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1937-1939 Chevrolet

1937 Chevrolet Engine

Accordingly, engineer Edward H. Kelley, working under the direction of Chief Engineer James M. Crawford, undertook to develop a revised version of the "Cast Iron Wonder" for the 1937 Chevrolet engine.

Business coupes, like this 1937 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe, had a top-hinged decklid.
Business coupes, like this 1937 Chevrolet Master
DeLuxe, had a top-hinged decklid.

The company, doubtless anxious to avoid casting any aspersions on the earlier engine, didn't make a big deal of the improvements in its advertising. But as it appeared in the 1937 models, the Chevrolet six was improved in so many respects that it might be regarded as a virtually brand-new engine.

  • While displacement was increased only slightly, to 216.5 cubic inches, the stroke-to-bore ratio was shortened from 1.21:1 to 1.07:1. This made possible the use of shorter, stronger rods.
  • A new, stronger, 68-pound crankshaft was cradled in four main bearings, instead of the previous three, while bearing surface was increased by 10 percent.
  • A 1937 sales brochure described the improved oiling system thusly: "Positive pressure feed to crankshaft, camshaft and valve rocker arms. Connecting rod bearings lubricated by dippers at low speeds, and at higher speeds by pressure jets of oil directed against the dippers."
  • Pistons, though still made of cast iron, were now domed and designed with "slipper" skirts. Thus, their efficiency was increased while their weight was substantially reduced.
  • The new powerplant was slightly shorter and 52 pounds lighter than its predecessor, and its compression ratio was advanced from 6.0:1 to 6.25:1. This not only increased horsepower to 85 (matching the advertised figure of Ford's V-8), but -- just as importantly -- it raised the torque output from 156 to 160 pound-feet.

Nor were improvements confined to the engine. A new transmission was shorter and lighter than the previous unit, and the synchromesh was reworked for smoother operation and greater durability. The result was a transmission that was simply delightful to use. (Until, that is, a vacuum-assist was added for 1939. But we'll come to that part of the story presently.)

Thanks to hypoid gearing, the floor was nearly two inches flatter than before. A torque tube replaced the former Hotchkiss drive.

For four years, there had been two distinctly different Chevrolet series. The junior range used a 107-inch wheelbase from 1933 through 1935, stretching it to 109 inches for 1936. The senior models started with a 110-inch wheelbase for 1933, stretching it to 112 the following year, and extending it again to 113 inches for 1935-1936.

But for 1937, in an abrupt change of direction, all Chevrolet passenger cars were the same size, employing a 112.3-inch chassis. A new box-girder frame, based on that of the 1936 low-line Standard series, was said to be 30 percent stronger, yet one-third lighter than the unit employed for the 1935-1936 Master DeLuxe models.

Bodies were now made entirely of steel, a sharp departure from Chevrolet's traditional "composite" construction. Once again, two series were offered, known as Master and Master DeLuxe.

At first glance, there wasn't a lot to distinguish Master DeLuxe models from Masters, but if the prospective buyer looked closely, there were a number of differences that more than justified the approximately $70 difference in their prices.

For instance, upholstery in the Master DeLuxe was far superior to that of the cheaper series. Dual taillights and twin wipers were furnished on the Master DeLuxe, and on its dash panel was an engine temperature indicator, a valuable instrument missing from the less-expensive line.

Steering in the Master models was of the worm-and-straddle-mounted sector design, using a ratio of 16.0:1. The Master DeLuxe, on the other hand, employed the worm-and-roller sector mechanism, with a slightly slower ratio of 17.5:1.

Axle ratios differed as well, with the Master models employing 3.73:1 gearing, while the Master DeLuxe was fitted with 4.22:1 cogs, which of course provided faster performance off the line, though at some sacrifice in economy. (We've noted, by the way, that many restorers of Chevrolets of this era -- both Master and Master DeLuxe -- are opting for the taller gears, in the interest of quieter operation at modern highway speeds.)

For more on the 1937 Chevrolet, continue to the next page.

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