Sunday, December 8, 2013

Castro Valley Street Sighting - 1934 Chevrolet 3-Window Coupe

Hot rods are a mixed bag for me. They're built to the taste of the owner, which is fine, but they can go two very different routes to get there. One is to start with an original vehicle, ranging from a rusty junkyard shell to a nice clean car. The other is to build a brand-new replica from fiberglass or steel in the style of the car you want. The increasing availability of fiberglass bodies for custom cars over the past few decades calls into question the provenance of many of the rods and customs one sees at shows nowadays. Several of the most common replicas include '32 Fords, '33-34 Fords, Shelby Cobras, 1941 Willys Americars and, to a lesser extent, the Beetle/Chevette/Pinto-based 1929 Mercedes SSK ("Gazelle"), Beetle-based Porsche 356 Speedster, and any number of Italian exotics mimicked poorly on the long-suffering Pontiac Fiero chassis. One of the cars I didn't previously know is available as a fiberglass replica, though, is the 1934-1935 Chevrolet 3-window coupe.

I automatically assume that every 1932 Ford roadster I see is a replica. But the Chevy hot rod is such a unique choice that I usually expect it's the real thing when I see one. As it turns out, several companies make the '34 Chevy 3-window in fiberglass, and I suspect this one is from Downs Industries or Outlaw Performance. It's a very cleanly designed custom with generally pleasing proportions and an interesting shade of blue. The tiny round turn signals embedded in the front fenders below the grille are a useful detail for safety. The roof has a 3-inch chop from stock height, an attribute designed into the Downs and Outlaw kits from the start. Downs has recently exited the street rod industry, so this may have been one of the last bodies they built. It could also be an Outlaw body, since I was able to find some examples of Outlaw '34 Chevys with this style of front turn signal.

Fiberglass kits have certain limitations that "real" cars typically don't have. If you want a certain look, for example a chopped roof height, you frequently must purchase the body that was molded with a chopped roof. Chopping a fiberglass car is possible but requires a lot of skill and patching. You can't just bend the stuff like metal and it has to be built up for any kind of strength. The upside of fiberglass is that if you screw up, you haven't just ruined an irreplaceable 75-year-old part. Any style of panel you want can be created from a mold. And being the purist that I am, if you're going to build a wild custom car, I'd usually rather you build a "fake" one than hack up a complete original car.

No comments:

Post a Comment