At 18 I was standing in the gas station at Bellflower and Los Coyotes Diagonal in Long Beach with Jim Scrivner when Jerry Cohen’s candy apple red ’49 Chevy fleetline came cruising down the street. Jim told me later my jaw dropped and I had that dreamy look in my eyes. It was love at first sight. Within a few months I found a ’50 Fleetline and my love affair began. It wasn’t long before I had it lowered, shaved, dual pipes with glass packs and bellflowers, Tijuana diamond tuck and roll interior, sanded to metal and primed. It was ready for a gun metal gray pearl paint job when some low life’s tried to steal it and caved in the tail pan under the trunk.
I patched it up and in a fit of madness sold it. I’d been thinking about buying it back when I ran into the guy I had sold it to at a party and asked him about my beloved car. With a bit of hesitation he finally admitted that he’d had it up on lift at a gas station and it fell off. It was totaled and my dream car was in the junkyard never to be seen again. The shock must have been the only thing that kept me from beating him to the ground for his recklessness with my baby. All of that work and all that was left were a few pictures and great memories of cruising Long Beach, Bellflower, Harvey’s Broiler, Whittier, Hawthorne, The Sunset Strip and wild trips to Tijuana.
Not too long later the draft came calling and it was off to Vietnam in the Army for what seemed like a life time of depraved madness. Returning from ‘Nam was tough and a custom car was far from my fractured reality so I moved on.
I never forgot the ’50 and when asked if I’d ever customize another car my response was “only another ’50 Fleetline and that’s not likely to happen”. Over the years I often thought of that car and would dig out my pics of it and wonder what it could have been.
With the advent of the internet I’d occasionally look at fleetlines on-line but they could only be a 2 door ’49 or ’50 with that gorgeous art deco rear not a ’51 or ’52. What I found was either a restoration for more than I could afford or a total piece of junk that was beyond my meager skills to bring back to life.
By chance In Feb. of 2014 I went online and to my surprise there was a ’50 that was within my wheelhouse. So after some soul searching and a reality check with Kathy I flew to Washington and bought it. It was lowered, 350 motor and trans, Nova rear end, Mustang II front end, marginal body work and a home paint job.
I love working on it but as my dad said there’s always time to do it right the second time or in my case its often 3rd time. I’ll keep chipping away at it with hopes of turning it in to a driver with modern touches that I can take down to So Cal for a visit with Jerry Cohen and to thank him for the inspiration so long ago.
A dream come true!
What really attracted me to this car was that the conversion to Mustang II front suspension, 350 V8, 350 transmission and Nova rear end were completed and I wouldn’t have to go thru the fabrication work it would take to get there. The body was obviously in need of a lot of TLC as was the interior but the car was operational and all of the parts were on it. The seller included a lot of extra exterior trim and two doors which could be used later when the body work was redone.
Met Ben Bright who is a former member of the Chip Foose “Overhaulin’ show at his new shop, Old Soul Speed and Custom, in Morro Bay and reached an agreement to sort out the body of the car.
I stripped off all of the trim, bumpers and emblems then removed the interior and all of the glass in preparation for body work.
Next came the scary Dustless Blasting of the body to discover how much damage was hidden under the paint. Turned out to be on the razors edge of overwhelming.
The shock of seeing the car in it’s bare form almost led me to abandoning the project. It looked like a tree limb had fallen on the roof, rust rot in both rear 1/4 panels, both rear wheel openings, both rear wheel tubs, the bottom of the tail pan, the left rear fender, the spare tire tub, the outer rocker panels and the bottom of both doors. In addition to the rot the body was heavily dented and looked like it had been used as a backstop at a ball game. All hidden by a generous amount of bondo and paint.
it is going to be a long slow job to restore this car in a decent manner. Oh and a bunch of money!
After a number of stops and starts the body is finally close to paint after replacing the tail pan, both 1/4 panels, replacing and customizing both rocker panels, the bottom of the driver door, cutting and resizing both doors, shaving the trunk, shaving the hood, shaving the door handles, fitting a new windshield visor, replacing the spare tire tub and expanding it for modern tires, replacing both rear wheel tubs, sorting out dents in every panel and sorting out the rot around both rear wheel wells. With a little luck it will arrive home the 1st week in September for a months worth of work to get it road worthy once again.
Back from the paint shop and ready for the team at Old Soul Speed and Custom to reinstall all of the panels and prep it for delivery.
Maryjane going home!
Maryjane sneaks out of the garage with the interior, windows and exterior trim installed!
Interior with BMW bucket seats, matching upholstery, headliner and carpeting
Under the Hood
So here we are. 95% done and road ready. In addition to the body and paint, Maryjane a new interior with BMW leather bucket seats, new glass, new wheels, new stereo system, a new 350ci 373hp motor with Vortec heads, air conditioning, 4 wheel disc brakes, rebuilt front and rear suspension, rebuilt TH350 transmission and a gazillion other details.
Route 66 here we come!!