by Bryan Cantrell (050)

Back in the fledging years of the VVCAA I used to carry a camera in my Chevrolet, ready to capture photographs of other Chevrolets I saw on the streets of Brisbane. My aim was to build a Chevrolet compendium, with examples of each year model, to show prospective and new members how to identify Chevrolets and see them in their original condition. As a result, I have many Black & White prints and negatives on file from the 1970’s depicting Chevrolet vehicles (cars and trucks) going about their business. These were mostly unrestored relics, many bearing the scars of years of faithful service for their owners.

Typical of the cars in my photographs is the 1935 Chevrolet “Master” Sedan taken in the Brisbane suburb of Virginia in 1971, with the original owner at the wheel. The accessory wind deflector on the driver’s door was being appreciated on this wet and windy Sunday.

I have also included a photograph of the front of this car, showing the grille badging – the Chevrolet “bow tie” on the centre bar and the small “Master” script above. As far as I know, 1935 was the only year in which Chevrolets carried “Master” insignia and at least two variants were used. These were the one shown here and another with a much larger cursive “Master” script separate from the Chevrolet badge in the top left hand corner of the grille. Other cars lack the “Master” script, but was this is original or perhaps due to the “Master” script being removed at some time in the car’s history?

CHEVROLET FLASHBACK #2 – The Trucks that Pay

by Bryan Cantrell (050)

This is the second in my series of Chevrolet flashbacks, featuring interesting Chevrolets on the streets of Brisbane. The subject of this flashback is trucks of 1940’s vintage still in use decades later.

The B&W photograph of a WWII Chevrolet “Blitz” was taken in September 1973. It was part of an auction by the Brisbane City Council (BCC) to dispose of superseded plant and vehicles. Members will be familiar with the 4-WD “Blitz” that served the allied armies with distinction in WWII. Unlike most of its kind, this is a 2-WD variant of the ‘Blitz” with a box body which suggests that its military role was a mobile radio unit or something similar. During its service with the BCC it is thought that it was a support vehicle for the Tramways Department on the corner of Boomerang Street and Coronation Drive at Milton, opposite the old Arnott’s biscuit factory. The BCC bought many war surplus trucks and used them for many years in Brisbane and I remember that they were a common sight around the suburbs.

The colour photograph of the (same) “Blitz” was taken at GM Day in South Brisbane in 1995, resplendent after a full restoration. If it’s not the same vehicle, then it is remarkably similar. Unfortunately I did not speak with its owner and was unable to check on its history. [Note the unmistakeable boat-tail stern of Queensland member Darryl Stark’s 1932 Chevrolet Moonlight Speedster in the background of this photograph.]

Queensland Member Brian Leahy’s 1945 ¾ ton Series 13 utility was also owned by the BCC before he bought it in 1959. Brian believes that it was used by the BCC Electricity Department. It is a WWII unit and still showed signs of its wartime service when Brian obtained it, such as blackout dash lights, brackets on the mudguards previously used to mount military insignia and a dust filter on the generator, suggesting it was built for operation in severe conditions. Brian also has a 3-ton “Lend Lease” Chevrolet truck.

The second pair of vehicles are 1940 Chevrolet ¾ ton Series 13 utilities. The more weather-beaten of the two was seen on a construction site at the University of Queensland and has a factory metal “styleside” tray. The other was photographed at the fresh fruit and vegetable markets at Rocklea in September 1974. It was in much better condition and is fitted with a timber tray. I guess its owner was a farmer who had bought a load of produce for sale.

The 1931 Chevrolet utility seen at GM Day is being followed by a nicely-restored 1940 utility. What a coincidence it would be if this was also the same truck as I saw at the markets all those years ago, like the “Blitz” ? We will never know.

Finally, a photograph of an enamel sign advertising Chevrolet trucks that I saw in a small motoring museum in the UK in 1996.


by Bryan Cantrell (050)

This article continues the series of flashbacks of Chevrolets seen on the streets of Brisbane in the 1970’s.

This time I feature Chevrolets spanning 3 decades - the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, starting with a very original 1940 Chevrolet “Pullman” sedan. It was photographed in 1970 at the top end of Grey Street, near the South Brisbane Town Hall, the clock tower of which can just be seen in the background. It has good straight bodywork, and is complete down to the crank hole cover. Otherwise it is stock standard without an accessory of any kind. The registration plate is not original; it is 1964 vintage. Note the advertising on the corner store across the road: SU-TALL soap, Coca-Cola, STREETS icecream and VINCENTS APC. This area is now occupied by the Griffith University, South Bank campus.

