Hagerty.com

The Belch Fire V8 : ) & It's Demise : (


#1

The car: 1957 Chevrolet Bellaire Convertible. Black w. red and white interior and year end Factory Experimental equipped w a Muncie 4 Speed and G.M.'s new (then) 348 Tri Power V8 and dual exhaust, plus Posi Traction. Build sheet showed “Factory Experimental”. Used by G.M. Exec., Duntov. — Car was pristine.

I was young and stupid. I knew it was a special car. Just not “how special”. To me (early twenties) it was “fast”! A pleasure to drive and loved listening to the rumble of the big V8. : ) In college at the time, one of my professors referred to it as “The Belch Fire V8”.

Near the end of my senior year, I got married. My wife, the following year, teaching High School decided one day to drive it to work at her school. Mistake!

It was a very warm Fall day. Probably around 80*. The teachers asphalt parking lot was down a hill in a depression surrounded on three sides by the school building. Administrative offices in the center. The car was equipped with a racing clutch and glass packs.

When the school day ended and she went to leave, she kept stalling it out trying to go up the hill in first gear not being able to coordinate the clutch and the gas effectively. Then she’d put it in neutral when it started loading up with gas, and would rev the engine sitting in the flat bottom section of the lot facing up hill. The sound was raucous as she raced the engine. Rakow, Rakow, Rakow. The windows in the building were rattling, and drawing a crowd of School Administrators watching Mrs. C trying to leave. She was getting ever more frustrated and embarrassed!

After making this attempt several times and failing, she finally held her right heel on the gas pedal with her toes on the brake, as she held in the clutch. At around 3,000 + RPM in first gear she let the clutch out, fast. The car just sat as she stayed on the gas, burning rubber. Lots of smoke! I was told later by others that the smoke obliterated the school building!

Finally it ‘hooked up’ and she shot up the hill and over the crest. The Dean of Men later told me that “she was hauling”, and that “all four tires almost came off the ground” as she cleared the top, going fast! — Nope, no one there, no one hurt. Thank goodness.

When she arrived home she was crying and distraught, She threw the keys at me and said “I am never going to drive that dam# car again!” — “This car has to go!” — “It is just stupid and a gas hog!” (gas was .38 cents a gallon). — Learned she had driven it the 5 miles home in 1st gear as she was afraid to shift. : (

The ad went in the paper that weekend, and the car got sold to a Doctor for his son. They had come together to see it. In fact they left with the father saying to me that he didn’t want his son to have such a powerful car. A bit later he came back with his son, seeming resigned that he had lost the battle, and he bought the car. The son was beaming with delight.

Goodbye Belch Fire V8. : (