No. Go back. Look at the picture again. We’ll wait.
There, that’s more like it, isn’t it? This is a 1957 Corvette—in our minds, the best-looking to ever emerge from Chevrolet. And that’s not just an idle remark, either; the 1956-57 Corvette is deserving of its place in automotive royalty on looks alone. And, in 1957, Corvettes upgraded from a three-speed to a four-speed manual gearbox and gained fuel injection.
As quaint as they seem now, they were pretty serious performance yardsticks back in the '50s. To further the performance potential, this particular Corvette comes with the vaunted 579E option, which, of course, you’ll recognize instantly as the cold-air induction kit for its 4,638cc (4.6-liter) V8.
As anyone who’s old enough to start a sentence with, “Back in my day…” will tell you, engine intakes used to be very simple things—a big, circular air filter would sit on top of a carburetor (or multiple carburetors, if you were really fancy), with a small pipe poking out into the engine bay. The problem with this idea is that the air under the hood gets rather hot, and hot air is not as dense as cold air. That means there are fewer air particles in any given volume of air, which means an inefficient burn and less power.
So, the 579E cold air intake—fitted to just 43 of the 6,000-odd Corvettes that Chevy built in 1957—meant that the newly fuel-injected V8 could deliver more than 280hp from 4.6 liters, in a time before Sputnik. Coincidentally enough, Sputnik was launched on October 4th, 1957—after the fuel-injected Chevy Corvette, but some four months before the Americans launched the Explorer 1 satellite.
This particular (and particularly gorgeous) Corvette also gets the 684. And, as the overtly lyrical descriptor suggests, the (drum) brakes were upsized, with unique ducting and venting to keep things cool under repeated hard braking. Well, as cool as entirely sealed drum brakes can get. To ensure all 1,300kg, 280hp and 407Nm were kept in check, the 684 package also included stiffer, heavy-duty springs and shocks, a quicker steering rack and thicker sway bars.
So, why are we talking about a rare, old Corvette? Well, it’s a convenient excuse to ogle one of the best-looking American cars of all time, and because Chevrolet has tracked one down and put it on display at SEMA 2017. Oh, and the bods at Chevrolet are using it as a hook to launch the new cold-air intake system that’ll be available early next year. Crisis averted, people—we have a confirmed news angle.
But look at that pic again. Did we ever need one?
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.