The second Chevrolet is an unusual model for Australia, being a 1951 Chevrolet “Styleline Deluxe” sedan photographed at the University of Queensland in 1972. This model is well-endowed with stainless steel trim: around the body at the base of the windows, around the front windscreen and around the tops of the doors . But there’s more - stainless steel trim, that is – the “spear” along the side of the body and the stone guard on the front of the rear mudguard. But there’s more – this time the skirt filling in the wheel arch of the rear mudguard that was standard specification in the USA. Who knows how this car reached Australia, but perhaps it was imported by someone returning from sabbatical leave overseas as it has an “A” parking permit on the driver’s side windscreen that signifies the car belongs to a senior staff member. All in all, a very distinctive vehicle that has a much smarter look than the 1951 Chevrolets sold through GMH dealers, which lacked such extensive ornamentation.

The third Chevrolet is also a good original car still in regular use - a 1954 “210” sedan photographed in Bardon in 1972, with a nice example of a typical “Queenslander” house in the background. Another stock standard car lacking any accessories.

Finally, a 1967 Chevrolet Impala sedan seen in a used car yard on Kingsford Smith Drive opposite the Queensland Butter Board premises in 1974. I was alerted to this Chevrolet by Roger Dunstan and, after looking at it, I tried valiantly to persuade my father to buy it instead of the new Holden he was considering. Unfortunately I failed. Just 7 years old, this Chevrolet was in immaculate condition and would have been a very sound purchase, but Dad was put off by the V8 motor and the higher cos t of registration and insurance.

CHEVROLET FLASHBACK #4 – In the Midst of the Great Depression

 by Bryan Cantrell (050)

This is the fourth in my series of flashbacks to Chevrolets on the streets of Brisbane in years gone by. To set the scene for this article, let me pose what must be one of the most difficult questions one could ask of a Chevrolet enthusiast: “Which is the best-looking Chevrolet?”

To respond to my own query, I guess that one might get many answers, since there are so many good-looking Chevrolet models to choose from, as well as individuals’ preferences. Remember that General Motors stole the march on us by promoting the 1927 “Capitol” Chevrolet as “The Most Beautiful Chevrolet in Chevrolet History” as GM closed in on its rival Ford in the sales race. The 1927 Chevrolet was also known as the “Peacock” model due to the use of a peacock in GM’s advertising program. The “Capitol” was certainly a stand-out from its forebears with full-crown front mudguards and bullet headlights which added a touch of modernity to an ageing design.

Two fine examples are the roadster and tourer restored by Queensland members Vic and Pat Perry, as photographed at the gymkhana in 1982.

The 1928 Chevrolet slogan “Bigger and Better” and the 1929 sales pitch “A Six for the Price of a Four” are hardly inspiring, although the latter was highly appropriate to announce the arrival of the new Chevrolet 6 which would dominate Chevrolet models until the 1960’s. That engine, the “Stovebolt Six”, would go on to eclipse the production span of the Chev 4 engine it superseded and was fundamental in establishing Chevrolet’s reputation as “America’s Favourite Car”.

But, back to our question. What was beautiful in 1927 may not have endured because Chevrolet designs evolved decade by decade in keeping with the technical and body-style advances made in the motor industry worldwide, but particularly in the USA. So, it is unfair to compare, say, designs from pre- and post-World War II or between 1950’s and 1960’s cars, and so on. It all seems too hard, so let’s forget the question and simply take a look at Chevrolets from the early 1930’s period.

Firstly, the 1930 tourer restored by Queensland member Darryl Stark. This elegant vehicle was painted by Darryl with a grey body and black mudguards and it will be well remembered by early members of the Queensland Branch of the VVCAA. It was a credit to Darryl’s restoration skills and looked a picture with its disk wheels in lieu of the optional wire wheels and the side-mount spare tyre.

However, the 1931 and 1932 Chevrolets took another step forwards in the styling stakes and will always be to the fore in deciding the most popular Chevrolet. It is something of a paradox that Chevrolet produced such elegant and seemingly expensive designs at the height of the Great Depression. Perhaps desperate measures were needed to boost flagging sales.

The 1931 and 1932 tourers shown here were photographed at the University of Queensland. These were the sorts of cars that university students drove in the 1970’s. The ’31 was probably the better of the two and was painted dark green all over. I used to see it regularly, whereas the 1932 is less well-known to me. However, it was still a very original example that would have been an ideal candidate for restoration. I personally prefer the simpler design of the 1931 Chevrolet and just love those parking lights on top of the front mudguards, a styling feature that is uniquely Australian and not seen again as standard equipment until 1940.

