The ’31 Chevy is an AE Independence Sport Coupe. The Sport Coupe model was different than the standard five window coupe in that it had a rumble seat, cowl lights and pin striping.
I purchased this Chevy in 2009 from a fellow in Michigan who was liquidating his collection of cars. The paint and interior of the car are in excellent restored condition. It is equipped with the original 194 cubic inch in-line six cylinder engine and three speed non syncromesh transmission. The car was built in Janesville, WI in June of 1931. The color scheme (Harvard Crimson and Black) is as the car came from the factory even though it has been repainted.
The car ran relatively well when it was delivered but had a bad tendency to overheat after seven or eight miles and the transmission clashed badly when shifting into first gear. Also, the car had a tendency to bog down at certain points during acceleration. Unfortunately the test drive before purchase was insufficient to discover the problems early on.
The acceleration problem was fairly easily solved by having the updraft carburetor rebuilt.
The overheating problem was especially problematic as it limited enjoyment of the car and caused worry over potential damage to the engine. I first tried the usual route by having the radiator removed, tested and a small leak repaired. I had the water pump rebuilt and the cooling system flushed. Although there was some improvement, the car still overheated. I resigned myself to having the engine removed and torn apart to solve the problem.
After bemoaning the fact one evening with a good friend, Rick, who was a fellow member of our local Corvette club, I got a call from him a few days later. He said, “why don’t we check the timing before going through the expense of the engine work.” It was a pleasant summer day, we were both free, so, even though I felt it was a waste of time, I told him to come on over.
Rick had researched the correct timing on a website called http://www.1931Chevrolet.com. The web site is a wonderful source of information on 1931 Chevys. When we checked the initial timing we found it was far off the recommended 18 degree advance. After adjusting the distributor we were able to get the timing close to the recommendation. We also gapped the spark plugs to the recommended 0.040 inches.
When we fired up the engine it sounded better to the ear, but the true test remained a long drive on a hot day. An initial trial showed that after twelve miles the temperature gage stayed well within the normal range. A next day 45 mile trip on a very warm day resulted in the same normal water temperature. It appeared that the problem had been solved. Subsequent driving to shows, for pleasure and even in parades has proven that the car is now reliable under all conditions.
The shifting problem was diagnosed with Rick’s help as a worn throw out bearing. A call to The Filling Station produced a NOS (believe it or not) throw out bearing. Installation of the new bearing resulted in smooth reliable shifting. The car was now a true pleasure to drive.
On the cosmetic side, I restored the engine compartment and added the correct pin striping. The engine compartment was relatively clean but needed repainting. Again, with the help of The Filling Station, I was able to get the correct blue-gray engine paint and a copy of the original factory drawing that showed the correct application of pin striping for a sport coupe. Both jobs were a lot of fun and I can modestly say turned out quite well.
There are two reasons why a car of this era was purchased in the first place. Early in the spring of 2008 while attending a car show in Hilton Head Island, SC with my wife and her friend, the ladies remarked how “cute” a couple of cars looked with rumble seats. That comment opened the door, and any red blooded car guy who doesn’t take advantage of even a small opening is missing a great chance to add another vehicle to the collection.
The second reason I decided to buy the car is my father-in-law. John is a great guy who was born in Finland and drove a similar vintage Chevy there before immigrating to the United States in the ’50s. The car would be a source of enjoyment and recollection of memories for him. My mother-in-law also has a kinship to the car since she was born a month after the Chevy was built. John has driven the car to numerous shows and almost always comes home with a trophy. Listening to him answer questions about the car and watching him proudly walk up to pick up his award always brings a smile to my face. His enjoyment of the car is a special treat.