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Restorod 1938 Chevrolet coupe

By Boris Viskovic | Photos: Jordan Leist, 18 Aug 2018 Features

Restorod 1938 Chevrolet coupe

It looks pretty stock, but there are plenty of hot rod tricks in this Chevy coupe

This article on Paul Eaton's Chevy coupe was originally published in issue #17 of Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine, 2016

WHEN I spot a restored 1938 Chevy, I don’t exactly go running up to it to check it out, I mean, what’s there to see usually? A major case of: Paint it black and put it back is what you’re normally in for, but there was something different about Paul Eaton’s Chevy coupe, something that drew me in for a closer look. And the closer I got, the better it looked.

1938 Chev coupeNo doubt it was the raked stance that caught my attention initially, the pinstriped artillery wheels, stock hubcaps and wide whitewalls doing their best to distract me from the very obvious hot rod rubber rake. As I came in closer it started to become apparent how nicely detailed this car was. The olive green paint — a 1930s Harley Davidson colour it turns out — was flawless and the interior was a mixture of restored factory finishes with a little bit of hot rod tuck and roll thrown in for a splash of colour.

Read next: Big-block 1936 Ford Tudor

1938 Chev coupe sideI managed to track down Paul and after a bit of a chat asked if he could pop the bonnet so I could check out the engine — assuming it would have some version of a small-block Chev V8. Nope, this old girl is still running six pots of power, although the old 216ci Stovebolt has been updated with a 235ci Blueflame out of a ’56 Chev.

Read next: 383-cube 1934 Chevrolet four-door sedan 

1938 Chev coupe front“I got the car in 2002 through Just Cars magazine from New Zealand. It was a complete car that had been done up and it wasn’t a bad car, I drove it for years as it was, just as an original old car. It was a real good, reliable car,” says Paul.

Read next: 351 Cleveland-powered 1934 Ford coupe

Chevrolet coupe tail lightThe D-81 plates are from the small wheatbelt town of Dowerin where Paul’s family farm was located. It’s obviously a small town because someone came up to Paul at the ASRF Sandgroper Nats and said he recognised the plates as belonging to Paul’s dad! “They’re off my dad’s old farm ute,” says Paul

But being a hot rodder at heart, Paul wanted to get the car lower. He initially started messing around with the beam axle and springs, but couldn’t quite get it to sit right, so an HG Holden front-end went in: “I did all the front-end, motor and diff without pulling the body off, but I wasn’t real happy with it, it had a few oil leaks and it was still riding too high. I played around with it for a couple of years like that and then in the end I just decided to pull it off the road and start again.”

Chevrolet coupe engine bayPaul managed to find a Thickstun intake and rocker cover to suit the Blueflame six but had the side plate and air cleaner tops custom made to match. The Joe Hunt magneto hides an electronic distributor

That was early 2013 and the car was finished around Christmas 2015, so all up it was a three year project and Paul is real happy with how it turned out and how it drives now. The whole driveline has been updated, not just the engine, so there’s a Saginaw four-speed that’s been attached using a truck bellhousing and out back is everyone’s favourite diff, a Ford 9-inch. It’s starting to sound more and more like a hot rod and less like a restored car.

1938 Chev coupe engineGlancing inside you could even be mistaken that this cars a perfectly restored stocker, but it’s not. While the dashboard has retained all of the original gauges, which includes a speedo and four accessory gauges for gas, temp, volts and oil pressure. To be safe, Paul has hidden a couple of Auto Meter gauges for temp and oil pressure in the glovebox and tucked away on the lower left side of the steering column is a small diameter tacho that has had the housing painted in the same satin finish as the steering column and ashtray face. It’s so subtle you have to look twice to even notice it.

1938 Chev coupe interior frontPaul originally imported the car from NZ, so it was already RHD and had the US Fisher body, which is different enough from the Aussie made bodies that none of the parts interchange

The cream and burgundy tuck and roll was handled by Mandurah Canvas, but it was all to Paul’s design. He also did all of the woodwork and made up all of the cards that were then trimmed. Behind the seat, Paul sunk the parcel shelf around 70mm so that a strip of burgundy tuck and roll could be run around the back of the cab. It just adds a nice splash of colour and ties in nicely with the stainless strips which Paul seconded from several HG Holden door trims. The crowning piece is the ’40 Chev Deluxe steering wheel which Paul painted in an ivory two-pack to match the dash knobs, a much nicer looking wheel than the standard banjo-type wheel.

1938 Chev coupe interiorThe interior is all class but Paul threw in a little bit of hot rod attitude with the tuck and roll trim done to his own design. Paul dropped the parcel shelf 70mm specifically so he could run the burgundy tuck and roll panel around the rear. The stainless strips are from an HG Holden door trim

Paul’s been a car and bike guy all his life, growing up on a farm and tinkering with all sorts of machinery. There were many bikes over the years, firstly British stuff and then in the 70s he got into Harley Davidson’s — a rare sight on the streets of Perth back then. That link to Harleys eventually led him choosing a paint colour that most people wouldn’t even consider; even the painters weren’t too sure on the colour choice.

1938 Chev coupe bootThe boot is detailed just as nicely as the rest of the car with the battery housed in the case on the left. The other case is just there for looks and storage but is stuck down with Velcro so it doesn’t slide around

 

“A mate of mine was restoring his ’35 Harley and I saw the colour. I was going to paint it in a maroon for years, when I saw it I decided that was the colour I wanted. I painted a headlight shell in that colour years ago and it took me a long time to find someone to paint the car. I took the car down to the Rodz Wild in Mandurah and when they painted the dash Adrian rang me up and said: ‘You better come and have a look at this.’ He thought it didn’t look too good, but when I saw it, I said: ‘That’s perfect! It’s exactly what I want.”

Chevrolet coupe dashSpotto a sneaky little Auto Meter tacho mounted to the column and painted the same satin green. There are temp and oil pressure gauges in the glovebox as well and the woodgraining is as it was when Paul bought the car

Funnily enough, another car we have featured — Tony Jenkins’ ’32 Tudor is painted in a similar tone — and as it turns out, they know each other: “I know Tony from my trips to America and I was telling him I was going to paint this car olive green, and he said: ‘God almighty, that’s a real big thing to do. It can either look really good or shithouse!’” I’m pretty sure we all agree that it turned out better than really good. While it’s not exactly a riot of colour, this car doesn’t need something as obvious as pearl orange paint or 20-inch wheels to stand out. The quality and attention to detail screams out to those who know what to look for.

PAUL EATON
1938 CHEVROLET COUPE

Paint: Harley Davidson Olive Green

DONK
Type: 235ci Blueflame Chevrolet
Inlet: Thickstun twin carb
Carb: Twin Carter single barrel
Cam: Delta solid
Pistons: Forged, 30-thou over
Radiator: Walker V8
Exhaust: Fenton split headers, twin 2in, Smithy’s mufflers
Ignition: Joe Hunt electronic

SHIFT
Box: Saginaw four-speed
Diff: Ford 9-inch, 3.25 gears

BENEATH
Front end: HG Holden
Steering: Commodore rack & pinion
Brakes: P76 rotors, HZ Holden calipers (f), Ford drums (r)

ROLLING STOCK
Rims: Wheelsmith artillery wheels 15x5 (f), 15x7 (r)
Rubber: Firestone wide whitewalls 5.60x15 (f), 8.20x15 (r)