When it came to motorsports and performance, Chevrolet had fallen behind Oldsmobile, Chrysler, and Plymouth in the early 1950s, opting to market as family cars. The Oldsmobile Rocket 88, Chrysler 300C, and the Plymouth and Ford V8s dominated the NASCAR circuit while Offenhauser took control of Indy. Chevy was left holding an empty bag until their reputation was restored with the release of the new small-block V8 engines for the 1955 models.
Ed Cole’s V8 began a legendary run that soon shook the world and continued to dominate for decades. The SBC started winning almost immediately in NASCAR taking the victory in several short track events.
The Southern 500 held at Darlington’s super speedway on Labor day weekend in 1955 completely changed the racing community’s perception of Chevy and racing engines.
Driver Herb Thomas led a surprise Chevrolet rout that saw seven of the new V8s finish in the Top 10. Thomas drove a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air during a time where NASCAR was used to test the endurance of the newest passenger automobiles. This sent many other teams scrambling to get one of their very own.
With the Darlington win, the SBC Chevy V8 came into its own, and NASCAR racing would never be the same. Running with a smaller engine and less horsepower than the bigger cars, the Chevrolets were considerably lighter, which gave them better gas mileage, ultimately resulting in fewer pit stops. Few pit stops along were not the only eye-opener that day. The new cars shocked everybody by going the distance without tire changes. These rugged SBC V8s were still being produced for production vehicles until 2003.