A pair of ’59 Chevies well worth the wait

10/26/2013 12:00 AM

10/26/2013 1:20 AM

Eighty-one-year-old Gerald Winslow has trouble remembering a time when he wasn’t working on cars. He figures he was about 14 years old when he started rebuilding them, back about the time his father opened a Nash automobile dealership in a sturdy brick building in McPherson. That was in 1946, just after World War II.

Today, he and his son, Bruce, work together in a metal shop building as Winslow & Son Motor Co., fixing everything from daily drivers to show cars.

One project inevitably leads to another, as demonstrated by a pair of 1959 Chevrolets, one a rare Sedan Delivery that will soon pass the 200,000 mile mark with their company logo on its sides, the other a show-quality El Camino that was only recently completed.

“We have had the Sedan Delivery since 1973. I hauled Bruce to grade school in it,” Gerald recalled. Outfitted with wild red diamond-patterned carpeting and wall covering, with diamond-shaped mirrors and oversized accent lights inside its cavernous rear compartment, the Sedan Delivery quickly earned the nickname of “the Hearse” from Bruce’s classmates.

The Sedan Delivery had begun life as a Lucky Strike fleet vehicle based out of Wichita, hauling vending machines and cigarettes to stores around central Kansas.

“You could still see where the Lucky Strike sign had been on it,” said Gerald, who painted the vehicle white using a “hot paint secret” he learned while working in a body shop. “It was painted 35 years ago and we drove it another 40,000 miles after we painted it. It never saw a garage until we retired it.”

“It’s got the 235 cubic inch 6-cylinder engine with the 3-speed on the column,” Bruce said. “The old 6-cylinder runs good.”

In fact, Gerald remembers a time he was headed for a swap meet in Wichita and a guy in a big Chrysler passed him the interstate and then slowed down, apparently to look at the Sedan Delivery, before repeating the process several times.

“I just backed off and wound it up and went around him,” Gerald said. “It will do just a touch over 100. When we got to the swap meet, he pulled in across from me and came over and said, ‘What in the world have you got in that thing?’ I told him it was a 235. He said he was driving a 440. I don’t think he told too many people about that.”

Officially designated a “utility sedan,” only 6,970 Sedan Deliveries were built in 1959, their inaugural year. Almost exactly half of them were powered by 6-cylinder engines, the other half by V-8s. “There were so few built, they’re actually more valuable than El Caminos,” Gerald said.

“That was the year El Camino I always wanted — a ’59. The ’59 and the ’60 were the only two years they were built on a full-sized chassis.”

Almost 20 years after he bought his Sedan Delivery, he finally found a 1959 El Camino he thought was worth restoring, but just barely. “I bought two other El Caminos to build this one,” he said, noting that he had to cut the good roof off of one of the parts cars and carefully weld it into place on his project car.

It took three years to finally transform the El Camino into the beautiful Roman Red and White beauty that it is today. “We just finished it last spring,” Bruce said.

The Winslows did all the mechanical work, as well as the body and paint work, in their shop. The first-year El Camino was offered with a base 6-cylinder engine, or with either a 283 cubic inch or a 348 cubic inch V-8. The hood emblem on the Winslow El Camino indicates it had the big engine, but they opted to go with a later model 327 cubic inch Corvette engine putting out approximately 350 horsepower. It is linked to a late model 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission.

Inside the cab, a ’59 Impala steering wheel and dash were used to upgrade things, and Jamey Hart of City Auto Upholstery in McPherson was called on to stitch up a beautiful tri-tone red, white and gray interior featuring a vinyl covered seat console and a hand-stitched steering wheel wrap. He also upholstered the white tilt-up tonneau cover in back.

A 1964 Chevy tilt steering column was installed, along with cruise control, a Lokar floor shift and later model air conditioning. “It’s all finished underneath, too,” said Gerald.

Later model 15-inch Chevy rally-style wheels and center caps were added, along with new radial tires, and air shocks were installed in the back. The El Camino will run down the road at 70 miles an hour with the engine turning only 2,000 rpm, Gerald said.

Where the ’59 Sedan Delivery is scheduled to get some needed paint work, the ’59 El Camino “is about like a new vehicle,” said Gerald Winslow.

“We cut no corners on this. It’s not perfect. We wanted to be able to drive it and enjoy it,” he concluded.

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