48 Fleetmaster, Chuck & Betty’s Love Story

Come back with me to the late 1950’s when Chuck and Betty started dating. That first date?  Well, Chuck picked up Betty in his freshly washed 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster convertible, the car that he labored countless hours, polishing and fixing up, the car that would eventually take them on another date, and another, to dinner and a movie, a sock hop, the drive in and oh yeah, lookout point.

The two were inseparable, always seen around Northern Kentucky in the 48, Chuck and Betty were an item. Over a couple of years, Betty hinted about marriage, she didn’t push it but Chuck knew she wanted to be married and he knew she would be the one that he would marry…someday.

One evening Chuck said to Betty “Hey, let’s go for a drive”, so they hopped in the convertible and off they went cruising through the hills of Northern Kentucky. After a short while, Chuck pulled off on Narrows Road just as the sun was about to set. They talked for a bit, Chuck was nervous, waiting for the right moment, he pulled a ring out of his chest pocket. He held the ring up into the moonlight, looked at Betty and said” Betty, you still want this thing”?!!!

Of course she obliged and the two began planning that special day. June 6 of 1959, the 48 Fleetmaster Convertible would carry the just married couple away from the church as Mr. and Mrs. Charles Schneider and on to their honeymoon to Gatlinburg and even further south to Daytona Florida.

Now, Chuck was in graduate school in Chicago so the couple decided to move there so Chuck could finish school and they could start their lives together. During this time the two made several trips back to Northern Kentucky to visit family and friends and even hit a few of the old local hangouts and places they used to cruise the 48 to when they were dating.

They had planned a quick weekend trip to see some friends and loaded up the 48 and headed south. Not too far into the trip, the old 48 decided it was time to retire, she blew her engine and coasted off to the shoulder of the highway.

Chuck new the engine was done, too far gone for a quick fix so he had it towed back to Chicago with the intention of getting a new engine and putting her back on the road. Chuck and Betty bought a cheap car to get them by until Chuck could get the Fleetmaster running again.

The cool 48 sat behind the couple’s trailer as they went about their daily lives, working and going to school, trying to make ends meet and have a little left over for the 48, maybe enough for a date night now and then. Weeks turned into months and months to a year as the 48 sat in the backyard, windows broken by neighbor kids, rust forming under the floor. The convertible top didn’t fare well and the elements took their piece of Chuck’s 48. As vandals continued to deface the car, the rust began to invade the body and Chuck knew the 48 would never see the road again.

One Sunday morning, Chuck and Betty sat at their kitchen table discussing their finances, their future, and their dreams of having a family. Chuck told Betty that they needed to get whatever they could out the 48 before it was worth nothing to anyone. In the fall of 1961, they had the 48 towed out from behind the house. Betty stood at the kitchen window and cried as the car went by. She too loved that old 48 and the memories made in it. She cried for Chuck as she knew what that car meant to him.

 

Fast forward 50 years. Chuck and Betty were sitting at the kitchen table once again, reminiscing about the old days, old friends and the days when they were young. Betty asked Chuck, “If there was something from the past that you could have back for just one day, what it be”?

Chuck took a deep breath; he leaned back in his chair and paused. Chuck looked at Betty and said “there are two things not just one”. Chuck said “first, I would like to have one more day with my mother…and second, I would like to have one more day to drive my 48”.

Betty would have given Chuck the moon if he would have asked but she knew that she couldn’t do anything about his mother who had passed away. She began to think about his second wish, and she knew that no matter what it took, she had to make that wish come true.

Betty began by contacting her and Chuck’s lifelong friends, their neighbors of many years on Easy Street in Chicago where Chuck and Betty lived in the trailer park. You see their friends, they were in to old cars and restorations, so much so that they owned and operated a hot rod shop in Milford Ohio…The shop owner’s son Tim was already best friends with Chuck and Betty’s son David and together the two families began to put a plan in place.

