1931 Chevrolet: 50-Horsepower Six-Cylinder Engine

VERN PARKER
Motor Matters

As the 1931 Chevrolet coupe in rough condition sat in Norris Waterfield’s garage he began searching for the parts needed for its restoration. He found a 1931 Chevrolet sedan advertised for sale as a parts car.

The owner had never been able to get the 194-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine to run reliably, so the elated Waterfield quickly purchased the parts car, as it was in considerably better condition than his coupe.

Once he got the 13-foot, 10-inch-long sedan home, he immediately replaced the ancient 4.75x19-inch tires, as well as the front brake linings and rebuilt the starter and the ignition switch.

Records indicate that 52,465 such cars were manufactured in 1931, each one weighing 2,685 pounds. This was the third year for Chevrolet’s six-cylinder cast-iron wonder and it was vastly improved from the first one in 1929.

The 1931 engine used in all 12 of the body styles had a more efficient harmonic balancer, a more rigid crankshaft, an improved flywheel, and strengthening ribs cast into the block. It still developed 50 horsepower, which supposedly could push the speedometer up to the 85-mph maximum. However, Waterfield says, “Forty is where she runs the best.”

A Carter carburetor drinks from an 11-gallon gasoline tank. Fully enclosed mechanical four-wheel brakes with internal expanding shoes on 11.5-inch drums both front and rear stop the car. Lovejoy-brand shock absorbers at all four corners make for a comfortable ride on a 109-inch wheelbase.

A single vacuum-powered wiper blade is suspended from above the windshield to clear the driver’s view. The one-piece windshield can be hand-cranked up a couple of inches to permit fresh air into the cabin.

Waterfield was impressed with the reupholstered mohair interior and the three-spoke hard-rubber steering wheel molded around a steel core. Four controls around the dashboard instruments are for choke, throttle, headlights, and spark.

Both the handbrake and the gearshift lever sprout from the floor. It’s best if you double clutch, Waterfield advises. Under the dashboard, by the passenger’s feet, is a two-door heater. To the left of the heater is the floor starter button. All the handles and controls are nickel-plated.

Two ashtrays are in the rear passenger compartment. Each ashtray cost $2.50 and virtually everything on this car was an extra-cost option. The battery was priced at $8.70 and the gorgeous eagle radiator cap was $3.50. Bumpers were on the verge of becoming standard equipment, but these double-bar bumpers sold for $20 a set.

Waterfield encountered the same unreliability that had plagued the previous owner, but through perseverance — and luck — tracked the problem down to a mechanical part in the electrical system. With that corrected, the old Chevrolet runs like the proverbial clock. “I’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

Records indicate that 52,465 cars such as this were manufactured in 1931, each one weighing 2,685 pounds. This was the third year for Chevrolet’s six-cylinder cast-iron wonder and it was vastly improved from the first one in 1929.