The cut-throat nature of vehicle
manufacture is as old as the industry itself. Keeping one step ahead
of rivals is critical if you are going to compete. The main exception
to this rule was Ford's Model T. Production started in 1908 and
ending in 1927, when the Model A was launched. But in the 19 years of
Model T production the changes to the vehicle were minimal. So how
did the Model T survive so long when competitors were advancing in
leaps and bounds?
Two reasons: Firstly, the Model T was,
for this era, a fine vehicle. Secondly, Henry Ford believed in
dropping prices. So, as the millions of Model T's rolled off the
line, production became cheaper and Henry passed on the saving to his
loyal followers undercutting all opposition. Buyers did not care if
the vehicle was antiquated. They were familiar with the car and knew
what to expect. By 1926 the Model T being was challenged by
With the eventual demise of the Model T
Ford produced the four-cylinder Model A which went head to head with
four-cylinder Superior. Both sold in copious numbers. In 1929 though
Chevrolet raised the stakes. The advertisements said it all: A Six
for the price of a Four. The 1929 Chevrolet Six sold for a mere $10
more than the four cylinder 1928 Chevy. We now know the 1929 Chev was
a pivotal car in Chevrolet's history.
It was Chevrolet's first six-cylinder
engine since 1915 and was commonly known as the `Stovebolt' due to
the design of the engine's slotted head bolts. Production of this new
engine cost a fraction more than the four cylinder, but delivered 11
more horsepower. It was a 196 cubic inch engine and produced 46 horse
power at 2600 rpm – some 15 per cent more than Ford's Model A. This
was Chevrolet's advantage over the `new' Ford.
The engine was simple with overhead
valves – a Chevrolet essential - cast iron block and pistons with
splash-style lubrication. Sitting on top was a single-barrel Carter
carburettor. Torque was delivered to the rear wheels via a three
speed manual shifter. This simple system with various evolutions was
to form the basis of Chevrolet drive trains for three decades.
Another derivation was the engine produced for GM Holden, the `grey'
motor found in Holden cars between 1948 (48 -215) `FX' and 1963 EJ
Yet, as we know, to every action there
is an equal, and opposite, reaction. The Chevrolet Six sold some
600,000 in its first five months. Some of these came to Australia via
Canadian production, for Holdens to fit the body. The sixes success
sent shockwaves through Ford. Henry Ford pulled out all stops on the
development of a V8, which hit the road in 1932. This reaction was a
far cry from the Ford of old which allowed the Model T production to
roll on for almost two decades for all intents and purposes ignoring
the all rivals and all new technology. The V8 in turn raised the
stakes against Chevrolet.
The 1929 Chevrolet was not
just an engine transplant, but a new style from GM's Harley Earl.
Earl had designed the La Salle, a companion to Cadillac, at the top
of the GM tree. The 1929 Chevrolet – remembering Chevrolet was GM's
budget car – was a Harley Earl interpretation of the La Salle. The
end result was the 1929 Chevrolet – particularly the roadster as
featured here – looked a lot more expensive than it cost.
The new style sat on a 107
inch chassis introduced in 1928 and featured a more streamlined
appearance with a slightly more rectangular radiator, reduced number
of louvres on the bonnet sides, new mudguards and more aerodynamic
headlight housings. The sporty roadster featured a rumble seat also
known in Australia as a Dicky seat.
Our featured car is owned by
Noel and Lyn Nuendorf, who also own the 1939 Chevrolet Australian
Sloper featured on mister-cars.com. The couple call the roadster
`Charlotte'. Noel found the car in a paddock on the Darling Downs,
outside Brisbane. It took several years to restore to it's current
magnificent condition, highlighted by the fabulous use of yellow as
the primary colour. The car's restoration was finished in 1988 –
the year of Australia's Bi-Centenary – and Charlotte was taken on
her first big outing to the Bi-centennial Hub Rally in Rockhampton.
In 1990 she was driven to South Australia's Barossa Valley for the
14th National Chevrolet Festival, going via Broken Hill
and returning through Victoria.
In 1992 the roadster was
packed up and took part in the 25th Anniversary of
Chevrolet rally in Cowra, New South Wales. A year later the car was
on the interstate highways again, this time to Melbourne and then on
the ferry, Abel Tasman, across to Tasmania for the World Fiva Rally.
On this trip alone the car travelled almost 7000 kilometres. We
caught up with the roadster in January 2010 at a display at Conrad
Jupiters on the Gold Coast for the annual Rotary Antique Fair.