- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

Lewis Morgan didn't go out looking for his 1940 Chevrolet Master 85 Business Coupe. His son Dexter did.
Mr. Morgan's son was a student at Herndon (Va.) High School in 1976 when he bought the car with the intention of turning it into a hot rod. That was the fate that usually befell old 1940 Chevrolet coupes.
The school's shop teacher had found the 2,865-pound car hanging by a logging chain from a farmer's tree. Why it was suspended from the tree has never been determined. Nevertheless the teacher took it to school and for several years used the coupe as a training tool.
After years of being disassembled and reassembled by scores of students, Mr. Morgan's son bought the car and brought it home, steering with a wrench in place of the wheel.
With limited success, Mr. Morgan tried to dissuade his son from hot-rodding the old car. Young Dexter, now a senior patrol officer with the Herndon police, encountered the same problem every auto owner faces during restoration when time was plentiful, money was not, and vice versa.
By the late 1980s the son realized he wouldn't get around to working on the car in the foreseeable future, so he sold it to his father.
In 1988 Mr. Morgan rolled the old coupe, on its 113-inch wheelbase supported by 6.00x16-inch tires, into the garage of his Haymarket, Va., home. There he took it completely apart down to the frame.
"For years," Mr. Morgan said, "every vacation we took included a junkyard detour."
In one of those junkyards he located a 216.5-cubic-inch, 85-horsepower, six-cylinder engine like the original and overhauled it.
While the chrome trim was sent off for replating, Mr. Morgan rebuilt a transmission from a junkyard. He also ordered an upholstery kit from a supplier in Pennsylvania.
Many parts had to be fabricated but Mr. Morgan methodically tackled each problem and stuck with it until it was solved. He learned that in 1940 Chevrolet's top-of-the-line model was the Special Deluxe, followed by the Master Deluxe with the Master 85 line at the bottom.
That was the logical place for a traveling salesman to shop for a car in those days. The business coupe had no back seat, but plenty of space for sample kits or order forms. A total of 25,734 Master 85 Business Coupes were produced by Chevrolet in 1940, each carrying a base price of $659.
In the chrome trim along both sides of the engine hood are seven hidden air vents to help keep the engine cool.
Besides the upholstery work, Mr. Morgan wood-grained the dashboard himself. In front of the driver the 100 mph speedometer is visible. Unusual for a Master 85 model is the clock mounted in the glove compartment door.
Between the front wheels is a solid front axle, the last year Chevrolet used that part.
Fuel from the 18-gallon gas tank is fed to the stove-bolt six-cylinder engine through a Carter downdraft carburetor.
The cooling system has a 14-quart capacity, which is sufficient to keep the temperature under control.
While 1939 Chevrolet cars had free-standing bucket headlights, 1941 Chevrolet headlights were fully integrated into the front fenders. The 1940 Chevrolet was the transition year as far as the headlight treatment was concerned.
When the time came to paint the car, which stretches a half inch more than 16 feet in length, Mr. Morgan chose a maroon color. He also applied the pinstripes on the wheels. "That's a job to get the curve right," he recalls.
Although he has no plans to drive the curvaceous Chevrolet in the rain, the vacuum-powered windshield wipers stand ready to the task.
"From start to finish," Mr. Morgan said, "It was a seven-year project."
Since the completion of the restoration in 1995, Mr. Morgan said he has driven the Chevrolet about 500 miles in five years.
In that time he has found the 11-inch drum brakes completely reliable each and every time he had to stop.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide