Jump to content

Newbie with a 1938 Chevrolet "Survivor"


Recommended Posts

I'm new to this site, but have read several numerous posts in different threads and like what I see. The posts seem to be knowledgeable in their content and often have a sense of humor. I'll probably even join the AACA, but I don't want to rush into it (I excel at procrastination).

This past Thanksgiving weekend, I got lucky at the Daytona Turkey Rod Run and bought a survivor 1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe 4dr. Sport Sedan. It is nearly 100% original, right down to the VFW Veteran of WWI sticker in the back window.

The car showed 3551.2 miles on the odometer when I bought it, and I have now added another 18 miles to that (the speedo and odometer work).

I plan to cut it up and make a rat rod out of it. JUST KIDDING!!! While in my possession, I'll treat it as a survivor and change as little as possible. I'll even keep the 6 volt electrical system. I plan to treat what little rust there is (I'm thinking something like "Ospho" but am open to suggestions) and possibly clear coat the original gunmetal color (Fisher paint code No. 230). I realize that the term "survivor" is so far loosely defined, but my intent is to keep my '38 Chev. as close to a rolling time capsule as I can.

I'll post some pictures once I figure out how to do it on this Forum.

My '38 has an interesting front suspension which they called "Knee Action Front Suspension" which combines shocks and springs all in one massive cast iron housing, one on each front wheel. I've never even heard of such a suspension before, much less owned a car that featured it and hope I never have to service it.

So far, the only driveability problem with my '38 is a noise from the right front wheel. Removing the wheel and hub revealed that the right front "brake flange plate" is just a little loose on the spindle, which apparently allows the brake shoes to occasionally contact the drum ... thus the noise (at least that's my current guess). I've studied the maintenance manual (found it on line), but I'm still unclear as to how this brake flange plate mounts to the spindle. Does anyone have any ideas/experience with this suspension?

I need all the help I can get.

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Grog

Welcome to the AACA Forum, and we look forward to your participation in the club. You might want to investigate showing your car at the AACA National Meet being held in Port St. Lucie, Florida February 22. You'll have to stop procrastinating, though, as the deadline to register a car for the meet is coming up very fast. We have the HPOF class, which is for Historic Preservation of Original Features.

I photographed another early and completely original Chevrolet during last year's national meet in Florida, it was a 1932 Chevrolet delivery. It will be featured in the magazine very soon.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That is a neat old car and I think it is the last model with the original "knee action" suspension. It was not very good and could go all "knock kneed" if neglected. Grease it every 1000 miles and don't pound it over rough roads and it should be good.

Also keep your speed down. The engines had a kind of hit or miss lubrication system. Going over 50 will cut engine life to a few hours or minutes.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds great and you will have a lot of fun with it. One thing to keep in mind is that the odometer reading is something that may or may not be accurate. It could have been broken at some time, someone could have replaced it or reset it, or it simply could be short by 99,999 miles since it only has 5 registers and once it gets to 99,999 it turns back over to 1. This last case can be ruled out if the overall car shows very little wear to it mechanicals that you would see in a low mileage car.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rusty,

I appreciate the information on the "knee action" front suspension. I understand that it was only offered on the Master DeLuxe in '38, and the other models had a more conventional configuration for the independent front suspension.

I've noted that the engine doesn't sound happy at speeds above 50 mph, so I've limited my speed to that. I believe that the rods and wrist pins depended on "splash oiling" for their lubrication. When did Chevrolet go to the completely pressurized oiling system?

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Kimo,

I agree with your comments about the odometer reading. The interior is original, and while it shows some damage (moths I think), it shows no discernable wear; consequently, I think the mileage is low. I'm not sure that it's as low as 3500 some-odd miles, but I think it's much less than 99,999.99. As to the mechannical condition, I haven't been able to assess much of that although it appears, externally, that there is little wear on the mechanicals. The car came from Illinois, where its original owner had it for 40 years. There is some rust, but very little, considering the car's age and where it came from. The car shows evidence of having been properly stored somewhere for a long time. The paint is rough, but original and shows some "rub through" on the tops of the front fenders and some minimal flaking to bare metal in the cowl area and roof, just above the windshield center line.

I guess I should shut up and try to post some pictures here.

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Grog,

Waste no time in going to the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America website. Register and have at it. As a fellow Floridian and the owner of a 1960 'survivor" Corvair I know where you are at as far as keeping it original. There is a big VCCA meet in Titusville Fl March 19-23 at which time I plan on getting my Corvair certified in the HPOCF class (Historical Preservation of Original Chevrolet Features).This is a great group of Bowtie Nuts.

My Dad bought a brand new '38 Master Deluxe Coach,(2dr sedan) and when I came along in 1944 I came home from the hospital in it, and loving Chevs has never left me.

I'm in Dade City Florida but if there is any way I can help you give me a shout. Email ebittman@tampabay.rr.com good luck and welcome. Ed

Link to post
Share on other sites

Curti, Knee and Drew,

Thanks for the information on the interior shots. I agree that the radio bezel doesn't look right, and I assume it's some sort of after market installation. By the way, there is a fairly large unit labeled "Philco" mounted inside the firewall on the driver's side, just above the pedals. I'm not sure what it is ... maybe an antenna tuner? I'll take a picture and post it here for information/comment.