Flashback #5 – Holden-bodied Chevrolet utilities

by Bryan Cantrell (050)

A slight change of tack for this Flashback, focusing on country utes back in the 1970’s. I have always had an affection for Chevrolet utilities and trucks, probably because my first Chevrolet was a 1928 Series LP 1-ton truck purchased in 1968 from the original owner. It was a remarkably reliable vehicle and I still remember it with fond satisfaction and memories of the good times shared with early members of the VVCAA Queensland Branch. My truck had a Holden factory-built cabin and tray body with high timber sides; it was used by a small-crops farmer to take his produce to the old Roma Street fruit and vegetable markets in Brisbane.

It is a well-documented fact that Chevrolet utilities and vans were produced in Australia at least as early as 1924, by Holdens and specialist body builders such as Millers in Sydney. These were “roadster” utilities with “rag” hoods and were superseded by “coupe” utilities with wood-framed steel cabins in ca 1934/5, albeit with a canvas insert in the roof like contemporary sedans and coupes. These “coupe” utilities had full doors with a pivoted quarter-glass and wind-up windows – the rear window glass also had a wind-up function in some models, such as the beautifully-restored 1935 Master utility owned by Ron Daw (056). The range of 1936 Chev utes was similar, with both “roadster” and “coupe” styles on both Standard and Master chassis.

Like the sedans and coupes, the first all-steel Holden-bodied Chevrolet utility appeared in 1937, along with a panel van version (known as a “sedan delivery” in the USA). Utilities were available in both Standard and Master configurations and offered two types of doors. The cheaper option had doors with quarter windows but no wind-up window glass, being provided with clip-on side curtains instead; this body style was designated as a “half-door” utility. I have yet to see any “half-door” utility still wearing side curtains and suspect they were ditched in the farm shed and forgotten about many years ago. The dearer option was a “full-door” utility with wind-up windows.

All 1937 utilities had a pair of fixed rear windows, the same size and shape as a 1937 Holden-bodied Chevrolet sedan. Utilities for 1938 were similar to the 1937’s except for the different grille, bonnet and instrument panel etc. that were shared with passenger models for that year.

In January 1972, Ron Daw and I spent a few weeks in country Qld and NSW looking for old Chevs, NOS parts etc. We came across a number of 1937/8 utes, including the 1937 “half-door” ute in Murgon, Qld. and the 1938 Master “full-door” ute in a wrecking yard in Kilkivan, Qld., as shown in the accompanying photographs. Originally, these utes would have been sold with a tonneau cover, secured by “Lift-the-Dot” clips to the pins along the outside of the load area. Utilities had a timber floor in the load area, with protective metal “skid-strips” and a steel tail gate.

Another option was a “well-side” utility with timber extensions level with the tops of the side panels and supported on two curved metal brackets which passed through holes cut in the side panel and secured to the body framework, as shown in the photograph of a 1938 “half-door” ute we saw in Emerald, Qld. The third variant was a “flareboard” utility, similar to the “well-side” but with a single side board extension angled upwards at about 30° from the top of the load area. Unfortunately I have never seen such a ute but there are illustrations in 1938 Chevrolet sales brochures to prove their existence.

The utility scene changed in 1939. My understanding is that the Master utility was dropped, with all utes built on Standard chassis. In addition, there was no “half-door” option, so that all 1939-40 Chevrolet utes were “full-door” models, but with rear windows carried over from 1937-8 and a single windscreen wiper (cowl mounted) for the driver. As far as I am aware, no “well-side” or “flareboard” option was offered in 1939-40 either. The 1939 utility shown here belonged to an early member of the VVCAA (Qld Branch), Arthur Walker. It had been repainted in light green with a white roof – originally no such two-tone paint option was available. Arthur also owned a 1929 Chevrolet sedan, which was later restored by Brian Fenelon; it is currently owned by Cyril Conwell.

Arthur Walker was a bachelor, who lived with his sister in the Brisbane suburb of Shorncliffe, near where I grew up in Sandgate. I came to know the Walkers and it was through me that Arthur joined the VVCAA. Arthur used his two Chevs week about as they were parked nose to tail under his house. He would swap them around once a week and use whichever Chev was first out that week. Arthur and his sister would drive the short distance to Sandgate to do their weekly shopping and it was here that I photographed the utility in 1971.

Norm Darwin, in his book "100 years of GM in Australia” lists GMH production figures for many Chevrolet models. These figures should be treated with a degree of caution as they appear to contain some anomalies. However, as they are the only source of information on this topic, they are interesting to peruse.

