Photos and Article by Etienne Fouche
1957 Chevy Bel Air
I’ve always had a soft spot for Zwartkops Raceway and rarely miss a race, sometimes I would just drive there on Sundays and stare at the desolate track, dreaming of McQueen , Shelby and Moody. There’s something eerily romantic and melancholic about an empty raceway.
@Peter du Toit is the man and legend behind this famous and iconic racetrack. He has brought back the brutal power, sound and look of many Muscle bound race cars from the glory days.
I’m talking dirty faced, gasoline frenzied, Lucky Strike smoking, hard liquor drinking, womanising bad boys, when going really fast was the only thing worth living and dying for.
Long before launch control, dating models, obeying the rules and all the other crap that makes up modern motor sport.
One of his latest awe inspiring re-incarnations that gets my red, white and blue blood pumping is a 57 Chevy Bel Air modelled after the famous Daytona racing Stock Car known as “The Black Widow”. These cars were campaigned by Chevrolet themselves as race cars, to challenge the likes of Chrysler and Ford. In those days the Daytona track was half town road, half sandy beach. Hard to believe that those “moon shine” days exploded into what is now known as NASCAR!! Attracting more people to the stands than football games, on a regular basis.
The original 57 Black Widows had a displacement of 283 cubic inches, 10.5 to 1 compression ratio, 3.88 bore/3.00 stroke and fuel injection, pushing out 283 horsepower, do the math that’s 1 horsepower per cubic inch!! Yeee haw!
Rear end ratios were 4.11:1 and positraction differentials were used.
Chevrolet offered 170 factory available parts to tweak your personal machine for some “circle burnin” action.
Peter’s version is obviously purposely built for circuit racing and quite different beneath its perfect gleaming black and white skin. Pop the hood and the heart of the beast reveals some serious muscle. It’s a high compression 350 small block, stroked to 383 cubic inches, Edelbrock Performance Victor junior heads feed from the alloy intake with a big ol” Holly carb on top that sucks up the hot Pretoria air. Spent race gas/air mixture gets dumped into a full tubular racing exhaust system. Gear banging is executed by a Hurst Performance Products Shifter motivating the four speed Muncie Tranny sending the 500+ horsepower to the soft compound wrapped American Racing Torq Thrust 2’s at the rear. Slowing this lead sled down is left up to Wilwood disc brakes front and back. Steering is high ratio manual and a hell of a upper body workout.
Interior is typical race car, bare bones and straight to the point. The bucket seat grips you tight reminding you that this is not your Mom’s Prius. Inside the trunk is nothing but a fuel cell and a battery.
I can just imagine how hot it must get in this monster wearing a fire suit, gloves, boots and helmet. Pure passion and the need for speed goes a long way.
A special thanks to Peter du Toit, Jonathan du Toit and Zwartkops Race Track for accommodating me in such a friendly and helpful way.
Owner: Peter du Toit
Model: Bel Air
Engine: Stroked 383 cubic inch small block
Tranny: Muncie 4 speed
Wheels: American Racing Torq Thrust’s
Exhaust: Full custom mandrel bent tubular system
Intake: Edelbrock Victor Junior
Heads: Edelbrock Victor Junior
Carb: Holley Performer series
Brakes: Wilwood Disc Brakes Master Cylinder and Discs.