Oscar: One Year Later
Most of you probably know the story of "Oscar", our 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline Sportmaster Sedan. He's an old car that followed my Dad home, (mostly because we were towing it behind our truck), in April of 2010. At the time we found him, Oscar needed some mechanical attention and had been sitting since 1973 in a storage facility not far from Peoria. I spotted him on a Craigslist ad and thought he could use some TLC and may be a fun project for our family. My brother Gordon, Dad, and I all snuck out of the house one afternoon and drove out to look at the car in Monterrey, Illinois. We really liked how untouched and solid it was once we saw it in person. Since Dad owned a 1948 Fleetline sedan many moons ago and the family enjoyed it so much, we decided to tackle this project with no major intentions of keeping it, we just wanted to put another old Chevy back on the road. Dad purchased the car, he & I hooked it up to a U-Haul trailer and our trusty C20 pickup brought him up to my folks place. Many weekends of work ensued in the Scott garage to make this old car roadworthy again. Mom may have blamed me for encouraging Dad's old car sickness. Its contageous, apparently because we all found ourselves out in the garage working on the Chevy during our usual summer visits to Mom & Dad's that year.
By the summer of 2011, the Fleetline was up and running again with a refreshed 216 cubic inch "Stovebolt Six" and completely rebuilt brake system. New tires, new exhaust, a new clutch and new electrical components completed the task and its journey back to life was complete. Mom and Sarah installed seat covers. Dad cleaned it up & drove it a little bit. Gordon helped dial in the valves, and by then the summer cruise season ended and the season had turned to fall. We had one more fling in early November, 2011 while attending the Illinois Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America's "Run to Brighton" fall tour. All was right with the world. Then, the question came.
"What now?" Dad said to me at the breakfast table while visiting one weekend. Winter was coming and Mom and Dad really enjoyed having a two car garage so that their daily driver wouldn't be subject to snow and ice. Keeping the '47 Chevy and his '62 Olds in the garage that winter wasn't in the cards. The idea of putting the Fleetline up for sale came up, and I instantly worried. I envisioned some mulleted greaser buying the car, the new owner ripping out all the original parts we just installed. I had thoughts of a small block Chevy V-8 going in between the frame rails and chopped tops and bad purple flame paint jobs instead of the original six cylinder engine and well-worn black lacquer finish. Most importantly, we all knew that the family enjoyed breathing some new life into a forgotten machine, and we learned so much together in a short amount of time. Heck, we even started calling him "Oscar" after my Dad did some homework and found the name of the original owner and talked with the second owner. This was a first for our family since we never named any of the other classic cars we restored. Oscar was, like it or not, becoming part of our family.
My brilliant solution to make everyone happy? Someone like me needed to drive the Fleetline 200 miles south to our home in Peoria where it could live out the rest of its days as an original "survivor" car and be cherished for ever and ever. Nobody else could look after such a prime example of Chevrolet history and blah blah blah. The idea worked, and in late November of 2011 Sarah, our coonhound Mabel, and I drove up to adopt our new member of the family. The rest is history, but I remember it went a little something like this...
Driving Oscar back to Peoria at night was a stressful experience. Here I had a 64 year-old car that had been taken apart and put back together with hand tools by three Scott boys & two Scott ladies. I trusted it, but only so much. Dad & I checked the fluids and I brought some spare tools just in case we needed to make roadside repairs. I fired up the motor and let it warm up before heading out with Sarah behind me. Everything started out fine, but I was constantly freaking out and watching over the gauges. We left at sunset and drove into the West on two-lane Route 173. It was peaceful way to get started without having to deal with interstates and traffic.
I kept the car right at 50 mph since everything seemed happier there. With a 4.11 gear and a 3 speed, the little 216 couldn't really do much more without spilling its guts all over the highway. Plus the car just didn't seem to have all the power it should. Oil pressure looked good at 15 psi or so, and the generator was putting out plenty of power. We stayed the course and plugged along until we needed a fuel stop near Belvidere.
Belvidere was the point of no return. We checked things over once more, threw some more gas in the tank and prepared to take I-39 south, the longest stretch of our journey. For this leg, I would have to push Oscar a little bit faster than I wanted, but I was confident that he'd hold together just fine. I pushed the starter pedal and with Sarah and Mabel following in the Jeep, we went for it. I-39 was moderately busy and I slowly brought Oscar up to 55 and then to 60 miles per hour. I checked the gauges every few seconds and scanned the road ahead. No problems whatsoever.
We soldiered along on the interstate while I fought the fierce November winds as they blew across the open farm fields. The sloppy steering box and heavy gusts made for a few unexpected lane changes. Oscar just kept motoring along, happy and consistent. No strange noises, no smoke, no anything. It was one of the most pleasant trips I'd taken in an old car in years! We passed through LaSalle and the traffic lightened up. I kept talking nicely to Oscar, telling him what a good job he was doing and patting the steering wheel. (You folks with old cars probably do the same thing, right?)
We exited the interstate and took two lane roads for the last leg of our journey. It was smooth, desolate, and comforting. As I passed through older rural towns I couldn't help but imagine if Oscar passed through some of the same towns decades earlier. While those towns had changed some in 36 years, Oscar was the same Chevy he'd always been. After 4 hours, we pulled Oscar into our driveway and shut off his engine. It was a comforting sight to see, even if it was pitch black outside and we couldn't see much.
It was one year ago this week that we brought this old Chevy back to Peoria to enjoy, preserve and restore. Since then, we've improved a few more small things and added 1,200 miles to his odometer. In June we took him 100 miles north to a Vintage Chevrolet Club of America Central Meet in Sandwich, Illinois. I got to meet some wonderful people there and talk cars for a few hours. Sarah & I went to numerous local car shows, cruise-ins and took the ice cream joyride once every two weeks or so from June through September. Oscar became a Sunday driver as well as the summer commuter car. I've had several co-workers complement me on what a neat old Chevy I've got sitting in the parking lot. In October Sarah drove him during the VCCA fall tour. I never thought we'd do this...but we even let Mabel ride in Oscar despite her fur getting all over the place. One year later & so many memories have been created with an old Chevrolet. I only hope 2013 is as enjoyable as 2012 has been. Thanks, buddy. you've been a great little addition to the Scott family.
|Photo Op at Terry Doyle's Garage. March, 2012|
|Removing old gas tank and fuel system rebuild - May, 2012|
|Buff & wax job - June, 2012|
|Enjoying the open road - July, 2012|
|Metamora Super Cruise - June, 2012|
|VCCA Central Meet, Sandwich, IL - July 2012|
|Sandwich, IL Cruise Night with Dad & Sarah - July, 2012|
|Sharing a Cigar - July, 2012|
|Pekin Street Cruise - July, 2012|
|Downtown Peoria for Dinner - August, 2012|
|Photo Op at the former Jim McComb Chevrolet- with members of the Northern Illinois Region VCCA - October, 2012|
|Stopped at the Grandview Drive Overlook with NIR VCCA Fall Tour - October, 2012|
Have a Great Thanksgiving Everyone!