The scene was surreal. I'm standing in the innermost sanctum of GM's Warren Tech Center, watching the world's most famous '57 Chevy being artfully reassembled by the best crew in the business-the artisans of the GM Performance Division. Where do I start? Do I talk about how I idolized Project X as a kid? Do I reminisce about how many Revell '57 Chevy model kits I botched as an 11-year-old? Then there's the Warren Tech Center itself, a building most cars guys can only dream of gaining entrance to. This is where America was built. If you're a car guy, it's the automotive equivalent of Capitol Hill, the White House, and Area 51 all rolled together. The place vibrates power, secrecy, style, and technology. The Tech Center complex itself is a work of art, designed by world-renowned architect Earo Saarinen. (He built a little thing called the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. You mighta heard of it.)
And no less of an environment would do for Harley Earl, whose world-class staff of stylists worked around the clock in 84-hour work weeks to design the '57. Fifty years later, Project X-the world's most recognized '57-has come home to its birthplace. The ghosts of its creators vicariously caress the '57 through the GMPD staff. Gingerly, tenderly, motherly. I can't help but wonder, who owns Project X? The answer, my friends, is everybody and nobody. It's just too big, too important, for one man. I'll even argue that Project X owns a part of us, not the other way around.
Of course, I'm standing in this hallowed place because I'm the editor of Popular Hot Rodding, but at the end of the day, I'm just an observer. The guys at GM Performance Parts and the build crew from GM Performance Division are the real heroes. My role isn't entirely insignificant though. I'm a witness to history in the making-like the guy who drew the picture at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. As I hover at the edge of activity, asking questions and taking photos, you can sense the energy and excitement of it all. Everybody knows the car and its history, its role in the movie The Hollywood Knights, its many magazine cover appearances, and its many mechanical iterations over a 42-year period. You'd have to go to Madagascar to find someone who hasn't heard of "X."
As the day winds down, we set up for the cover shoot, which includes the Anniversary 427 ZL1 that Project X will brandish. The idea is to visually meld two icons together-the notorious all-aluminum ZL1 and Project X-into one image. Over the next few issues of PHR, you'll see Project X come together in grand fashion, from its C6 Corvette front suspension to the one-off triangulated four-link rear. You will witness incredible feats of fabrication, such as the ducted ram-air hood that uses the '57's hood "spears" as inlets. You will be in awe of the side-exit exhaust, which opens at the push of a button to vent, unmuffled, the big-block's full fury. We'll be hard-pressed to show everything though. Without seeing it in person, you'll be unable to appreciate the instrument panel, console, interior detail, trunk, side moldings, trim, bumpers, wheels, and overall attitude. And it will ride like a Cadillac, handle like a Corvette, and cruise like-well, Project X!
We can let the cat out of the bag now, since this will hit the newsstand after the SEMA Show. GM has been working around the clock on Project X for its SEMA Show debut since July. In a nutshell, Project X is the debut vehicle for GM Performance Parts' line of 427-inch big-block crate motors, of which the ZL1 Anniversary Edition is the first. If you missed SEMA, you'll be able to catch Project X in person, if you can hoof it to the 2008 Hot Rod Power Tour. We'll be driving it on all legs and displaying it at all stops, so let us uncork the exhaust for you-we'll be more than happy to oblige.
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