|Ron Cummings remembers Jerry Austin
and the '57 Corvette.
"In 1957 my friend, and now racecar collector,
Charles 'Barry' Williams, lived next to Bill Thomas in Arcadia, Ca.. Thomas
was a service manager at C. S. Mead Chevrolet in Pasadena, Ca.. Bill briefly
road raced his white 1956 Corvette. Mr. Thomas became friendly with us
kids, when he learned about our interest in Sport Car racing.
Sometime in June of 1957 Barry called
telling me to come over and look at the strange red Corvette sitting in
the Thomas driveway. He said " I have never seen a Corvette like it!".
I took a snapshot of the car, which I still have. It was the first full
RPO Corvette delivered to the west coast. It had special springs, shocks,
and brakes that did not come on previous Corvettes, that we had seen. This,
along with the brand new four-speed transmission and fuel injection motor,
While we were looking at the car, Jerry
Austin drove up in his Ford F150 towing his beautiful 'D' Type Jaguar.
Jerry had been practicing at the yet to open Riverside Raceway. Austin
went into the Thomas home. When he came out he was the new Mead race driver.
Jerry asked to have the steering column shortened before the first race,
to be held a week later at Pomona. Austin won the big production race on
Saturday but lost control of the car late in the Sunday feature giving
the win to Ron Ellico and his 300SL Benz.
Thomas then blueprinted the motor and
installed a new camshaft, ground by Kenny Harmon, to supply more low-end
torque than the Duntov unit. The car became almost unbeatable with Austin
driving. Bob Bondurant later purchased the red Corvette and really made
history with it."