While there is no mistaking that Jeff Lutz was in the spotlight when he was racing his 1969 Camaro-bodied Pro Mod at tracks across the country, he began to take center stage when he climbed into his flat-black 1957 Bel Air and cruised to Hot Rod Drag Week in 2009.
The all-steel car which he and his son, Jeffrey, had carefully and cleverly crafted from top to bottom and front to back commanded attention with its 632 cubic-inch big-block Chevy pumped up by twin 88 mm Precision turbos, and in it, Lutz laid down an impressive 6.89 at well over 200 mph.
Photography by Brian Hogan
Up to the challenge of creating a car that could climb to even greater heights, Lutz and his son built another flat-black 1957 Bel Air, and the pair of classics quickly became known as the Evil Twins.
The second 1957 Bel Air, however, was fiberglass rather than steel, and it featured a 632 cubic-inch, twin-turbo engine, which helped Lutz achieve a 6.38 elapsed-time and a highly-celebrated Hot Rod Drag Week win in 2014.
He wasn’t done there, however, and he proved it by driving to yet another Hot Rod Drag Week win last year in his 1969 Camaro-bodied Pro Mod powered by a 540 cubic-inch engine, also fronted by twin 88mm Precision turbos and nicknamed Mad Max.
The exclamation mark came in the form of a 6.03 and 251 mph blast in the car, which he went on to race on the Discovery Channel’s wildly popular reality television series “Street Outlaws.”
“After the 6.03 and 251 mph we ran at Hot Rod Drag Week, we went to the track a week later and ran 5.85,” said Lutz, whose 2013 NMCA Pro Mod championship in that car is also commendable. “Then, the car became known as the world’s quickest and fastest street car.”
Jeff Lutz’s new 1957 Chevy represents a departure from his 1957 Bel Airs in various ways, including the fact that it’s yellow rather than flat-black, its engine has fewer cubic-inches and its turbos are larger.
Despite all of those accomplishments being front and center, Lutz and his son took on their latest project, another 1957 Chevy, seven months ago.
Because of our other builds, we have a lot of experience, and with this build, I got to do things I had been dreaming about doing, and as a result, it’s over the top.
“Big Chief (Justin Shearer) and I were talking on the ‘Street Outlaws’ show about how we wanted to get the title back to street-looking steel cars,” said Lutz. “I said it would take a little time to get something together, and he said I should bring the old steel 1957 Bel Air back out. But the thing is, I didn’t want to cut it up to do what I would have to do, so that’s when I decided to just build a new car, and here we are, seven months later.”
Lutz purchased the car, which he referred to as “all beat up,” from a seller in Tennessee for $4,200. After picking it up and taking it back to his shop, Lutz Race Cars in Callery, Pennsylvania, he and his son began to dismantle it on Christmas day.
“We started by removing all of the floor pans, removing all of the glass and getting rid of all of the heavy stuff,” said Lutz. “Then, we cleaned it all up and mounted it to the chassis table and started making frame rails and setting it up.”
The father and son team bent and installed all of the custom-made tubing for the tube chassis car, and fabricated a chrome-moly cage for it.
They used a reproduction steel roof and quarter panels from Woody’z Hot Rodz, along with carbon fiber doors and a carbon fiber front end by VFN, and carbon fiber chrome-appearing accents from JW Composites. They installed custom carbon fiber driver and passenger seats, and completed a lot of custom sheetmetal work throughout the car.
Lutz hired Jerry Bickel Race Cars in Missouri to build a rear-end featuring a Strange floater and a Strange center section, and when it was time, they installed into the car a 540 cubic-inch big-block Chevy engine which Lutz built in collaboration with Mark Vinson of Vinson Race Engines. It’s topped with Pro-Filer heads and an intake by Pro-Filer and Boninfante Friction, and Lutz relies on a Big Stuff 3 engine management system for tuning.
To add to already ample amounts of power, Lutz chose 98mm Precision turbos, a departure from the 88’s he had been running. A Rossler Turbo 400 transmission, Gear Vendors overdrive and ProTorque EV1 converter help the car rolling on Hoosier slicks put the power to the pavement.
