THE AUSTRALIAN COUPES

Without questioning the knowledge and cleverness of other countries, the fact remains that Australia's roads and geographical conditions and the special tastes, needs, habits and preferences of Australia's public provide unique problems.  Hence the "sloper"!

With permission, extracts from the publication by Norm Darwin "THE HISTORY OF HOLDEN SINCE 1917":

The All-Enclosed Coupe evolved out of a great deal of market competition in the Sports Coupe area.  Holden designers were given the task of building a vehicle which would provide a cover for the "dickie" (or rumble) seat passengers.  Initially one body was used for Chevrolet, a second for Oldsmobile & Pontiac 6-cylinders and a third for 8-cylinder Oldsmobile, Pontiac & Buick cars.  

The 1935 Chevrolet enclosed coupe was first on display at the Melbourne Motor Show in June 1935.

The all-steel body released in 1937 provided Holden the opportunity to update styling, the rear window was enlarged and the boot lid which previously covered the spare wheel compartment was shortened and a separate door was added.  The major appearance change was the replacement of the thick centre pillar with a much thinner one which sloped rearward.


A main feature of the enclosed coupe was the folding rear seat. Once folded a large area was available for cargo.  The Chev Commercial style had no rear seat just a floor running through to the boot.



Almost 6,500 Chev slopers were made between 1935 & 1940 accounting for 13% of Chev sales for the period.

Tail Light Page – 1935 Chevrolet utility

 By Bryan Cantrell   

The caption to this photograph reads “On the western plains – when they were boggy they were just plain hell”.  I would have to agree.  It’s amazing what Chevs were subjected to when they were new!

The year was 1936 when the drought broke in Australia.  Three scientists were studying plants in western Queensland, travelling in a 1935 Chevrolet utility heavily laden with scientific equipment, camping gear, provisions and spare parts.  Swags were carried in the traditional method, wedged between the bonnet and the front mudguards.  Road conditions switched between two extremes.  All too often the road was invisible and the Chev was driven from one boggy patch to another.  Other times the road traversed rough gibber plains.  Along the way a bashed in sump was repaired and several broken springs replaced.

 Later in the trip the scientists needed to cross the flooded Diamantina River to reach Birdsville.  Before attempting the crossing, the “usual precautions” were observed.  These were to remove the fan belt, wrap the distributor in a piece of old macintosh, and tie a sheet of canvas over the radiator grille.  Two scientists crossed on horseback, but the driver tackled the river, lurching over the rocky river bed and triumphantly roaring up the opposite river bank where the Chev came to rest dripping like a spaniel.  The water level had been above the seat and the driver’s trousers were well soaked.

 This is a true story, as told by Francis Ratcliffe in his book “Flying Fox and Drifting Sand”, published by Chatto and Windus, London, 1939.

 The photograph was scanned from the book by our daughter, Laura.  It is somewhat grainy but gives a vivid impression of the Chev with the front wheels throwing up impressive “bow waves” as it negotiates a boggy patch.

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

 by Bryan Cantrell    

 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.

OLD CHEVROLET PHOTOGRAPHS AND OTHER THINGS

by Bryan Cantrell (50)

I recently came across two photographs of my grandfather’s Chevrolets and thought that they were suitable to share with members via the ‘Royal Mail’. The first is a 1926 Superior V tourer, shown here on a family picnic at an unknown location. 

The second is his next Chevrolet, a 1936 sedan, parked in their street in Brisbane with some period “Queenslander” homes in the background.   
 This car stayed in our family and was traded in by my father on an FJ Holden in 1954. I also enclose a photograph of the 1939 sedan that Judy and I owned in the 1970’s.

I was also spurred on by two articles in the October and December 2009 issues of the Royal Mail by Craig, which featured two Chevrolets which have been continuously registered since new. This started me thinking about Queensland car registration plates.   I believe that the longest-registered VVCAA (Qld) Chevrolet is Roger’s 1926 Superior K tourer Q64-482.   Plates of this era were hand painted, with a black “Q” on a white background and white numbers on a black background. Vehicles carried only one plate, rear-mounted on the spare wheel bracket or similar attachment point. My grandfather’s 1926 Superior V tourer had the number Q67-559, logically following on from Roger’s earlier 1926 car. I believe that the Superior V was a uniquely Australian model produced by Holden Body Works in late 1926 and/or early 1927. It featured a single body bead along the bonnet and around the body near the tops of the doors. Most old photographs I have seen indicate that these bodies were finished in two-tone paint, with a darker colour above the bead. These bodies also had external door handles. In this way, they were a precursor to the 1927 Holden-bodied Chevrolets, of which Wal and Jen have a lovely example in their 1927 Capitol tourer Q74-081.    The 1932 tourer Q158-208 restored by Noel and Edna is an example of the next stage of evolution, in which the “Q” and the numerals are cast alloy riveted to the metal backing plate. 

