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1931 Chevrolet Five Window Coupe

Owner: Jim Heinzie, Fargo ND

  

Jim had the 31 Coupe for over 10 years and in several shops prior to bringing it to us. The top had been chopped 3”, the Fat Man front suspension had been installed and the Chassis Engineering rear suspension with Ford 8” rear axle had been installed. Some of the frame had been boxed but not finished.

 The early Chevrolets were still built like carriages. A completely wood frame was built and then the sheet metal was nailed to the wood frame. This is why so few early Chevrolets are around, there is nothing but a pile of tin once the wood is rotted away

This is a wood body frame put together before the metal is attached.

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We replaced all the wood in the body with steel which we had to fabricate. This included the door frames, door jambs, main body rails, roof rails, and everything else that was wood.

 The front fenders, rear fenders and trunk lid are fiberglass. The rest of the car is all steel!  

The frame is the original 31 that has been fully boxed and smoothed. The drive train is a late 70’s high performance 350 from a Z28 and has been fully rebuilt. A 350 Turbo Automatic puts the power to the 8” Ford rear axle.  

We have 1500 hours of labor, if not more, into this unit plus the body work, paint, upholstery work and the work completed before we got the unit.  

Body and paint work was complete by Andre’ Arneson at Intense Collision Center, Fargo, ND. The upholstery work was completed by Billy Phillips of Billy’s Custom Cover-up of Kindred, ND.  

Following is the picture history of the build up.  

This is how the 31 looked when we first saw it in Jim’s garage. The body was flopping and the doors and trunk were not mounted.

No floor or structure to keep the body square. It actually looked much better than it was.

The front suspension and rear suspension were mounted, that is a big block firewall.

The first thing we needed to do is to brace up the body and get it straight. Parts were fabricated and set in place. Everything was measured, measured again and measured once more.

 

The door jamb is 16 gauge sheet metal bent to shape.

We started on the top, got it squared up and then installed the hand formed bows to follow the roof contour.

This inside shot shows the tube steel structure. You can also see the tube structure in the door post to support the door jamb and roof.

Parts were only tack welded in place until we were sure it was all square and straight. Even then it is triple checked.

Once the body had some structure in place we started on the suicide door hinges. We had to build the door structure and support first, then add the hinges and hinge support.

The 16 gauge jambs were formed around and over the hinges to add support and provide the finish surface.

Here the body is on a frame jig to assure a square setting. The suicide doors are fully mounted and swinging. The doors have a natural tendency to swing out because of the hinge angle.

Next is the front cowl and dash area. There were no support structures here other than wood. We added to the dash and created a tube frame structure to support the cowl area.

This shows the cowl/dash support. We wanted to add defrosters some how, so we boxed the tubing with sheet metal to form a closed box. An inlet tube was added in the back and slits were cut on the top by the windshield. This set the dash panel back about 1”.

The back end need lots of squaring up and straightening to get the fenders and trunk lid to fit. We had to undo some of the previous work to get everything to line up. The deck lid is fiberglass and we made steel mount plates for hinges and latches for added strength and glassed them to the lid.

The rear pan which was hand formed is in place and the trunk lid is getting really close.

Here is a top shot of the door structure, rear and front jambs and window trim in place.

What the front cowl/dash and front jambs look like with the doors closed.

The trunk latch is fabricated and the lid side drain/strip channels are hand fabricated using a stretcher/shirking tool.

The body is getting there, the roof bows are in, doors hung, jambs completed and trunk deck fitted.

Here the door hardware is mounted. Power windows are added using Plexiglas as the trial fit piece. Electric dead bolts are added for safety to keep the suicide doors locked when driving. Everything is run through relays so we can operate them with manual switches as well as remote operators.

Now to the chassis, here Kelly is fitting up mounts, plating the rest of the frame and adding other components.

 

The 350 engine will be fully rebuilt once everything is fitted.

The fire wall was fabricated from 16 gauge and installed as a complete unit that was fully welded to the body. It is defiantly a tight fit for the engine.

Here the floor has been installed over the floor braces, the transmission tunnel is fitted, brake master cylinder access is in place and were getting ready to fit the seats.

