1930s Chevrolet Motor Division, General Motors

1 year 4 months ago - 1 year 4 months ago #893 by JP
JP created the topic: 1930s Chevrolet Motor Division, General Motors

1930 Chevrolet Universal Series AD Coach Coupe

1930s Chevrolet Motor Division, General Motors Corporation
Detroit, Michigan

Many vintage cars are popular today in roughly the same proportion as they were when new. Chevrolets of the 1930s found favor in their time for the same reasons they appeal to collectors today: smooth running six-cylinder engines, attractive styling, and lots of fellow owners with whom to trade stories. Though Chevy out produced Ford in eight years of the decade, the Model A and V-8 would give Ford an early lead in popularity among collectors in the '50s. But Chevrolet's following has been growing fast and if you count Corvette enthusiasts, Chevy may now even be ahead.

Chevrolet production first passed Ford's in 1927, when Dearborn stopped building its venerable Model T and retooled its plant in preparation for the Model A. Chevrolet's strength that year-and throughout the '30s-was its "Stove Bolt Six," also called the "Cast Iron Wonder." The nicknames stem from the engine's V4 x 20 slotted-head bolts and cast-iron pistons-not esoteric, maybe, but wonderfully effective, and as reliable as Old Faithful.

1931 Chevy 6 Cycle three window coupe

The Chevy six was developed by engineer Ormond E. Hunt, who took his cue from an earlier design by Henry M. Crane and which had evolved into the 1926 Pontiac. The Chevy power plant used the same 3. 75-inch stroke as the Pontiac, but a larger 3.31-inch bore. This gave it a displacement of 194 cubic inches, and by 1930 this unit was producing an even 50 horsepower. With certain improvements over time, this solid overhead-valve engine remained the standard Chevy power plant for nearly three decades.

1932 Chevrolet Confederate BA Deluxe sports roadster

For the 1933 Eagle and 1934 Master series it was given a new combustion chamber, a four-inch stroke, the name "Blue Flame Six," and was rated at 80 horsepower.

Then in 1937, it was fully redesigned, Bore and stroke became nearly square at 3.50 x 3.75 inches for a displacement of 216.5 cubic inches. The 1937 power plant also had four, instead of three, main bearings, and was shorter and lighter than its predecessor.

1934 Chevrolet Master Deluxe, two door hardtop

1934 Chevrolet Master Deluxe, two door hardtop

It was behind one of these engines in 1940 that a young Juan Manuel Fangio won the car-breaking 5,900-mile road race from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru and back with an average speed of 53.6 mph. Fangio continued to race his Chevy after World War II but eventually switched to Grand Prix cars, and became a legendary five-time world champion.

Throughout its history, Chevrolet has usually made the right decisions at precisely the right time. After he'd introduced the Stove Bolt Six, Chevy general manager William "Big Bill" Knudsen assigned the styling to Harley Earl. The result was a line of elegant-looking little cars for 1929-31 with looks that resembled a scaled-down Cadillac, but mounted on 107- to 109- inch wheelbases.

In 1930 and 1931, a single series consisting of roadsters for two or four passengers, a Phaeton, three coupes, and two sedans were offered at $495 to $685.

Each year's Chevys were identified by a special name: Universal in 1930, Independence in 1931, Confederate in 1932, Eagle (deluxe) and Mercury (standard) in 1933. Styling developed along the lines of the more expensive GM cars. The '33s, with their skirted fenders and graceful lines, were perhaps the most attractive Chevrolets of the entire decade. Body styles proliferated, and included such exotics as a $640 landau phaeton in 1932.

1933 Chevrolet Eagle coach

The 1933 Eagles had many features designed to win buyers from Ford: a Fisher body with "No-Draft Ventilation," airplane-type instruments, Cadillac-style hood doors, a cowl vent, synchromesh transmission, selective free-wheeling, safety plate glass, adjustable driver's seat, and even an octane selector. Many of these features were also carried on the standard Mercury line, which sold for no more than $475. These were good years for the division despite the prevailing Depression. Chevy production outpaced Ford's each year from 1931 to 1934. Output bottomed out at 300,000 units in 1932, rose to
480,000 in 1933, and was back to the 1931 level of 600,000 cars by 1934.

In 1934, along with new streamlined body styling, came a vital decision: "Knee-Action" independent front suspension would be offered for the Master series. This was Bill Knudsen's last act before leaving as general manager in October, 1933. According to car review writers, suspension engineer Maurice Olley tried to discourage Knudsen from using Knee Action on the high-volume Chevy. Olley said there weren't enough centerless grinding machines in America to produce the necessary coil springs. Knudsen replied that this was just what the machine tool industry needed to get back on its feet, but nevertheless, he restricted Knee-Action to the Master series only. Not every Master buyer liked the suspension, however. From 1935 through 1940, Masters with solid front axles were also offered at $20 less than Knee Action models. Standards continued to use the solid axle, and Knee-Action didn't spread throughout the line until 1941.

