1956 Chevrolet 210 H Drag Car
Karissa Hosek ©2017, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Aman named Jim Lamatrice purchased this 1956 Chevrolet 210 sedan brand new and would own it for the next 45 years. The best option that year was the Corvette-derived 265-ci, 225-hp Power Pak engine with dual-WCFB Carter 4-barrels, a Duntov-type 30/30 camshaft and factory dual exhaust. Jim’s classic “Shoebox Chevy” also ended up with the 3-speed overdrive manual transmission and steep 4.57:1 Positraction rear gearing. Many original Power Pak race cars were radically changed over the years. It is rare indeed to find an example whose competition heritage ended in Stock Eliminator, as this 210 post sedan did — and whose equipment as such has remained in place.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1956 Chevrolet 210 H Drag Car
Years Produced:1955–57
Number Produced:205,545 (1956 210 2-door sedans)
Original List Price:$2,011
SCM Valuation:$37,300 (Bel Air)
Tune Up Cost:$300
Distributor Caps:$14
Chassis Number Location:Driver’s door A-pillar
Engine Number Location:Stamped in block on pad ahead of passenger’s side cylinder head
Alternatives:Any period drag car built to race in a specific class
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 171, sold for $21,450, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s sale at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA, on October 5–6, 2017, as part of the Ralph Whitworth Collection.

Vintage drag cars can come in all sorts of configurations, from mild to wild. They are usually pretty worn out, have been passed from one team to another, butchered, stripped of parts, flogged and turned into farmyard art. That would apply to most old drag cars — but not our subject car.

The original owner, Jim Lamatrice, had the car for a whopping 45 years. That’s an eternity in car years. He bought the car to go drag racing and apparently for no other reason. It was a stripped-down, bare-bones, stock-class machine with the 225-hp Power Pak engine, which gave you two fours up top. He wisely added the Duntov camshaft (or at least installed a like-kind solid-lifter cam later) and a high-winding 4:57:1 Positraction rear axle.

To row through the gears, Lamatrice fitted the car with a manual 3-speed overdrive transmission, which was very astute. That gave Jim a final drive of about 3:70:1, which would allow for some spirited hole-shots with the lower gears and the ability to drive the car at highway cruising speeds without the engine sounding like a KitchenAid blender.

As built and equipped, Jim’s car loaded up on plenty of wins and trophies — including his cake-topper O/Stock title at the 1970 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA.

From track to street to collectible

After our subject car went into retirement, sometime after 1970, it was painted brown, which was a popular color in the early 1970s, and Jim detuned the car for street use.

Based on the catalog copy from RM Sotheby’s, the interior was “customized” while the car was still being raced, which would have matched the brown exterior quite nicely — provided you love old brown cars. But our subject car was parked and likely left to fade away until it was eventually sold to Joe Petralia (the third owner).

Petralia decided that the car was something special and took on a restoration to bring the car back to life in “as-raced” condition.

The car still had the original drivetrain, which is unheard of for an old dragster. Petralia reapplied the yellow paint and rebuilt much (if not all) of the original components that had wisely been left intact.

Parts were restored, and the engine was rebuilt to the original NHRA specs. Decals and other lettering were placed back on the car using vintage photos as reference. It was reported that the restoration took about two years to complete.

Jim Lamatrice documented the car as his original drag car from 1956.

Sold at Barrett-Jackson in 2007

During our research, it was discovered that chassis 37848 was sold at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale sale in 2007 as Lot 745.1. Including the buyer’s premium, the car sold for $49,500.

Given this sale result, I would suggest that the restoration was fresh at that time. Plus, the description provided with the car stated that tons of excellent documentation, photos, track slips, magazine articles and the like were included with the sale — even an old racing jacket.

I would assume that same documentation was included with the car this go-round, but there is no mention of it in the RM Sotheby’s catalog copy.

Arizona-assigned VIN

While it doesn’t really seem to matter in the big-picture overview, one item that does stand out, at least to me, is the Arizona-assigned VIN on the car. Why?

Based on everything we’ve learned and read about the car, it was purchased new, drag raced and used on the street during its illustrious life. That said, at some point an Arizona VIN was assigned to the car, which raises a few questions but doesn’t likely affect the value assessment — given the fact that we are talking about an old drag machine.

Gracefully aging

Perusing the photos from RM Sotheby’s, it appears that Jim’s old car is showing her age. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it’s been kicked to the curb, but she’s definitely showing signs of storage and deterioration (so am I).

In the world of classic machines, condition drives value more than almost any other factor. As suggested by the Barrett-Jackson sale at $49,500, I would surmise that our subject has deteriorated enough to drive the value down substantially. Of course, we can argue that the Barrett-Jackson sale price was overly exuberant (it was), so how do we benchmark the latest sale at $21,450?

Tri-Fives take a nosedive

The market is changing for Shoebox 1955–57 Chevrolets. A quick search of Hemmings showed 441 cars for sale (all models).

It’s not that the cars aren’t iconic — they are — but as folks age, more of them are coming up for sale. We all know that if there aren’t enough buyers in the room, the prices drop. This is simple supply and demand.

Our ACC Pocket Price Guide shows a drop of about 15% from last year, with an Investment Grade of C (for hard tops). This is spot-on. Prices are dropping for this group of cool cars that are losing their fans to time.

The quick analysis on a quick car

With any former race car, no matter what type, the value is directly connected to the chassis, provenance and whether the original equipment is still intact (along with the condition, of course).

The more notorious the car was back in the day, the more bids it’s likely to attract. The high-pyramid cars, those at the top, will set the market, and all others will follow. With our subject car, while it’s very cool and incredibly intact, it was never a car that was a top performer. Yes, the O/Stock title at the 1970 NHRA Winternationals is a big achievement, but the car simply doesn’t carry the brand recognition as a promoted, factory team car.

At the end of the day, what we have here, at least by my observations, is a cool, authentic old drag car. This car has a lot of the original mechanical parts, and it is back into “as raced” condition.

The restoration is unwinding, or at least mellowing to a point that is likely still acceptable, but no longer in stellar condition. So, this car is a driver. The interior could be described as an eyesore, but that’s in the eye of the beholder. If this weren’t an old drag car with some provenance, it would likely be a $15,000 car.

Nobody got hurt here, and the all-in money at $21,450 is pretty low on the Old Car-O-Meter.

This car is surely a blast to drive, and it will be a huge hit at the next burger-joint cruise-in. As just an old vintage 1956 210 driver with the original drivetrain, it is fairly bought. But given the vintage livery, cool factor, documentation and undisputed racing history — it’s a great buy.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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