Hot-rodding is quite the diverse hobby. The level of acceptance ranges between multi-million dollar builds and rust. That gives a rodder quite a bit of leeway when building their ride, but there seems to be a formula that is repeated time and time again; take something rare and upgrade it with common and improved components.
That is exactly why Robert Dalton’s ’41 Chevy hits the nail so squarely on the head. We’ll start with the rare aspect. When was the last time you saw a ’41 Chevy? Amid a time when production was ramping up for the ensuing war, it goes to reason that all resources would focus on finishing the task overseas.
The new Monte chassis give the '41 a perfect stance.
Reportedly, 439,893 Chevrolet and GMC trucks in various configurations were assembled for the war effort, while only 2,583 passenger sedans found their way down the production lines. When you account for the additional aircraft engines, various fighting vehicles and munitions that were also constructed by Chevrolet, it’s easy to see where the bulk of production was focused. Folks at home would have to wait a few years to get a new Chevrolet, and making do with the one already in the garage was simply part of the war program. We doubt that many were complaining.
Interestingly, when those war-seasoned men came home, they fostered what is considered the raging blossom of what we now know as hot-rodding. Equipped with the knowledge and skills they learned in the heat of battle, these men set out to enjoy this fledgling hobby, and they did it with a vengeance. Their formula was the same then as it is today – take an old car and make it better/faster.
The mid-’70s frame looks right at home under this pre-war hood.
You can see it in Robert’s ’41 as well. With all the style and craftmanship that epitomizes this era of accomplishment, Robert’s two-door business coupe holds onto everything that cements it in the golden era of automotive design. Sleek lines and stylized fenders with inset lighting exude that feeling of speed, while still keeping their classic status, even today.
Upgrades are "built-in" to the design and don't scream for attention, until you are a recipient of their benefits.
But, much like the men did who came back from their own Sentimental Journey, Robert’s ride was upgraded to bring the performance of all that classic styling into a more modern age. The way it was done might surprise you, and attests to the broad spectrum of creativity encompassed by the rodding community.
Like those early machinists and draftsmen that made ordinary things through extraordinary tasks, a previous owner crafted the mating points of this ’41 Chevy to correspond with those found on a 1974 Monte Carlo chassis. Robert agrees that when you first hear about the swap, you may wonder about making everything fit properly, but puts those reservations to rest by affirming, “It really does fit pretty well under the car!”
A little more plush than the original '41 interior, upgrades are nicely done and blend with the car's original styling.
Of course, form and function are equals to most rodders, and Robert goes on to say, “In fact, when you ride in it, you’ll notice that it actually rides and drives like a ’74 Monte Carlo.” There may be some that scoff, thinking that statement means it rides like a car more than 40 years old, but when you think about it, GM used that design for over a decade later, and don’t forget that it was this generation of Monte Carlo that dominated NASCAR at the time. If that isn’t enough to cement this as an upgrade, if you can find a stock ’41 Chevy, try driving around the parking lot a few times.
In Robert’s case, he’ll be smiling the whole time, thanks to the additional power steering, power brakes (disc front/drum rear) and the additional power from that small-block 350. All these benefits came free of charge, thanks to the sacrificial Monte. In true rodding fashion, Robert added the chromed-out Holley four-barrel carb and HEI distributor. A set of Hooker headers divert the exhaust cleanly between the Chevy’s new frame rails and out the rear of the car.
The last taste of chrome until passenger car production commenced after the war.
Admittedly, Robert says that the bulk of the chassis swap was complete when he purchased the car four years ago, “I saw this car had potential and immediately brought this gem home.” The car was in fair condition, but over the next three years, Robert focused on making the car more to his liking, which included totally redoing the interior and a complete color change. The interior was completed by Gotcha Covered in nearby Fort Myers, Florida, and now wears a light shade of tan with blue carpeting to tie both interior and exterior together.
In keeping with the upgrades, a Lokar shifter keeps the auto trans in check, and the under hood A/C unit keeps the temps well within the comfort zone. A mixture of Auto Meter gauges keep Robert informed of the temps under hood, as well as speed, air/fuel ratio, oil pressure, and how many miles he can go before he needs to start walking, which is dependent on how hard he presses the tall, skinny pedal.
When powering a Chevy hot rod, you can’t go wrong with a small-block. Robert’s ride already had one. At least half of his car did!
When you’ve got a car with the classic lines of a ’41 Chevy, there’s not much reason to muck with it, so Robert had Larry Bates of Fort Myers, make a color change to suit his liking – Blue. Upon that, he had accent pinstriping and added a set of BFG Silvertowns to smoothie rims to keep that pre-war vibe. Robert would also like to thank Brian’s Automotive, Mike’s Auto Glass, Wild Cycle & Auto, Fair Automotive, and Auto Glass Warehouse for their help in making this ’41 such a fun runner for Robert. With all the upgrades, Robert now has a ’41 Chevy that not only turns heads, but can actually make a few turns when the road gets twisty.