Cars We Remember John Deere, 383 Chevy and Chevy Chevette

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The Chevy Chevette came to market in late 1975 as a 1976 model. (GM photo)

Reader seeks information on John Deere, 383 Chevy and Chevy Chevette

Q: Hi Greg, I’ve got three questions for you that I hope you can answer. I see your column every week and enjoy it much.  First:  Did John Deere ever build a car or truck?  Second: What is the formula for building a 383 cu. inch stroker Chevy small block (parts needed)?  Third: When did the Chevy Chevette come out? Thank you very much, Dwayne E. Brooks, Marion, Ohio.

A: Dwayne, no problem at all. Here we go and I apologize to readers if I get too technical with the 383 question. (And there’s way more tech I could have explained).

1: John Deere to my knowledge never built a car or truck. However, International Harvester (IH) did build pickup trucks and large heavy duty trucks under the IH brand, then IHC and present day Navistar International. Navistar continues to build medium- and heavy-duty trucks, school buses, and engines under the International brand name.

As for popularity, the IH Trucks from four-door pickup to sport utility IH Scout (see photo) were most recognizable on the nation’s highways.

Now, for a story of a tractor manufacturer that did build a car!  It has to do with Lamborghini, today recognized as one of the fastest and most expensive sports cars in the world. Founder Ferruccio Lamborghini was the leading tractor manufacturer in Italy, and it all started when Lamborghini bought a Ferrari back in 1962.

After driving the car for a month, Lamborghini called Mr. Enzo Ferrari (yes, he the Godfather of Ferrari) and made some recommendations concerning his Ferrari which he felt would make the car better. (Brakes, engine position, suspension, things like that). After listening to Lamborghini’s recommendation, Mr. Ferrari told Mr. Lamborghini to keep his mind on building tractors and leave the sports cars to Ferrari.

Well, we all know what happed after that phone call. By 1965, Lamborghini was on the road with his first sports car and most impressive it was.

Today, Volkswagen owns Lamborghini and it continues to be a world famous supercar. So there you have it, a tractor manufacturer who did build a car!

2: To build a 383 stroker Chevy small block, start with a good 4-bolt main 350-inch block, Chevy or aftermarket. You’ll need a quality crankshaft that increases the stroke from the stock 350 of 3.48 to 3.75 inches.

I recommend buying an aftermarket crank from people like Crower, K1, Eagle, Scat or several other name brand grinders. I recommend a forged steel crank over a cast iron crank if you plan to use your car every weekend at the drag races.

Many aftermarket manufacturers offer complete Chevy big block and small block stroker kits, like this one from Lunati. (Photo compliments of

If you use a 400-inch Chevy crank, (which you can) remember this stock crank is an external balance crank and you will need the correct torsional damper and weighted flywheel.  If you use a 400 Chevy crank, you will need some machine work to the crank journals to fit. That’s why I recommend the aftermarket crank companies because they come internally balanced, which is more desirable.

Next, you need a good set of pistons and 5.7-inch rods, available from a bevy of companies like Wiseco, Manley, K1, Crower, JE, Eagle, Keith Black and many more. Other parts include good rod and main bearings (Clevite or Sealed Power), gaskets (Cometic or FelPro) and piston rings (Total Seal, Hastings, Sealed Power) to finish off your combination.

These are the major parts, and also don’t forget good road bolts and fasteners of which ARP is the very best.

Once you have all the parts, you just can’t throw it together and expect it to live. This is where a good machine shop enters the equation for balancing the entire rotating assembly (crank, rods, pistons) professionally to make sure everything is in proper circulating weight.

At this point, most all machine shops can assemble the short block for a fair price.  This means you’ll also need a camshaft (Comp Cams, Lunati or Isky) and don’t go overboard on the lift, as a .480 to .500 lift cam with moderate duration will work well on street and strip.

Hope this helps as I have left out many other specifics, but this will get you going. Contact your machine and aftermarket shop before you buy the parts and he’ll explain why 5.7-inch aftermarket rods are better than the 5.56 inch stock Chevy 400 rods. Also, manufacturers nowadays are offering already machine shop balanced assemblies, which you might want to consider.

Expect to pay from $750 for a street duty cast crank kit to $2,900 or more for a race only kit. Good street/strip assemblies are available in the $1,500 area.

3. The Chevy Chevette came to market in September of 1975 as a 1976 model and lasted until 1987.
Thanks for your questions.

(Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now, and other Gatehouse Publications. He welcomes reader questions on collector cars, racing or auto nostalgia at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email at



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