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1937-1939 Chevrolet

1937 Chevrolet

But the biggest difference between the two 1937 Chevrolet lines was "Knee Action," a tricky term for independent front suspension. The device, unavailable on Master models, was standard on the Master DeLuxe cars, providing them with a remarkably comfortable ride, unusual in a low-priced car.

This 1937 Chevrolet, built for export to Norway, wears rare accessory side-mounted spare tires.
This 1937 Chevrolet, built for export to Norway,
wears rare accessory side-mounted spare tires.

­Perhaps we should explain at this point that during 1934, all of the General Motors cars, except the Chevrolet Standard series, featured some form of independent front suspension.

The larger marques employed a "link parallelogram," or "A-bracket" system developed by Cadillac's Maurice Olley, while Chevrolet (and Pontiac, initially) used a mechanism developed by Andre Dubonnet, a well-known race driver and heir to a French wine fortune. Dubonnet's system was based on coil-spring trailing arms and integral double-acting shock absorbers.

Both its systems had the advantage of reducing unsprung weight, thus largely eliminating the problem of shimmy that had bedeviled automakers ever since the twin advents of four-wheel brakes and balloon tires. And both systems led to a noticeably smoother ride, but Maurice Olley's design proved by far to be the more durable of the two.

Pontiac would adopt it for 1937, with Chevrolet following two years later. One might ask why General Motors didn't adopt the Olley mechanism across the board to begin with. Two explanations have been offered. The first is that the Dubonnet setup could be preassembled and shipped to Chevrolet assembly plants all over the world, ready for quick installation on the car.

The second explanation, at least equally plausible, holds that in 1934, there simply weren't enough centerless grinding machines to prepare the wire for as many coil springs as Chevrolet would require, had it adopted the A-bracket system then. The Dubonnet setup used a smaller type of coil spring that was easy to manufacture in large numbers.

Cars fitted with the early Dubonnet "Knee-Action" units had a disconcerting tendency to tuck under on very hard cornering. So, for 1937, Leon A. Chaminade, a suspension expert recruited from Studebaker, completely redesigned them for better handling and greater durability. The system still required more meticulous maintenance than most American drivers were accustomed to giving their cars, however, so the Dubonnet system was never as satisfactory as the "A-Bracket" design.

Chevrolet's styling for 1937 was the work of Jules Agramonte, who had made his reputation as designer of the strikingly beautiful 1934 LaSalle. He was assisted by Lewis Simon, who did much of the detail work.

It was a crisp design, one that has clearly stood the test of time better than those of its principal rivals. A distinguishing feature of the 1937 Chevy (and the 1938 as well) was a crease in the body, starting in the valley between the front fender and engine compartment, then flowing at a sinking angle back across the cowl and onto the front door. In profile, the effect of this crease presaged the extended fenders that would appear on the 1942 models. It was a simple touch, but an effective one. Harley Earl, General Motors's styling chief, called it the "diamond crown speedline."

Bodies were considerably more spacious than before. This was accomplished in a number of ways. First, thanks to the new frame, it was possible to move the engine forward by a little more than three inches. Front and rear seats were shifted ahead by 2.5 inches and 4.25 inches, respectively. Body width was greater by four inches, floors were two inches lower, and rear doors were four inches longer on sedans.

Yet despite the additional roominess, the 1937 model was a lighter car than its predecessor. The Master DeLuxe two-door town sedan, for instance, weighed about 95 pounds less than its 1936 counterpart.

Explore the 1937 Chevrolet lineup on the next page.

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