The iconic 1957 Chevy known as Project X drives into the future today as the car makes its debut, powered by an electric motor that delivers an estimated 340 horsepower. The latest reinvention of the famous HOT ROD project car is the result of a collaboration between Chevrolet Performance, MotorTrend and Cagnazzi Racing. Unveiled at the SEMA show, Project X proves that the electric future of driving doesn’t require leaving the past behind.
Originally purchased for $250 in 1965, Project X has served as a testbed for more than five decades as editors of MotorTrend’s HOT ROD brand have evaluated new products, technologies and trends. Over the years, it has been powered by inline-six and V-8 engines, and has at times used carburetors, fuel injection and supercharging. The classic ’57 has been reimagined so often and so extensively that it has been called the million-dollar Chevy.
“Project X has always served the car community by pushing the envelope with groundbreaking technologies,” said Douglas Glad, group content director, MotorTrend Group. “As the auto industry shifts rapidly toward electric vehicles, this Project X build is just the latest in its celebrated legacy of adapting hot rodding to the powerful technology of tomorrow.”
For the latest incarnation, builder Cagnazzi Racing replaced Project X’s supercharged LSX V-8 with an electric motor that delivers an estimated 340 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. The battery, which is being evaluated for potential use as a next-generation Chevrolet Performance product, has been developed around a modular concept that could allow customers to scale the pack capacity based on range, cost, packaging and weight considerations. In Project X, the 400-volt proof-of-concept lithium-ion battery stores 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity, providing enough range for weekend cruising. A quick-change differential allows the final-drive ratio to be adjusted based on how the car is being used. Fitting the differential with a shorter final-drive ratio provides quicker acceleration while using a taller gear relaxes performance and extends the range.
“The reinvention of Project X is a reminder that our vision for a world with zero emissions includes classics like the Tri-Five Chevys,” said Prashant Ahire, eCrate regional chief engineer. “As General Motors rolls out its trailblazing EV technology, Chevrolet Performance plans to offer EV propulsion solutions for enthusiasts looking to modernize their project cars.”
Cagnazzi Racing performed the motor swap in its Mooresville, North Carolina, shop. The EV conversion also necessitated a switch to an electric brake booster and electrohydraulic power steering pump. Project X still rides on the sixth-generation Corvette front suspension that was installed in 2007, although there have been some changes. The removal of the exhaust system allowed the team to lower the car by roughly 2 inches. Project X has also been fitted with softer front springs and stiffer rear springs since the electrified car carries less weight under the hood and more weight over the rear axle compared with the previous build.
“We are racers and hot rodders, with deep roots in internal-combustion racing engines,” said Vic Cagnazzi, owner of Cagnazzi Racing. “But we see this next leap into EV performance propulsion as a natural evolution for hot rodding. Our goal with this conversion was to maintain the look and integrity of the classic hot rod, while modernizing the propulsion technology.”
To that end, Project X still has the same classic look that it’s worn for decades. The biggest aesthetic change is found inside the car: Project X now uses the same push-button gear selector as the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette. It’s a subtle clue that this timeless project car is once again doing things differently.