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It is the 90th anniversary of the demise of
A true icon, the last of the 4-cylinder Chevrolets
The end of the Chev 4 era came 90 years ago in 1928, when the "National" model was released. Dubbed Bigger and Better it had several refinements and developed a reputation as the best of the Chev 4s; this is perhaps reflected in the many examples still extant in the hands of VVCAA owners. Strangely enough, fewer were sold in Australia than its immediate predecessor, the "Capitol" model of 1927 (11992 vs 13377 ) data from 100 Years of GM in Australia by Norm Darwin).
Tourers and roadsters made up the bulk of production by General Motors Australia (GMA) with just a few closed models, sedan, coach and coupe. GMA also sold some factory utilities and other body builders (e.g. J.H. Miller) created custom commercial vehicles to suit customers' needs. Others became workhorses some years later after suffering the indignity of having their bodies sawn in half to create a utility vehicle.
Of course, the "National" may never have existed at all if Chevrolet's engineers had completed the development of the Chevrolet 6-cylinder engine a little earlier. Perhaps a parallel may be drawn with the 1962/3 EJ Holden, the last with the original grey motor. Historians tell us that the EJ was meant to be the launching pad for the new red motors, but engineering lag prevented this occurring. This honour then fell to the subsequent model, the EH Holden. So it was with the "National" Chevrolet in 1928. It received a longer wheelbase (107, the same as a 1929 Chevrolet), 4-wheel brakes, alloy pistons and a 2-port exhaust manifold, but missed out on the extra 2 cylinders!
None-the-less, the 1928 Chevrolet proved to be one of the best, and well deserved its strong reputation for simplicity yet reliability. The enhancements to the engine provided more lively performance, a sweeter exhaust note and higher cruising speed. Coupled with much better braking capacity, the National was streets ahead of previous Chev 4's in overall driving pleasure. My first Chevrolet was a 1928 Chevrolet Series LP 1-ton truck with the 4-speed gearbox, purchased in 1968; while it lacked the sparkling performance of a 1928 tourer, it did provide many years of trouble-free use.
The remaining photographs are of non-member's Chevs. Firstly, a 1928 factory utility in the Queensland town of Warwick in 1974. Far from its original glory, it is showing many signs of wear and tear and lack of TLC, but the curve of the body behind the seat and the lack of an external door handle both point to this Chevrolet having always been a utility. 1928 Chevs remained relatively common on Queensland roads in the 1970s, while others had already been put out to pasture. One of the former was an unrestored roadster driven by Ron Baines
VVCAA#123). By contrast, the tourer owned by Robin Teys (VVCAA #245), was an unrestored vehicle in remarkably original condition too good to restore and lose that patina of age. It had been continuously registered since 1928 with an original Q plate Q99-962. It was one of those 1928 Chevs with the two-tone body paintwork, in this case chocolate brown over fawn with black mudguards. The utility in the next photograph was seen in Pittsworth on the Darling Downs in 1971. This Chevrolet appears to have originally been a roadster and still has the look of an effective workhorse. Not so the ute abandoned behind a farmhouse outside Biggenden in Queensland in 1972. Cut down from a tourer with a hessian sack for upholstery, it looks about as sad as a once-proud 1928 Chevrolet could be. One can only guess at how much faithful service it gave before perhaps some minor mechanical failure relegated it to its final resting place.
Enough of 1928 Chevrolet passenger cars and their derivatives. No discussion of any year would be complete without mentioning trucks, hence the photo¬graph of a Chevrolet L-series C cab truck still in use in Brisbane in 1977. The Chevrolet practice of using up metal pressings from prior years on their trucks began early, and 1928 trucks continued to use the 1927 radiator shell and 1925/6 mudguards. Purists may tell me that this truck is a 1927 LM mod¬el because it has 1927 headlight rims, which I concede, but as the early 1928 LO Chevrolet is identical except for the addition of 1928 headlight rims, I thought it would be suitable for this article especially as it has since been restored by the original owner's nephew and is regularly used in car club events.
One interesting feature of this truck is the wide cab, extending beyond the valance panels and almost as wide as the cargo tray. One supposes that this allowed seating for the driver and two passengers if required and is unusual in an era when truck cabs were typically much narrower, with seating for only one passenger. This photo shows the pressed steel running boards that were standard equipment on these trucks and the steel hubcaps. The front bumper bar was presumably added by the owner 'factory front bumpers became standard on the Series LP trucks in late 1928 as a sturdy steel C channel bar.
[Story adapted from previous articles in The Royal Mail magazine.]
1928 Original Utility
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