Carroll Allen has made his mark in the collector car world by taking a couple of baseline model Chevys and turning each one into something special.
One is a beautifully restored 1929 two-door Coach sedan, the other a significantly modified 1963 Chevy II. They really couldn’t be much more different, but each has satisfied Allen’s desire to preserve a bit of Chevrolet heritage.
Allen said he got into dirt track racing, mostly as a car owner, back in the 1970s.
"I always ran Chevrolets in them,” he said. "I always wanted to restore an old car."
So naturally, when his barber told him about an old Chevrolet that belonged to a widow in Wichita, his interest was piqued.
"It was all there, but it was in pretty sad shape,” he said. “After the husband died, his son tried to fix it up … but he kind of messed it up. He camouflaged it pretty well, though.”
Much of the glass had been replaced with plexiglass and the wood body framing was badly cobbled up.
"I brought it home and got it running. I drove it a couple of times around the neighborhood," he said. But he wasted no time in tearing the car apart. That was in 1983.
"I bought it with the full intention of completely restoring it," he said. "It took me 12 years and a quadruple bypass surgery to get it done."
But in the process, he learned a lot about mechanics, carpentry and upholstery work.
Once the car was completely disassembled, he purchased a wood framing kit from Jim Rodman of Hanna, Ind.
"It was a mixture of oak, maple and ash, all hardwoods. His craftsmanship was just incredible," Allen said. "The sheet metal is all nailed to the wood about every three-eighths of an inch.”
He had repaired and smoothed all of the car’s body work prior to beginning the reassembly process.
Allen had decided one of the few changes he would make was a different paint color. His son, David, a skilled artist, did a detailed sketch of the car, which Carroll Allen took to a copy shop and made numerous copies. Using watercolors, he hand-painted copies until he hit on the deep burgundy color that would be sprayed on the finished panels by Mike Steiner of Winfield. The fenders were done in factory black, with the pinstriping of the body and trademark Chevy disc wheels handled by Nadine Ward.
The trick to combining the wood and metal was to start at the door sills, the cowl posts and the doors, Allen learned.
"When the doors don’t line up, nothing fits,” he said. “The wood fit the metal like a glove. I can snap the doors shut.”
Inside, he and his other son, Chris, installed a Hampton Coach upholstery kit, including a fresh headliner tacked to wooden bows. The front seats fold forward to provide access to the spacious rear bench seat, which affords underseat storage since the two-door sedan has no trunk.
The original gauges and knobs were refinished, as was the big wooden four-spoke steering wheel.
A crank on the header panel seems to be connected to the single windshield wiper, but is actually used to raise and lower the windshield glass, allowing for flow-through ventilation. The gas gauge is mounted outside, atop the eight-gallon gas tank, which can prove tricky on road trips.
"This was the first Chevy 6. Before, they were powered by 4-cylinders," Allen said, showing off the surprisingly modern-looking OHV engine.
An advertisement at the time boasted: "The Coach — $595 — A Six in the price range of a Four."
The restoration was finished in 1995 and Allen and his wife, Beverly, have driven it regularly on regional Chevrolet club tours, in parades and to car shows, but the burgundy sedan looks as if it just rolled out of the paint shop.
Built some 34 years after the sedan, Allen’s Chevy II was Chevrolet’s answer to people looking for a nice economy car in 1963. It had been son Chris’ high school car and he held onto it, planning to eventually fix it back up.
"It sat here on our back lot and deteriorated. It got hit by bad hail in ’92," Carrol Allen said. "People could see it from the street were always coming by asking to buy it.”
Once the ’29 was finished, he decided to take on the job himself.
"I was just going to freshen it up and make a nice driver out of it," he said. "It had an old inline 6 in it, with a 2-speed automatic. I tore it apart. Most people would have put a small block V-8 in it, but I bought an Astro van and thought I would try to fit a V-6 in it."
To make that work, he installed a Mercury Bobcat front suspension, complete with power rack and pinion steering, in the car. The shock towers had to be cut out, so he braced the front end assembly with round moly tubing. The 4.3 liter V-6 is equipped with throttle body fuel injection and a 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission.
The van’s rear end was too wide, so Allen found an S-10 Chevy pickup differential, which proved to be too narrow when it came time to mount the 15-inch Unique mag wheels. So he had a friend machine a set of wheel spacers out of aluminum to center the rear tires in the wheel wells.
Allen dispensed with a lot of the chrome trim on the car, but retained the stock Chevy "6" fender badges since the car was still powered by a 6-cylinder. David Holt painted the Chevy II a bright Victory Red and Morgan-Bulleigh created a custom two-tone gray leather interior for the car.
Two different approaches to two classic Chevies — and both worked out just the way the owner wanted.