Home-Built Hero: This ’57 Was Once Married To A Six-Cylinder But Now It’s A Black Widow

Black Widow

Typically, folks don’t care much for spiders, but if you’re a diehard Chevy guy, you’ll likely get excited in a good way when you hear about a “Black Widow”. These ultra-low production cars were produced by a small Atlanta-based company called the “Southern Engineering and Development Company” or SEDCO for short.

Black Widow

They were hired by Chevrolet’s Vince Piggins to fabricate special-built 1957 Chevrolets for competition in the quickly-growing in popularity NASCAR racing. This company appeared on paper as a division of Nalley Chevrolet Inc. Atlanta, Georgia, which is the main reason that there is so little information as to the exact number of cars produced. Chevrolet shipped the cars from Detroit to Atlanta to be converted, so the cars would have already been removed from Chevrolet’s books before completing the transformation. The reason for shipping the cars from Detroit, was due to the cars having a lighter one-piece frame rail rather than the heavier C-channeled frame rails built elsewhere.

The interior was kept spartan, and while Paul's Widow doesn't have all the go-fast goodies of the original, he did opt for the one key deletion of the rear seating.

And what a transformation it was! Starting with a base-model 150-series body style, the folks at SEDCO would then begin preparing the cars for serious competition by removing unnecessary items of the interior such as additional seating, door latches, window cranks and mechanisms for the rear glass, carpeting, and any creature comforts such as a heater, cigarette lighter, and radio were deleted. All Black Widows came with the super-hot Duntov solid-lifter cammed 283 and a three-speed on-the-tree transmission.

The Black Widow race cars got their name thanks to all being painted black and white. Other items of note were the six lug wheels that mated to the heavy-duty truck axles that were swapped out in Atlanta. Other items replaced by SEDCO was a heavy-duty radiator made specifically for racing, heavy-duty boxed front control arms, and a larger than factory fuel tank. Because with race cars, fuel is more important than having a spare tire, the spare tire well in the trunk was removed to make room for the larger tank and a special trunk mat was installed, sans the usual opening for the hole in the floor for the spare tire well. This was done to avoid tipping off race tech inspectors as to the modifications.

One feature that all Black Widows shared was the fuel injected 283 engine. Paul handily addressed this with a date-correct engine and fuelie unit and proudly displays it on the rear quarters of his ride.

The black and white fuel injected 150 two door sedans appeared at NASCAR’s National Speed Weeks in Daytona in February 1957, and their history is well documented in the record books. The fact that they are still well revered by the Chevrolet faithful is well understood by the astronomical prices these cars command whenever one comes up for sale, and also by the numerous tribute cars that have been created. Enthusiasts still strive to re-live this time when Duntov’s Widows wove their circular webs around the hearts and minds of youthful spirits all over the country.

Paul Wilson, from Greenfield, Ohio, is one such enthusiast. He has owned this Black Widow clone for over 30 years. Originally purchased as a parts car, it sat for 17 years, virtually untouched. Then, one day he decided to rebuild it. It was an original six-cylinder car, but Paul wanted to make it extra special. With only 57,000 miles on the odometer, you could say that it already was, as most of the car was still there and the body panels were still all intact. The car still wears all of its original body panels and in Paul’s words, “It was about all there. I replaced the bumpers.”

Black widow

Distinctly ’57, specifically Black Widow.

That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have to do anything though. He went through the care entirely, doing everything except for that perfect black and white paint job. That included swapping out the original six in place of the correct year-coded engine and fuel injection set up. The task took a couple of years, but now that the car is finished, Paul explains why it’s good to have a tribute car instead of one of the originals, “I plan to drive it and enjoy it! I drove it 700 miles to attend the Tri-Five Nationals!”

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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