Supercharged Museum Piece: 1937 Graham Cavalier

This 1937 Graham Cavalier is a excellent example of the sort of engineering innovations pioneered by the smaller manufacturers in the interwar years. This beautiful machine is located in Hollister, California, and is owned by the Nostalgic Auto Museum– sadly, now closed. It’s listed here on Craigslist for $19,900. Many thanks to T.J. for the tip!

Probably the most interesting mechanical feature of this car is the supercharger, whose shaft-driven design allows it to be mounted directly between the carburetor and the intake manifold. Although the technology had been used previously on cars like the Duesenberg SJ and the Stutz Model M, the Graham supercharger was the first to be offered in a reasonably priced car, and the payoff in terms of performance was significant. Without the supercharger, this six-cylinder engine would produce 80 bhp — respectable horsepower considering that Ford’s stock flathead V8 was good for 85 bhp in 1937. But the blower added an additional 21 horses, making 100 mph a real possibility and pushing the car to sixty in under 17 seconds.

Yet, even with such impressive performance, by 1937 Graham-Paige was looking for new ways to compete. As their independent peers merged or went under, one by one, Graham-Paige tightened their belts and pressed on. Their eight-cylinder engines were gone by 1936, leaving only the six. Though these engines were assembled by Graham with most of the components manufactured in house, the block was made by Continental to Graham’s specifications. Even the coachwork was a collaboration: close examination will reveal that this car has the same body as a contemporary REO Flying Cloud, with Graham-specific trim and grille.

This example shows all the hallmarks of a well-preserved car in need of another round of restoration. The most that can be said for the paint is that it’s a nice shade of green; everywhere you look there is crazing, cracking, flaking, and– on the left rear fender– bare metal. The interior might be spruced up, since it seems to be complete and clean, but it looks a little tatty. This could just be the photos or a matter of humidity, though. No word on whether it runs and drives, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if it at least rolls onto a trailer under its own power. Having the original supercharger is a real bonus– they were often lost or discarded over the years and finding a spare one now is a tall order. This looks like a very nice find for fans of the marque, and a great piece of American automobile history.

Comments

  1. Terrry

    This Cavalier is certainly better and a lot more interesting than the Chevy one.

    Like 12
  2. Keruth

    My father always spoke highly of Graham cars and trucks.
    Precurser to todays Dodge/Ram.
    The want is great on this, and the Hollywood!

    Like 1
  3. SMS

    I believe that they had two Hollywoods also. The Hollywood was a smaller and lower car as I recall.

    Nice thing about a Chevy or Ford of this vintage is finding parts. Often you can find them in swapmeets and sometimes reproductions are made. I could always get the parts for my Hudson in time.

    Advantage with cars like the Cavalier is that it may speak to you. The Hudson spoke to us. We very much liked the lines and details.

    Like 1

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