In an age where it's almost too easy to put a crate motor (I know, it's "engine," but motor just sounds better!) in an old car or truck, it can be a nice change-up when the opportunity arises to work with an antique mill such as the venerable Chevy straight-six. Not only can the early inliners be considerably reliable little engines, but they can also be made to look cooler than any V-8. More importantly, they'll always emit that unique sound you can't find in any other means of motorvation.
Nicknamed the Stovebolt due to the automobile's use of hardware found on stoves of the era (not necessarily on the engine itself, though), the first-generation 235ci I-6 was used in Chevrolet trucks from 1941-53; the original "Cast-Iron Wonders" debuted in '29, much to the displeasure of Ford's meager four-banger. However, it's the early engine's predecessor that you want to focus your attention on (unless you're going for a full restoration on a pre-'54 Chevy truck).
In '53, the "full-pressure" 235 debuted in Powerglide-equipped Bel Airs, replacing the old babbit or splash-oiler 235 and 216s. The following year, all vehicles featured the improved engine, including pickups. So if you're planning to build a straight-six or are looking for something to upgrade your old engine, find yourself a '55-64 truck or passenger-car 235 or 261 (the larger, more desirable of the I-6s). According to Inliners.org, the late-'53 and '54 235s are getting harder and harder to come by, so you may have better luck starting with the '55s and working your way up through the '64 versions (after that, Chevrolet went to the 230/250 inline design-a great little motor, but an entirely different animal).
The trick to identifying your potential prey for a build-unless you're plucking the engine straight from its virgin lair-is done with simple visuals. For the most part, the fact that the engine has a four-bolt rocker cover usually determines the 235's genre, but to play it safe and be 100 percent sure, verify the age by the casting numbers below the pushrod cover toward the rear (behind the oil dipstick). For a full list of casting numbers, we again found way more info than needed at www.inliners.org. Pinpointing your engine by the casting number will help ensure you get the right one to start with.
Ironically, my '53 Chevy 3100 had already experienced the "full-flow swap" some time ago. Until Jim Carter pointed it out for me, I'd always assumed it was a stock 235 for that year. Nonetheless, I came upon a well-maintained 235 from a '59 passenger car via a wanted ad posted on The Stovebolt Page (www.stovebolt.com), so I figured why not go through it instead of putting the truck down for however long to rebuild the running motor. Obviously, I'll need to address the water pump's location with the later block, but thanks to Patrick's Antique Cars & Trucks, that won't be a problem. Patrick's also supplied the mandatory motor mount plate that goes behind the timing cover, so I can just drop the 235 in when I'm good and ready.
Here's the "old" New Blue Flame six in all her glory-grungy as it may seem-courtesy of a '
Once I dropped off the 235 at Magnolia Center Machine, I was finally able to see if my $30
The cylinder walls looked as if they'd recently been honed, despite the fact that the prev