The suspension system was re-created using existing automotive components. "Some of the coil springs were cut shorter, and heavier Ford station wagon front/rear springs were added, including a beefier front sway bar. We then added four more front shocks, for a total of three on each corner with tower supports. An additional shock was also added to each rear shock," recalls Kitchen.
Not having a correct original engine would have stopped many restorers, but not Tom Kitchen: "I had a rebuilt, 312-cid, four-barrel carb engine with an original Paxton Phase I Supercharger. It had all the correct pieces, including the pulleys, blower hoses and hose clamps, fuel filter, and air cleaner."
The restorer indicated that the 300hp statement on the hood probably understated what was under the hood: "The teams made several changes to those engines, including the pulley. The correct horsepower was probably more in the 375-horse category."
The remainder of the powertrain consists of a heavy-duty rebuilt three-speed manual transmission (shifted on the column) with a truck clutch and pressure plate. The rearend is a 9-inch Ford heavy-duty 3.73-geared unit.
This 312 supercharged powerplant...
This 312 supercharged powerplant was ahead of its time. Fortunately, Kitchen had one of these rare engines. This correct restoration probably couldn't have taken place otherwise. Note the additional shock and tower support.
That's a 9-inch Ford heavy-duty...
That's a 9-inch Ford heavy-duty rearend, as viewed from the rear of the car. It receives its rotation from a three-speed manual tranny.
Notice the leather strap bolted...
Notice the leather strap bolted to the dashboard and hooked over the column-mounted shifter rod, keeping it from jumping out of Second gear on certain short tracks.
With the help of N.O.S. fabric for the door panels and seats, the interior took on the look of the original. The rollcage was fabricated from 2.5-inch-diameter black pipe and friction taped. The correct custom steering wheel carried a sponge on the center wheel hub that was then taped over. "An early airbag," Kitchen quips.
Next came the expected radio, clock, and heater deletes, along with the removal of two firewall heater panels. Also, there are the period S&W gauges and a Sun Tach, along with an N.O.S. boost gauge from Tom Pistone. All the inside headliner was removed with the metal surface then being painted.
A little late '50s race tech can be seen in the leather strap that held the tranny in Second gear on dirt tracks to prevent it from popping out of gear. There was also the vaunted trap door over the right-front tire, which could be lifted up at speed to view the condition of the tire. Kitchen continues, "It was pulled up with a rope and there was a Sun timing light that could freeze-frame the rotation and effectively 'stop' the tire."
There was another device that Roberts had installed in his original '57. "It was a piece of wood that was installed in a vertical position that laid against the right leg and hip, which kept the driver from sliding to the right in the turns. There weren't any modern five-point seatbelts back in the day."
Kitchen kept going, though, to create as much realism as possible with his clone car display. "I have a period helmet and uniform both done up in Fireball style," he explains.
What more can you say about...
What more can you say about this interior being stock? The door covering is still in place, along with the door handles.
Surprisingly, the stock bench...
Surprisingly, the stock bench seat was retained even when the car was in race trim. The back for the passenger side, however, was removed. There was also a body support on the right side of the driver side, which was a great help when going through the turns.
That old tale about early...
That old tale about early NASCAR drivers being able to check the condition of a tire during a race was actually true. There's the trap door on the right-front side of the floor.
A FAN AND CAR SHOW JUDGE FAVORITE
Everywhere Tom takes the replica, it gains huge attention. He laughs when he reveals that many people ask him if he's Fireball Roberts. "I remind them that he was killed in a fiery crash in 1964 at Charlotte Motor Speedway."
The car has appeared at a number of large shows and won a Top 25 "Period Perfect" award at the Jacksonville (FL) Good Guys show and "Best Race Car" at a large St. Petersburg (FL) show. By the way, this car is street legal, with Kitchen being able to remove the headlight covers and reveal functional headlights.
Kitchen made a statement about the car, which many would agree with today: "It was a time when stock meant stock and you could tell a Ford from a Chevy from a Mercury . . ."