Dubonnet knee action suspension

The 1935 Chevrolets were the last models with any styling relationship to the classic era. A wide model lineup was offered. Masters sold for $560-$695, and standards were priced at $465-$550. While standards kept a 107-inch wheelbase, Masters used a 113-inch span and very rakish bodies with V-shaped windshields and streamlined tenders. The raked-back radiator had its cap concealed under the hood-an innovation at the time. Though the same Blue Flame engine was used on all models that in the standards developed only 74 bhp. This dual-range marketing approach worked in the showrooms: Production rose to 793,000 units. Ford built more cars than Chevy in 1935, but it was the last time Dearborn would do so until 1959.

1935 Chevrolet Master Deluxe

1935 Chevrolet Master Deluxe

Continued modernization occurred in 1936 as Chevrolets adopted the rounded styling of the streamlined school. They had die-cast waterfall grilles, steel spoked wheels (wires remained optional), smooth fenders and body lines, and all-teel "Turret Top" bodies. A big plus in the continuing battle against Ford was Chevy's new hydraulic brakes. Ford failed to adopt hydraulics until 1939, mainly due to the stubbornness of Henry Ford. The year also saw Chevy's two series become more alike as both used the 80-bhp Stove Bolt Six. The dated phaeton model was dropped. Standards, now on a 109-inch wheelbase, were offered in coupe, cabriolet, coach, sedan, town sedan, and sport sedan form. The Master series had mostly the same styles, but substituted a sport coupe for the Cabriolet. The Master didn't offer a cabriolet until 1937, and even then it came with a beam front axle rather than the Knee-Action suspension.

1936 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe Town Sedan

1936 Chevrolet Standard 5P Tudor

With the new 216.5-cid 85-bhp engine for 1937, Chevrolet was particularly well equipped for the sales battle. Although production had reached 975,000 units in 1936, it slipped to 868,000 for 1937 because of a recession that year-but that tally was still 20,000 units ahead of Ford's. Model names were now altered: Master designated the lower-priced line ($619-$725), and Master Deluxe was the tag for the more costly series ($685-$788). All models rode a 112.3-inch wheelbase.

Beautiful 1937 Chevrolet Master Deluxe 2-Door Sedan

1937 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe 2-door Sedan interior

Styling became rather dull as it did for several other GM cars that year. Grilles were skinny and uninteresting; bodies were high and bulky. Chevys looked pretty clumsy in the closing years of the decade, particularly compared to the increasingly streamlined Fords. Still, Chevrolet continued to out produce Ford. In the recession year of 1938, its 490,000 units led Ford by 80,000; in 1939, the total of 648,000 'cars was 116,000 more that Dearborn's.

It wasn't until 1940 that Bill Mitchell, Harley Earl, and company produced a Chevrolet with styling equal in impact to that of the elegant 1933 model. Though the 1940 Chevy shared much of its general shape with its immediate predecessors, it had just the right detail' touches to make it a stand out. Again, Chevrolets looked like junior Cadillacs. Perhaps this was why Chevy again outsold Ford by 300,000 cars that year.

This styling history should be important to the collector because classic-car enthusiasts generally agree that the most colorful, dashing, genuinely beautiful Chevys of the period are those built from 1930-1933. The 1934-35 models are relatively uninteresting, except for the collectible low-production phaetons. The 1936-39 cars are even more boring, if that's possible, at least from a design viewpoint.

1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Town Sedan Limousine

1939 Master Deluxe Town Sedan

There is more to the story than styling, of course. Every Chevrolet during the '30s was progressively better in engineering than its predecessor. Knee-Action in·1934, Turret Tops in mid-decade, the new “Six” in 1937; all were important to the technical progress of the make. Nevertheless, the desirable Chevys of the 1930s are those built during the first four years. If you find them pricey today (and they are), the next place to look for collector and investment value is 1940.

Enjoyed seeing you again at Ed's Swap Meet.com. Hope to have your presence again real soon. JP
Last Edit: 1 year 4 months ago by JP.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Time to create page: 5.467 seconds

Logo for Sharing

Free Gift with Ad

Free Goody Bags

What's In Your Garage?

Show off what you've done in your garage to restore your car or truck. We know you're proud of it.

 Show Us Your Ride