From 1929 to the early Sixties, an inline six engine that used slotted-head bolts meant for a stove greatly contributed to the popularity of Chevrolet trucks
Ford’s world orbited for a long time around its Model T. Only in the latter half of the 1920s did Henry Ford wake up to the necessity of retiring the epochal model. As Chevrolet was keeping its low-priced cars far from staid by constantly adding refinements, Ford could no longer hope to remain the market leader by churning out the same old Model T. The Model A was scheduled to replace the Model T in 1927. But the switchover was fraught with unexpected delays and it was only in 1929 that the new Ford actually got on the road. Chevrolet took maximum advantage of the situation — a fact reflected in its sales figures during the period.
Chevrolet’s head, William S. Knudsen (a former Ford executive who had acrimoniously parted ways with Henry Ford) tried to deal his former company a blow by offering at an attractive price, a car that was steered by a powerful inline six-cylinder engine. Called ‘International’, this Chevrolet series was introduced in 1929 with the promise of “a six for a price of a four”. This engine was christened ‘The Stovebolt Six’, taking into consideration the use of slotted-head bolts traditionally used in the making of wood-burning metal stoves. The feature lent the engine an element of exotica; its over-head valve design and durability contributed to the engine’s enduring popularity. It serviced Chevrolet cars and trucks until early 1960s — the Chevrolets, especially the trucks, powered by the Stovebolt Six are pithily referred to as the Stovebolt.
The greatest evidence of this engine’s success lies in the fact that it survived many major overhauls, especially the one in 1947 when a new era of Chevrolet trucks was augured in. The Chevrolet trucks, from 1947to 1955, are collectively called Chevrolet Advance Design.
Not just humdrum pick-up trucks, they exuded style. The Kumar brothers (Srikumar and Jaikumar), who own a 1935 half-ton Chevrolet truck, are willing to admit that these Chevrolets are far superior in design and more pleasing to the eye than their machine; they are also keen on pointing out that their machine is as much of a Stovebolt as any of them.
This 1935 Stovebolt Chevrolet truck has always been with people engaged in the business of promoting health and fitness. Its first owner Pathrudu is an ayurveda practitioner and now it is with the Kumar brothers, who run a fitness centre in the city. Now 87 years old, Pathrudu used to press this truck into campaign work. Banners announcing the salient features of his practice were strung across the rear body of the truck.
In those days, the rear portion of the truck’s body was made up of wooden slats supported by metal strips. After the truck was imported as a chassis cab with running boards and rear fenders, Pathrudu installed this after-market wooden body with the expertise of M/s George Oakes, a Madras-based company that undertook such body-building work. Later, the physician converted the wooden body to an aluminum one. When the Kumar brothers bought the truck last year, it was not presentable. With Vernon Miller, they got the truck restored. The truck still runs on a six-volt battery. “It retains the original meters, dynamo, starter motor, headlights, parking lights and horn. It won the first prize restoration category at a recent vintage vehicles rally,” says Jaikumar, and adds, “Dr. Pathrudu says this Chevrolet truck is one of just two 1935 models imported into India and that the other one was scraped in the Sixties.”