A shiny 1939 Chevy sedan made a big impression on a little girl a long time ago. She never forgot that car.
“My favorite uncle, Don, had a ’39 Chevrolet. I fell in love with the bump on the back of it,” recalls Ramona Sorenson. She was referring to the rounded curve of the trunk on the car.
“The ’39 Chevy was always my favorite car,” she said, noting that she loved riding in her uncle’s car from the time she was 5 until she was about 10.
Fast forward a few decades and Ramona was a married woman living in the Seattle area. Her husband, Perry, had just bought a 1934 Dodge coupe that he planned to fix up and show.
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She and some friends were taking a calligraphy course and she mentioned that he had just bought an old car. One of the friends said , “I wish I would have known you before he bought that because my father’s old ’39 Chevy is parked in my basement garage and my mom and I are tempted to push it over the cliff … overlooking the sound.”
Ramona’s ears perked up and before long she was looking at an original, unrestored 1939 Chevy Master Deluxe 4-door sedan.
“I could not believe my eyes. It was too perfect.”
She talked her husband into looking at the car and he agreed it was a nice car, but said they couldn’t get it because he had just bought the Dodge coupe.
“Mr. Nessel (the car’s first owner) told me the price and I went to the credit union and bought it myself,” she said. That was in 1987, with the odometer showing a little over 60,000 miles on it.
The Chevy had been a well-optioned machine when it was delivered by University Chevrolet in Seattle, with front and rear bumper guards, a deluxe radio, heater and defroster, dual horns, a single amber fog light and a driver’s side spotlight running the total up to a whopping $1,124.47. The dealer allowed Mr. Nessel $150 for his 1929 Ford trade-in.
The Sorensons enjoyed showing the car at eastern Washington car shows. But when judges nitpicked on what they thought were incorrect pieces of equipment, Ramona enlisted Mr. Nessel to set them straight, since he had bought and paid for all the options when the Chevy was brand new. From then on, their car was used as the judging standard for other models of that year.
The car is now in the care of Eric Sorenson of Benton, who said his dad delighted in taking the car back to the dealership, saying he was thinking about buying a new car.
“Dad would pull up in front of University Chevrolet and leave one door open. He would tell the salesman, if you can show me another car with a door that shuts that easy, I’ll buy it,” Eric said. Amazingly, to this day, the doors close with one finger.
The transmission also shifts with one finger, thanks to the vacuum-assisted gearshift, which also works perfectly. All of the gauges function as new and the Deluxe Radio is still tuned to the Seattle frequency it was on when Eric Sorenson had the the shiny black Chevy shipped back to Kansas several years ago after his father died.
“The engine was rebuilt in ’68 or ’69, but other than that, I don’t think anything’s been done to it,” he said. The engine is a 216 straight six-cylinder with plenty of torque: enough to pull away from a stop sign in second gear, Sorenson said.
The original upholstery, including the headliner, is intact and in amazing condition considering it’s nearly 80 years old. The spacious rear seat is accented with a full-length doily across the backrest.
Even the dual radio antennas mounted below the running boards are still intact.
There has been some touch up of the paintwork, but most of it remains the way it left the showroom floor.
With a bit more than 68,000 miles now on the car, it gets exercised on fun runs to area restaurants on nice days, says Eric.
“My wife and I took it to Freddy’s for lunch the other day. It’s just a good old car,” he said.
Ramona hopes to move to Benton eventually to be near her family and to be reunited with her ’39 Chevy.
“I will drive it the next time I’m back, with that wonderful vacuum shift. I just think it’s a fun car,” she said.
Mike Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org