The data for 1937 – 40 show that “half-door” utes sold poorly compared with the “full-door” version. In 1937, a total of 1374 Standard “full-door” utilities was made, but only 593 “half-door”. However, these far outsold Master utilities (283 “full-door” and 51 “half-door”). Figures for 1938 Standard are 1580 “full-door” and 271 “half-door”, while for the Master 277 “full-door” and 20 “half-door”.

Year totals (all utilities) for 1937 and 1938 are 2301 and 2148 respectively. In 1939 2129 utilities were made, and 1484 in 1940. By now, WWII had started and GMH swung over to military production of the Australian Military Forces (AMF) utility based on the 1941 Chevrolet car. Production figures are: 1000 in 1941, 96 in 1942 and 499 in 1943. Some of these were “roadster” utilities. The sad and sorry 1941 utility shown in the last photograph was seen in a wrecking yard at Bentley near Casino, NSW, in 1974. The vehicle next to it appears to be a 1946 Chevrolet utility

Now for some twists to this tale. Another curiosity of the 1937-8 utes was the fact that a windscreen wiper was provided only for the driver, not for the passenger. A further quirk is that the wiper was mounted above the windscreen on “half-door” utes and below the windscreen on the cowl for “full-door” versions. Why such an idiosyncrasy? Can anyone explain?

To further complicate the issue, panel vans (which were mostly “full-door” equipped) had a top-mounted wiper. Ron Daw and Brian Leahy (074) tell me that they have also seen a few panel vans with “half-doors” although I have not seen any mention of this style in the reference books I used in preparing this article.

Now here is another twist: Adelaide member Malcolm Morgan (559) owns a 1938 utility with a “half-door” on the driver’s side and a “full-door” on the passenger side. The windscreen wiper is top mounted, consistent with a “half-door” configuration. Both Malcolm and Roland Allen (3153) remember a second ute in Adelaide with the same door configuration; it was used as a grocer’s delivery vehicle.

So, how did these utes originate? Maybe both coincidently suffered an accident resulting in replacement of a non-matching door or was this a Holden body works option in South Australia. Does anyone have any clues???

Finally, a puzzle concerning 1939 Chevrolet utilities. As indicated above, my belief is that all such utes were built on Standard chassis. Imagine my surprise, then, on recently looking through a 1939 GMH Chevrolet Owner’s Handbook, to find mention of the jacking procedure for the Master DeLuxe utility! I wonder if the handbooks were printed prior to the release of 1939 Chevs and that the Master ute never went into production. Can any member offer information on this piece of history?

Chevrolet Flashback #6 - Memories of the VVCAA

 Bryan Cantrell (050)

 As we approach the end of the Chevrolet Centenary year it occurred to me that two relevant things happened in 1968; I purchased my first Chevrolet and joined the VVCAA. Looking back over almost 45 years of Chevy-ing and the good times I have enjoyed in company of VVCAA friends prompted me to prepare this retrospective view of my time in the VVCAA. I hope that it may kindle similar feelings in other members in the lead-up to Taree 2012.

Since its inception in 1967, the VVCAA has had as its goal the preservation, restoration and use of historic Chevrolet vehicles, initially Chevrolets manufactured between 1911 and 1942. Over that time, many, many members have contributed to the furtherance of the VVCAA and the achievement of this goal. Some have given years of service in various committee positions, some have provided ancillary help such as mailing the “Royal Mail” or catering at club events, while others simply continue to support their club in whatever way they can. All members contribute by helping fellow members whenever help is needed and by using their Chevrolet in VVCAA and other events to promote the Chevrolet brand.

Inevitably, some friends have passed on, but today’s members continue working towards this goal and to foster an interest by younger generations in carrying on this tradition.

The early years

In the first decade, urge to “do up” an old Chevrolet was strong. The focus of restoration was mainly on 1920’s and 1930’s Chevrolets, i.e. Chev 4’s and Chev 6’s, then averaging about 40-50 years old. At that time, many such Chevrolets were being jettisoned by long-term owners, either moving to a new-fangled Holden or becoming too old to drive, thus presenting opportunities for these Chevrolets to gain a new lease of life in the hands of a caring VVCAA enthusiast.

Typically, these cars were complete, in going order if a little shabby, with the sale made at a bargain-basement price by today’s standards. Many such Chevrolets were given just the right amount of rejuvenation to make them reliable drivers and presentable examples of the marque and were often used regularly, particularly before concessional registration became available. My 1928 truck is a case in point. One of John DeBrincat’s business trips to Brisbane happened to coincide with a Queensland Branch monthly meeting and I offered to pick him up and take him to the meeting in Mott Park. John was staying in a swank hotel in town where there were concierges ushering guests into waiting limousines when I rattled into the forecourt in my Chev truck to pick him up. Our unusual mode of transport raised quite a few eyebrows!

