Orange Crush – how sweet it is

Orange Crush – how sweet it is

After a long string of unfinished street rods, Bill and Donna Stark have one to be proud of. Couple drive their brilliant orange 1939 Chevy coupe despite risk. (Mike Berry/
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After a long string of unfinished street rods, Bill and Donna Stark have one to be proud of. Couple drive their brilliant orange 1939 Chevy coupe despite risk. (Mike Berry/

Bill Stark has owned street rods most of his life.

“I had a ’32 Ford sedan, Model As, a ’40 Ford pickup that was an old farm truck with a Mercury flathead V-8 in it,” he said. “But I never did get any of them finished.”

So when he and his wife, Donna, spotted a 1939 Chevy business coupe that seemed road-ready about 14 years ago, they decided that was something they could finish and enjoy in no time at all. They figured a fresh paint job to replace the loud purple that covered the car and they would be ready to go.

“It turned out the only thing finished on it was the paint and that was not so good,” Bill recalled. “It was maybe about one-third done when we got it.”

“It was deceiving,” added Donna.

It turned out the lowering job was accomplished by about 250 pounds of sand stored in the wood-floored trunk, the steering knuckle was held together with a piece of baling wire and the front suspension was only welded to the frame at the top.

“We got started redoing it and you get to a point where you can’t stop,” Bill said. “We did a lot of it over … we took it clear down to the frame.”

After a long string of unfinished street rods, Bill and Donna Stark have one to be proud of. Couple drive their brilliant orange 1939 Chevy coupe despite risk. (Mike Berry/

Ten years and a lot of headaches and money later, they had what they wanted, a beautiful street-driven show car that’s now known as “Orange Crush.”

“The paint really doesn’t have a name. It’s three different kinds of orange, with a little purple pearl and a lot of gold flakes. If you scratch it, you can’t match it,” said Bill.

After a friend straightened out the front fenders, the coupe went to Liquid & Powdercoat Finishes in Kansas City for the bulk of the body work and the one-of-a-kind paint job. All of the chrome trim was removed, along with the drip rails to smooth out the roof line. Stark had decided the car would have no bumpers, just a roll pan in the rear, with the only chrome a reproduction stock ’39 Chevy grille.

The factory headlight buckets were removed from their mounts and cut into the front fenders, further streamlining the silhouette of the car. The roof was left at factory height, with the vent windows removed and one-piece side windows installed; the front windshield consists of two pieces of V-butted glass installed flush with the roof, as is the rear window.

Matt Schroeder of Newton had been employed for a variety of modifications, including “suicide” rear-opening doors, custom headers and a handmade center console and custom dashboard.

Although the coupe sits much lower than stock, it still rides on its original frame, which has been boxed, with added cross members for extra strength. The front suspension is a Heidt’s Mustang II-type, with a 4-bar link rear end setup supporting the narrowed 9-inch Ford differential. Eleven inch disc brakes are used at all four corners for stopping power.

The rear fenders were widened by a full 1 1/2 inches to accommodate the huge Billet Specialties 20-inch wheels, which mount massive Mickey Thompson 31x18R20 steamroller-style tires. The same combination of wheels and tires are used under the front fenders, slightly smaller, of course.

A one-piece hood was substituted for the original two-piece butterfly hood. The running boards were widened at the rear to meet the rear fenders, which are equipped with vertical slit, flush-mounted tail lights.

For smoothness and reliability, Stark chose a 350 horsepower 350 Chevy crate engine, left virtually stock and coupled to a 350TH automatic transmission. He dressed it up with a little extra chrome and it rumbles through a set of Flowmaster mufflers now.

Inside, a pair of late model Toyota bucket seats was installed on either side of the custom console and the entire passenger compartment was finished in a tobacco-colored Ultraleather picked out by Donna Stark and stitched by Morgan Bulleigh. Auto Meter white-face gauges fill the color-keyed orange dash, with a Flaming River chrome tilt steering column supporting a Billet Specialties steering wheel. A B&M shifter, concealed door releases, electric window switches and a hidden Kenwood sound system, along with Vintage Air heating and air conditioning, add to the creature comforts and functionality.

Matt Schroeder created a behind-the-seat custom storage compartment and the trunk is finished in a matching carpet, also by Morgan-Bulleigh.

Completed a little over three years ago, “Orange Crush” is a consistent trophy winner at car shows.

“We drive it all over. Anything within 50 to 75 miles, we drive it. People say we shouldn’t drive it because we might get chips in it, but what good is it if you can’t drive it?” said Bill Stark.

“We have so much fun with it,” added his wife.

“It does real good out on the road at 65-70 mph, and that’s fast enough,” he added.

“That’s the first car I ever got finished, complete,” said Bill.

It clearly was worth the wait.

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