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Me & My Car: Acquiring '39 Chevy an adventure for San Ramon man

Me & My Car: Acquiring '39 Chevy an adventure for San Ramon man

Me & My Car: Acquiring '39 Chevy an adventure for San Ramon man

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Yes, there was a Louis Chevrolet (1878-1941) who was the son of a Swiss watch maker and learned mechanical skills at an early age. At age 22, he relocated to Canada and then the United States, always involved in mechanics, engineering or racing. He became a daring racecar driver who seemed to have little concern for his own safety if the outcome of a race was involved. Among the various car companies he raced for was Buick Motor Co., where he became a friend of Buick executive William Durant.

A few years later in 1911, Durant, the fired founder of General Motors, and Louis Chevrolet formed the Chevrolet Motor Co. Through some manipulation of trading Chevrolet stock for GM holding stock, Durant was able to gain control of GM in 1916. He was fired a second time in 1920.

Over the years, people without much else to do speculated on how the Chevy “bowtie” logo, first used in 1914, came about. Naturally there are different theories. One theory is that it was modeled after a wallpaper design that Durant once saw in a Paris hotel. Another thought is it is a modified Swiss cross design in recognition of Chevrolet’s ancestry. In any case, it has been an enduring emblem often using blue for passenger cars and gold for trucks. However, since 2004, gold has been used for Chevy cars and trucks.

In the beginning, Chevrolet was not intended to be a high-volume car, as the 1914 models sold for about $750 (or about $18,500 in today’s dollars) and a Model T Ford sold for $495. In 1915, Chevrolet introduced the Series 490 which denoted the price, $490, to compete against the Model T, and the sales race was on. By 1927, Chevrolet became the number-one seller in the country and has outsold Ford every year since except for 1957.

San Ramon resident Dennis Wool was not a particular fan of the 1939 Chevy, but he was and is a fan of most cars built in the 1930s and ’40s. He saw this issue’s car advertised online and says that, “In September of 2015, I flew back to Arkansas, where the car was located. The seller, Nick, met me at the airport and drove me to his home, some distance away. Nick and his wife, illustrating Southern hospitality, gave me a guest bedroom in their home for the night.”

The next morning the seller and Wool drove the car to the local coffee shop for breakfast. Wool learned some history about the car. The restoration was done in South Carolina by a man who owned the car for 32 years. Then it moved to North Carolina, Arizona and finally to Arkansas.

Wool bought the 1939 Chevy for $26,500 and, much to the seller’s surprise, took off for his California home, and his adventure began. Not surprisingly, the 76-year-old car did break down. The thermostat froze, causing the car to overheat, and it was in the middle of rural Arkansas. But Wool was not concerned.

“I found all the people in Arkansas just to be so good,” he said. “Truckers wanted to stop, but I said no, as I had called AAA. A man was coming home from work, stopped, wondered what my problem was. When he heard my situation he said, ‘I can get you back on the road. I’ll just take out the thermostat.’ ”

But Wool had help coming so the two men just sat and talked mostly about family. The man just lived down the road, so he went home and brought back a six-pack of soda along with his wife, and the trio sat at the side of road sipping soda waiting for the tow truck.

“Basically, the car was like it is today, but I’ve done a lot of work to it. I’ve insulated the inside cab, added new motor mounts, given it a tune-up, a new alternator and a thermostat and other relatively minor changes.”

So far, Wool thinks he has invested an additional $3,000 to $4,000 in his car. Wool has some other things on his “to do” list, the most important of which is to add an emergency or parking brake. For some unknown reason when the car was restored the emergency brake was omitted.

The beautiful two-tone burgundy and champagne Chevy is powered by a 350 c.i., fuel-injected Chevy V-8 engine with a matching Chevy automatic, three-speed transmission. The tan cloth interior harmonizes nicely with the exterior colors. The restoration includes air conditioning, a roof console and an excellent radio system. All the glass is new, including a one-piece, curved windshield.

Wool believes he has a good investment and estimates it is worth more than $35,000, but he has no plans to ever sell. He and his wife have two sons and a daughter, and their daughter is first in line for the Chevy.

Published at Sun, 18 Feb 2018 14:01:35 +0000

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