Locating a 48 Fleetmaster Convertible to restore was the first hurdle and a tall one, you see Chevrolet only produced 20,000 convertible Fleet masters in 1948 and finding a good one that someone didn’t want an arm and a leg for was going to be tough. But after an exhausting search that took 8 months, a car was found in Death Valley out west.

The car was not complete; it had no drive train and was missing, well…everything. The one thing this old 48 had going for it was that its roof structure for the convertible top was all there. The decision was made and the car was bought from just a few pictures that they saw and the car was on its way to Milford.

The entire shop got involved and the daunting task of locating parts and retrofitting modern touches and accessories was on. The frame was modified to accept the complete Z06 drive train of a Corvette, the suspension modified and custom built to ride like a brand new car. You see, they didn’t want to just restore an old classic; they wanted Chuck and Betty to be able to drive the car anywhere and as often as they wanted.

Now all the while this build was going on, no one other than the rod shop, a few family members and Betty knew about the car. For nearly a year and a half they were able to keep the secret and Chuck was none the wiser. The 48 that was found in Death Valley was beginning to show signs of life. Long tenuous hours were being spent putting the car together and making sure every aspect of the build was exact. After all, this wasn’t just any old 48 Fleetmaster, this was Chuck’s lost love.

The entire build from planning to paint was captured on video, a family air loom was being created and Betty wanted to be sure that Chuck knew what went into that car especially, as her health was declining, it was possible that she herself would not be around to see the unveiling.

 

January, 27th 2012. The Fleetmaster takes breaths of cold winter air as she rumbles out of the rod shop. From a forgotten relic in the midst of a desert to the center piece of a Midwest showroom, this was a masterpiece, a work of art; this was a 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster Convertible.

 

Chuck was at home when he got a call to come up to the shop to see some of the cars that were being worked on, not out of character since Chuck was a car guy himself and loved to look at old cars.  Chuck’s son drove down to Union Kentucky where Chuck and Betty now lived to pick him up and on the drive to Milford, he made sure to talk about every other kind of car other than a 48 Chev just to be sure Chuck didn’t start asking questions.

While Chuck was being driven to the shop, the rest of the family and some close friends were gathering there.  Hidden in hallways and back offices, they remained silent as Chuck rolled in and was escorted back into the shop.

As Chuck walked through the shop, he noticed a 1948 Fleetmaster Sedan that belonged to a customer. He immediately began to talk about his convertible and the fond memories he and Betty had with their 48 and he said to his son, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore”.

As Chuck was reminiscing, a phone rang; a queue that the family was ready up front. They then led Chuck up to the showroom to see some finished show cars. Chuck walked slowly looking at each of the cars on display and then from across the room Chuck’s grandson called out “Hey grandpa, come look at this one over here, it’s the best one of all”.

Chuck made his way around the 69 Camaro, then the 55 nomad, turned the corner and there was Betty, sitting in the passenger seat, smiling, the driver door wide open, the 48 Fleetmaster’s top down.

Chuck stopped suddenly; he didn’t make a sound, his expression unchanged. Chuck knew what he was looking at but words and emotion escaped him. He stood motionless until Betty kneeled in the seat, held out a set of keys and said, “Hey Chuck, you still want this thing”?!!

Chuck grinned just a bit, and still without utterance, he walked around the car, once, twice…looking at every detail, every curve. He then slid into the driver seat and closed the door. He looked up as if to be looking at the moon as he did the night he asked Betty to marry him…. as single a tear ran down his face, he leaned over and kissed Betty on the cheek and whispered, let’s go for a drive.

Chuck and Betty's 48 Fleetmaster Convertible

Chuck and Betty’s 48 Fleetmaster Convertible

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rodfather’s Pick; Debby Manning, you’ve been made!

