In February, 1957 John Bond of Road & Track Magazine thought highly enough about Jim Byers design that he heralded it as “The World’s Most Beautiful Sports Car.” You can see from the photos of Geordie Prodis’ car in this story why John Bond might have made this statement.
I first met Geordie back in 2007 after joining Jon Greuel’s group on LaDawri.com. Since then we’ve had a chance to meet at least once and talk frequently. Recently I asked Geordie if he would pen the story of his Byers as he knows it and as he has added to it. He enthusiastically agreed, and today’s story is a result of his efforts.
Take it away Geordie!
1957 Byers SR100 Special
By Geordie Prodis
I wanted a car that would fit in my garage.
My 1966 Cyclone had to sit covered in the driveway because it was 4 inches too long. I had read about and was impressed with the Devin sports racer. I even talked with Bill Devin a few times while doing research. Looking for a Devin to purchase in the early 90’s was either the San Jose Mercury News Classifieds or Heming’s Motor News. That was it.
So when a Devin came up it was normally gone by the time I got to it or it was too expensive. The last time this happened, it was gone in a day. Calling after seeing it for sale in the paper was painful. It turns out the car wasn’t running but still was sold for only $1,200.00. I was crushed. I had fixed up more than a few cars and helped my buddies with theirs so this “Devin” project would have been perfect. Oh well, cry me a river.
Fast forward six months or so to the 1992 Palo Alto Concourse De Elegance held on the Stanford University Campus where 1961 Grand Prix Champion Phil Hill was the guest of honor. Hill was and still is for me an icon of American Motor Sport, right up there with Dan Gurney, Carrol Shelby and Parnelli Jones. My friends, Doug and Scot and I never missed this event and Ferrari was the mark so it was going to be awesome!
We piled in my Comet and went to the show. After speaking with Hill and asking him to sign some cool prints, the three of us walked around and enjoyed the display. After seeing most of the show cars we ventured over to the “For Sale” Corral. In this grouping were classic cars from the late 50’s and mostly 60’s. But there was this one car I had never ever seen before.
There, sat this roadster in bright red with a cracked windshield, miss matched wheels, three simple gauges on vinyl wrapped plywood, a beat up tachometer clamped to the steering column, no speedometer and…. the original black and yellow California license plate.
“FOR SALE: BYERS $10,000”. 1940 Ford frame, 1955, 365” Cadillac, 1954 Buick Hydromatic and a fiberglass Byers (SR100) body.
To me the front looked like a ‘54 Lancia D24, the sides like a mid ‘50’s Jaguar and the rear seemed like a rip off a ‘53 Ferrari Mexico. I stood there shaking my head. What the hell is a “Byers”? It turns out that this was the “Devin” listed in the Mercury News classifieds six months prior.
A guy named Jim had bought it, hard wired it, got it running and painted it red. The paint job was decent yet with lots of overspray but the body hit me like a Louisiana blackjack. I had to sell the Mercury to buy it. But how would it be that I sell my restored Comet, the Byers gets sold from under me and I’m stuck with $10,000 blazing a hole through my pocket.
I called Jim, “How about a trade?” He hung up. A month later… “ You sure?” “NO”. Four months later with his wife probably telling him “Get that noisy bag out of here”… I tried one more time and basically put it to Jim this way, “You can sell my Comet for ten grand quicker than this “Byers” that nobody knows or cares about, (but me)”.
Jim shrugged his shoulders and we traded straight across. Jim got a very solid and built up 1966 Mercury Comet Cyclone GT Convertible. The Mercury was worth every bit of ten grand and at least double that today (May 2012). I drove the car home and my wife Chris was sad the Cyclone was gone but she was happy for me.
Over the next few years I spoke with three out of maybe six owners who told me the car had ¼ mile history from Halfmoon Bay and Fremont drag strips (SF Bay area) slipping through in the high 11’s. One of these guys told me the car did not qualify at Laguna Seca in 1958 or 1959. Another owner from Halfmoon Bay would not give up the original dual quad intake and carburetors that came with the engine and someday, not that this car needs more power, I’ll get it done.
One of the most memorable days I ever had with it was in Monterey for the vintage races and Pebble Beach Event. I was able to speak again with Phil Hill and get some photos too. I also met Sterling Moss and Max Balchowsky. And while helping David Love carefully pour coolant into his 1958 250 TR, we joked around a bit with Jay Leno. PS… I met David Love the same day I found the Byers at The Palo Alto Concourse when he was showing his 1958 #9 250 TR and his TDF.
Over the years I had the transmission rebuilt, brakes gone through, replaced the drive shaft and a whole lot more. In 2007 I gave it a body on restoration that brought the car to a whole new level of safety and performance. Basic modifications like steering box, shock kit and steering column were replaced when the front end was rebuilt, the interior seating was reupholstered and the dash area upgraded with a full set of Stewart Warner gauges.
The windshield was taken out and replaced with Lexan. The sketchy original exhaust system was replaced with tuned headers through to the side pipes. The only body modification I added was a small air dam to the front similar to Jim Hall’s Chaparral Mark 1. For nostalgia the car was finished in white with blue stripes.
What a great story and thanks so much to Geordie Prodis for taking the time to share with us the “how and why” this car became a reality for him and has family. And….we hope to see Geordie’s Byers at the 2013 Milwaukee Masterpiece Concours d’Elegance scheduled later this year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (click here for more information on attending this event). Colorado is a lot of distance from Milwaukee, but I promised him that “the first beer’s on me” when he gets there. Maybe that will do the trick…
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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