied as street racing and what Stan describes as “running moonshine”, it sort of gets into your blood. So after the Pro Stock operation, it wasn’t long before Stan began looking around for a new outlet. “Without a toy to play with life was miserable,” recalls the 46-year-old company executive.
The latest from this bloke, who likes to “create” with his own hands, came about in a most unexpected way. Late in 1987 he was driving up to the local shops with his son Dallas to buy some Christmas lights. On the way they noticed this crowd of people around a red car that was apparently for sale. It seems the car – a ’57 Chev Bel Air two-door hardtop – had been painstakingly built up in secret over eight years by this bloke who planned to give it to his son as a 16th birthday present. The son, on sighting the old Chev, said he’d rather have something modern like a Datsun 280Z. The father – no doubt in horror and disgust – put up the beautiful American classic for sale. Stan Shaw couldn’t help himself and came home from a quick trip to the corner shop – much to Christi’s surprise – with a restored ’57 Bel Air.
Of course the intentions with this car were far different to anything he’d been involved with before. Although he wanted to put his hard-earned drag racing knowledge to good use, there was no plan to build another Pro Stock racecar. Nope, this was to be a show car, a Pro Streeter that would retain the classic ’57 lines, but back them up with a serious, super-tough powerplant and a bulletproof driveline.
Stan doesn’t subscribe to the minimalist, one-colour, hidden-wiring approach. From his point of view this is drab and boring. Consequently the ’57 – which he calls the Red Rocket – was planned right from the start to flaunt everything it had – lots of colour, lots of chrome, braid, more chrome – with no attempt to hide or disguise any component that has anything to do with the workings of the engine, or the chassis. This is a Pro Streeter of the old school that – as well as stopping dead anyone who comes within a quarter of a mile of it – was designed to be comparatively easy to live with.
The engine started as a 454 LS7. It was pulled apart, then put back together as a 484 with BDS 7.5:1 pistons, stock LS7 crank and a BDS 6/71 blower that helps produce 770hp at 6000rpm – without nitrous – on the dyno. Who knows what it would make with the NOS equipment switched on.
Internal gear includes 7/16in-bolt Chev rods, Sealed Power rings and bearings, TRW oil pump, BDS Stage II cam, lifters and double valve springs, and a BDS manifold with a Lee Performance Products intercooler to give maximum density to the intake charge. Supplying the fuel is a pair of 750 Holley double-pumpers, while Hooker four-tube headers drag the spent gases out of the dump system into an aluminised steel 3-inch system with 3-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. Stan also shows the car in ‘competition’ trim and for that, he bolts on a set of HPC-coated Hooker headers with 12-inch collectors.
Chev’s blown, intercooled big-block has been dynoed at 770hp. The internals are real heavyweight. Below: A kill-switch hides in the left-hand fin
No compromise was considered with this engine – nor with the drivetrain, which has similarly been built to drag-car standards. The prodigious grunt is delivered via a TCI nine-inch 3500-4000rpm converter to a full competition GM Turbo 400 – also built by TCI – then passes through a shortened driveshaft to a Ford nine-inch Detroit Locker rear end. Two diff ratios are quoted: 4.11 for regular use, 5.01 for race use – if Stan ever gets the desire to aim all this expensive, painstakingly built gear down the quarter.
The chassis has been treated to the same bulletproof treatment as the engine and driveline.
The frame, fabricated by Mike Rowan of DocRods in Tucker, Georgia, comprises an Alston Engineering Super Gas rear kit and a ’73 Nova front clip that allows the big beast to settle heavily into the ground while retaining adequate tyre clearances. Fatman Fabrications tubular control arms at the front narrow the track of the cut Oldsmobile set-up by 3 inches to allow clearance while the adjustable ride height is set on low. And two inches off the deck is low. Accordingly, the range of adjustment front and rear is a full 8 inches. There are 16 attachment points for the body, with additional sub-firewall supports, hard ‘biscuits’ between frame and body (for US biscuit read scone in English), handmade front frame horns and numerous engineering tricks. Up back, there’s an adjustable Competition Engineering four-link with Pro Shock coil-overs, and massive stainless-steel tubs that contain the 21½-inch Mickey Thompson slicks. Further out, there’s a purposeful-looking set of polished Moroso wheelie bars. Stan stresses that everything is Grade 8-mounted for safety.
Then you step inside. Nobody has a car with as much interior trickery as Stan Shaw’s Chev. What was original ’57 is mostly all still there, but there’s an amazing array of gauges and gizmos crammed into the dash panel. There’s an overhead console with switches for starting, cooling, lighting and God knows what else and on the steering wheel, a trigger to switch in the nitrous. If a burnout is required, there’s a red light on the shifter that activates the Hurst LineLoc. And you’ve never seen so many Auto Meter gauges, all looking at you from around the instrument panel and in the engine bay itself.
Jeff Henderson of Henderson’s Upholstery in Bufor, Georgia, is the man who put in the Jaz buckets, the TRW six-point harness, headlining and black carpet – plus a neat bowtie motif built into the parcel shelf. In keeping with Stan’s desire to make this a family outfit, there’s a full rear seat where the youngsters can ride as they do the show circuit.
Then of course there’s the magnificent paint and panel work. Stan sings the praises of Ernie Ritchey of Omni Automotive Graphics who laid on the Sikkens urethane Hot Red clear-over-base and whiled away plenty of hours rubbing and buffing to give that permanent wet look. Then there’s the fibreglass bonnet, laden with graphics, its pearl subtleties causing many a double-take as people walk by.
The body, faithful to the beautiful ’57 lines, is essentially stock, although many little touches such as the blue-dot tail-light lenses and the hinged cover concealing the external kill-switch, are to be found. The ‘Supercharged’ badges announce, quite unnecessarily, that this ain’t no standard Chev.
Of course you can never do justice to a car like this if you’re limited to a single story. A book would be needed to detail fully the 3000 man-hours and close to US$90,000 that’s gone into it. A quote from Stan’s notes on the car, thanking the many people who became involved at some point, probably sums it up best: “Frank and Warren Bennett, Ernie Ritchey, Mike Rowan, Terry Lee, Perry Winning, Les Rudd, my wife, Kevin VanBuren and Chiz Chisman have all helped out and provided moral support when nothing would fit and nothing would work and parts broke and I would have sold the thing for a hundred bucks. Friends are even more important than money when attempting the nearly impossible.”
Well, there are probably one or two people out there who’d thank Stan for not selling the ’57 for a hundred bucks – as, at the time of writing, the bowtie monster had picked up 36 awards in eight shows. Of particular note was the car’s scooping up Best GM, Best Supercharged Vehicle, Best Engineered, Best Engine Compartment, Best Use of Plating, Editors’ Choice and Grand Champion in one weekend at the General Tire/Car Craft magazine/Blower Drive Services Street Machine Springnationals in Orlando during early 1991.
1957 CHEV BEL AIR
Featured: December 1991
Cool info: The Chev’s LS7 powerplant began life as a 454 but now displaces 484ci and cops motivational assistance from a BDS 6/71 blower. Pistons are also BDS, crank is
stock LS7. Measured output is 770hp, but that’s without help from the nitrous system
Paint: Sikkens Hot Red
Engine: 484ci Chev LS7
Gearbox: TCI Turbo 400
Diff: Nine-inch, 4.11/5.01 gears
Interior: Jaz bucket seats with TRW six-point harnesses, black carpet; full rear seat; Auto Meter gauges