Exhaust exits through headers fabricated from Stainless Works materials, and a removable Be Cool radiator and fans by GC Cooling Fans help cool the hard-working engine in the car, which has two fuel tanks, including one for the alcohol Lutz burns on the strip, and another for the gas he burns on the street.
Jeff Lutz's new 1957 Chevy features a 540 cubic-inch big-block Chevy engine topped with Pro-Filer heads, and exhaust exits through headers fabricated with Stainless Works materials.
“Because of our other builds, we have a lot of experience, and with this build, I got to do things I had been dreaming about doing, and as a result, it’s over the top,” said Lutz. “For example, I set the engine back really far in this car to help with weight transfer, I used custom suspension with Penske shocks and struts, and we made the car as lightweight as possible, even though it has a steel roof and quarter panels.”
The car, which is fit and trim at just 2,640 pounds, is made even more street-friendly with its headlights and turn signals, and Lutz could even enjoy a soda while pounding pavement if he chose to, as cupholders are in place.
Another departure from his previous cars is the paint job.
On our first hit, we went 4.40s, then 4.20s and then 4.0s. It was stupid-fast, and it was really something to experience.
“Rather than going with flat-black like my other cars, we decided to go with yellow for this car,” said Lutz. “It’s the same yellow that was on my old 1969 Camaro, before it was painted flat-black, and this car was painted by Jeff Thompson of Pro 1 Automotive in Butler, Pennsylvania.”
Without having driven it yet, Lutz debuted the muscular machine, which pumps out more than 3,000 horsepower, at the Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals, Aug, 10-11, 2017 at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where in between signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, he made a few exhibition passes.
Jeff Lutz and his son, Jeffrey Lutz, bent and installed all of the custom-made tubing for Lutz's new 1957 Chevy, and fabricated a chrome moly cage for it. They also installed custom carbon fiber driver and passenger seats.
“It was amazing,” said Lutz. “On our first hit, we went 4.40s, then 4.20s and then 4.0s. It was stupid-fast, and it was really something to experience.”
From there, he went to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee to film an episode of “Street Outlaws” for the tenth season of the series.
“It was a Tuesday night, and we had a $100,000-to win, invitation-only race,” said Lutz, whose son and wife, Christine, travel and attend events and appearances with him. “We had 35,000 people and sold the place out. They actually had to turn people away. The episode will air in about two or three months, but unfortunately, I shook the tires and lost. Then, we went home long enough to change the tires and go to Oklahoma to film some more for the show.”
This street car stuff is where it’s at, and honestly, I love every aspect of it, including being able to drive my car on the street and go get a burger in it.
Now, Lutz is preparing to film another episode of “Street Outlaws” on Sept. 9, before buckling up to take part in Hot Rod Drag Week, which begins Sept. 10 at Cordova International Raceway in Cordova, Illinois, and travels to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, Byron Dragway in Byron, Illinois and Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin before circling back to Cordova International Raceway on Sept.15.
While Lutz declines to share what elapsed-times he hopes to achieve in the new car, which is appropriately nicknamed The ’57, it’s no secret that he very likely has a fan-favorite on his hands.
“This street car stuff is where it’s at, and honestly, I love every aspect of it, including being able to drive my car on the street and go get a burger in it,” said Lutz. “It means the world to me to build these cars with my son, Jeffrey, and to see how much he has learned through the years. In fact, if he and my wife, Christine, weren’t doing all of this with me, I wouldn’t do it. It’s definitely a family deal.”
Jeff Lutz is preparing to film another episode of “Street Outlaws” on Sept. 9, before taking part in Hot Rod Drag Week, beginning Sept. 10. He wouldn’t do this, he said, if he didn’t have his wife, Christine, and son, Jeffrey, by his side.
Intense interest in Hot Rod Drag Week and “Street Outlaws” make popular participant Lutz and his chock-full of character car ones to watch in the days to come, especially considering he has a reputation for building cars that are every bit as fascinating as they are fast.