There was still only one plate per vehicle. These plates were produced in subcontracting workshops and I once met someone who worked as a rouseabout in such a workshop. He was able to describe how the plates were manufactured, from the casting shop for the “Q’s” and numerals, the sheet metal shop where the metal blanks were cut, the paint shop and finally the production shop where the finished plates were assembled.   The change to these new-style plates was made in the early 1930’s, and the highest number on a hand painted plate of which I am aware is Q123-760, as fitted to Graham’s 1927 tourer. This is not an original number for a 1927 vehicle, but is the number that Graham says was on the car all the time he has known it. Presumably it is a replacement following the loss of the original plate.

The number of vehicles in Queensland pre-World War II was relatively small: e.g. my grandfather’s 1936 sedan Q230-879 and my 1939 sedan Q289-936.   My first car was a 1952 Holden 48-215, with the registration number Q566-218. The annual cost of registration was then £22.15.6; it is now over $800 for a 6-cylinder Holden in Queensland.   The “Q” plates continued to 1954/5, when Queensland introduced alpha-numeric registration plates in a series beginning NAA¸000. The new plates were metal stampings with a small “QLD” at the top; the black and white colour pattern was continued. For the first time two plates were issued to each vehicle. This bought Queensland into line with southern States, where front-mounted plates had been the rule for decades. Queensland still differed, however, in respect of number plate ownership. Queensland plates belonged to the Government and always remained with the vehicle to which they were originally allocated. When a car was sold, the number passed to the new owner, unlike in NSW and Victoria where owners could retain plates and transfer them to another vehicle.  Since then there have been many changes, including green on white plates with the slogan “QUEENSLAND – SUNSHINE STATE” along the bottom edge and later maroon on white plates. More recently a new era of personalised plates was ushered in as an extra-cost option to standard issue plates. Which is a long way from where we started!

AUSTRALIAN 1954 CHEVROLET SEDANS

By Bryan Cantrell (050)

Leading up to the Centenary of Chevrolet, it is worthy to reflect on significant milestones in the history of Chevrolet passenger vehicles since 1911.  These include the 1913/4 “Royal Mail” in which the motor which universally became  known as a “Chev 4” was first used; 4-wheel brakes in 1928; the “Chev 6” engine in 1929; knee-action suspension in 1934; hydraulic brakes in 1936 and so on.  

 The 1954 models are also noteworthy as they marked the end of an era for Chevrolet in mechanical design: the last of a long line of models with an OHV engine, a single universal joint, an enclosed drive shaft in a cast iron torque tube connecting the gearbox to the differential, and king pins in the front suspension.  It was also the last of the post WWII “new“ Chevrolets introduced in 1949.  

 The “modern” Chevrolet , born in 1955, changed this forever with the introduction of an exposed drive shaft, two universal joints, ball joint front suspension and the first V-8 engine since 1918.  It was the forerunner of the Chevrolet cars we know today.

So, back to 1954.  Only a single model was available in Australia. This was the 210 series 4-door sedan, equipped with American “Fisher” bodies and exported through Canada, but partly fitted out (seats, trim, tyres and battery) by General Motors Holden (GMH) in Australia.  The cost of a 1954 Chevrolet was £1578, while a contemporary Holden sold for £1074.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded 2295 Chevrolets registered in Australia during 1954.

The start

The GMH code for 1954 Chevrolet 210 sedans sold in Australia was 54-104B.  They featured carpet flooring; single tone leather seats with alternating wide and 4 narrow pleats; and two-tone door trims with arm rests on all doors.  No external rear view mirrors were provided. 
Most bodies were painted in Duco lacquer manufactured by BALM (British Australian Lead Manufacturers Pty Ltd. As far as I can ascertain, no two-tone option was available. Interiors were painted in complementary colours, normally darker than the body colour, except for the lower half of the dashboard which was a pale cream/off white colour. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is stamped on a plate attached to the front passenger door pillar.

The middle 

The VIN has the following elements:

54 1069 HS 51083 where 

54 = 1954,

1069 = Fisher body code number for Chevrolet 210 4-door sedans,

HS = Holden’s Sydney, and

51083 = unique identification number for each vehicle.

 I assume that these plates were attached in Australia because of the inclusion of the letters “HS” in the VIN.  This assumption is an extrapolation from the similar practice used by GMH for Holden cars and utilities built between December 1950 and July 1953.  GMH used the following codes to indicate their factories: 

HA = Adelaide, 
HB = Brisbane, 
HM = Melbourne, 
HP = Perth and 
HS = Sydney.

GMH also attached a Body Identification plate to 1954 Chevrolets, attached on top of the cowl on the driver’s side, with the following format:

Style No. 54 – 104B (the GMH code for 1954 Chevrolet sedans),

Body No. 1059 (unique identification number for each vehicle),

Trim No. 3 – 356 (3 = abbreviated paint code; 356 – trim code),

Paint No. 253 – 16314 (253 = lacquer; 16314 = full BALM paint code),

Top (blank),

Acc. 12 (month of production).

