Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: Road Rage Industries
Let’s face it, 2020 has been a pretty sh*t year all round and I’m sure most people will be glad to have it in their rear view. So what better way to put the past year behind you than with a long relaxing cruise in a cool custom, right?
Road Rage Industries in Kippa Ring, north of Brisbane, have got a great contender for a COVID—busting getaway machine in the form of this 1937 Chevrolet Town Sedan that combines a cool custom classic look with a powerful drivetrain and all the mod cons.
Chevy customs are a rare sight, particularly here and especially from this era, so it's worth going over the history of the ’37 Chev before looking at this car in detail.
Getting to ‘37
A dig into the history of Chevrolet’s passenger car offerings in the 1930s turns up some interesting information, including the fact that the ‘Town Sedan’ – a two-door body style with integral boot - was the overwhelming favourite with buyers back in ’37, even against a four-door that was more practical.
The year was also noteworthy for a rationalization of Chevrolet’s offerings, even though it didn’t look it on paper, with twelve different body styles available across the ‘Master’ and ‘Master DeLuxe’ variants.
The Master had been in and out of the Chevrolet lineup for the past few years, while the Master DeLuxe made its first appearance in 1935.
The biggest change for 1937 was the move to a common wheelbase length of 112.3 inches and a single engine offering. Previously, the Master DeLuxe or its equivalent, as the more premium of the two Chev offerings, rode a longer wheelbase and ran a six-cylinder of slightly larger displacement.
For 1937, the new wheelbase was applied range wide and a new engine made its debut, too, a 216.5 cubic inch unit, replacing both the 181 and 206.8 inline sixes that had been offered since 1933.
While it may have seemed like a simple bore or stroke job, the improved six was much more than that, with a stronger, four main bearing crankshaft (previously three), improved pistons and a better oiling system.
Despite the increase in capacity, the 216.5ci six was lighter than the engines it replaced, while the 85 horsepower output matched that of Ford’s flathead V8.
The transmission was lighter, with improved synchromesh for smoother operation. The new chassis was also lighter and modified to increase interior space.
So why so many changes? The short answer was to keep ahead of Ford, which Chevrolet had done in 1936 for the first time. Despite the 1937 Chevs being significantly dearer (in 1937 money) than the previous year’s offerings, production actually increased and Chevrolet maintained their advantage over Ford - a lead they would hold for the next two decades.
With shared chassis, engine, transmission and body styles, defining a ’37 Master against a ’37 Master DeLuxe (and justifying the approximate 10 per cent price increase) came down to details.
Those details include dual tail lights and twin wipers on the Master DeLuxe, as well as a better grade of cloth seat upholstery. The Master DeLuxe also got an engine temp gauge and, most significantly, the ‘knee action’ independent front suspension that the cheaper Master didn’t.
As mentioned, the Town Sedan body style was the overwhelming favourite with new Chevrolet buyers in 1937, with 178,645 Master and more than 300,000 Master DeLuxe bodies produced. For comparison’s sake, the four-door sedan sold just 2,755 and 2,221 units across both variants, while the same body style with the addition of a ‘turtleback’ boot showed the value of this practical feature, as sales shot up to 43,240 and 144,110, respectively.
Styling for 1937 followed the small step-by-step developments made in previous years, as Chevrolet avoided the radical ‘Airflow’ look that had cost Chrysler so dearly in terms of sales.
The pattern set by the 1937 models would be maintained by Chevrolet up until just before the eve of America’s entry into World War II, with offerings from the truncated 1942 model year previewing the styling changes to come, but maintaining much of the same mechanical spec, including the same engine, as what was offered in ’37.
So, with plenty of 1937 Chevrolets hitting the market when new, it's a surprise more haven’t been given the custom treatment.
This one, a Master Deluxe, has had a lot thrown at it, with all the work done in the US before it was imported here from California in 2017.
That spec starts with a 350 Chev V8 that’s been warmed up with a Comp Cams Xtreme Energy 274 camshaft and stronger valve springs. Induction is via a Holley carb with modified jetting, while the distributor and ignition coil are Mallory items.
There’s braided lines and quality anodized hose fittings throughout the engine bay, along with a chromed alternator, air con compressor and power steering reservoir, while the finned Edelbrock rocker covers and air cleaner cover for the K&N filter add a suitably retro touch.
Ensuring trouble-free cruising, even in Queensland humidity, a Walker radiator has been fitted, backed by quality ribbed hosing, while this car's custom exhaust system includes extractors, Magnaflow mufflers and chromed Supertrapp tips.
The small bock is matched to a TH-200 4R Extreme Duty four-speed automatic that’s an improvement on the typical TH-350 three-speed transmission as it reduces engine wear and won’t severely impact everyday usability if the diff ratios are changed.
As it can handle 400+hp, the 4R has more than enough strength to handle the modified 350 in this application, but it has been upgraded with a 24-inch Street Rod transmission cooler regardless. Braided lines here keep the theme from the engine bay going.
This car’s Sky Blue paint is a visual highlight and a welcome change from the red/black/yellow that dominates such customs. Exactly what paint code it is, and indeed if it’s a factory colour at all, is unknown, but I’m sure a reader will be able to identify it!
Regardless of its origins, the Sky Blue colour makes a statement and Road Rage describe it as one of this car’s best assets, along with that low stance, courtesy of lowered coil spring suspension.
Little exterior details that escape attention at first glance include the deleted door handles, front indicators that are slung under the headlights and subtle, door-mounted mirrors.
Sky Blue is continued inside and contrasted with grey cloth seat trim, dark grey carpets and a selection of billet goodies. Chief amongst the latter is the steering wheel that’s unbranded but in the style of a Grant or Billet Specialties tiller. There’s more billet in the steering column, pedals, shifter, door handles, window winders and instrument cluster.
The gauges are vintage-look VDO units, with the speedo front-and-centre in this set, flanked by water temp, oil pressure, amp and fuel gauges. A tacho resides in a custom centre console that also carries the wiper, fan and light controls, while a clock has been added to the glovebox lid.
Vents and controls for the air conditioning have been cut into the dash, while the sound system below comprises a Sony head unit, Kenwood 500-watt amp and Pioneer 6x9-inch speakers.
Ready to Cruise
Overall, this car presents very well and, in the street rod field, makes a welcome change from the hordes of Fords out there.
Road Rage says the body is straight and rust free. The chrome bumpers are immaculate, as is most of the stainless trim. The wheels have been upgraded to take bigger rubber, but with their authentic hubcaps and trim rings, they keep that old school look going, as do the whitewalls.
While some minor detailing could be touched up, it’s only cosmetic and there’s nothing to stop the new owner jumping in this car and going for a cruise tomorrow. With the air con and modern sounds, that’ll be a comfortable cruise, too.
Cruising out of COVID - sounds like a good thing, right?
Road Rage Industries currently have this distinctive custom for sale on consignment, located at their Kippa-Ring showroom.
The car is largely as it was bought from the US, with no repairs or modifications made and only the usual consumables attended to, so it’s ready for the new owner to cruise.
The air con blows cold and the sound system plays loud, so all the amenities are covered. Seat belts are fitted to the front and rear seats, too.
Road Rage have had a good turnover of stock in the past year, despite the pandemic, and they predict this Chev won’t be around for long, so if the ‘blues’ are something you enjoy, move on this one fast.
Asking price is $67,995 ono and Road Rage can assist with finance.
If this Chev looks like your ideal Summer cruiser, click HERE for more details, or call Road Rage Industries on (07) 3283 4666