My truck was often used to help other members move Chev parts, body panels etc. etc. from place to place and was also a workhorse whenever Judy & I moved house. On one occasion Harry Burton asked me to drive down to Clontarf to pick up a dinghy he had bought. This was about a 30 mile round trip. Harry rounded up a few mates as helpers and we set off one afternoon after work, two of us in the cab and two standing in the tray – things one couldn’t get away with today.

However, most members were full of enthusiasm and made a body-off-chassis restoration to ensure the reliability and original appearance of what was probably their first vintage Chevrolet. The general standard of such restorations was very high with most members doing most of the work themselves. This often involved learning new skills such as panel beating, welding or spray painting in night classes at a local technical college so that they could complete the restoration. Engine reconditioning was normally farmed out; once someone found a tradesman who could pour and line bore white metal bearings this meant follow-up work from other members. In Brisbane the father and son team of Wilson’s Engines worked from under their house in Balmoral and turned out high quality work at reasonable prices.

Other members were lucky enough to stumble across a very original, usually low-mileage Chevrolet, that required only preservation and ongoing TLC to give many years of driving pleasure. Such Chevrolets were also valuable as examples of original styles of upholstery, trim, paint colour etc. for others to follow in their restorations.

And members wished to make full use of their Chevrolet, whenever possible. It was common practice to drive one’s Chevrolet to the monthly VVCAA meeting as well as the monthly rally, but we were younger then and the roads not so hazardous for cars with mechanical brakes.

I recall that something of a rivalry emerged between owners of the 4’s and 6’s at this time, driven by the faster 6-cylinder owners who felt they were being held back on rallies by the slower pace of the Chev 4’s. But this was always good-natured banter and some members even owned examples of both types. As time went by, 1940’s Chevrolets became more common in the club, taking their place alongside their older cousins on VVCAA events, particularly after the eligibility date was raised to 1948.

It goes without saying that the resurrection of veteran and vintage Chevrolets, as well as some of the rarer models of any age, does not come easy. VVCAA members are a tenacious bunch who may have spent many years searching for enough parts to begin or complete a restoration and spent countless hours fabricating timber body work and metal panels to get their chosen Chevrolet back on the road.

All that ingrained dirt and rust means that wrecking yards and swap meets attract VVCAA members like a magnet. In decades past both provided a good chance of finding parts needed for a restoration. Wrecking yards around Australia abounded in old Chevrolets in varying stages of decomposition, without which many a restoration may not have been completed. Imagine the surprise, then, of one VVCAA member who recently enquired at a large wrecking yard in Cowra, NSW, about Chevrolet parts, only to be informed “We have nothing older than 1980 here”!

And one must not forget the availability of NOS parts back in those days. We scoured regional GM dealers’ parts shelves and were rewarded with a wide array of valuable mechanical parts such as king pins, ball joints, spring shackle pins, bearings, pistons and rings, gaskets and so on, normally at very reasonable prices. Occasionally body parts turned up as well. As this supply dried up, some enterprising members began to service the VVCAA by establishing businesses supplying mechanical and body parts to assist others in their restorations. Names such as “Old Time Auto Parts”, “PJ’s Panels” and “Vintage Wiring Harnesses” spring to mind. Success guarantees longevity and such companies are still providing valuable support to members.

Our members

Members of the VVCAA have always come from very diverse backgrounds, including business leaders, professionals, scientists, educators, tradesmen etc. etc., but all have in common a love of old Chevrolets. Some are excellent mechanics, welders, panel beaters, painters or upholsterers while others have limited hands-on skills in such areas, bringing different approaches to the challenge of restoring a vintage Chevrolet. For the less able, help and advice has always been available from fellow members and this comradeship is one of the central aspects of the VVCAA, fostering friendship and interaction between members.

An example of helping others comes to mind, concerning a 1925 Chevrolet tourer bought by Harry van de Weil in 1971. It was a very original car that had spent its twilight years as a power unit in a country sawmill. The rear axle was jacked up and the left rear mudguard removed so that the tyre served as a pulley for a wide leather belt which drove sawmill machinery. The car had not run for some some time before Harry trailered it home and, not being much of a mechanic, asked for help to get it going and assess its mechanical condition. Harry Burton and I went over one Saturday morning, did the usual checks of the points, vac tank, carby etc. and coaxed the ’25 into life. The photograph shows Harry’s three sons and a mate waiting to go for a ride. The second photo shows the restored vehicle a few years later. Subsequently Harry purchased a nicely-restored 1934 Master Sedan.

