Feature 12 20 1948 Chev OldCarDetective

1948 Chevrolet convertible with same owner since 1982 – Bill Sherk – OLD CAR DETECTIVE

part one

Richard Brimblecombe of Drayton, Ontario, was born in 1945 and learned how to drive a tractor on the family farm. He drove his dad’s 1950 Pontiac to pass his driver’s test in 1961.

But he was already car-crazy. He bought his first car at age 15, a black 1937 Dodge 4 door sedan at an auction, cleaned it up, and drove it around the farm till he got his license. Then the fun began because it was really cool being the only kid with a car! His friends piled in, chipped in two dollars for gas, and they drove everywhere.

When Dad traded in his 1950 Pontiac for a 1958 Pontiac, Richard traded his 4-H calf for the 1950 Pontiac.

Now fast forward to the early 1980s. By that time Richard and Linda had been married for 15 years and Richard had a good friend who operated an auto wreckers in Port Perry. And that friend had a friend in the trucking business. Two vintage cars came up for sale at an auction in Arlington, Texas in 1982: a 1948 Chevrolet business coupe and 1948 Chevrolet convertible. The friend from Port Perry flew down for a closer look, bought both cars, and had his trucker friend ship them to Port Perry.

Richard drove to Port Perry and bought the convertible. The odometer showed just over 27,000 miles and the car had been repainted maroon around 1971. The original colour was green. The overhead valve six cylinder engine had 216 cubic inches and 90 horsepower and the car had a 3-speed manual gearshift on the steering column.

As soon as he brought the car home, Richard enjoyed shifting gears thanks to the special feature described in a sales brochure: “Gear shifting is virtually effortless because of Chevrolet’s exclusive vacuum gearshift available on all models. Eighty percent of the effort required to change gears is supplied by a vacuum cylinder. Shifting is performed quickly and surely at the touch of the finger.”

The car needed some work and Richard was ably assisted by Blaine Jenkins, who worked for GM in Michigan and owned the #1 1948 Chevrolet convertible in the world. It was the Pace Car at the Indy 500 in an anniversary year. That car provided Richard with many patterns to restore his own car. A company in the states installed a new interior and a new convertible top while retaining the original small glass rear window. Richard had the car finished by 1986.

The body style on Richard’s 1948 Chevrolet goes back to 1942, when production was interrupted in February of that year because of the war. Production resumed with the 1946 model year. A total of 20,471 convertibles were built in 1948, including Richard’s fine specimen. Only minor changes in grille and trim took place during these years, when Chevrolet was the top selling car in America. And who can forget Dinah Shore singing that famous song on TV: “See the USA in your Chevrolet, America is asking you to buy…”

If you bought a car in 1982 and are still driving it, you obviously are very happy with it. Why sell it? Richard’s convertible attracts admiring attention wherever he goes – and it isn’t every day that you see a convertible from the 1940s.

Richard, for years, was with Home Hardware, a major sponsor of the annual Old Autos car show in Bothwell, where he has frequently displayed his 1948 Chevrolet convertible.

part two

About seven years ago, Richard decided to turn his all-original 1948 Chevrolet convertible into a resto-rod by keeping the outside completely stock, while bringing the mechanical features up to modern day standards. In doing so, he now enjoys the best of both worlds – a car with a classic look from days gone by, along with a modern drivetrain that can be serviced and repaired anywhere.

The original six cylinder engine with 216.5 cubic inches came out and was replaced by a 350 Chevy V8 engine that had been sitting in Richard’s garage. It is now rebuilt and in the car. The entire original drivetrain was sold to a man who is restoring a 1947 Chevrolet coupe.

The small block Chevy V8 engine now in Richard’s 1948 Chevy first came out in 1955 with 265 cubic inches and was so compact and well designed, it was 40 pounds lighter than the six cylinder engine it replaced.

A friend built a 4-speed automatic for Richard’s 1948 and matched it to a Camaro rearend. The driveshaft was shortened by a place in Kitchener. The automatic transmission has a Lockhart single-stick shift that looks original.

Motor mounts were supplied by Paul Horton (see his ad in Old Autos) and only very slight cutting and bending was required for a perfect fit.  The rad has its original outside shell with a 4-core rad.

New 12-volt Classic gauges are tan in colour and in the same places as the originals. The 12-volt battery is in the trunk.

Front suspension with coil-overs and disc brakes are Super Ride from Heidt via Hortons. Rear suspension is Camaro with parallel leaf springs.

The car was sent to a paint shop for a new maroon finish (an original colour in 1948). A shop in the states provided the new red leather interior, and this was only the second interior they had done for a 1948 Chev convertible.

The steel rally wheels are fitted with flat GM hubcaps. The car still has its original gas tank.

Since these changes were made, the car has travelled 15,000 miles, including a recent trip to Newfoundland covering five-and-a-half weeks and 9,000 miles.  Richard sent me some notes: “Leaving our home in Drayton to head east was a great opportunity to be able to combine some holidays and visit some Home Hardware stores. The car, when we left, had just over 800 miles on the new rebuilt chassis.

After Ontario, we made stops in Quebec to visit Rawdon’s Home dealer. It was a long way off the main highways as it was in cottage country. On the way in, the temperature was in the low 30’s and bumper to bumper traffic. I was thankful for the cooling system from Bill K. in London, Ontario. We saw several new cars stopping with steam rising.

Following our Quebec visits, we headed for New Brunswick, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, and the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island. From North Sydney, we loaded up on the ferry to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.

The next three weeks were the most enjoyable and highly recommended by taking the time for great sights and the best part of all was the wonderful people we met. We have a Home Hardware store in Trepassey (recommend that you fill to the brim for fuel).

From St. John’s it was back to the mainland and then into Maine, Vermont, New York State, and home. Some 9,000 miles with no problems, weather was sometimes wet, but what great stories and hospitality from those visits.

I would really recommend a trip like this or just a trip anywhere. We build these cars to drive and not just to sit in a garage waiting for nice shows or cruises. We are now planning to go to northern Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and some other states. Enjoy your time as we only pass this way but once