Original cars have a historical aura about them. Peering into the original silver acrylic lacquer on Al Maynard's '57 Corvette-a top-of-the-food-chain, 283ci/283hp, fuel-injected Corvette-transports an enthusiast back in time.
How does an owner do such an original vehicle proper justice with his description? Al admitted the fiberglass body has been "wheeled out" [buffed] a few times, and the paint is "getting thin." There are some "blotches," but amazingly, the lacquer hasn't checked or cracked anywhere. The car is in amazing shape. Al walked around it and rattled off its history like a cross between a museum tour guide and a used-car salesman.
"Yeah, right down to the carpeting, everything in the car is original-bumpers have never been rechromed, glass is perfect, and the hardtop is perfect," he says. "The only thing we did was take the body off the frame, just to clean up the chassis. We put an N.O.S. exhaust system on it. It's got N.O.S., not repop, tires. And I just went through the brakes and brake linings. Just cleaned it up is all we did.
The engine has only about 7,000 miles on it. The original owner had taken the motor out and put in a built 283ci engine. He was actually racing the car. The original engine was just set aside and it was perfect. We took it apart to check it out, just replaced the rings and bearings, but it didn't need it."
The "he" in this conversation is the original owner, Clark Irwin, who was and still is, Al says, an engineer for GM. He and his buddy ordered '57 Corvettes with the fuel-injected 283ci engines. They got a surprise when they raced side by side. Clark's car was always slower.
"They couldn't figure out what the heck was going on," Al says. "They did some investigating. The dealer had ordered the wrong motor in Clark's car. He had the hydraulic camshaft mistakenly installed in the car. The dealer reordered a new engine for Irwin. He took delivery in August, which explains the late VIN of 6050.
"[Despite the engine change] Irwin didn't lose one nut or bolt from this car," continued Al. "He had the original 'pig,' the original four-speed. I mean everything in that car is just the way he got it." The pig, of course, refers to the rearend, which is a 3.70:1-geared, open-style unit. Irwin took the car on his honeymoon and drove it on the street often. Finally, he went racing. But, to save the originality, he used a built-up small-block and installed a Posi with 5.13:1 gearing. When he added a tach on top of the steering column, he used rubber bumpers and grommets, refusing to drill holes or alter the car in any way. To keep the carpet like new, he installed another one on top. Irwin even installed an aluminum hood and did not alter the body.
Al currently lives in Clinton Township, Michigan, not far from the GM Tech Center in Warren. He had heard about the low-mileage, original '57-a perfect fit for the kinds of cars he craves. But Al is multi-marque. He owns one of the most interesting musclecars ever built-a '68 Z/28 convertible-one of one built special for GM executive Pete Estes. His '68 Hemi Coronet R/T convertible, triple black, is one of nine and he recently sold an L79 black SS Nova with only 151 total miles. "Musclecars, street rods-I just like neat vehicles," Al explained.
This '57 sure fits his collecting criteria. He's never put his '57 Corvette in a show to compete but he consented to put it on display in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection.
"Jim Purvis asked me to bring the car. They had a collection of first generation Corvettes. It freaked out a lot of people. They had more people taking pictures because of the original fasteners on the car. They couldn't believe the car was so original."
That original paint, apparently, is working its hypnotic spell.