We are using a 1932 grill shell and hood on a 31 body and frame. The 31 had a flat bottom hood while the 32 had a curved bottom hood. These hand fabricated steel units will act as a filler bar for the hood as well as the hold down and mounts for the front fenders.

Power seats from a Chrysler will fit in the narrow body. Seat mounts are fabricated and welded in place. We prefer the studs on the seat for easier mounting.

With the engine out we can fit the front fenders and front end metal. Troy is doing some finishing work on the firewall. Kelly might be doing a ballet?

The trunk deck, rear pan and rear fenders are mounted and primer work is started.

 

To get the rear fenders to fit right we had to pull and push the rear quarters every which way and stretch them to get them back in shape.

This shows the dash, steering column, jambs and latch relief’s mocked up. The switches on the edge of the dash are for the door, windows and dead bolt locks.

With all the sheet metal mocked up it looks like a car. The light bar is a 30 Ford and the front pan is a Chevy truck unit. The fiberglass front fenders are supposed 31 units. Radiator shell and hood are 32 units.

Strip it back down and start the body work. The visor is welded to the body.

More body work to get it all straight. The trunk lid looks pretty good. Taillights are frenched Ford units.

More body work shots. Put it on and take it off.

The body is about as far as we will take it. It now goes to Andre’ ant Intense Auto for final prep, paint and buffing.

Back to the chassis. It is smoothed and painted chassis black. Yes it is upside down in the shot.

Right side up the chassis starts going together. The fully rebuilt 350 engine and 350 transmission are mounted along with all the other components.

Here we can see the master cylinder and booster mounted along with the engine and transmission. An transmission oil cooler will be mounted just behind the transmission mount on the frame rail.

At Intense Auto, the body is prepped and has been jammed with the Candy Apple Red.

The interior of the body is cleaned, seam sealed and coated with bed liner material to really seal it up and help with sound. Note the door jams are painted.

The boss at work, Andrea’ doing some hood prep. The inside of the hood is also painted with bed liner to help with looks and durability.

The fender/hood filler bars, dash panel and hood doors prepped for paint.

Red parts! The Candy Apple Red is a tri coat. A silver metallic base is laid down followed by several coats of tint. The more tint the darker the color. Then several coats of clear.

Josh and Brad inspect the painted body in Andrea’s paint booth. Just wait till this gets out in the sun!

One very nice front fender, painted and buffed!

One of Andrea’s team hard at work.

Back at the shop, on the chassis with fenders and running boards on. Insulation is installed, cowl lights are on and wiring has begun.

It’s starting to look like a car but has lots of stuff all over the place. Still a long way to go.

The fuse box is mounted in the rear panel so it can be accessed from the trunk or from behind the passenger seat. Wiring is fun!

Getting there, taillights and trunk lid in place, it is starting to look like a car again.

More work done but still not complete. We have had the engine running and ran in the cam already.

More items added, the doors are getting filled up.

That is a 55 Mercury Sunvalley on the lift.

First time on its wheels and is it LOW! Too low, we had to change the springs to get it up so the wheels would turn. About 1.5” between the floor and the front pan.

Ready to run, the American Racing wheels are on. 16” rear, 14” front with 60 series tires.

Outside, running and ready to go the upholstery shop. Note the weather stripping and the door mounted mirror. A leather covered aluminum steering wheel.

This is what the door looks like with glass and all the wiring and gadgets installed.

 

If you look closely at the bottom hinge you will note the steel tube wire run that is part of the lower hinge. No flex tube or springs for wiring here. We do this on almost all of our units.

Almost completed car with wheels, front bumper and exterior pretty well done.

One more look from the right side. We took the unit on its maiden run to a NDSRA meet in Valley City and got the state pick! The interior was not done and neither was the exterior!

The rear bumper has to go on, but will wait until the upholstery is done in the trunk. No need to knock your shines on it.

Billy at Billy’s Custom Cover-up made all the interior panels covered them in Camel ultra vinyl. Note the texture in the side panels.

Billy had to create the headliner and the rear panels. The square panel is the fuse box access from the passenger side. It folds down for easy access.

The radio/stereo is mounted on the roof and dual windshield wipers are wired together and work of the toggle switch on the side of the radio box.

Completed interior with power seats installed. This is very nice, quiet and comfortable.

 

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