Over the years there have been many interesting characters in the VVCAA and legends have been created by their adventures, overcoming problems with bush ingenuity and dollops of good luck. Antics such as stuffing flat tyres with dry grass, replacing a noisy big-end bearing with one from a Chev wreck in a paddock, strapping a broken part with a length of fencing wire and so on. Members have also made epic journeys on VVCAA long-distance rallies, such as crossing Australia’s Nullarbor Plain in faithful Chevrolets, rallying to remote regions such as Ayers Rock and Cape York Peninsula, travelling to Tasmania by car ferry from Sydney and other trips that have become indelible parts of VVCAA history.

Sharing the enjoyment – good times on VVCAA events

For me, one of life’s greatest pleasures is to be found on a VVCAA outing, driving my Chev in convoy with other members’ cars. It was this way in the 1970’s and still is today. I love following the sterns of Chevrolets ahead and looking at the bows of Chevrolets behind in my rear view mirrors. And it’s nice to change one’s place in the convoy during the drive to experience a different selection of Chevrolets fore and aft. Added to this is the social aspect, enjoying Chev chatter over tea breaks and picnic lunches.

Over the years there have been many memorable rallies: day trips, weekends away, half-way rallies and other longer runs. Bush campfires, spit roasts, pub meals have been savoured as well as visits to attractions such as bush gardens, museums, galleries, craft markets and the like. It’s all about providing something of interest for the “boys” and “girls” that make up the young-at-heart VVCAA membership.

Over the Easter long weekend in 1976, the Qld Branch held a rally to Hervey Bay, Maryborough’s coastal resort. We met about midnight on Easter Eve on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, the only problem being that it was pouring with rain. Undeterred, we set off on a not-too-pleasant drive and arrived in Maryborough shortly after dawn – under clearing skies. The remainder of the weekend was glorious weather. We were camped in a caravan park and had a great time. The organizers had arranged to buy a lamb carcass from a local butcher on Saturday morning (before the shops shut!) in preparation for a spit roast dinner that evening (see photograph). Robin Teys, a master butcher, did the carving honours.

Qld Branch members enjoyed many rallies camping out under the stars, around a campfire, yarning into the night. Preferably we would try to find a nice camping spot near a creek but, failing that, would drive down some side road off the highway we were travelling on and camp among the trees. The photograph shows a campsite near Guyra, NSW, on the return trip from the Tamworth half-way rally in 1973. This campsite was on a property owned by the late Doug Burey, a VVCAA member who was restoring a 1926 Chevrolet at the time.

The next photograph was taken on a local rally in 1975 and shows Brian Fenelon’s 1935 Master Sedan. The hangers-on are Brian & Joan’s sons larking about.

Finally, two photographs of Qld Branch Chevrolets at the base of Mt Coot-tha in Brisbane. It was a photo shoot for an article in an early issue of Restored Cars magazine prepared by Trevor Poulson, a mate of Ron Daw’s. The cars are Harry Burton’s 1924, Alan McKeon’s 1926, Roger Dunstan’s 1926, Bryan & Judy Cantrell’s 1928, Harold Adam’s 1929, Darryl Stark’s 1930 and 1932, Bryan & Judy Cantrell’s 1934, Ron Daw’s 1935, Brian Leahy’s 1937, Greg Muller’s 1938, Kelly Webb’s 1939 (later owned by Bryan & Judy Cantrell) and Grace Allen’s 1940.

And so to 2011

The recent adoption of a 30-year rolling cut-off for VVCAA eligibility means that a new vista of Chevrolets has appeared on club events, with 1950’s and 1960’s models to the fore. As well as ensuring the preservation of these “newer” Chevrolets, the move enables older members to continue to participate at an age when driving say, a 1920’s Chevrolet, is no longer practicable. In reality, our more senior members now driving later model Chevrolets are simply continuing where they started, driving Chevrolets in the 40-50 year old range to ensure their preservation into Chevrolet’s second century. Enthusiasm doesn’t falter as the years advance.


While preparing this article I happened across a similar contribution by an early member Dave Race (#263) in the “Royal Mail” for December 1974, which reflects my own views. Here is part of what Dave wrote.

“During my association with the VVCAA I have been greatly assisted with my restoration, in many ways. Firstly, spare parts are available, and if not at the meeting someone will give you a lead. Secondly, the “Royal Mail” contains excellent mechanical articles, wiring diagrams and a classified section. Finally, the VVCAA provides friendship, people who are restoring Chevs like myself, people who know the weakness of a car as well as its strength. It is these people who we can all thank for the VVCAA being the way it is today. A great man once said ”you only get out of life what you put into it” so let us all put something back so that we will progress and make a great club even greater”.

Flashback #8 - A remarkable cone clutch chevrolet

by Bryan Cantrell (050) and Ron Daw (056)

Continuing this series of stories of Chevrolets seen in the early years of the VVCAA, this one relates to a trip we did together in early 1972.  We drove around Northern New South Wales and the southern half of Queensland looking for Chevrolet cars and parts - and found plenty!  One of the "best" we found was an original, remarkably complete 1923 Series B tourer as shown in the accompanying photographs.

The Chev was on a property near Springsure in central Qld and was still being used around the farm. At a sprightly 49 years of age at the time, it naturally showed signs of wear and tear, but it ran perfectly. The owner took us for a short drive and the cone clutch was as smooth as silk. This astounded us, as previously we had experienced only Harry Burton’s 1924 tourer which, despite new leather, had a vicious clutch action in keeping with the reputation of a “kangaroo” Chevrolet as cone-clutch cars were dubbed in the 1920’s. Harry later installed a Borg & Beck plate clutch modification that made his car much more pleasant to drive.

But back to the Springsure Chev. The tourer top was torn and the lower windscreen glass had broken and was replaced with a neatly cut piece of plywood – farmer’s ingenuity at its best. It still carried a “Reelite” spotlight on the driver’s windscreen post and a home made radiator screen. The upholstery was tatty of course and Ron remembers a few mice scurrying about during our drive. There was evidence of rust at the bottom of the tourer tub, but generally the body seemed to be in good condition. It was ripe for restoration, being such a complete car with magneto ignition and the oil pump situated between the timing case and the radiator, as shown in the second photograph. We believe that one of the owner’s relatives later restored the Chev, but have no information on its present whereabouts.

Later in the trip we found another cone clutch Chevrolet near Rockhampton. This one was in poor condition, a 1924 model. It had the ute treatment, originally being a roadster judging by the shape of the body remnants in front of the tray. Subsequently Bryan bought this vehicle and moved it to his parents’ home in Brisbane for storage. Later he sold it to Vic Perry and it is now owned by Ian & Nola Herse, as a long-term restoration project.

While in the Springsure district, also found two Chevrolet business roadsters. One was a fairly complete 1928 resting in a shed and the other a 1937 in somewhat poorer condition out in the weather. The latter had no wheels and was sitting on the ground, but the body looked restorable.

The third photograph shows another good restoration project, a complete 1930 tourer in a shed in Mount Morgan.

To round out this article, the fourth photograph shows a 1938 Chevrolet tourer at Emu Park east of Rockhampton. We do not know its fate. Some years later Bryan saw it again at Marlborough (north of Rockhampton) but that is the last we know of it. It was rough but restorable due to its relatively rare body style.

Chevrolet Flashback #10 – A true icon, the last of the 4-cylinder Chevrolets

by Bryan Cantrell (050)

In continuing my “Flashback” series of articles, from time to time I thought it may be interesting to focus on a particular Chevrolet model and look at how such cars fared after leaving the new car dealer’s showroom. Some had pampered histories, others were workhorses, and some suffered the indignity of having their bodies sawn in half to create a utility vehicle. My collection of photographs of 1928 Chevs provides a good year on which to reflect. Most of us will be familiar with Chevrolet’s advertising slogan for 1928 – “Bigger and Better” as shown in the accompanying reproduction of an original advertisement featuring the “winged wheel” motif adopted by Chevrolet in 1928.

Of course, it may never have existed at all if Chevrolet’s engineers had completed the development of the Chevrolet 6-cylinder engine a little earlier. Perhaps a parallel may be drawn with the 1962/3 EJ Holden, the last with the original grey motor. Historians tell us that the EJ was meant to be the launching pad for the new “red” motors, but engineering lag prevented this occurring. This honour then fell to the subsequent model, the EH Holden. So it was with the “National” Chevrolet in 1928. It received a longer wheelbase (107”, the same as a 1929 Chevrolet), 4-wheel brakes, alloy pistons and a 2-port exhaust manifold, but missed out on the extra 2 cylinders!

