Photos by Mike Galimi
Getting a new car out onto the track is one of the best feelings in the world, one full of hopes, dreams, promises, and performance potential. Contrastingly, smashing that new car up after just a few laps is devastating beyond words. Unfortunately, 2013 NMCA Pro Street/Pro Mod champion and multi-time Hot Rod Drag Week winner Jeff Lutz got the experience the extreme pendulum swing of emotions first hand, but he didn’t stay down for long.
Lutz unveiled his latest creation in August of 2017 at the Tri-Five Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The jaw-dropping build of his latest and greatest ’57 Chevy featured a 3,500+ horsepower twin turbo 540 ci big block Chevy engine (based on a Trick Flow aluminum block), Rossler TH400, ProTorque EV1 converter, and a billet 9-inch Pro Mod rear end from Jerry Bickel Race Cars.
Not long after, in October, the car got crossed-up with Lutz behind the wheel while filming at a No-Prep race for Discovery’s “Street Outlaws” TV show at Tennessee’s Memphis International Raceway. Lutz escaped the accident without any injuries, but the mostly steel-bodied Chevy wasn’t as lucky as it rammed the right-side retaining wall head-first.
Quick to act, Lutz brought the car back to his homebase, Lutz Race Cars in Callery, Pennsylvania. There, he and his son, Jeffrey, got to work resurrecting the yellow ’57 and put the incident behind them. “It wasn’t as bad as everyone thought and even better off than I thought,” shared Lutz, grateful that the long road ahead of him was shorter than expected. “The front suspension bent the frame rails right in front of the motor plate, so I cut it from there forward and made a new motor plate.”
As the suspension itself had taken a bit of a beating, Penske also reconditioned the three-way adjustable shocks and struts. The parts were then installed with the original Hypercoil springs at all four corners, and Lutz took the time to upgrade “some other stupid things that nobody would notice, like putting the coil box and mag down below the bar to make pulling the motor easier” as well as a few other top-secret items.
To repair the damaged body, Woody’s Hot Rodz in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, supplied a replacement quarter panel while VFN Fiberglass redid the carbon fiber front end. Lastly, as the car’s windshield had cracked in the wreck, a new one was sourced from Optic Armor to finish erasing the accident evidence.
Lutz also added Dzus tabs to the front end, as he had noticed during initial testing with the ’57 that the hood kept coming up under the cowl. “I had a rod across the motor to stabilize it, and I didn’t care for that. I wasn’t expecting it to push the hood down that, it grabs the air more than I thought,” Lutz noted of the 200+ mph trap speeds he’s already seen with the car.
Perhaps the biggest change during the re-build that Lutz was most excited about, though, was being able to get his hands on a set of new RC Components wheels. “I was able to put 17-inch fronts on it from RC. They didn’t have the wheels when I first built the car, and I really wanted ‘em, so now I’m really happy,” said Lutz excitedly.
Lutz kept his longtime friend and paint-and-body man, Jeff Thompson of Pro 1 Automotive in Butler, Pennsylvania, busy during the few months of repairs, and although the car is now complete, there’s still a bit of paint to finish. “The car is grey and yellow at the moment, and I’ve really been wearing Jeff out,” admitted Lutz, who plans to have it all re-sprayed in just one color as soon as possible.
In the interim, Lutz will be hitting the road on December 27th to go testing for the first time since having the classic Chevy back to normal. “I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back out there racing,” laughed Lutz, who will be filming in early January for his TV commitments.
Towards the end of Street Outlaws Season 10, Lutz put his name on The List and hinted that he’s got plans to work his way up the infamous inventory of bad ass street racers on the upcoming season with the yellow twin turbo ’57 Chevy as his weapon of choice.