Rod & Custom Feature Car

Joe Hickenbottom
Aromas, California
1934 Chevy Three-window Coupe

Chevy-powered hot rods are more than commonplace, they're a fixture among our hobby, like it or not. Same goes for Chevy-powered '34 coupes. However, that familiarity often applies to V-8–equipped rods of a Blue Oval nature. So when we were first pitched on not only a Chevy-powered '34 Chevrolet, but a straight-six'd one, no less, well, we were all ears … and subsequently, all eyes, once seeing Joe Hickenbottom's coupe.

Typically, the venerable Stovebolt six is lowrider and vintage drag racing fare (also one your editor is a huge fan of), especially with its unmistakable audible note. When one goes to the length (quite literally in many cases) to incorporate a 216/235 into a prewar hot rod, it illustrates the same passion as that put into a Flathead-powered Ford … or more. Inliners are workhorses, full of torque and able to run well, well past their prime (is there such a thing?!). But, unlike its successor, the SBC, they're not as convenient/economical, not to mention are limited in many areas, from driveline to accessory options. Again, much like a Flathead, which further lends itself to the charm and mystique no small-block can offer.

Joe's '34 is truly a savior scenario; the three-window was quietly spending its last days in recognizable form as a fixture for target practice out in the woods of Northern California. More importantly, however, it is a tribute—a tribute to a late, local racer and engine builder by the name of Don Sciocchetti. A mechanic at Jones Chevrolet in Hollister, California, "Don built race motors for the local dirt track racers in the '40s and '50s. Having many winning motors, Don decided to build one for himself. In 1950, he bought a new 235 six-cylinder from the dealership, along with a 261 truck head to put in his '37 Chevy coupe," Joe recalls.

From a news clipping of a local piece Sciocchetti wrote before his death that Joe provided: "The last race engine I built is very strong and wild, as I only ran it about 30 minutes when it was installed in a '37 coupe. The motor has about 250 ci, running McGurk high-dome pistons, 10:1 combustion ratio. The oil system has GMC truck pump pushing 50W and large capacity oil pan with special design scavenger splash plate to keep oil away from the crank train. The camshaft is a special grind roller by Chet Herbert. The head has 1,000 hours of porting and polishing with dual valvesprings and tubular pushrods. Custom-built header custom fit to ports, Nicson triple with side-draft Zenith carbs, and Wico magneto firing triple electrode spark plugs."

Though Sciocchetti retired from both racing and engine building long before his death, he managed to hold onto that "last build". That last build is what not only inspired Joe to save the '34, but is what now powers it as well.

A hot rod in its previous life, the three-window coupe body was on the verge of extinction when Joe took possession, requiring everything from restructuring to re-chopping. The frame it now resides on is a custom, homebuilt platform, done up early hot-rod style with a MorDrop Deuce axle, among other things. In place of the non-synchro closed-drive trans, a later-model GM three-speed backs up the "race-six", linking to a 3:20-geared Ford rearend. True chrome-reverse wheels from the '50s (early Ford centers wearing Buick outers) shod in blackwall Firestone bias-ply rubber adequately add to the Chevy's particular flavor.

With help from Jimmy Rader, Joe resurrected the coupe back to a proper hot rod, in the process incorporating a '34 Pontiac hood, '55 Chevy roof filler piece, and custom-made grille insert (louvered to match the decklid), the body now coated in a copper hue. The interior is quite literally spartan, as only the early race-style bucket seats are upholstered in black vinyl biscuit-tuft, with a chrome rollbar and original Stewart-Warner gauges (acquired through a good friend who'd saved them from his '32 Ford sold back in 1961) in an engine-turned insert.

"Building a tribute is very rewarding … seeing old parts put back to use is awesome," Joe surmised. We agree.