What is the motive that drives us (pardon the pun) to possess a particular type of motor vehicle? Is it a need? Do we want something the Jones’ don’t have? Perhaps something rare, something beautiful? Or is it a chance to relive some part of our childhood, or some other part of our past?
You can spend thousands of hours and dollars restoring a car, be it a veteran, vintage or one of those “Modern” things and unless you have a rare high quality vehicle you won’t recoup your dollars. So what! You do it for the love of it. If you are in the business to make money out of these vehicles, with the exception of one or two models, chances are you won’t be restoring a Chev or Ford.
However, this country owes a lot to the thousands upon thousands of Chevs and Fords that were the backbone of Australia’s wheeled transport and used by the farmers, the business owners, the delivery people and the everyday man in the street who played his part in helping this country grow. When somebody says to me “Why restore a Chev, get a car with some class, you’ll spend about the same time, effort and money on it”, I wonder if they really appreciate what these cars are all about!
Why a CHEVROLET? For me it’s a labour of love. I was twelve years old when the old man decided to buy me a car. I was into anything mechanical and like a lot of kids in those days I’d pull anything apart just to see how it worked.
Our family “LIMO” at the time was a ’49 Super Snipe (Pullman) when it could no longer hold top gear (gear must have been stripped) we moved up to a ’50 Snipe. Eventually top gear went in that as well, so we’d cruise around the paddocks (the old man was a boundary rider on 33000 acres in the mid nor west of NSW) in third gear at 60mph and finally a rod went through the block. He wouldn’t let me fix it, just dug a hole with the dozer and buried it.
From there we went GM. First a ’46 Stylemaster, black of course, then a car I’ll never forget, a ‘47 Oldsmobile, coil springs all round, spring loaded gear selector (semi-automatic I reckoned, just knock it out of one gear and it would fly through to the next) went like the clappers and , oh yes it was black as well.. The folks still had the car when I went off and let the RAAF teach me about jet engines and the like.
IT was before the top gear stripped in the first Snipe that the old man took me to the school bus drivers home in a small country town some twenty miles or so away, and there sitting in a shed was a “uted” 1926 Chev. He’d paid 10 quid for this car that didn’t run properly. The wires were “crossed” or something. We drove home in this thing, chugging away at about 15mph, in fact we couldn’t get the car up the hill from where we bought it, so we turned it around and went up backwards. My old man was a stockman, not a mechanic.
I couldn’t drive very well at the time, and when we parked it out front, the old man said to me “That’s your car, learn to drive it, if it breaks down, fix it” For the next four years that car and I were inseparable, I took it places a 4 wheel drive Land Rover couldn’t go (the black soil plains of western NSW are notorious when it rains) it took me to the bus stop, to the main station 5 miles away for our Kero (for the fridge) and meat ration (the official meat ration that is) and to visit the only house within twenty miles that had a television.
Remember the crossed wires? I fixed that car within five minutes of getting home. I took all the plug wires off and carefully replaced them so that one did not “cross” over the other. The first turn of the crank near broke my wrist, the backfire through the carby scared the living daylights out of me and the blasted thing started and ran, albeit rather roughly. Not knowing much about HT leads I started swapping them around, by total sheer luck I grabbed the right two and the engine started to run on all four just as I got the biggest boot out of the leads that you can imagine. I have NEVER again touched a HT lead while the engine is running. I recall the local mechanic actually stopping an engine by laying his arm along the spark plugs. Shudder!!
It was during a return from watching the very first movie I saw on television “The Sullivans” a story of five brothers who all enlisted in WWII together, that the car first let me down. I came to a very sudden stop with both rear wheels locked up and the motor revving like billy-oh. The universal joint had parted company and bound up the tail shaft inside the housing. I remember knocking the housing back and binding the two halves together with fencing wire. ( A bush tool kit consists of fencing wire and pliers) I made it home, 5 miles, without further mishap and was able to replace the uni’ without too much modification.
Various trips to the station homestead and annoying the heck out of the property mechanic, I started to get a few ideas on the workings of cars. I learnt about, big ends, gudgeons, cam followers (not tappets) oils seals, piston rings and seating valves using cement and oil as a lapping paste. How to “Time” an engine, and work out “Correctly” the firing order. The man was a mountain of information.
Punctures were numerous, and when I could no longer come across 21” tubes, I stuffed the tyres with wool, the ride was a little bumpy but it kept me mobile. I eventually found that 19” A model ford wheels would fit straight on, so I put two on the front. Perhaps that was the forerunner of the modern fad of raising the back, I simply lowered the front. The A model belonged to the local roo shooter and it had broken down. If I could get it going and drive it out of his yard it was mine. Found the points had shorted, put a piece of paper in the appropriate place and I was the owner of the Ford. This poor old thing had had a very rough life so I swapped it for a 34? 35? Chev Roadster, in not much better condition. Unfortunately the A model was pranged and ended up in the car cemetery in the scrub(that’s how I got the wheels) The roadster suffered the same fate with a tree stump. This car never really interested me (THEN) and I tended to do everything with the ’26 Chev.
That was in 1964. The ’26 remained in the house paddock (2000 acres) and the roadster and A model along with about 6 other Buicks, Plymouths, other fords and a truck lay in the scrub until about 3 months prior to my return to the property in April 1988 when they were unceremoniously despatched to the depths by an unfeeling station manager. The station hand (Plummer Mathews)I spoke to stated that the D9 dozer crushed them beyond recognition so there seemed little to be gained from digging them up, even if I could get permission to do so.
The ’26 Chev finally came to rest under a tree after an almighty backfire that split the carby. That was at the time I was ready to Join the RAAF in 1965 and had little time to repair the old girl. That was the last I saw of her until April ’88 when I found the remains. What I would have given to pick it up and bring it back to Perth with me. Considering the condition of the car and the cost of transporting it across the country I left her there after saying my farewells and removing the gear lever and handbrake which are now hanging in my shed. (I have since learnt that the car has been buried right beside the old Snipe. I had, in 1988 also done a little digging and retrieved the Supersnipe emblem from the bonnet)
I am currently restoring a 1929 Tourer which I started in 1988 after returning from the old place, thinking it would be on the road by at least 1994. Well it’s now 2000 and we’re
up to the painting/upholstery stage, so it is getting closer., But that’s another story.
WHY A CHEVROLET? WHY NOT!!
Originally written in 1988 after obtaining the ’29 and being told by some chequebook upstart that the Chev wasn’t worth restoring. I reckon I have had and will have more
personal satisfaction in seeing this car on the road than he would ever have with all his zeros in his cheque book balance.
Chevrolet Club of WA