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Thursday, November 12, 2015

This “Black Widow” Chevrolet Spins an Interesting NASCAR Tale


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

In motor racing, it truly pays to stand on the top step of the podium. The old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” isn’t just a clever phrase. However, running a race team isn’t always a fashionable exercise, and that’s essentially how this car—a 1957 Chevrolet “Black Widow”—came to be. 

But first, a bit of history. Back in 1955, the 24 Hours of Le Mans witnessed a horrific racing accident, which saw a Mercedes 300 SLR crash, burst into flames, and take the lives of 83 spectators, injuring 120 more. The dangers of auto racing were about as apparent as they could be, and soon pressure mounted on automakers to withdraw from factory racing competition.

By 1957 the Automobile Manufacturers Association even placed an official ban on involvement, but that, as well as racing’s bruised persona, didn’t extinguish the fires of competition between automakers.


Chevrolet’s covert answer to the factory racing dilemma was SEDCO, the Southern Engineering and Development Company, which grew out of Atlanta’s Nalley Chevrolet dealership. The firm was masterminded by Chevy engineer Vince Piggins, one of the men responsible for the NASCAR-dominating Hudsons of the early ‘50s.

With eyes set on a strong season, Chevrolet sent Piggins six base model 150 two-door sedans with 283ci V8 engines and three-speed manual transmissions—the lightest cars available for the job. Piggins then tuned the V8s to make a racier 315 horsepower, and race-prepped the cars with additional shocks at each corner, sturdier springs, additional chassis bracing, a Buick radiator, high-capacity gas tank, Fenton headers, and a heavy duty rear end. Yeah, these cars (known as the “Black Widows”) could race…and race they did.


The SEDCO Chevrolets debuted at Daytona Beach on February 17, 1957, fielded by Johnny Beauchamp (#50), Buck Baker (#87), Speedy Thompson (#46), Rex White (#44), Jack Smith (#47) and Frankie Schneider (#45). Only two weeks later, the Chevrolets orchestrated a clean sweep in Concord, North Carolina with Smith taking first in his “Black Widow” racecar, followed by Baker and Thompson.

Another 1-2-3 finish occurred three weeks later, and by the end of the season Buck Baker would tally 10 wins and take the championship in his Chevrolet. Smith finished fifth in the championship with four impressive wins.


Reflective of that AMA racing ban however, Chevrolet called on Piggins to dissolve SEDCO in 1957, and the remaining cars are said to have been divided amongst Baker, Thompson, and Smith.
This car, Black Widow #47, was Jack Smith’s car.

 It’s said to be one of the original six cars delivered to Piggins, and in January it will cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block in Scottsdale, Arizona. Given its unique NASCAR racing history and eye-catching luster…expect this Chevy to fetch big bucks when it goes under the gavel.