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Elite-level 680hp 1957 Chevrolet - flashback

By Glenn Torrens | Photos: Helmut Mueller, 23 Aug 2018 Features

Elite-level 680hp 1957 Chevrolet - flashback

Anthony Sant's magnificient 680hp Chev dominated the Summernats 17 elite hall

This article was originally published in the February 2004 issue of Street Machine magazine

DOESN’T happen all the time, but every so often, something arrives at Summernats that is bang on target. It might be for astonishing craftsmanship, subliminal detailing, cutting-edge innovation, the sheer wow factor or a mix of all those things.

1957 ChevThis year, that special something was Anthony and Roseanne Sant’s ’57 Chev. It shot to the top of the Meguiar’s Elite Hall judging on Saturday with a full clip of awards, including the double-barrel bullseye of Top Judged and People’s Choice.

The craftsmanship wafts over you like a cool summer breeze. At first glance, its perfect panels, subtle colour and factory chrome defines it as a restoration that doesn’t blast the observer in the face with colour or clout. Then it gradually reveals its character and detail to those who take the time to look.

Read next: Street-driven 540-cube 1957 Chevrolet Sports coupe

1957 Chev engine baySee any injection here? You’d have a good eye if you did as it’s been masterfully hidden away

The engine bay is a study in car creator art. The underside of the bonnet has been smoothed, the alloy radiator and its fan banished behind a finely-crafted shroud that is canted back toward the engine.

Check out the way each bonnet hinge lifts from crafted recesses in the inner guards, just forward of the flat firewall. And the mighty 680hp engine is stunning, with its polished, staggered intake trumpets, and hidden EFI. Everything is there for a reason. Everything works. There’s more work in this engine bay than in many other cars’ bodies, and that’s just what you can see – it’s as beautiful underneath as it is above.

Read next: Pro street blown LS7-powered 1957 Chev Bel Air

1957 Chev interiorThe flowing design theme flows from wheels to door handles and the trumpets scream “Tough!”

The interior is also a beautiful blend of then and now. There are no clashes of theme with this car. Everything is harmonious, tight and restrained.

Anthony bought the car five years ago as an undercoated cruiser with mags.

Read next: Weiand-blown 1955 Chev Bel Air

19578 Chev“The bloke who owned it got hooked up with some sheila and had to sell the car,” he says. “I saw it in the Trading Post. I always said I wanted a Chev. It was just supposed to be a nice cruiser; a nice Sunday car. I started doing it and found I just couldn’t cut any corners.”

Very little rust or damage was revealed after Mr Clean at Padstow blasted the car, so with the body bare, the build started in earnest, with Paul Bennett commissioned to wave his magic metal wand, beginning with that engine bay.

Read next: Custom 1957 Chev Bel Air

1957 Chev rear“The engine bay was tinned and I figured while we were there we’d tin the boot as well,” Anthony says. “Then we looked at the underside of the bonnet.”

Bennett also book-ended the chassis with a HQ Holden crossmember graft and C-sections for rear axle clearance. The HQ transplant gives better suspension, V8-compatible discs and a wide choice of handling and rolling stock options. It also drops the ride height by a couple of inches before lowered springs or bags go in. Bennett built the rear suspension to hold a polished alloy nine-inch with Commodore brakes.

1957 Chev Bel AirFrom blasting to painting, the body took two and a half years of on-and-off work. John Fenato and Andrew Coon finessed the panels before Bonnyrigg Smash made it look great with Spies Hecker colour from Anthony’s Holden Rodeo work truck. He considered several other colours, even test painting one side of the car purple, before coming back to his initial choice. “Sometimes your first thoughts are the best,” he says.

Steve from All Trim built the interior. “We did the back seat three times, just trying to get it right. We had a big lounge chair look at first, but that didn’t suit. It needed to be sleek, but keeping a bit of classic. And no wrinkles.” You’d have to agree, they nailed it.

1957 Chev Bel Air trumpetsA nice touch you won’t notice until you jump in and try to close the door is the finger holes under each billet armrest (CNC machined by Joe Schembri) to allow you to grab the doors. Neat. The metal polishing, inside and out, was the responsibility of Mirror Finish.

