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Hot rod Chevrolet Stovebolt six-cylinder
‘Hemmings Motor News’ contributor Jim Van Orden looked back fondly at the Chevrolet straight six-cylinder
Stovebolt motors and shared some of his personal memories. The venerable “Stovebolt” engine first
appeared in 1929.
Jim said that his Chevy was the ultimate
“sleeper”. No one suspected the car was
He went on to say the he was only 17 and
feeling his oats, he drove the old Chevy like
a maniac and enjoyed surprising V-8 drivers
at stoplights. Shifting into first and revving
the 235-cubic-inch, 135-horsepower
“stovebolt” six, he would pop the clutch and
leave them in the dust.
This got him in trouble with the boss, a
hard-working Swede who ran the
hometown meat market. He daily cleaned
his butcher blocks and delivered steaks in a 1957 Chevy 150 two-door commercial sedan.
The plain-Jane car, sporting only front bucket seats
and a wood rear floor, was really a station wagon
without side windows. Heavy-duty springs and
shocks reminded you it was built for work, not fun.
But two factors made it fun to drive: a very low
differential gear and stovebolt six developing max-
torque at low rpm. “This baby could haul meat
faster than Porky Pig ran from the big bad wolf”
Jim said. It didn’t take much to spin rear tires.
Most races were over before shifting into second.
Then one day the gear linkage failed when speed-
shifting. It wasn’t easy explaining to the boss
what happened, but Jim was grateful he didn’t fire
“I really liked the stovebolt six” Jim said. It revved like Chevy’s small-block V-8 and got decent gas
mileage. It took some growing up to learn why it was called a “stovebolt.” As he discovered, the engine
used slotted bolts like those on 1920s-30s wood-burning stoves to secure components.
The fastest stovebolt in his life showed about the
time he turned 18. “Martha,” a brown-and-white
’53 Chevy convertible owned by a friend, Justin,
had been transformed from an underdog into a
Ripping out the stock stovebolt, he replaced it with
a bored-out “Jimmy” GMC truck engine mated to a
three-speed manual transmission. An Iskenderian
racing cam made the stovebolt vibrate angrily.
But what made the engine rage with power was its
intake manifold. Three two-barrel carbs with
chrome air cleaners were reminiscent of the ’53
Corvette’s three one-barrel set-up. “Martha” was
genuinely fast…V8 fast…and demonstrated the stovebolt’s potential for power and speed.
Posted Monday, April 9, 2018