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Hemmings Nation unite: solving the mystery of The Underdog

Published in blog.hemmings.com

We do love a good mystery. And when it’s backed up by a neat story, nay, legend, count us in, kid.

And so it is with the legend of a certain ’56 Chevy post coupe that ran the San Francisco Bay area back in The Day. And by “The Day,” we’re talking ’60s and ’70s. In those days, just like the rest of the country, there was a lot going on: Between the Vietnam war, the post-civil rights fallout, Nixon, and the oil crisis, things were coming to a boil. And in the Bay Area, San Francisco was the center of the Haight-Ashbury free love thing, across the bay in Oakland was where the Black Panthers were changing the world, and don’t forget the Zodiac Killer and Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple.

Beneath the surface of all that was a teeming pool of street racers, engine builders, dragstrip promoters and speed shop owners who were all feeding each other and, quite frankly, having a great time. Most of the stories are fairly complete. We know who the players were, where the cars went, and what cars are still around. There are even some great old photos and home movies of some of the local legends.

But there’s a story about one car that we’ve never been able to write the final chapter on: The Underdog. As the story goes, there was a killer ’55 Chevy coupe running around the city and the San Francisco Peninsula that became the one to beat. Whether it was for cash or just bragging rights, apparently the thing was scary fast and the owner/driver would take all comers. But the story goes on to reveal that the contenders became so many in number–and the races were becoming so disproportionately weighted in favor of this double-nickel, that it was decided a sort of application process needed to be put in place.

A buddy of the ’55’s owner ran a ’56 Chevy post coupe that was also pretty quick. So, it was decided that, if you wanted to run the legendary ’55, you had to beat this car first. Hence, Underdog became its own legend. Now, Hemmings has friends who remember the car and some even say they knew the owner, at the time. But it’s also been said that it changed hands more than a few times and might be in some sort of street rod trim and living over in some East Bay town. The speculation continues.

But then this great old photo popped up and we knew it was time to share it, as well as the story we’ve heard. Anyone know anything more about this car? Is it still around? Did you take this photo? Is it in your garage? Do you have any more old photos of it? Love to hear all about it, Hemmings Nation…you never disappoint!