Anthony’s brother Paul of Pro Flo Performance built the Dart-based 496 big-block. “You can’t have a good-looking car that can’t back it up,” Anthony says. “I wanted a big-block, I wanted a hole in the bonnet and I wanted it to look tough.”

1957 Chev Belair undersideThe detail doesn’t stop upstairs with this gorgeousness earning Top Undercarriage at Summernats 17

The most outstanding feature of the engine is the hidden EFI. The fuel rails and injectors live underneath the Crower injection manifold, within the valley of the engine. This required a sealed box be built, to keep the fuel components out of the oil, and bench-tested before installation. The innovation is inspiring. Behind the engine is a Northmead Auto Centre TH350 three-speed slushy.

The guts of the airbag system and the custom fuel tank fill both rear quarters. The tank was built by Anthony’s other brother Mark (On-Track Electrical), who added to his sparky credentials by doing an alloy welding course. Of course, he also wired the car.

1957 Chev Bel Air door trimThe car was finished the day before Summernats and loaded into its trailer at 2am on Thursday before being hauled to Canberra for the first of Street Machine’s two photo shoots. Then it was off to stun the judges. The only points the Summernats team made to Anthony about his car were some very minute paint imperfections only noticeable to a highly-trained eye. However, Anthony says he welcomes such a discerning judging process.

“You almost can’t pick it, but they do,” he says. “When the standard is as high as it is, the judges have to really pick the little things. They went over it three or four times and kept coming back to it. It must’ve been a hard decision between this and a couple of others. Other people sometimes arc up about feedback such as that. You’ve got to listen to the judges and learn, I reckon,” he says.

1957 Chev Bel Air undersideSage words from a hot elite car newcomer who has nailed the ideal of restoring a glorious classic with the right blend of modification.


YEAR OF THE CUSTOM

1957 Chev Bel Air2004 has been a big year. First, Adam Le Brese comes from nowhere and blows us away with his SMOTY-winning EH custom delivery, now Anthony Sant joins several other fresh new names and cars in the Summernats Top 10 with his restified ’57 Chev. Anthony’s award list from Summernats includes Top Judged, People’s Choice, Top Engine Bay, Top Undercarriage, 2nd Interior, Top Engineered Super Street and Top Super Street. As well as qualifying as a Meguiar’s Show Car Superstar, the Chev was also nominated for PPG Summernats Supreme.

That’s all very good, but the man on the street often sums it up best. A bloke standing next to the Chev as it shone in the Elite Hall was heard to say, “This is the best f#$%ing thing in here!”


1957 Chev Bel AirCOOL THINGS
• Hidden EFI
• Polished trumpets
• Extensively reshaped engine bay with hidden radiator
• Smoothed under-bonnet and bootlid
• One-piece front door glass
• Jewelled headlamps
• Custom rear exhaust cut outs
• Deleted door locks

ANTHONY & ROSEANNE SANT
1957 CHEVROLET

Colour: Spies Hecker Seascape Aqua metallic

HAUL
Engine: 496ci Chev
Block: Dart
Heads: Alloy Edelbrock Performer RPM
Crank: Scat
Intake manifold: Modified Crower injection
Injectors: 750cc MSD hidden under intake
Management system: EMS Dual Sport
Rods: Eagle
Cam: Camtech
Radiator: Mick’s Metalcraft alloy
Extractors: Fabricated, 2in primaries
Exhaust: Dual 3in
Output: 680hp, 615ft/lb

GRIND
’Box: TH350 three-speed auto
Converter: 3500rpm TCE
Tailshaft: 3.5in custom
Diff: Nine inch
Ratio: 3.7:1
Diff centre: Polished alloy; Mark Williams axles

RIDES ON:
Suspension: Rod Tech stainless dampers; airbags
Brakes: HQ Holden discs (f), VS Commodore discs (r)
Wheels: 15x6 and 15x12 Billet Specialties Psycho
Tyres: 215/65 (f) and fat 325s (r)

INTERIOR
Seats: Standard bench – rear modified for tubs
Steering wheel: Billet Specialties Psycho
Shifter: Quarter Stick
Instruments: Standard