Throwback Thursday: Bitten By A Black Widow Tri-Five

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Chevrolet Black Widow car number 47 that was driven by Jack Smith. This is one of the original factory-backed SEDCO cars.

When it comes to obscure and collectible Chevrolet cars, there is no doubt that any Yenko-built car or LS6 Chevelle is on the list, but have you ever heard of a Black Widow Chevrolet? If you’re a fan of the Tri-Five Chevy, you have undoubtedly heard something about a Black Widow car, but what is it?

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Grand National stock car racing was gaining popularity in 1957, and many dealerships were getting involved. Before the 1957 season started, Edward N. Cole, then Vice President and General Manager of Chevrolet sent Vince Piggins to Atlanta, Georgia, for a secret mission. This trip was so Piggins could establish the Southern Engineering and Development Corporation Operation (SEDCO). He, along with Bradley Dennis, Paul McDuffie, and Louis and Crawford Clements built 1957 Chevys for Chevrolet’s Grand National teams. The company was set up as a division of Nally Chevrolet, and records show that they produced six cars, but rumors persist that there was a total of 10 cars and two test mules.

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The cars that SEDCO used as a base for their creations, were regular production cars, that were available with no accessories. It is reported that cars from the Detroit plant were used, because they possessed lighter one-piece box frames as opposed to welded frames. These 150-series sedans, sub-model 1512, were equipped with a rollbar and a specially-designed driver’s seat with a shoulder pad on the backrest. The 1512 was a perfect start, because it was a bare-bones version of the car, and had no radio, heater, ashtray, and passenger or rear seat.

The first Black Widow cars were to debut at Daytona, and during time trials, it was found that high pressure air accumulated under the hood while at speed. This caused the Rochester fuel injection to run rich and lose power. For the race, the fuel injection was removed, and the cars were equipped with two four-barrel carburetors.

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In April 1957, Chevrolet distributed the 1957 Chevrolet Stock Car Competition Guide to dealerships. The Guide was to show dealers how to build a 1957 Chevy stock car. It listed all of the available GM part numbers that could be utilized to outfit a car for. It also Recommended 170 modifications that should be made to the cars to make them safer and handle better. A reproduction of the guide is available from Danchuk Manufacturing.

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All Black Widows were painted black and white, which was chosen by the crew at SEDCO. The car sported 150-model trim, and a Fuel Injection emblem on the rear quarter panel. The recommended engine was the new Corvette V8 with Ramjet Fuel Injection, but you could also order the engine with a single or dual four-barrel setup.

The Guide has been reproduced, and is available from Danchuk Manufacturing.

Chevrolet recommended that a three-speed manual transmission be used, and it was available with a variety of different gear ratios. A stronger rearend, taken from 1/2-ton Chevy trucks, also had a variety of gear ratios available. The axles and front hubs utilized a six-lug wheel, and a special wheel was needed.

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The lower A-arms had a steel plate welded to them to increase strength, and there were special bushings used with a sway bar. An additional shock was also added to one side of the lower arm and a bracket attached to the upper part of the frame.

About the author

Randy Bolig

Randy Bolig has been working on cars and has been involved in the hobby ever since he bought his first car when he was only 14 years old. His passion for performance got him noticed by many locals, and he began helping them modify their vehicles.
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