Rod Or Restore? 1931 Chevy Coupe


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The rod-or-restore argument has been going on for years now among the various factions in the old car world. Purists hate to see restorable old cars turned into hot rods, and of course rodders’ eyes get big when they see a solid old coupe or roadster like this one for sale on craigslist. This 1931 Chevrolet 5 window rumble seat coupe is located in Leicester, Massachusetts (near the city of Worcester).


While I respect the property rights of any owner to do what they want with their cars, my own preference is to see original cars in really decent shape restored, and then it makes sense for the lesser examples to be turned into whatever kind of rod or custom an imaginative builder can think of.


While this Chevy will need a ton of work regardless of what a new owner does with it, it does look to be very restorable and complete. And if my research is correct, Chevy made only 20,297 of these rumble seat 5 window coupes (called “five passenger coupes”) out of a total 623,901 Chevrolets manufactured during the Depression year of 1931.


The relative rarity and completeness of this car makes me feel this car really should be restored.


The seller says this car is unmolested, though it is plainly in need of some body and wood work, as well as a new fabric top, and will require a complete interior as well. According to the seller, the engine is not seized, but doubtless this car will need a full mechanical rebuild or restoration. The car has been sitting in dry storage for many years. The seller says it “rolls and steers,” but that just means it will be easy to move into the shop, where it will be taken apart.


There are some parts inside the car, including the headlight bar and front splash pan.


The 5 passenger coupe was a new style for Chevy for 1931 and along with other models produced that year, these Chevrolets are very attractive cars. Their prices have been climbing too. According to what I have learned, a restored example of this particular car might sell in the range of $27,000, with a low value of about $8,000 for a driver in poor condition. There are not that many examples sold recently, so it’s not easy to determine the ultimate value of this car. The seller is asking $6,900 for his car. I’m thinking it should be closer to $5,000, but what do you Barn Finds readers think? And would you restore or rod this car?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Luke Fitzgerald

    Get the gas axe out ……only joking – must be preserved – qualified survivor. If it was just a chassis and a bit of body – different matter

    Like 0
    • Dave Wright

      You are spot on……..plenty of old hulks around to hotrod.

      Like 0
  2. geomechs geomechsMember

    There’s not enough of these left to be changed into another jagged piece of modern sculpture. Restoration is the only way to go…

    Like 1
  3. Van

    If was a model A we’d say flat head and straight pipes.
    A chevy like this is much more uncommon.
    Restore to original or at least simapatheticly with things only an expert would notice, similar brakes, transmission, etc.

    Like 1
  4. Healeydays

    It’s already gone

    Like 0
  5. JW454

    I’ve heard Chevrolets of this vintage had a lot of wood in them compared to other makes. An old guy told me a few years ago, “If Chevrolet still put as much wood in their cars today as they did back then, there wouldn’t be a tree left in North America”. I always found that amusing. I hope someone saves this one.

    Like 0
    • dj

      These cars are all wood. The metal is nailed on the wood. It also has wood sills that sit on the frame. Anybody can street rod but it takes someone who cares to restore these. I spent 4 years on my 1930 Chevrolet. I hope someone will restore it.

      Like 1
  6. Walt

    Restore this Lady ! Get her Shining again !
    Heck, She may fire right up with a little
    coaxing .

    Like 0
  7. Texas Tea

    I agree with every single comment posted here. Model A,………………tons of those around, but a Chevrolet. Don’t screw it up and make a rod out of this one. Keep it as it was suppose to be.

    Like 1
  8. Mikey

    How much was it it’s gone already

    Like 0
  9. barney

    Chop the top, all Ford suspension and oh yes, a small block Ford.

    Like 0
    • Van

      I see what you did there, LOL.

      Like 0
    • Wayne S.K.

      Love it! (but it needs to be a 351…)

      Like 0
  10. Ken

    That is a Sport Coupe, not a 5 passanger coupe. Restore !

    Like 0
  11. Mark S

    If this were mine I’d take the engine and trans out and mount them on a display stand I would not be interested in rebuilding that poured babit oil slinger engine. I’d restore body and chassie to original specs with the exception of paint, which would be red body, black fenders and gold pin striping. As for the engine and trans I’d install a 1960’s 230 CID 6 cylinder with a 1960’s matching transmission 4 speed. This all would be done in such a way that the original engine and trans could be put in at any time. With this set up at least you could drive it around more and parts would be easier to get for it.

