“My Cars” features some of the approximately 300 cars I’ve owned since I was 12 years old. Today’s car is a ’41 Chevy business coupe. Mine was just like the one pictured, except in slate gray.
I bought my Chevy business coupe for $100 from a college student when I was attending the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, in the early 1970’s. His dad was a mechanic and had completely rebuilt the stock 216 cubic inch inline six cylinder motor. The seller had re-done the interior upholstery in classy chocolate brown Naugahyde, an industrial quality fake leather popular at the time. The car was mechanically excellent and the body was solid, though the interior was a bit dark. A business coupe had no rear seat, just a long bench that extended from behind the front seat into the trunk. Business coupes were a popular low-priced model offered by most car manufacturers of that era. They were designed for traveling business or sales people to keep their samples and wares. This served my purposes well because I had big Irish Setter named Erin who liked to stretch out.
One salient and funky feature of that Chevy was the paint. The owner had painted the entire car bright red. With a broom. Using house paint. I bought it in the middle of winter, took it to a coin operated car wash, and started spraying. Large slabs of thick red paint went flying off the car in all directions. So I cashed in about $10 in quarters and used the high pressure wash wand to blast off every bit of red paint. Underneath was very solid, completely unrusted original gray paint in great condition.
Just as I was leaving the car wash that night, the wash owner came out and said: “You ain’t leaving until you clean up that mess of dried paint, buddy.” So after spending a small fortune in quarters stripping the paint off the car, I had a nice clean-up job sweeping up buckets of dried red paint fragments under the watchful eye of a cross old geezer. I was at that car wash for a long time that evening. But I’m pretty sure the owner had a shotgun, so it wasn’t like I had a choice.
I decided to take a break from the university about that time, and I accepted an interesting offer to be a glass blower in Milwaukee at a small shop that made head shop paraphernalia, hanging glass mobiles, vases and chess sets. Remember – this was the early 1970’s. Glassblowing had always fascinated me, and opportunity was knocking.
One evening in deep winter I left Eau Claire in that ’41 Chevy and headed down I-94 to Milwaukee, about a six-hour drive. It was bitter cold, the temperature hovering well below zero, a crystalline sky above opening to an unlimited star-lit vista. With the heater on full blast and the AM radio playing clear channel WLS out of Chicago at 890 kHz with 50,000 watts of power, it was a cozy drive through the Wisconsin farmlands.
When I stopped for gas around Wisconsin Dells, I calculated that I was getting about 25 mpg. That fine old Chevy was rock solid, never missing a beat. My hundred bucks had been well spent.