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Old Cars Reader Wheels: 1951 Chevrolet Fleetline DeLuxe

Old Cars spotlights a reader’s pride and joy 1951 Chevrolet Fleetline DeLuxe.

Ray Shannon has quite the story to tell about this Chevy Fleetline DeLuxe.

"I got my first full-time job in 1975 at a company that was located just west of Milwaukee, WI. There I worked with a good old guy who was nearing retirement. And for some reason, he and I got along really well right from the get-go.  

On one early spring day in 1976, I pointed out a ’50 Ford that was cruising past our building, and when I told the old guy that I used to have one just like it, he replied 'I’ll show you a ’51 Chevy with 30,000 miles on it!'  To that I said, 'Okay, let’s go!'.  

So that night we met in an old neighborhood on the east side of Milwaukee. Behind an old house, we entered a detached garage, turned on a dim light and there it was. We walked in and began breaking the cobwebs between the Chevy and the garage walls. Through the thick dust, I quickly noticed two very good things… 2 doors and a fast-back. I opened the driver’s door and saw two more good things… a 3-on-the-tree manual transmission and 37,000 miles on the odometer. The license plates were dated 1960… so it had been sitting undisturbed for the past 16 years.

I asked him, 'Is it for sale?' He replied with a question of his own, 'Will you give me $500 for it?'  I said, 'Yes Sir!'  and paid him cash on the spot. Then we shook hands and agreed to meet there again on Sat morning, to push it out and tow it away.

A few days later, we met on Saturday as agreed. One of my pals came along to provide the help I needed. We pumped up the tires and pushed it out of the garage. Within a few minutes we got the chain hooked up, said good-bye and towed it away. We had to go about 5 miles to my dad’s shop on the north side of Milwaukee. There, we proceeded to drain the old gas, change the oil, lube the cylinders and put in new spark plugs. We installed a new 6-volt battery and were ready to fire it up.  

Then my Dad warned us to watch out because the exhaust system was probably going to explode. But it didn’t… in fact that same original exhaust system would end up lasting another 30 years! That’s how dry it was in that old garage.

Meanwhile the engine was purring like a kitten, so we took turns test driving it around the block.

The Chevy was successfully re-titled and licensed within a few weeks.  

I got it all cleaned up in and out, and found a good set of used whitewall tires for it. But the original navy-blue paint had become oxidized over the years that gave it a reddish tint. So, I knew I would have to get it re-painted at some point. In the meantime, I was thoroughly enjoying it. I was extremely thankful for my good fortune in finding it.

In the early '80s, I got a great deal on a new paint job, and I had both bumpers re-chromed at the same time.  Other than those major improvements, not much else was needed during the next 25 years. So I was able to enjoy it right on into the 21st century.  

Finally in 2005, that original exhaust system failed and had to be replaced, and just last year, I bought new whitewalls for it after getting over 40 years out of the old used ones.  Keep in mind that I have averaged less than 500 miles per year since I owned it."

It sits right in our attached garage, just a few steps away from our kitchen. This makes it real easy to enjoy the looks of it whenever I want… and I do that a lot. It’s been a real winner and I am so fortunate to have lucked into it the way I did.

Oh, and another thing… people of all ages love it. It's not a Duesenberg, or an Auburn, or a Tucker, or any of the really valuable classic cars that you read about in the magazines or see at the big shows, but people like the lines, the color, the chrome, the skirts, the whitewalls and the curb feelers. Being a Chevrolet, they can relate to it. They start smiling as soon as they see it. They tell me stories about the one they had. They like to sit in it and smell the interior, and if the timing is right, they like to go for a ride."

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