    Like 1
    • Big Rob

      This would make nice little hot rod, that’s for sure!

      Like 1
  12. Walt

    Well said Mark, I was thinking a 250 w/ a 4 speed etc , but
    either way she would really purr, especially if she had a
    nice 18 or 24” Cherry Bomb to complete the picture

    Like 0
  13. Don Dimble

    Restomods were never my thing, but I agree with Mark that a more modern drivetrain (and I’d do the brakes too) with stock everything else would be a good way to make this a more drivable classic. I tend to agree with Jay Leno that if you upgrade the power plant you should do the same to the brakes, because stopping is good without the assistance of a tree.

    Like 0
    • Walt

      Hey Don, Trees have great stopping power—-but, all things considered
      good brakes are way more practical. Mahalo

      Like 0
  14. geomechs geomechsMember

    You know, putting a 230 or 250 in place of the stock 194 wouldn’t be a bad idea. A way to modernize a vintage car like this and keep some of it’s charm. On the other hand don’t be too quick to condemn the old babbit pounders. They did (and continue to do so) a lot of work in their day. I do admit that I’m not all that fussy about the ’36 and earlier engines sporting only three mains. On the other hand they used forged crankshafts on those first versions so things might balance out.

    Like 0
    • Walt

      I just learned something, aren’t newer cranks forged ?

      Like 0
    • Mark S

      Hi Geomechs my first thought was that I wouldn’t want to deal with that engine and my second thought is that if I was using that engine it would bi preserved.

      Like 0
    • Texas Tea

      I bought a 1946 Chevrolet stylemaster (one owner woman) in 1980 with the 218 c.i engine and low miles. I recall the miles around 46,000. It was the quietest running engine I have ever listen to. So much so that I engaged the starter by accident on a couple of occasions. I wish I still had it. What a great car and perfect running engine. I don’t believe there were bearings on this engine. Just saying………………

      Like 0
  15. Mike Williams

    It sure would be a fun one to drive in original condition, but it’s to late, already sold.

    Like 0
  16. David WilkAuthor

    Guys, it’s still for sale if someone wants it. Here is the new listing:
    Price too high?

    Like 0
    • Jon

      Does not come up…Must be gone

      Like 0
  17. Ron Engel

    Had a bone stock 1939 Chevy with “yes” the vacuum assist 3-speed. Took it to the top of Pikes Peak, passing some newer vehicles without missing a beat! It wasn’t re-jetted for altitude, just sea level California! Can’t beat down these old donkeys!

    Like 0
  18. Ed Willaims

    Just like Dads!

    My father had one just like the one here pictured all through World War 2. He was working for the Otis Elevator Company in Los Angeles in 1946 when he passed away and I was 12 years old.
    Around 1942 or”43 dad removed the rumble seat and hinged cover and built a little pick-up box there. He had a gardening route in Beverly Hills and took care of some apartment buildings north of Santa Monica Blvd.
    So after that he got the Otis Elevator Service job and the little Chevy remained the same with its little box in the back until the day he passed away.
    I had many rides in that Chevy with both my parents and we all could fit across the seat with me in the middle. It was a faded dark blue color.
    I hope this one finds a good home and gets the restoration it deserves.

    Like 0
    • Texas Tea

      Great story Ed. Sorry your Pop passed at such an early age.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Like 0
  19. max

    i have bought a 30 3 window, body and chassis only lhd, chopped already, hot rod project, love it.

    Like 1
  20. Jennifer

    I bought a ’31 chevy 3 window coupe that someone fast f#<&ed it together, no fenders, steps, or interior. Bad chop job etc. I'm changing frame and body, etc so you can actually sit in it without hitting head on ceiling. It's a rat rod, someone used it as target practice. I did get vin and plates for it so just got to get it back together and wired. It was flat black when I bought it and found out mostly bondo was holding it together. Proud to have a chevy though!!! As far as the one the conversation is about, definitely restore!!!

    Like 0
  21. Jeffrey Baatz


    Like 0

    i have a 31 3 window for sale. runs and drives well. unrestored. mostly untouched. in great shape for it’s age.

    360 710-4375

    Like 0

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