Earle and Valerie Presten's '40 Cheyy Convertible

Presten's 1940

261" passenger side

261" driver side


I bought this car as a basket case over 35 years ago as a sentimental replacement for the '40 Coupe that I had once owned. It was supposed to be finished in time for my wife's 40th birthday but that slipped until it was done just 4 years ago in time for her big "60th".

 It has a 1962 261 bored to 272 inches, a ported and polished "848" head, balanced, 9 1/2 compression forged pistons, HEI ignition, Fenton headers, Howard ¾ cam with hydraulic lifters, cruise control and Clifford manifold sporting a 390 Holly. Bolted on to the engine is an air conditioning compressor and alternator and using custom made mounts. The usual aluminum rocker cover is there plus a polished 1/4 inch thick stainless plate machined and drilled as the pushrod cover. A couple of years back I had a dyno run done and cranked out 185 HP at the rear wheels even limiting the run to 4500 RPM.

Interior of the car is mostly leather with stock gauges and dash treatment to maintain the stock look. Exterior treatment is stock except for the 15x7 rims and radial tires but still using the stock hubcaps. The paint is 98 Calypso Red by BMW which was pretty close to the original maroon with a bit more metal in it. The steering wheel was a factory option...at least it is shown in the Chevrolet "accessory list" for the '40. It was called either a "spinner wheel" or by some as a "banjo wheel" I do know that it is quite rare and seems to attract a lot of questions and interest. I was very lucky to find a guy in Washington that could rebuild mine as it was a basket case with just some broken plastic pieces and a steel rim with no plastic on it.

When I started a frame off restoration, I was planning on being a “purist” and leaving everything pretty much stock except the engine….however a few trips on the Interstates at “freeway” speeds convinced me that the stock running gear was not what I wanted! I put 3.55 gears in it and that helped some to keep the RPM’s down but the main problem was it just was not comfortable to drive and stop. I tried reworked front spindle supports with the radial tires, which helped some, but still I was not happy. So into the shop it went and I tore the entire suspension/drive train out of it and started over. A Chassis
Engineering front suspension with Mustang parts took care of the front. Then the transmission was replaced with a T-5 from a Chevrolet S-10 pickup to give it an overdrive which then connected to a ’84 Blazer rear end. What a difference!! It was not only fun to drive now but it would stop as well. That is the current configuration and we are very happy with it.

We drove it on a 6000 mile round trip to the Street Rod Nationals a couple years back with no problems and the top down most of the time. What a blast! Even got the award for the car driven the farthest to the meet! We use the car frequently, although it isn’t our daily driver, when the weather is good…out it comes!