Car of the Week: 1947 Chevrolet Aerosedan

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By Brian Earnest

There were plenty of reasons for Richard Black to fall for his 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan when he first laid eyes on it. The vehicle was wonderfully authentic, in great shape, and featured the endearing 1940s fastback body style that is seemingly as big of a hit today as it was then. The car’s dealer add-on Country Club “woodie” kit made the car different from other Fleetlines of the era, and together with the two-tone brown paint scheme, it was a stand out in any old car crowd.

But Richard and his wife, Nancy, had another reason to be attracted to the Aerosedan: It was a near-perfect running mate for a car they already owned.

“I have a [1947] four-door Fleetline Sportmaster sedan painted this same color combination, and I thought it would make a good stable mate to that car,” says Black, a resident of New Castle, Pa. “At some point somebody painted the top of this car that darker brown. It wasn’t that way originally, but it matched the Sportmaster that we have. If it hadn’t been those same colors, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in it.”

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Black spotted the car for sale in California in 2008, kept an eye on it for a few months, then finally pulled the trigger in the fall of that year. He hadn’t seen the car in person, but he had seen enough pictures and asked enough questions that he felt good about the deal.

“Since then, I’ve been working on a lot of little things on it,” he says. “It’s pretty much done now. I like things really nice, you know … and I like them original. I want them to look as they were.”

In this case, “as they were” could be interpreted a couple of ways. Black’s Aerosedan came with a single-color Sport Beige paint job and no wood on the exterior. The “woodie” look came from the Country Club trim package that was not actually a General Motors product. The package was produced by Engineered Enterprises, a firm in Detroit, and sold through select Chevrolet dealers. The $149.50 kit was available only for 1947 and ’48 Chevrolet Aerosedans, convertibles and two-door sedans. (It was later reproduced by a hobbyist.) Owners who wanted their Fleetline to have the woodie look found on competitive models such as the Ford Sportsman and pricier Chrysler Town and Country had to be sure of their choice, though. Dealers had to drill 72 holes into the car to install the kit, so simply removing the wood if you changed your mind wasn’t really an option.

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“The darker parts aren’t actually wood. I don’t want to call it contact paper, but that’s kind of what it is,” Black noted. “The real wood on this one is beautiful, but at some point it looks like it’s been re-done. I have to believe that in the last 10 years or so, somebody took it off and put it back on.”

Black hasn’t been able to trace a lot of his Aerosedan’s history, but the car has clearly done some traveling. “It started out life in North Carolina because there is still the remains of an inspection sticker on the windshield from 1948 in North Carolina,” he said. “Somehow it ended up in California… A door jamb service sticker shows the mileage was 25,260 when the oil was changed on June 13, 1988. We have driven the car 2,200 miles since acquiring in October 2008. The odometer now reads 30,175. I would have to think the odometer is on its second trip around judging by the condition of items like the worn spring shackles, worn king pins, etc. — all of which we have replaced.”

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With or without the woodie kit, the Fleetline Aerosedan was still a top-of-the-line offering for Chevrolet in 1947. From 1946-’48, the Fleetline was a sub-series of the Fleetmaster line. The Fleetmaster series included two- and four-door sedans, a sport coupe, convertible and four-door wagon. The Fleetline sub-series included only the Aerosedan and Sportmaster sedan — both of which the Blacks own.

The two-door Fleetline Aerosedan, with its racy fastback styling, proved to be the most popular Chevrolet for 1947 with 159,407 built at a base price of $1,313. For that, buyers received the additional Fleetline trim that included three horizontal bars on the “suitcase” fenders. Like all Chevrolet passenger cars, Fleetlines were equipped with the 90-hp 216.5-cid overhead-valve six-cylinder mated to a three-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptical leaf springs and four-wheel drum brakes. In addition to the Country Club trim, Black’s car was outfitted with driving lamps, backup lamps, turn signals, vent window screens, fold-down trunk guard, wing tips on the rear bumper, radiator overflow tank, vacuum-assisted shifting, an umbrella holder and GM tissue dispenser.

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Black found his Aerosedan did not have the correct accessory heater when he bought the car, but he has since found and installed the correct unit.

The Scout Brown over Sport Beige paint was a GM factory combination, but is not original to Black’s car. “The top has been repainted, and probably more recently than the bottom,” Black noted. “The bottom you can tell is an older paint job. It has a few cracks and stuff in it. It’s not bad, but not as nice as the top.”

Much of the work Black has done to the car has been minor upgrades and touch-ups. The car didn’t need any major work when he got it and so far has pretty much been trouble-free. “I re-grained the dash and garnish moldings inside… I put in new window fuzzes and window channels. They were all just wore out — they had never been replaced. The engine compartment needed detailing very badly, so I did a lot of work with that. The wheels had been repainted at some point in time and they had painted over the pinstriping, so I had to redo the wheels. And it had old bias-ply tires, and they were all cracked. I don’t think it had been driven much in recent years.”

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Black now rotates a set of original-style bias-play tires with a set of radials between his two 1947 Chevrolets. “I change them back and forth. It depends on which one I’m using and what we’re doing with it.”

Black has made sure neither of his ’47s — or the award-winning 1950 Ford Crestliner he also owns — have become trailer queens. They all get driven regularly for more than just a little exercise. “I drive it. That’s what I got it for. I don’t have any reservations about getting in it and going on a 100-mile jaunt,” he says. “It’s been to the Glenmoor (Gathering) … I got invited to the Milwaukee Masterpiece — but I did have to trailer it there because of the distance … I’ve been taking it to some of the local shows around here and I never worry about driving it.”

When the car appears at hobby gatherings, Black knows he will likely wind up explaining the Aerosedan’s “woodie” look. There aren’t any records of how many cars got the Country Club package or how many remain, but it clearly isn’t many. “The ones with the wood sides, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show where one was there. I had seen pictures of them, but I don’t think I ever saw one in person until I got this one,” he said.

“They are out there, but you just don’t see them around. A lot of people who have them don’t drive them and don’t show them.”

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