Yeah, I've never thought that the steering wheel was quite right and it's good to know that someone knowledgeable agrees. I'll have to search around for a correct one. But, of course, that brings up another question ... if it's a low mileage car, why the steering wheel change? I dunno. Any ideas? The first accessory I bought for the car, other than a new set of Coker whitewalls, was a "necker's knob" I found at a swap meet. It appears to be fairly old (maybe "60's - 70's) and has an image of a well-endowed blonde as its primary feature (it fits the steering wheel just fine).

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Marlin 65,

Thanks for your comments and offer of help. I'll check into attending the VCCA meet in Titusville. As a note of passing interest, I was also launched in 1944, in Tampa, Florida.

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Any 1938 car with over 100,000 miles would be shot to blazes. if the car is in good shape the mileage is low.

Early model car radios had the chassis or radio under the hood and just the controls and speaker inside the passenger compartment. Look carefully and you should see where the wiring used to plug into the radio.

If you can find a model number it may be possible to find the correct control panel.

The radio on the dash looks much newer, from the fifties or sixties.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the encouraging words, but as with all "beauties", she has some "warts". Here are some more photos, one of which shows some of her "warts". My main concern is how best to treat the rust shown on the cowl area. There are a few areas where the paint has flaked off, and some of these areas show light surface rust while others show the "bright" metal of the body structure. I would like to stabilize the flaked areas, but do not want to touch up the paint, but leave the metal "as-is" showing that flaking of the original paint has occurred. I've thought of using something like "Ospho" but don't want to try anything until I get some advice from more experienced folks.

Is there information somewhere on this site that would show me how to add captions to my photos?

Cheers,

Grog

.post-98383-143142345347_thumb.jpg

post-98383-143142345337_thumb.jpg

post-98383-14314234534_thumb.jpg

post-98383-143142345342_thumb.jpg

post-98383-143142345345_thumb.jpg

post-98383-143142345349_thumb.jpg

post-98383-143142345351_thumb.jpg

post-98383-143142345354_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Grog,

Congratulations on a great find. The Chevy looks like a low-mileage original to me.

The Philco is actually your "original" after-market radio, possibly dealer-installed. Units such as this were large, heavy, bulky, and of necessity they were mounted on the firewall (but inside the passenger compartment, not under the hood as someone might have suggested). Besides the hot lead-wire and the antenna connection, there were a pair of cables leading to a plate which typically mounted under the dash, and had a key-lock, a dial for the AM stations, and two knobs - one for on/off-volume, and the other for changing frequency tuning to find radio stations. You may also have noticed that there does not appear to be a radio antenna poking through the body. The antenna may be a set of wires under one (or both) of the running boards.

Keep us advised of your progress.

Please consider joining AACA - you can phone (717) 534-1910) - our headquarters in Hershey, Pennsylvania and join by credit card for only $35/year, which also includes a spouse. This includes free research done for you at our library, unlimited free admission to our acclaimed museum (associated with the Smithsonian), and you can also request materials to register for our upcoming show in Port St. Lucie, Florida. You would register to have your car evaluated for originality in the HPOF (Historic Preservation of Original Features) Class.

Hope to see you there!

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Marty,

Thanks for the information on the radio. The installation on my '38 Chev uses an external antenna located just forward of the driver's door (see photo). This past Friday, I saw a similar installation on a 1937 Chevrolet "survivor", so I'm guessing, if not factory original, perhaps an older dealer-installed option (?)

I became tired of waffling and procrastinating about joining the AACA, and just did it. I'm now an official AACA member:D

Cheers,

Grog

post-98383-143142364335_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

NEWBIE: I can't believe no one has told you this: The brake backing plates are NOT attached to the spindles. They have to "float" on the spindle so the car won't nosedive on braking. They contain a large bronze bushing which fits on a machined shoulder on the spindle. The radius rod which attaches under the front of the "knee" with two bolts and is connected to the bottom of the backing plate keeps it from revolving with the wheel when the brake is applied. If this occurs it breaks the brake hose and you have no brakes! Now for some pointers which could help you. The 2 round thingies on the front of the knee is a built in shock absorber. At the top front of the knee about two inches down is the filler plug. Fill with hydraulic oil only. NEVER USE BRAKE FLUID. Keep the radius rods lubed & check for wear; That is the weak point. I think the proper name for your front suspension is Du Bonnet but we always referred to it as knee action. I know why someone else didn't tell you this; How many 85 year olds with 72 years experience have a computer?

Link to post
Share on other sites
The steering wheel appears to be a late 40's Chevy pickup style. The rod bearings will last a lot longer in the 216 cid engines if you keep your speed at 50 mph or less. Chevrolet produced their first completely pressure lubricated engines in 1954.

Actually Chevrolet offered 2 engines in 1953. Manual transmission cars got a splash lube system with solid valve lifters and were rated at 108 hp. Powerglide cars got a pressured lubricated engine with hydraulic lifters and were rated at 115 hp. Powerglide cars were rated at 125hp in 1954.

