Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Texas tycoon Ronnie Hobbs has a history of making headlines in the racing scene, but when he recently posted some pictures of his resurrection of Rod Saboury’s legendary Pro Street ’57 Corvette, fans went wild.
Hobbs has owned a mind-boggling fleet of cars ranging from a mild Magnusson-supercharged ’11 Camaro that his son, Landon, street drives and races, to his wild purpose-built No Prep “Texas Rattlesnake” Chevy S10 truck, his beloved ’58 Corvette replica and even the Pro Mod Mustang he recently purchased from Daniel Pharris and more, but Saboury’s car has always been something special to him.
Back when he was growing up in the town of Odessa, Hobbs remembered seeing a car that was similar to Saboury’s and falling for it.
“Rod Saboury’s car graced every magazine in the mid-‘90s, but I was busy having a family and gave up racing for a while,” said Hobbs, who was stumbling through the posts on RacingJunk.com one fateful day when he came across a ’57 Corvette that seemed familiar, but featured an ostentatious black paint job with a checkered flag motif that didn’t particularly pique his interest.
Not recognizing the rare Corvette at first, it took Hobbs a minute before he put two and two together. Realizing the opportunity that lay in front of him, he jumped at the chance and purchased the car from a man in Maryland in 2007.
With a piece of history in his hands, Hobbs vowed to restore Saboury’s first generation Corvette to its well-deserved glory. The C1 was, notably, the first street-legal car to ever run in the 7-second zone and Saboury won multiple championships with the car over the years. Saboury is one of the biggest names from the early years of the street legal Pro Street/Pro Mod-style movement, and his 8-time record holding and ’95 Super Chevy Outlaw Street world championship-winning C1 had slipped through the cracks until Hobbs came to its rescue.
No less than a total restoration would be acceptable, although Hobbs knew it would be many years in the making.
“I brought it back and played with it for a year. It still had the same motor and transmission as when Rod ran 7.50s with it,” said Hobbs, who quickly decided on the fact that he needed more power. “It was street legal, but with 16:1 compression, it’s like driving around with a stick of dynamite.”
He looked into turbochargers and even a belt-driven ProCharger, but neither option fit with his overall goal for the look of the car. Undeterred, Hobbs contacted the Supercharger Store in 2009 and they built a killer gear drive to work with the ProCharger instead so that it wouldn’t poke out of the front of the car.
“They did the split radiators, too, as my intention was to drive the car and make sure everything was good before I did anything to the paint or body,” added Hobbs.
A few years later, Hobbs knew it was time to address the antique’s aesthetics. In 2013, he sent the C1 off to a restoration shop in Dallas, Texas, but was disappointed with the results. Instead, he took matters into his own hands and started fabricating the fiberglass, firewall, and cowl.
“We took out the metal race dash, put the original dash back in with all the gauges, and did a lot of ‘no-Dzus fasteners’ work,” Hobbs elaborated of the expansive process that was really a labor of love for a priceless piece of drag racing history that truly deserves to be respected. “The original hood works and operates in the correct orientation, as does the deck lid and all the hinges. The front end slides off with a hidden mechanism.”
Also in 2013, Hobbs sent the car’s non-roller rocker 502ci engine off to Steve Morris Engines in Michigan for a complete overhaul. In its place now sits a nearly 1,700+ horsepower 565ci, Dart big-block Chevy bullet that has been fully massaged and treated to nothing but the best, including a billet aluminum intake manifold.
Next, Hobbs tapped the team at Brink Racecraft in Irving, Texas, to continue the tedious restoration process. The body was completely removed from the tube-frame chassis, and everything stripped down to the bare componentry before being rebuilt.
“Brink did almost everything in the restoration, including building all the piping and plumbing for the ProCharger system,” noted Hobbs. “K.C. Mathieu, who used to be at Gas Monkey Garage, painted the car to match my 2014 Corvette and it’s really cool to see the two of them side by side, almost identical.”
With Brink taking point back in 2014, the car is now nearing completion. All that’s left are the odds and ends, and the interior to be completed along with the electrical and wiring to be wrapped up.
“The original door panels and dash trim and that stuff will be black leather with yellow stitching. I even got carbon fiber gauges with yellow writing to fit in the original holes in the dash so it looks almost like it did out of the showroom,” Hobbs shared proudly of his perfect blend of fast and factory, honoring the heritage that Saboury showcased.
Hobbs expects the remarkable Corvette to be completed in the spring of 2020, and all he wants to do from there is show it off. People recognize the car, and that gives him a thrill that he hopes to continue to share.