Chevy 235 Engine: Why is it called Stovebolt Six?


From trucks to sports cars, Chevy’s 235 engine has powered some of the most iconic models ever made. We review the history, specifications, and reliability of this legendary engine.

First generation corvette (C1)

Every car enthusiast has their favorite engine, from the powerful V8 to the high-revving four-cylinder. One of the most popular engine configurations is undoubtedly the inline six-cylinder. These engines are known for their balance, reliability, and ease of repair due to their design.

When it comes to straight-six engines, your mind jumps to the famous Toyota 2JZ-GTE or any selection of BMW engines. However, one engine has an incredible history spanning 70 years of use. The Chevy 235 engine only came in GM vehicles from 1941 to 1962 but was part of the long-running development cycle of Chevy’s inline-six engine platform.

1929 Chevrolet 235 engine - Photo by sfoskett/Wikipedia

Stovebolt Six Engine: where it all began

The year 1929 marked the introduction of a new Chevy power plant. After Chevy replaced its overhead valve four-cylinder, the new 194 cubic inch overhead valve six-cylinder was used in all passenger cars from 1929 to 1934.

Beginning in 1935, Chevrolet and GMC shared the platform for all truck models.

These engines produced around 50 horsepower, with later versions producing up to 80 horsepower. Early versions of the engine received the nickname “Stovebolt” because the bolts used resembled those in wood stove hardware.

Although Chevy’s implementation of the six-cylinder earned good reviews, it was time for a powertrain upgrade.

1953 corvette

Second generation Chevrolet. Straight-6: Birth of the Blue Flame

Chevy upped the ante in 1937, introducing the new Chevy-designed 216 cubic-inch straight-six. Sharing the same platform as previous generations, Chevy beefed up the 216 with more displacement (3.5L), a four-bearing crankshaft, and a higher compression ratio. The inline six-cylinder engine now develops 85 horsepower.

With the addition of a new cylinder head in 1941, power was increased to 90 horsepower. Almost double the power of the original inline six-cylinder engine. 1941 also saw the release of a 235 cubic inch variant of the six-cylinder for truck use. Just nine years later, Chevy decided to complete its new PowerGlide transmissions with the 235 cubic inch engines and put it all into its cars.

In 1953, Chevy passenger cars saw the use of two different six-cylinder engine variants. The first of them is the “Thrift-King” connected to a manual transmission and developing 123 horsepower. Secondly, the famous “Blue Flame” combined with the PowerGlide and developed 136 horsepower. 1953 was also the first year of the Chevy Corvette.

Corvettes received a combination of higher compression, mechanical lifters, and triple side-draft carburetors to boost the “Blue Flame” 235 engine to over 150 horsepower. To think that Chevy tripled production of this simple design in just over 20 years is incredible.

1954 Chevrolet Corvette - Photo by Greg Gjerdingen/Wikipedia

What models does the Chevrolet 235 have?

Most famously, the original Corvette hauled the 235 from 1953 to 1956. Chevy also stuffed the 235 into every truck from 1954 to 1962. While in theory, this is a short model for finding these engines, they have a cult following if you need help finding one.

The Chevy 235 can also be found on most GMC trucks from 1950 to 1955. At that time, Chevy had to compete with other sports cars like the Nash Healey. The Healey had its own inline six-cylinder engine, developing 140 horsepower. Other competitors like Cunningham and Packard Caribbean used V8 platforms to push them into the 200-horsepower range.

While the Packard and Nash produced slightly higher horsepower figures, the Corvette stood out for its overall reliability. The reliability of the 235 engine versus other platforms comes from Chevrolet’s long history against the competition.

There is a reason why Nash and Packard no longer make vehicles. Keeping an eye on Chevrolet or GMC trucks in particular is your best bet for finding a 235 engine to help you with your restoration.

When looking for a 235 engine, it is best to look for a “Blue Flame” Corvette Variant as these are considered the best iteration of the legendary platform.

1954 GMC 100 Pickup - Photo by Mr. Choppers/Wikipedia

Why is the Chevy 235 engine so popular?

While the Chevy 235 has nothing to do with performance, durability is its selling point. Chevy 235 engines are known to last over 50 years if properly maintained. At this point, finding a “Blue Flame” engine in nature is not necessarily easy, but it shouldn’t happen because no striking examples are presented.

Many Chevy 235 engines have been used as restoration bases in Corvettes over the years. Unfortunately, this coveted motor drives up the price every time it is used in lifetime projects.

Compared to other famous inline-six engines, the price is not too bad, $1000 for a complete engine. At the same time, you should keep in mind that these are 50-year-old platforms and will require a complete rebuild.

Chevy produced the 235 engine as another upgrade from its original straight-six. Impressively, the 235 had a combined 13.7 miles per gallon, which for 1953 was unprecedented in a sports car.

The truck variants didn’t get as good mileage, coming in at 11.5 combined. Many die-hard enthusiasts today would say this is one of the most important engines Chevy has ever produced.

The main reason is the overall smoothness of an inline-six. The smooth feel of an inline six-cylinder engine comes from its parallel intake and exhaust pulses, creating uniform forces throughout the engine.

Less vibrations, less shuddering, and more power all add up to the longevity of the bearings and other engine components. After all, the longevity of these engines is what gave them their status.

In general, many old-school Chevy enthusiasts love the inline-six platform for the reasons mentioned above, although there are other legendary Chevy engines to choose from. Something about being a die-hard old-school fan is very endearing.

Being adamant about keeping the original sub-200-horse six-cylinder in a newly built LS V8 or a sleek 350 V8 can only be understood by those who truly love their cars for what they are. These enthusiasts are the reason the 235 engine is still talked about today.



Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *