Back in the mid-1960s, Rod Kister drag raced a ’60 Pontiac Catalina two-door hardtop in Junior Stock class. It had a 389-cubic-inch engine with a 4-speed. Rod set several national records with this car and was NHRA world points champion in 1968. In 1969, he raced a new factory-backed ’69 Ram Air IV GTO Judge with a 400-cube, engine and 4-speed. The next year, he switched to a new Ram Air GTO Judge with a 400-cube engine and 4-speed. Both cars were national record holders.
During most of those years, this ’57 Safari was Rod’s everyday driver and even served as a tow vehicle for the race car. He bought it in 1965 from the Pontiac dealer in his hometown, Scottsbluff, Neb. When he put it in the garage in 1973, he said, “I better save this car (GM made only 1,292 Star Chief Safaris in 1957).”
In the meantime, Rod and some friends restored several classic Pontiacs. Two years ago, he said, “It’s time to do something with the Safari. It’s cool, but we’re going to change it some!” He put in a battery and drove it to the shop. After two years, this is what he came up with.
The crew at Verle Stevens Enterprises in Denver bored out a later 389 engine to 396 cubic inches and then installed new TRW 10.25:1 pistons with Sealed Power rings and a solid lifter Lunati cam and kit. They blue-printed and balanced the entire assembly. A set of 1963 421 heads (No. 9770716) was reworked with Chevrolet valves installed. A ’63 Super-Duty manifold (No. 9770859) is fitted with two 625cfm Carter AFBs. Ignition is Pontiac point type. All external engine components are polished aluminum. The headers and entire exhaust system are custom built, HPC coated and hung with custom aluminum hangers.
The transmission is a TH-400, and the rear is a ’57 Pontiac with 3.90 gears, Posi-traction and Mark Williams axles. Rod installed 2-inch dropped spindles in front. The front and rear springs, control arms, rear end and other undercarriage components were chrome plated. Polished 8-inch Halibrand Sprint wheels in the rear mount Remington 255/70R15 tires, while the front wheels are 7-inchers with 225/70R15s.
Stacy’s Paint Trix handled the necessary bodywork and sprayed the PPG black finish. Auto Stitch in Aurora, Colo., did the leather upholstery in black and light gray in the original “off-the-shoulder” design. The steering wheel is a LeCarra. Special thanks go to Al Metzler and Jack Farland of Country Club Auto Detail in Englewood, Colo.
Even though this model is quite rare, Rod still decided to personalize it, so now he has the best of both worlds: a ’57 Safari that you rarely see anywhere and a cool street machine to cruise in.