- Built Chevrolet small-block V8 engine
- BDS blower
- Dual Holley 4-barrel carburetors
- Mallory ignition with Powermaster coil
- Be Cool aluminum radiator with dual fans
- Headers and dual exhaust
- Automatic transmission
- Tubbed with narrowed rear axle
- Auto Meter 9,000-rpm tachometer and auxiliary gauges
- B&M shifter
- Grant GT steering wheel
- Weld Racing wheels
- Mickey Thompson tires
|Vehicle:||1957 Chevrolet 210 Pro-Street|
|Number Produced:||162,090 (1957 210 2-door sedan)|
|Original List Price:||$2,222|
|Tune Up Cost:||$500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tag in driver’s door jamb|
|Engine Number Location:||Passenger’s side of block, below cylinder head (SBC)|
|Club Info:||Goodguys Rod and Custom Association|
|Alternatives:||Any 1970s–1990s Pro Street build, preferably on a mainstream base such as a Tri-Five Chevy, first-gen Nova, etc.|
This 1957 Chevrolet 210 Pro Street, Lot S11, sold for $31,900, including buyer’s premium, on April 7, 2018, at the Mecum auction in Houston, TX. It was offered with no reserve.
The Pro-Street movement, of which this car is a member, found its origins in NHRA Drag Racing in 1972.
At the ’72 Winternationals, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins debuted a tube-framed Chevy Vega that had large 14-inch-wide drag tires tucked entirely underneath its stock-appearing production-car body. After some tuning, Jenkins got the 331-ci Vega’s ETs down into the 9.60s. He cruised through the season, amassing five of eight early wins, and six of eight nationals. With that car, the Pro-Street craze was born.
Hot rod builders quickly set out mimicking Jenkins’ winning look. By the later 1970s and 1980s, thanks to a few specific magazine feature cars, it grew into a full-on custom movement.
Step one was to add big power under the hood, and then cut out the rear fender wells and add mini-tubs or full-size tubs in order to stuff wide, tall drag rubber underneath that otherwise unmodified body.
The cars often got a back-half chassis setup to match, with a narrowed rear-end assembly, ladder bars or 4-links and coil-over suspension to make it all work. Pair those massive rear meats with lighter, narrower front tires to reduce rolling mass, take everything not necessary out of the car (adios, back seat; goodbye, spare tire), and you’ve got the heart of the Pro-Street look.
Glory and compromise
Driving one of these beasts anywhere but at the drags (or street races) is an exercise in compromise. Big-power engines from the era of roots blowers and multiple carburetors don’t have a nice, smooth idle. They get hot if left to idle for any length of time. They are loud. Big rear and small front tires don’t handle well. You have room for only one other person since you chucked your back seat out with everything else of significant weight. On top of all that, the local constabulary will give you the hairy eyeball even if you are just driving your grandmother to church.
Every docile daily-driver turned fire-belching beast trades ease of use for its cool factor. But if you love overkill, nasty idles, blower surge, big acceleration and the look of all-out performance at every stoplight, this is your ticket.
Hot-rodders have traditionally loved Tri-Five Chevrolets. Originally available with Chevy’s venerable small-block V8, they lent themselves to easy modification, with plentiful parts availability and large engine bays. Due to high production numbers, they were readily available and often inexpensive.
This 1957 Chevrolet 210 is dressed like its more upscale brethren, the Bel Air. Mini-tubbed to accommodate the massive, fresh, rear drag slicks, with a big BDS blower, dual-Holley 4-bbls, and a Hilborn-style scoop up top, this car is pure Pro-Street.
Inside, a B&M ratchet-style floor shifter complements a host of gauges in front of the passenger’s side seat, undoubtedly there to keep tabs on that expensive and likely finicky powertrain.
Even with the modification, it lacks the roll cage it likely needs to run in any NHRA events, which is not unexpected for this type of car — it may be brutally fast, but it wasn’t designed to race for a living. This is a street car built to turn heads with its ragged race-like edges.
Pro-Street to resto-mod
Trends march on. With the advent and popularity of resto-mods, it seems there are fewer of these Pro-Street builds to be found. New technology in brakes, handling, ride quality, aftermarket climate-control systems, and powertrains has seen a steady shift from the Pro-Street hot rods of yesteryear to the more useable, practical and well-rounded resto-mod builds so prevalent today. The cars have both gone soft and gotten better and faster all at the same time.
Many old-school hot-rodders have come to favor more comfortable toys as they age. They still want to go fast and look cool, but they want to have a/c, good brakes and quality sound systems, too. That means modifying the 1980s and 1990s Pro-Street beast — or selling it at auction.
In many cases, today’s resto-mods bring far more at sale time than their original, documented source cars. For example, resto-mod-style first-, second- and third-generation Corvettes can bring far more money than NCRS Top Flight/Bloomington Gold-certified cars. But that’s not always the case with other, older trends.
This ’57 Chevy clearly had many times the sale price invested in the build, but the build itself isn’t the hottest ticket anymore — and using it requires commitment to the cool factor. No, it probably wouldn’t be able to stalk and kill your average Hellcat or Demon, and when you drive it, you’ll probably end up hot, sweaty, and smelling like gas and exhaust. But for a Pro-Street car, all that goes with the territory — and this will turn more heads while cackling and surging at a stoplight than any smooth modern supercar.
The Pro-Street genre may be smaller than it once was, but it is far from dead. For proof, just take a look at the staggering number of big and little tire participants in Hot Rod magazine’s Power Tour every summer.
Overall, the price paid here for a clean and decidedly cool Tri-Five Chevy was well south of what it would take to build the car, and in my mind that makes it a good deal. It was also less than half of the MSRP of those Mopars — how do you want to stand out? Well bought.
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)