Debby Manning of Ft. Thomas Kentucky got made with her 1977 Pontiac Skybird. With 19,000 original miles, this car was the only Skybird entered and shown at a Pontiac Nationals event. To say its rare is an understatment although the marketing plan for this series of cars did not prove to be one of GM’s successes.

The car was a series of birds marketed to women after the sucess of the Bandit Trans Am, made more popular after the movie Smokey and the Bandit starring Burt Reynolds and Gerry Reed. The Bandit car itself was originally called the Blackbird and was part of this series of Firebird.

The blue paint on Debby’s Skybird was exclusive to this edition in fact, the top color was only used on one other vehicle in all of Pontiac’s history.

The womens edition cars included a Yellowbird, Redbird, and the Skybird that Debby owns. Why not a Bluebird you ask? Well that was the original idea but General Motors could not get a deal worked out to use the name from the Bluebird bus company so they went with Skybird. I think that makes the car even more cool with that story behind it. Thanks Debby, welcome to the family!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cult of Personality

“It’s a Jeep thing”, you’ve seen it and heard it but how many really understand it? The balance of the phrase says that you wouldn’t and I have to agree. Having owned several Jeeps in my time, I get it.

Even someone as close to me as my wife can’t understand the love for these utilities much the same as many people can’t grasp the heart-throb that comes with a chopped and bottomed  V-Dub, I have had a few of these too.

There is something about cruising down the road and passing another Jeep, the friendly wave that says “yeah, I get it”. Now, don’t get me wrong here, this only works with Jeep CJ’s so don’t start waving at every Cherokee and Liberty you see out at the mall. I know those new Wrangler owners are following the cult signature wave but as a CJ owner, I can tell you that it is not the same…..so stop it.

A custom VW Bug, Cal-Look, Baja, Rat, Surfer, Mini-Sled, it doesn’t matter, these like the CJ’s come with a special “something” that only V-dub owners can appreciate. Typically the Dub Love transcends along the car line, Busses are way cool as well as Karmann Ghias, Notchbacks, Squarebacks, and so on. These cars all have been accepted into the family but you must have the fever to feel it.

vdub

This is where the Cult of Personality defines a car person and some instances can transform an entire way of life. Rat Rodding is old skool cool and there are some clubs that live the life with a 50’s flavor to nearly everything they do. It’s not unlike the Harley Davidson crowd where you have riders that dress in “biker” gear everyday, everywhere they go. These folks are not acting like bikers, they are true bikers and have that same cult feel about their iron.

While there are rat rodders and retro lifestyles that do the same thing, there are countless folks that work a nine to five in a business that does not allow or otherwise is not suited for this cult like lifestyle relative to the dress code or hair style so they “play the game” during the week and transform into the lifestyle that they want to live on the weekends. Nothing wrong with that, its part of the rodding world and hey, it’s not 1950 anyway.

You can understand and feel it even if you don’t “Live” it. I dont have a CJ Jeep anymore but I get the same warm and fuzzies when I see one and the same goes for a VW Rat Rod, or a a deck lid with “Low Life” enscribed on it as I pull up behind it.

There are a lot of other car types out there that have the same or similar cult following, I just don’t see it because I belong to the fore mentioned cults. Although I like to see them and can appreciate the work, design and performance, I just do not understand the Barris style customs or the late-model stuff, I’m just not in that cult of personality.

As maybe you can tell, it’s very difficult to explain it to the average Joe, the people who get it…got in the first or second paragraph. To those who don’t understand, you can’t. These feelings come naturally, out of nowhere, many times born of an experience or good memory. You don’t decide to be a car nut, a Jeep lover or a VW freak, it just happens.

I have found what is most interesting, once you have this cult of personality, you always have it, it never goes away. You can step out for awhile as I did once but when you return, the feeling is there… strong as ever before and you see what the others see, you understand what they understand. You are in the cult of personality that is ( insert passion).

cj

 

Rodfathers pick: Ronnie Miller, you’ve been made.

