Russ Zengle of Caledonia, WI is a Chevy hot rod owner, but not a small-block Chevy engine fan. His 1938 Chevrolet Master Deluce two-door sedan actually has an in-line, overhead valve, six-cylinder truck engine.
“It’s a 261-cid six from 1959,” Zengle told Speedville during the Georgie Porgie cruise in the town of Oak Creek, a bit south of Milwaukee. “It’s a Chevy truck motor and Auto Parts & Service in Milwaukee built it. The Offenhauser intake manifold and dual carburetors bolted to the motor were found at a swap meet in Byron, IL during the Melt-Down Drags held there.”
The car’s Gen 1 Corvette exhaust manifold (from the years when Corvettes came only with a six) was supplied by the engine builder. “He couldn’t use it on his ‘Vette because it’s chromed and the part number is ground off. He had to go get another manifold with the part number on it so they could judge the car. I bought the chrome valve cover, too. A lot of other stuff came from eBay.”
The dual carburetors came with the manifold. “There’s a guy in Illinois who rebuilds them and re-anodizes them and flow benches them,” Zengle pointed out.
When asked what made him go with his setup Zengle answered, “Everybody told me put a small-block (Chevy V8) in the car. You walk around here or any car show and all you see are cars with small blocks in them. But, when I go to Back to the ‘50s in St. Paul, MN, there’s a ton of cars with sixes like this one there. It’s usually early ‘50s cars that they’ll take a six-cylinder and do this setup with. And I just fell in love with the whole idea and decided to swap my original worn-out 1938 six-cylinder for this larger 261.
“In this case, my car is a ’38 model, but this is how they would have hot rodded it back then, because that’s the technology they had. I spent a lot of money on the motor. The car actually came from Fond du Lac. I bought it at a place in Milwaukee called Harry’s Toy Store. It was bone stock when I bought it, then I put the 261 motor in it and an S-10 five-speed transmission and a ’57 Chevy rear end.”
Zengle looked on a hot rodder’s internet news group called H.A.M.B. to do a little research for his build. “Everybody puts Mustang II front ends under these Chevys, but some old timers were on there and they said to put ’48 to ‘51 Chevy front ends on the car. It was not a direct fit. I had to do some work under there, but after I did, it fit and I had an A-frame front suspension.
Zengle has had the car for three years, but he only just got the engine done in the spring of 2017. “The car was painted back in 1990, but it’s holding up real well,” he said. “We put the stock interior back in. We put the five-speed in it, but I wanted it to have an original look.”