Monday, May 20, 2024
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SECOND CHANCE SLOPER – PAUL MASON 1937 CHEVY SLOPER

During Yamba rod run I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the unusual lines of this 1937 Chevrolet that we Aussies call a Sloper. The Sloper is a unique name given to Australian bodied GM and Ford’s of the mid to late 30’s. These bodies were first used on Oldsmobile, Chevrolet and Pontiac Chassis in 1935 and were designed by General Motors Holden. Richards Body Builders added the style to Dodge and Plymouth in 1937 and Ford Australia used the style in 1939/40. In addition a Sloper style was also produced under the Nash name.  While Ford called their body a tudor, GMH named the style an ‘all enclosed coupe”. 

When Paul Mason decided to get his hands dirty again after previously cutting his hot rod teeth on a tourer, this wasn’t the car he started with. “I was originally putting together a ‘37 sedan”, he explains, “and then one day I woke up in bed and thought ‘why do I want just another four door’?” Convinced that there was a better option he hit the road bound for Tenterfield, armed with knowledge of a sloper body that may be up for grabs. The intel panned out and after some monetary negotiations he headed for home with his new treasure and a change of plans.     

Although the new acquisition was in the almost extinct category, it also came with many issues that may have kept it from being snapped up decades ago. “It was in pretty sad condition and a fire had been through it,” Paul confesses, “and it looked like kids had jumped all over the back window area.”

Undeterred by its cosmetic disfigurement, Paul could see its potential and proceeded to bring it back from the dead over a five year build. 

As the sloper was in need of a complete new floor, Paul cut what he needed from his original sedan and grafted into his new project. “They are identical in the floor plan so it was a no brainer,” he said.

Paul kept the bowtie ball rolling and outfitted the chassis with a gas fed 350 mill mated to a Turbo 700 and a 10 bolt Salisbury third member. As the original intention for the hot rod was to haul a caravan in affordable comfort, he installed rear air bags with Commodore trailing arms, adjustable top arms and panhard rod to help bear the load. At the pointy end a HG Holden front end is lowered by 2” dropped spindles and plants the American Eagle wheels nicely on the pavement. To help with tyre clearance the guards have been widened with 2” bands of fresh steel.  

With the framework complete Paul massaged the teardrop body back to its former glory adding a few refinements along the way. One of his pet peeves was the unsightly air gap beneath the doors that really bothered him, so he filled the void by adding metal to the door bottoms and lower sills. It’s an element that is easily overlooked, as there are usually no other cars to compare it with at most rod runs. Much to Paul’s delight, the factory fitting running boards were fabricated by Peter Jackson to meet the new dimensions.

For ease of engine access Paul split the long bonnet sides just ahead of the ventilation flutes making them into a two-piece arrangement that can be removed in just minutes – great for roadside repairs. While he was working on the front sheet metal he also lowered the stock headlights by about 70mm and added bullet shaped turn indicators, which flow nicely with the overall sloper profile and complement the Lincoln Zephyr-styled taillights. The grille is created from an original that included mutilated centre bars, which Paul cleverly disguised with new stainless moulding, and a Chevrolet embossed crossbar.

Unfortunately the blaze that engulfed the sloper many years ago wasn’t the only fire to wreak havoc on the rare Chevy, as Paul explains. “I was tack welding in the seatbelt plates underneath the floor while it was up on the hoist. The first I knew of the disaster was when the misses came running down from the house screaming that the car was on fire! It was on fire al’right as it burnt out the new upholstery and seatbelts, buckling the roof turret in the process. That was a lot of fun!” he says through gritted teeth. Luckily the car hadn’t yet received its distinctive purple paintwork and Paul just rolled up his sleeves and rectified his mistake. 

On a brighter note he proudly informs me that the only exclusion from this home built hot rod not to be completed in his garage is the trim, but even there I find his handiwork all over the interior. “The seats are from some GM shopping trolley of unmemorable importance that we had re-trimmed,” he says, “but I built the console.”

Paul’s previous creations include a tourer and a ’54 F truck, and while he says that he’s modified quite a few this is only his second attempt at resurrecting rusted gold from the ground up. Next on his hit list is a ’53 Chevy custom, which I’m sure will turn out to be a crowd pleaser, just as long as he keeps wayward sparks under control.

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #165.

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