This ’31 Chevy street rod is a celebration of independence
In the teeth of the Great Depression, Chevrolet redesigned its lineup, cut prices by $20–35, and christened the new 1931 models “Independence.” This courageous strategy helped limit Chevy’s sales slide to 8 percent when arch rival Ford’s volume plummeted by 66 percent (some of which was due to Ford’s plant overhaul for new ’32 models). Net result: Chevrolet led U.S. sales for the first time ever.
Hagerty member Scott Peterson of Ypsilanti, Michigan, adores his ’31 Chevy Independence five-window coupe and proudly shows it at the Belleville, Michigan, Main Street gathering of the faithful every Monday evening. In 2013, Peterson, in collaboration with Bobby Smith’s Corvette Shop in Ypsilanti, painstakingly converted a collection of parts into this stunning street rod.
When Peterson first viewed this rust-free body, including fenders, running boards, and bumpers in unmolested condition, he instructed his body man, “We’re not gonna get crazy with this and we’re not gonna trick it out!”
The original steel dash and mahogany body framing were both present and accounted for. All metal was stripped clean, the top was chopped three inches, and four coats of Torch Red paint were sprayed, then topped with four coats of clear. Cloth and leather interior trim in three shades of gray reveals the owner’s fine eye for aesthetics. New retro-styled gauges look right at home in the black dash. Seat cushions hugging the floor and a flat-bottomed, small-diameter steering wheel provide surprising room beneath the low roof. While there’s no heater or air conditioning aboard this fair-weather friend, opening the side and rear windows will send a cool breeze through the cockpit.
Having owned Corvettes for 40 years, Peterson wouldn’t have a Ford in his garage, so this Chevy street rod was the natural next choice instead of a Deuce. The sparkling 327-cubic-inch V-8 under his hood, which began life in a ’67 Corvette, is teamed with a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic and a 3.78:1 rear axle. The original Chevy frame supports rigid front and rear axles via semi-elliptic leaf springs. New front disc and rear drum brakes have ample capacity for safe stops. Chrome reversed wheels are shod with 14-inch radials and finished with baby moon hubcaps inscribed with Bowtie emblems. The exquisite Chevrolet radiator badge was purchased from a new old stock vendor for only $40.
One of the interesting touches added during the car’s rejuvenation is a rear-mounted camera feeding a 130-degree view of the road to a discreetly mounted cockpit monitor. Re-chromed bi-level bumpers, headlamps, and door handles add just the right amount of bling.
“My street rod was never intended to be a trailer queen,” Peterson emphasizes. “While I drive it only a thousand or so miles a year, it’s the perfect alternative to my 2014 Corvette.” This life-long bachelor has been retired for 21 years and is grateful to have all the time he needs to thoroughly enjoy his car collection.