Ronnie Miller of Richmond Virgina submitted his 31 Ford 5 window he calls “Coupezilla”. One thousand plus horse power from the big block chevy featuring a 471 blower, Dart heads, a 748 solid cam and much more. This ride sits on a Corvette 4 link and front and rear engine plates to handle the torque from this lightweight pavement pounder.

Ronnie said he’s been working on the Coupzille project for nearly four years and it is a true labor of love designing and building the car himself. The Rodfather picked this ride for the week and Ronnie is now a part of “The Family”

coupezilla (2)

Catch 27

The Multi-Point vehicle inspection, the report card, what ever it is that you want to call it comes with a catch for an auto shop. A catch that most car owners don’t understand or don’t want to admit that they are in fact the cause of.

The stigma attached to this report is one of “overselling”, ripping people off, basically a tool to “up-sell” unsuspecting consumers. I have been in and around the car repair business most of my life but I have also seen the process if you will, as a guy that just needed a quick oil change.

When you take your car to a repair shop, a dealer, a tire shop…most of the time they are going to perform and inspection of the vehicle and some shops will actually ask you if you would like to have it performed, some will advise you that they are going to do it and some just do the inspection. It is almost always free and you should get a copy and an explanation of the findings, good and bad.

If you were to decline the vehicle inspection because you are in a hurry or because you already believe that you are being set up to be “sold”, I have news for you…they are going to inspect your car anyway or at least several primary areas. The reason they will do this is the first element of the catch, you see they could be considered accountable or liable for something that “goes wrong”, breaks, or causes any type of damage because they were the last “professionals” to look at or have the vehicle for service regardless of  a formal inspection process, your authorization or otherwise.

Even if a customer doesn’t make a legal issue out of something that happens after service, in their mind it was the shops fault for not finding the problem while it was there for service and that is the story they are going to tell their friends, family and co-workers.

Think about it, when is the last time you saw the underside of your vehicle and would you know what you are looking at if you did? Consumers should take advantage of the inspection and if skeptical of the findings, just get another opinion to verify it. There are check procedures that only a trained tech is going to know how to perform and have the tools to perform them.

A good example is checking transmission fluid. Some cars you check with the car running and some your don’t, some have a dip stick and others do not, some manufacturers tell you to check the fluid cold and some at operating temp.  How do you check a manual transmission or a differential that is part of the front wheel drive? With todays ever-changing technology, even technicians have to look it up sometimes.

It has always been this way…if I don’t inspect your vehicle and something falls off of it the next day, its my fault. If I inspect your vehicle and find that something is about to fall off, I am trying to rip you off. This is the catch 27. A shop is usually going to get blamed for this type of thing with or without a vehicle inspection unless….they reported the problem and you decline to have it fixed!

There it is, that is the reason for the inspection, it’s not designed to sell you things you don’t need although there are those shops that will “take advantage” and use the inspection in the wrong way. I do find that these days, with the increasing competition, online reviews, and just the fact that things are not as profitable as they use to be, most legit shops don’t do this sort of thing because they know it will eventually lead to them going out of business.

Now don’t get me wrong, If a shop finds something that needs repaired, they want you to say fix it since that is the business that they are in. In fact, a fair percentage of consumers will get an inspection during an oil change and then have any needed repairs completed at different shop or by their “regular” mechanic. For this reason, you may feel a little pressure or “value” adding in effort to get you to let them be your service vendor of choice and not that other guy.

My recommendation? Get the inspection, have the shop show you and explain what they see and get an itemized estimate. You can shop the estimate or if a big job, get another opinion at a different service shop.

Bottom line, if you feel you have a trust issue with a shop, you need to find another shop. Cars go through more abuse than you would think, no matter how well you maintain it, things are going to break and wear out. A car is a machine and it will break so take advantage of the free inspection from a professional. Heck, I wish my heating and air guy would offer such a deal!

imagesCAL1Z9C7