- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2000

Almost 40 years have come and gone since Steve and Sharen Comstock started dating in California.
In that length of time partners get to know each other almost as well as they know themselves. As they dated through high school and college, she often accompanied him to the beach along with a surfboard secured in or on a variety of very used cars none of them a wooden wagon.
After passing several of life's milestones such as graduation,marriage, four children and a succession of far-flung assignments,the Exxon Mobil geologist was assigned to Northern Virginia.
In the summer of 1996, about nine months before Mr. Comstock's 50th birthday, Mrs. Comstock decided her husband needed a toy.
She determined that even though they lived a continent away from the Santa Cruz beaches where he used to go surfing, his toy should be a woodsided wagon. She wasn't particular about the make, but she was definite about the year. It had to be a 1947 model.
A nationwide search was begun for a suitable example.
Although Mrs. Comstock corresponded with station wagon owners far and wide, each experience proved fruitless.
After several months the tireless Mrs. Comstock struck gold less than 20 miles from home in Leesburg, Va.
It was there she found a freshly restored 1947 maroon Chevrolet Fleetmaster station wagon with white ash framing interspersed with dark mahogany panels.
She discovered the original owner was a West Virginia businessman who drove the car until 1956 and then parked the 9-year-old car in his warehouse. A West Virginia State Police safety inspection sticker is still on the wind-shield. The Chevrolet remained in the warehouse for 40 years until his death.
The restorer in Leesburg purchased the old Chevrolet from the estate. He had just completed the restoration when Mrs. Comstock came calling several months before her husband's birthday.
She knew this was the perfect car; however, since her husband handles the family finances she couldn't write a check. He would see it on the next bank statement and the element of surprise would be ruined.
She solved the dilemma by answering one of those "You are preapproved for a low interest credit card" offering that comes with the junk mail and is usually discarded. Using the credit card she was able to both pay for the car and circumvent detection by her husband.
The owner of the car agreed to hold it until May 18, 1997. Then he would deliver it to the Comstocks'Great Falls home and park it at an appointed hour on the front lawn, while the birthday party was going on under a garden tent in the backyard.
About five or six dozen guests were in attendance including family and friends from throughout the country. The unaware Mr. Comstock thought the party was going to be his big present.
A few of the guests were privy to the plot, but no loose lips sank any ship that day. After the car was delivered, Mrs. Comstock lead the parade of guests around to the front were she presented her husband with the keys to the 1947 Chevrolet saying, "These are for you."
He was pleased, grateful and speechless.
He also had never before driven a 1947 Chevrolet. After a quick course on where the throttle and choke levers were located, and, most importantly, how to heel-and-toe the starter, he spent the rest of the day giving the guests birthday rides in his birthday car.
"It runs like a clock," he reports.That it should since all the running gear was overhauled during resto-ration.
When the dashboard with the 100 mph speedometer was removed for regraining, the odometer was zeroed since the L-head, 216.5-cubic-inch, six-cylinder, 90-horsepower engine had just been renewed.
Mr. Comstock has learned that his 3,465-pound wagon sold new with a base price of $1,893, the most expensive and the heaviest of the 1947 Chevrolet passenger cars.
The four-door wooden body was produced in Cantrell, N.Y. Only 4,912 Chevrolet wagons were built in 1947, all classified as eight-passenger vehicles three in the front seat, three in the rear seat and two in the shortened middle seat."Everybody would have to be very friendly," Mr. Comstock observes.
A set of 6.00x16-inch tires on a 116-inch wheelbase support the wagon. Mr. Comstock describes the suspension as feeling like you'redrifting down the road on a cloud.
Since Fleetmaster was at the top of the Chevrolet line, the wagon was well-equipped. It even has a General Motors-installed spotlight.
"I added a radio and a right-side mirror," Mr. Comstock said.
The large exterior sun visor gives him a problem at overhead stoplights. Nevertheless, Mr. Comstock is on the trail of a glass prism to enable him to see around the sunvisor.
During restoration a new vinyl top was stretched over the 32 longitudinal supporting wooden slats making up the roof.
Instead of upholstery, the four doors are lined with wood and the front doors are trimmed with armrests.
In the three-plus years that he has owned his 1947 Chevrolet, Mr.Comstock has driven it about 2,500 miles. "It will run 50 mph," he said,"but it feels best at 45 mph."
He has a favorite back-road route through horse country on which he likes to exercise his car.The route is on roads first paved about a half-century ago, when his Chevrolet was new. "The car belongs here," Mr. Comstock ex-claims.
While driving at the leisurely pace his 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster station wagon was intended to be driven, Mr. Comstock thinks back to his 50th birthday and the present from his wife.
"She got it exactly right," he said.

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