General Motors marketed the Chevy Confederate as the ‘Baby Cadillac’ and shared many design similarities to its larger, more expensive, and more exclusive sibling. It wore a Cadillac-style integrated radiator shell, a longer hood, new deep crown front fenders encapsulating 18-inch wire wheels, and chrome-plated rectangular opening doors to cool the engine in the hood sides instead of louvers. Deluxe models, which added approximately $20 to the base price, added chrome-plated door louvers. The list of standard amenities included a tilting non-glare windshield, an adjustable seat, and a built-in sun visor. The six-cylinder engine displaced 194 cubic inches, had 5.2:1 compression, overhead valves, solid valve lifters, and developed 60 horsepower. The one-barrel downdraft carburetor and counter-balanced crankshaft were new features for 1932, endowing the engine with ten additional horsepower over the previous year. The engine was backed by a three-speed manual synchromesh transmission with a single plate clutch and floor shift controls. This was the first year that synchromesh transmission was offered in all three forward gears. Mechanical features included the semi-floating rear axle, Selective Free-Wheeling (first offered in 1932), and an added frame cross-member to aid in ride comfort. Freewheeling allowed the car to coast when the driver took their foot off the accelerator pedal, offering greater fuel economy. Customers soon found the lack of downhill engine braking to be more harrowing than it was worth and the option soon fell out of favor.
The interiors had gas gauges located on the dashboard, plus additional gauges with a circular shape and dark-colored faces.
Factory literature claimed a top speed of 70 mph and period Chevrolet advertising stated ‘Looming larger every day as the Great American Value.’
The 1932 Chevrolet Confederate Series BA rested on a comfortable 109-inch wheelbase and rode on 18×5.25 tires. Its wheelbase was slightly longer than the Ford Model 18 which measured 106 inches, and both the Chevy and Ford price ranges were nearly identical. 1932 was the first year that Ford switched from the four-cylinder power to the flathead V8 offering 65 horsepower from its 221 cubic-inch displacement. The Fords had all-steel bodies, while the Chevrolets had the solid Fisher Body using wood and steel framing construction, plus a more rigid chassis structure and hard-rubber engine mounts affording the Chevy a smooth and refined ride at a reasonable cost. Closing a Chevy door framed in wood had a favorable and solid ‘thunk’ while the Ford and had a ‘tiny clank.’ Buyers preferred the solid nature, styling, affordability, and amenities of the Chevy, resulting in 306,716 examples built during the calendar year compared to Ford’s production of 287,285 units.
Body styles and Price
The Fisher-built bodies included a roadster priced at $445, a sport roadster at $485, a coupe and five-window coupe at $490, a phaeton and coach at $495, and a sport coupe at $535. The Deluxe five-window coupe listed for $510 and the Deluxe coach was priced at $515. A five-passenger coupe was $575, the sedan at $590, and the convertible at $595. The most expensive body styles were the special sedan at $615 and the landau phaeton at $625. The special sedan was equipped with front and rear bumpers, dome light, silk assist cords, and a robe rail.
The most popular body style was the two-door coach with seating for five, with 132,109 examples built. The second most popular body style was the special sedan with 52,446 units built, followed by 34,796 examples of the five-window coupe, 27,718 of the sedan, and 26,623 of the Deluxe five-window coupe. The most exclusive was the phaeton with 419 examples built, followed by 1,118 of the roadster, 1,602 of the landau phaeton, 2,226 of the sport coupe, 7,566 coupes, 8,552 of the sport roadster, and 8,874 of the sport roadster. 9,346 examples were Deluxe Coach.
The list of optional equipment was extensive, catering to popular features that buyers preferred including single and dual side mount tires, a standard and deluxe tire cover plus metal tire covers, heater, outside mirror, pedestal mirror, trunk rack, dual horns, cowl lights, and fender well or rear tire lock. The list of Deluxe equipment that added comfort and a level of distinction included armrests, assist cords, curtains for the rear and rear quarter windows, a vanity case, chrome hood louvers, and two ashtrays.
The Confederate Series BA was Chevrolet’s only model for 1932, albeit with ‘Special and ‘Deluxe’ body styles. The company had used the single model theme since 1924, but for 1933 their lineup included the Standard Mercury (Series CC) and the Master Eagle (Series CA), both with six-cylinder power. The Standard had a 181 cubic-inch six with 60 horsepower and the Master had 194 CID with 5 additional horsepower. The Master rested on a 110-inch wheelbase while the Standard Mercury was three inches shorter. Prices on the Master ranged from $485 to $565 and consisted of eight body styles, while the Standard prices ranged from $445 to $475 and included three body styles. The Master Eagle had an airplane-type dashboard and the Standard Mercury had safety plate glass. The Master Eagle proved to be far more popular with 450,530 examples built compared to the 35,848 of the Standard Mercury. The total production was 486,378 representing a significant increase from the 1932 model year. This trend would continue into the years that followed, with 556,666 (model year production; calendar year production: 620,726) examples built in 1934 and 544,457 (model year production; calendar year production of 793,437) in 1935.
Chevrolet would continue to use six-cylinder power, and two model lineup throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, with wheelbase sizes that remained fairly consistent, growing to 116 inches by 1941.