Paint codes overlap with those used on Holden vehicles and I was able to find paintcolour names for 1954 Chevrolets owned by    VVCAA members, using books by Norm Darwin and Don Loffler, as shown below.  Information on the second half of the Trim Code was harder to find, but I was given some details by Peter Kelly.

Acknowledgements

Darwin, Norm, 1983.  The history of Holden since 1917; E L Ford Publications, Newstead, Victoria.

Darwin, Norm, 2002.  100 years of GM in Australia; H@ND Publishing, Ballarat, Victoria.

Kelly, Peter (pers. comm.) 2011.  Information on Trim Codes.

Loffler, Don, 2002.  The FJ Holden: a favourite Australian car; Wakefield Press , Adelaide, South Australia.

Loffler, Don, 2006.  She’s a beauty: the story of the first Holdens: Wakefield Press, 

Adelaide, South Australia, 2nd edition.

Compiled by Bryan Cantrell, March 2011.

Comparison of 1954 Chevrolet 210 sedans
owned by VVCAA members:

 Peter (parts car)

VIN 54 1069 B 50123 (Engine No. R779964)

Style No. 54 – 104B,

Body No. 54,

Trim No. 8 – 357 (Blue),

Paint No. 253 – 15931 (Calamine Blue)

Acc. 5 (May 1954)

Kevin 

VIN 54 1069 HS 50207 (Engine No. 781361),

Style No. 54 – 104B,

Body No. 108,

Trim No. 8 – 357 (Blue),

Paint No. 253 – 15931 (Calamine Blue)

Acc. 5 (May 1954).

Clive 

VIN 54 1069 50313 HA (Engine No. 783458)

Style No. 54 – 104B,

Body No. 458,

Trim No. 33 – 417,

Paint No. 253 – 16210 (Guildford Beige),

Acc. 7 (July 1954).

Peter 

VIN 54 1069 B 50745 (Engine No. R242262)

Style No. 54 – 104B,

Body No. 627,

Trim No. 4 – 356 (Red)

Paint No. 253 – 16258 (Black)

Acc. 9 (September 1954)

Bryan 

VIN 54 1069 HS 51083 (Engine No.R119453)

Style No. 54 – 104B,

Body No. 1059,

Trim No. 3 – 356 (Red),

Paint No. 253 – 16314 (Birch Grey),

Acc. 12 (December 1954).

Jason

VIN 54 1069 HS 50216 (Engine No. R781354)

Style No. 54 - 104B,

Body No. 99,

Trim No. 8 - 357 (Blue),

Paint No. 253 - 15931 (Calamine Blue),

Acc. 5 (May 1954)

The end

1953 Supplement

 Ian (150 series)

 VIN 53 1200 69878D (Engine No. 688019)

Style No. 53 – 124B,

Body No. 69,

Trim No. 28 – 253 (Green),

Paint No. 260 – 16082 (Georgian Green metallic) 
Acc. 7 (July 1953).

 

Peter (210 Series)

 VIN B 53 T 031859

Style No. 53 – 1069W

Body No. T8052

Trim No. 251

Paint No. 500

Peter’s car bears USA identification, indicating that it was built in Tarrytown, New York with paint combination 500 (Top 7349G Woodland Green and lower 7348 Surf Green).

Steve (150 Series)

VIN 53 1016 B75622

Body No. 821 (or 1821)

Paint No. 253 - 16019 (Malibu Ivory)

Acc. 2 (February 1954)

1951 Supplement (vehicles arranged oldest to newest)

Len 

VIN 51 1016 HB 002

Style No. 51-104B (Styleline Sedan)

Body No. 61

Trim No. 5-180

Paint No. 207-15925 (Serge Blue metallic)

Acc. 7 (July 1951 build)

Engine No. R451516

Michael 

VIN 51 1216 HB 141 (Utility)

Style No. 51-12061B

Body No. 365

Trim No. 2-200 (Brown vinyl) [This material became brittle with age and was also used on door trims and headlining on utilities 1949 to 1952.]

Paint No. 253-15914 (Sierra Rust)

Acc. 8 (August 1951 build)

Engine No. R475195

Doug 

VIN 51 1016 HB 114

Style No. 51-104B (Styleline Sedan)

Body No. 639

Trim No. 5-180

Paint No. 207-15925 (Serge Blue metallic)

Acc. 10 (October 1951 build)

Engine No. 91042?

Roy 

VIN 51 1016 HB 205

Style No. 51-104B (Styleline Sedan)

Body No. 1148

Trim No. 4 - 206

Paint No. 253 - 15922 (Lido Beige)

Acc. 1 (January 1952 build)

Engine No. R502685 (Original Engine 
No. R501295)

Frank 

VIN 51 1016 HS 56646

Style No. 51-104B (Styleline Sedan)

Body No. 1172

Trim No. 5 - 180

Paint No. 207-15925 (Serge Blue metallic)

Acc. 1 (January 1952 build)

Engine No. R491523

Should you desire to have the statistics of your 1951-1954 Chevroletincluded in this article, contact one of the Committee Members listed.