In 1965, Argus Publishing purchased an unassuming '57 Chevy Bel Air 210 post model to use as a project car for the editors of Popular Hot Rodding magazine. Through its existence, the '57 would serve as a test bed for multiple engine combinations, suspension setups, and drivetrain enhancements. Through four decades of ownership, the editors of PHR used the car to teach several generations of hot rodders how to build cars, while an entire aftermarket industry grew up around it. Above all, the bright yellow shoebox-named Project X-became a legend in the hot rod community, arguably the most significant car in the history of the hobby.
With 50 years of service and millions of readers served, we were looking for the next great adventure for Project X. So you can understand why we were so excited when General Motors came calling. The concept for this latest build was first initiated in January 2007. GM Performance Parts, a long-time contributor to the development of Project X, was working up its marketing strategy for the launch of a new line of 427-inch big-block crate engines featuring the Anniversary 427 ZL1 big-block (see "Big-Block Birthday," page 66). The Anniversary engine celebrates 50 years of great GM big-blocks [for sticklers, we're counting the "W" engine predecessor, known as the Mark I. -ed] with a modern interpretation of the legendary ZL1 Chevy big-block. Looking to stuff this monster into a '57 Chevy, the hunt had begun for a clean car to use as starting material for an '07 SEMA build car. A chance discussion between Dr. Jamie Meyer of GM Performance Parts and Mike Copeland of GM Performance Division (two of the teammates who brought GM the Reggie Jackson '69 Camaro in 2006) inquired as to the whereabouts of Project X. At Copeland's urging, Meyer approached Doug Evans, senior VP at PHR's publisher, Source Interlink Media, and the deal was struck. Project X was going back to GM!
In the last update to Project X ("Born To Run," April 2004), the car got the very first Ra
As with any new GM vehicle, you start with a cutting-edge design and build to it. The first amazing part of Project X's journey was when ace GM Designer Dave Ross put pen to paper. Ross was only a small boy when the first article on Project X hit the newsstand in 1965. But he asked his mom to pay the 50 cents for the magazine, and as soon as he got it home, he started drawing pictures of Project X. He liked drawing pictures of cars so much that he decided that was what he was going to focus his life's ambition on: drawing and designing cars for GM. Now 42 years later, Dave Ross is one of the leading car designers in the world, owing a lot of it to his inspiration as a youth: Project X. Imagine how surreal it must have been for Dave to be handed this project. "Hey, we've got this '57 Chevy that we'd like you to turn into a modern GM interpretation of a Pro Street car," we imagine them asking him. "They call it Project X. Have you heard of the car?"
Captured in mid-August 2007, deep within the GM Design Center, Project X started its trans
Oh, the irony, given his background, and the fact that Ross has his own tubbed and blown '57 that he takes out on local Detroit cruises. And so it was Ross, with solid input from leading car builder (and talented GM employee) Mike Copeland, who blazed the path for Project X's latest incarnation. Copeland demanded a Pro Street stance that will be as functional as it is fashionable. Ross drew up a stunner: low-slung street-dominating lines, updated 210 chrome trim, side-exit exhaust, and a new rim inspired by an aftermarket ad that he still remembers from that first Project X issue.
Copeland barked out orders for a melded modern chassis, existing somewhere between the modern and the original '57, with heavy C6 Corvette influencing and substructures. He also challenged his team to develop a modern Pro Street four-link rear; we'll share actual GM math data for all of you aspiring Project X followers. Assuredly, this type of work could not be duplicated in one's home garage. Instead, Project X will get the same type of state-of-the-art engineering that has brought GM to the top of the heap in today's automotive world.
As we'll show you throughout the next few months, the details of this build may be unlike anything you've ever seen in the hot rod universe. When an entire car company brings back a 50-year-old friend, miracles can happen. A functional ram air '57 hood, a "hidden" tub job, front fender substructures, and CNC-cut hand-painted emblems and aluminum trim are just the start of what will be an amazing journey for Project X. We plan on bringing it all to you with coverage never seen before in PHR-from every last drop of the Corvette Z06 yellow paint, to a final testdrive and evaluation that will take your breath away.
It's Project X's return trip home to GM, a car build that will be matched by no other. And, you'll read it all here in Popular Hot Rodding.
Flashback: July 1965
Project X's humble roots began in the July 1965 issue of Popular Hot Rodding, where it started life as a test bed for the burgeoning aftermarket parts business. The original story copy would prove prophetic: "You-the readers of Popular Hot Rodding-are hereby invited to suggest how it should be placed in first-class shape. What should the initial steps be? What should the ultimate objective be? Street rod? Strip rod? Customize it? Make it a show car? A go car? You tell us!
"Let's go a step further. Maybe there's a specific item of speed equipment you'd like to see installed. It can be done, shown how it's done, and what the results are. Maybe the 283 should be replaced. How about trying a 396-incher in it? No? Well, then, we can try a 327-or any other and show you just how we do it." Since those words were written, the little '57 has seen just about every modification possible. We don't think in their wildest dreams the original editors of PHR would've guessed how many parts and iterations this '57 has seen, and now it's getting the ultimate makeover in the innermost sanctum of GM-the hallowed GM Design Center in Warren, Michigan.-Johnny Hunkins
GM hasn't forgotten the interior. The flat sheetmetal and racy gauges will be replaced wit
Major changes are in store for the '57's frame. We'll be bringing you full details on how
Original artwork straight from the GM Design Center separates this build from any other.
Project X may look the same to some, but GM has designed a lot of subtle upgrades for the
The GM fabrication team building this car routinely creates "production cars" that won't e
Here's a tip-off to some of the changes that are on the table-notice the blue tape around
How is GM going to have a side exhaust integrated into the front fenders? Stay tuned.