Edited by john2dameron (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Andre Dubonnet, heir to the French aperitif fortune, was a sports car fan. He invented the Dubonnet independent suspension system. Chevrolet used it under license but called it Knee Action. Some, not all, Chevrolets had it from 1934 to 1938. Some Pontiacs and Buicks had it as well. The Chevs that did not have knee action, had a beam axle and leaf spring setup.

Later Chevs had a completely different IFS but they continued to call them Knee Action in their advertising. The shocks were supposed to be filled with Knee Action fluid. It has not been available for years but you used to get it at your Chev dealer or auto parts store. Hydraulic jack oil is a good substitute. I think some specialist old car oil manufacturers make the old Knee Action fluid, but it is rather expensive.

You are supposed to check the oil every 1000 miles and top up as necessary. If this seems nuts, it was the normal interval for oil change and lubrication on a 30s car. So you are supposed to change oil and grease the chassis that often. Especially if you don't have an oil filter.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

R.W. Bibb,

I really appreciate the information on the Dubonnet (knee action) front end. As I mentioned in my initial post, the right side 'brake flange plate" is just a "little" loose on the spindle, but I don't know how much play (looseness) is allowed. The left side "brake flange plate" is quite tight on the spindle with very little or no loosenes (play). Any idea on how much play is allowed? With your cautionary words about brake failure, I'll check the brake radius rods more carefully to make sure they're not worn or loose. Over the years, I've noticed that brakes are important, and although moving is optional, stopping isn't (either the preferred "easy" way or the to-be-avoided "hard way"). I'll see if there's an easy way to drain the fluid from the housing and replace it with a proper hydraulic fluid. Rusty mentioned hydraulic jack oil, and I've seen several other suggestions that hydraulic jack fluid would be the best substitute for the old Knee Action Fluid. So, hydraulic jack oil it is!

At my age, my "knee action" ain't what it used to be, so maybe when someone asks about the front suspension on the '38 I'll tell them it's a Dubonnet and make no reference to "knee action". I understand that Queen Elizabeth likes an occasional Dubonnet and gin ... that sounds like just the thing to lubricate my 69 yr. old "knee action". Of course, there are the "knee action" shocks on the '38's rear axle, but that calls for another Dubonnet and gin. What was the original question, again?

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rusty,

Thanks for the information on the Dubonnet front end suspension. According to my "Chevrolet 1938 Specifications" manual, you're right about the Chevys of that year not having "knee action" front suspension had a solid beam front axle and leaf springs. I don't know where I got the idea that the alternative to the "knee action" front suspension was a more conventional independent front suspension(??).

Cheers,

Grog

Link to post
Share on other sites

Chevrolet made 2 series of cars in 1938. The Master 6 with serial number pre fix being HB and the Master Deluxe series with serial number pre fix being HA (with knee action). This info is from my 1943 Motors Auto Repair Manual I got when I started in a garage at age 13.

I told you I was old. Worked on mostly cars from 1920 up, a few as old as 1915. Doing antiques now. Have 1929 Linc.,1931 Lasalle ( bought in 1951-am 2nd owner),1953 Rolls-Royce,1979 Linc. Cont.,1929 Minerva

Was with a Chev.-Olds.-Cad. dealer in 1952 and all Chevrolet car engines that year were 235 CID. Now: back to your original post. I would be more concerned about the tight backing plate. specs call for .002 to .004 inch endplay on the spindle.

as ever, Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites

knee-action is fine, that is what your Chev has.

Chevrolet used 2 kinds of IFS, one after the other. They started with the Dubonnet type in 1934 then switched to the conventional IFS in 1939.

In the meantime, they continued to offer the beam axle and leaf spring suspension on the cheaper models.

So at any time you had a choice of leaf spring and beam axle or "Knee Action" but the definition of knee action changed in 1939.

Hope this is clear. I don't know when they dropped the beam axle option but I think the last one was the 1940 model.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Capngrog, Relying on my memory (which is risky) I would have said that the manual shift cars had the 216 cid engine but Standard Catalog says all Chevy cars had 235 engines in 1953. The 235 engine first saw light in 1941 when it was offered in the larger Chevy trucks; all powerglide cars beginning in 1950 when Powerglide was introduced had 235 engines.

John2Were the two passenger car engines offered by Chevrolet in 1953 both 216 c.i., or did they increase displacement to the 235 c.i.?Cheers,Grog
Edited by john2dameron (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

In both 1935 and 1936, Master Deluxe models were available with or without knee-action. In 1935, series EA had knee-action, series ED had a beam axle. In 1936, series FA had knee-action, and series FD had the beam axle. The beam axle cars are easy spot because a heavy cylindrical external cover was necessary to cover the frame horn and forward end of the spring. Without these covers, the frame horn and forward end of spring would have protruded through a hole in the fender. The covers are painted fender color. One would think these cars would be pretty rare, but I used to own a ‘35 and knew of several more. However, I do think fewer were made in ’36.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...