By Vern Parker
One particular 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline DeLuxe fastback has been a member of the Harrison family for the better part of 50 years. Current owner Mike Harrison says his father was an attorney in Pasadena, Texas. One particular client was unable to pay his legal fee so the debt was retired by transferring the title of the Chevrolet to Harrison’s father.
Starting in the late 1960s, both of his parents drove the car and then Harrison and his six siblings learned to drive on it, as well. Harrison recalls all seven of the children, as a reward, were permitted to drive the Chevrolet to high school in their senior year. The old Chevrolet made many appearances in the local parades.
All of the Harrisons are sentimental about the green Chevrolet but in 2011 it was the third child, Michael, who restored the 1949 model. He drove the Fleetline DeLuxe fastback to a nearby restoration shop, where the interior was reupholstered and the few minor dings and dents were ironed out of the exterior. The rust near the bottom of the doors was cut out and replaced with healthy steel.
“It was running when I took it to be restored,” Harrison says. The original 216.5-cubic-inch L6 engine was still in good condition and needed only a tune-up to continue delivering 90 horsepower to the rear drive wheels. However, the three-speed manual transmission — after surviving seven teenage drivers — needed to be replaced.
A used 1950 Chevrolet Powerglide automatic transmission was installed in the similar 1949 car. From left to right the gears are Park, Neutral, Drive, Drive 1, and Reverse.
No key is required to start the engine, unless the key was used to lock the ignition when the engine was turned off on the previous trip. Starting the car is as simple switching on the ignition and pushing the button on the dashboard. “Everything on the car is functional,” Harrison says.
When the restoration was completed in 2012, the car was driven home on a new set of 6.70×15-inch tires. The freshly painted green fender skirts cover part of the rear wheels while new gravel guards protect the leading edge of each rear fender.
Records show that 180,251 Chevrolets like Harrison’s were manufactured. With no optional extras on the 3,100-pound car, the list price was $1,492.
“It’s a beautiful car,” Harrison observes. “I try to drive it once a week.”
Both bumpers have been replated with chrome and after more than half a century, a new gasoline tank was installed. An exterior sun visor over the two-piece curved windshield shields the driver’s eyes so he can get a clear view of the 100-mph speedometer.
When driving the 16-foot, 5-inch-long Chevrolet, Harrison enjoys the comfortable ride provided by the 115-inch wheelbase. “It cruises pretty well,” he says, adding, “1949 was a slower time.”
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