None-the-less, the 1928 Chevrolet proved to be one of the best, and well deserved its strong reputation for simplicity yet reliability. The enhancements to the engine provided more lively performance, a sweeter exhaust note and higher cruising speed. Coupled with much better braking capacity, the “National” was streets ahead of previous Chev 4’s in overall driving pleasure. Thousands of happy owners attest to this. Further evidence comes from the numbers of 1928 Chevs still motoring in the safe hands of VVCAA owners. My first Chevrolet was a 1928 Chevrolet Series LP 1-ton truck with the 4-speed gearbox, purchased in 1968; while it lacked the sparkling performance of a 1928 tourer, it did provide many years of trouble-free use.

Flashback to Brisbane in the 1970’s and 1928 Chevs owned by early members of the VVCAA (Qld). One of these was Ron Baines (#123), who joined in April 1970. Ron was a light aircraft pilot, who had owned a 1928 Chevrolet roadster for many years, yet hardly used it. In fact, when he joined the VVCAA the roadster was literally boarded-up under his house, never seeing the light of day. Joining our club was the stimulus for Ron to wake the Chev from its hibernation and put it on club registration, after which he regularly attended club runs including the first Half-Way Rally in 1971. Ron’s roadster was unrestored and was unsympathetically painted white all over, so it was not a particularly attractive vehicle. Ron passed away before he could restore it and the car passed out of the club.

By contrast, the tourer owned by Robin Teys (#245), who joined the VVCAA in February 1972, was an unrestored vehicle in remarkably original condition – too good to restore and lose that patina of age. It had been continuously registered since 1928 with an original “Q” plate – Q99-962. It was one of those 1928 Chevs with the two-tone body paintwork, in this case chocolate brown over fawn with black mudguards.

Other members who owned 1928 tourers included Harry Burton (#060) and John Turner (#463), although I have not included photos in this story. Harry and his wife Ann used their 1928 Chev as their “daily driver” to replace a 1926 Superior V tourer that Harry restored in 1966. Harry’s car was partly restored (mechanicals and paint) by the previous owner (pale green body and black guards); Harry then engaged well-known Brisbane upholsterer Keith Albury to re-do the seats, trim and hood, thus completing the restoration. The Burtons later left Queensland when Harry became an Antarctic scientist and subsequently Ann sold the tourer to Queensland member Geoff Thorne (#2158). John Turner (#463) deserves a mention because he built up his 1928 tourer the hard way - from a collection of bits and pieces. However, the end result was a Chev to be proud of, with a dark green body and black guards.

The remaining photographs are of non-member’s Chevs. Firstly, a 1928 factory utility in the Queensland town of Warwick in 1974. Far from its original glory, it is showing many signs of wear and tear and lack of TLC, but the curve of the body behind the seat and the lack of an external door handle both point to this Chevrolet having always been a utility.

The utility in the next photograph was seen in Pittsworth on the Darling Downs in 1971. This Chevrolet appears to have originally been a roadster and still has the look of an effective workhorse.

Not so the ute abandoned behind a farmhouse outside Biggenden in Queensland in 1972. Cut down from a tourer with a hessian sack for upholstery, it looks about as sad as a once-proud 1928 Chevrolet could be. One can only guess at how much faithful service it gave before perhaps some minor mechanical failure relegated it to its final resting place.

Enough of 1928 Chevrolet passenger cars and their derivatives. No discussion of any year would be complete without mentioning trucks, hence the photograph of a Chevrolet L-series “C” cab truck still in use in Brisbane in 1977. The Chevrolet practice of “using up” metal pressings from prior years on their trucks began early, and 1928 trucks continued to use the 1927 radiator shell and 1925/6 mudguards. Purists may tell me that this truck is a 1927 LM model because it has 1927 headlight rims, which I concede, but as the early 1928 LO Chevrolet is identical except for the addition of 1928 headlight rims, I thought it would be suitable for this article.

One interesting feature of this truck is the wide cab, extending beyond the valance panels and almost as wide as the cargo tray. One supposes that this allowed seating for the driver and two passengers if required and is unusual in an era when truck cabs (such as the Holden body on my 1928 truck) were much narrower, with seating for only one passenger. This photo shows the pressed steel running boards that were standard equipment on these trucks and the steel hubcaps. The front bumper bar was presumably added by the owner – “factory” front bumpers became standard on the Series LP trucks in late 1928 as a sturdy steel “C” channel bar.

I’m certain there are many tales to tell about 1928 Chevrolets, such as that related by Geoff Hepburn some time ago about his father’s tourer - how he bought it back from a subsequent owner to restore it to its rightful place in the Hepburn family collection. Perhaps this might inspire other members to write a story about their 1928 Chevrolet and continue this tribute to a fabulous year in the history of Chevrolet.