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Concept corner: runnin’ on empty

19 October 2017



Every now and again, we get a Concept Corner submission that isn’t so much a dream as a reality waiting to happen. Here’s one … 

Jim McIndoe has always wanted to own a ’57 Chev — not a flashy Bel Air or anything, just a tough, bare-bones 150-spec two-door post sedan, like the hero car in the iconic Australian film Running on Empty.

Jim’s now got just the car, and this issue’s Concept Corner is not so much dedicated to a flight of fancy as to a real-deal build that’s gonna be cruising the streets before too long. 
Starting with the ’57 Chev 150 shell, Jim is arranging to have his paneller extraordinaire, Mike, massage the panels to perfection, replacing all the rust with custom-rolled and folded panels made from scratch. However, unlike the movie car, those perfect panels will not be gaining a lustrous coat of gloss black, but no-nonsense satin black, in perfect contrast to the polished brightwork that will accent it. 

The metal will be chopped out of the bum for a set of mini-tubs to be grafted in, and the factory chassis will remain, albeit strengthened somewhat to hold up to the immense torque it will be subjected to. Jim plans to move the rear leaf-spring mounts inwards to clear the wider rear rubber that the narrowed diff will receive, but sees no need to reinvent the wheel, with the intended purpose of the car to be a tough beater that he can drive on the road and the strip, and do big burnouts in. 

That will come courtesy of a 502ci big block Chev that Jim has already had built by Dave West at Dave West Automotive Engineering, Taumarunui. Of course, while big block grunt is good on its own, it wouldn’t be a real Running on Empty tribute without a big old blower poking through the hood, and Jim’s opted for a GM 6-71 topped by a pair of FiTech four-barrel throttle bodies. Not content with just a bunch of blown and injected mojo, Jim’s also got a blue bottle to sit in the boot, with a nitrous-plate system jetted for 500hp, and estimates that the whole shebang should be good for 1400hp. 

Jim’s not one to spout bullshit, either, and when this car comes to life, you’ll be able to get a proper look at it on these very pages. 

Justin from LVVTA says:
““Most of the modifications on this tough-sounding ’57 are pretty straightforward, and so long as there’s a NZ Car Construction Manual on the bench for reference there shouldn’t be any problems come certification time,” Justin Hansen says. 

“When it comes to strengthening chassis the usual course of action is to add crossmembers in specific areas where stress and twisting can occur. A scan of the ‘Chassis Modification and Construction’ chapter of the manual will make sure that the crossmember attachments meet the applicable requirements — which are sometimes overlooked — and ensures you’ll get the maximum benefit from the crossmembers, and that fatigue-related failures won’t be an issue over time. 

“With a possible 1400hp on board, you’ll need some decent rubber fitted, and the braking system will need to be up to the job. There’s a helpful guide and other useful information in the ‘Braking Systems’ chapter of the manual for selecting the correct brake components for the job, so that you can be confident the car will get a ‘pass’ when it’s subjected to cyclic fade-resistance brake test. 

“As with any blower setup, the external projections need to be assessed to ensure they don’t exceed the sight-line requirements, and keep in mind that most plate-type nitrous systems will also increase the overall height of the projection. 

“Having seen Jim’s Cuda progressing through it’s build there’s I have no doubt that this will be another well built and good looking car!”

Your thoughts on last month’s Factory Four concept:

Jarrod Smythe: “Siick! Not sure on those rims though. Steelies all day!”
Jamie Gibson: “I want one.”
Ashley Webster: “Yeah I don’t mind that aye”