Chevrolet 210 Two-Door H Stock Drag Racing Car
For vintage drag racing enthusiasts, provenance can often be a frustrating chase; many important cars were sold once the original racer finished competing with it, and subsequent owners would often modify those cars to suit their specific needs, erasing their heritage and making a return to the past a daunting task. This particular car represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own a fully documented, record-setting vehicle from drag racing’s classic age.
This is because a man named Jim Lamatrice purchased this 1956 Chevrolet 210 sedan brand new and would own it for the next 45 years. The best option that year was the mid-year release of the Corvette-derived 265 cubic inch, 225 horsepower Pack engine (dual-WCFB Carter four barrels on an inline intake, Duntov-type 30/30 mechanic camshaft), while the identical displacement 210 horsepower Rochester single-four-barrel package also offered the higher 9.25:1 compression that year and was more often selected since it was available throughout the 1956 model run. Both of these Super Turbo-Fire engines came with factory dual exhaust. Jim’s classic “shoebox Chevy” also ended up with the three-speed overdrive manual transmission and steep 4.57:1 PosiTraction rear gearing; the overdrive kept the car streetable with a final gear ratio of about 3.70:1.
By this time, Chevrolet had begun creating very competitive performance packages around the small-block engine, and all 1955-57 models have a strong following because of their timeless styling cues and this performance heritage – a heritage that basically ended the dominance of the flathead Ford V8 in street performance applications. Unfortunately, many of these original Power Pack race cars were radically changed over the years, normally for Modified Production as the need for speed increased, but sometimes even yielding to Gas-class modifications that permanently rearranged the driveline and suspension components. So it is rare indeed to find an example whose competition heritage ended in Stock Eliminator as this 210 post sedan did, and whose equipment as such has remained in place.
Because the rules NHRA enforced to keep a car legal in Junior Stock (the division this car would run in for most of its career), all of the correct parts castings are on this period-correct engine – heads, carbs, etc. – and the block is the same example which was in the car during its racing career. Junior Stock was a true sportsman’s racing division, requiring very few actual performance modifications but very careful attention to detail, and these cars competed nationally at all of the larger NHRA events during the era.
Living in Sacramento, California, Jim Lamatrice used the new car for street duty during its first years of ownership, but once he caught the bug to actually compete in sanctioned drag racing, he was a serious competitor. Now towed behind Jim’s ‘60 Impala to get to the track, the 210 Chevy could be converted with minimal changes (basically intake and carburetor swaps) to various classes of Junior Stock racing – between 1957 and 1970, it ran in H,I, N and O/Stock, setting records and winning events, the most important being an O/Stock title at the 1970 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, and a similar crown at the fabled Fuel Gas Championships at Bakersfield later that same season. While Jim conducted almost every change to the car himself, during this time legendary fuel dragster racer and upholsterer Tony Nancy redid the car’s interior.
After his season of glory in 1970 and faced with rules changes NHRA was making, Jim decided he wanted to enjoy the car in a more relaxed fashion and mildly detuned it for street use; it was repainted metallic brown and driven on occasion until 1978. Living in Arizona by now, Jim parked the car at that point and didn’t drive it again until he finally decided to sell it in 2002. It was then that a local restorer, hoping to simply purchase a nice 1956 210, got more than he expected as Jim recounted the car’s race history and dug up all of his original documentation at the time of the car’s sale. Its third owner, Joe Petralia, decided the car should be as close to competition-ready as it had been in 1970, and did a full restoration to that end, using all the original speed parts that Jim had included and rebuilding the engine to its NHRA-legal 225-hp configuration. Receipts for that extensive work are included with the car.
During his period of active competition, Lamatrice built up a substantial collection of documentation on his winning efforts while traveling extensively throughout California to race it. These included newspaper clippings, photographs, pit passes, a record run certificate from 1965 signed by Doris Herbert, publisher of Drag News, and 1320 representative Dave Kempton (this record was set in H/Stock at Vaca-Valley), a very rare 1963-64 Standard 1320 rulebook (also by Drag News), copies of Drag News and National Dragster associated with the car’s history, and solid original factory literature from 1956 (for warranty and servicing); this material will be included with the car. An original dealer license plate frame from dealer Frank Hurling Chevrolet in Sacramento (where the car was purchased) is included as well. As mentioned, Lamatrice won his class at the 1970 Winternationals in Pomona; the trophy for that win and associated photographic documentation is also included. There were advertising mentions in periodicals of the era of the car’s victory as a result; it was even depicted in one of Petersen’s annual all-color Hot Rod Pictorials.
A racecar that is also completely streetable, this may be one of the finest authentic Junior Stockers of the 1955-57 Chevrolet breed to be offered for sale. And as for its provenance, there is absolutely no question about its legendary past…
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in September 2009 at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California.
225 hp, 265 cu. in. Power Pack V8 engine with dual four-barrel carburetors, three-speed manual overdrive transmission, 4.57 Posi-Traction rear end.
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel