By Vern Parker
Chevrolet built a total of 623,901 Independence Series cars in 1931 in a dozen body styles. Of those, 57,741 were two-passenger, three-window coupes, each of which sold for a base price of $535.
One of those new Chevrolet coupes with an overhead-valve six-cylinder — with a trunk instead of a rumble seat and a single spare tire on the rear — was purchased in San Diego. For unknown reasons the original owner kept the car over one year, selling it in 1933 to Frank Schwartz, who then drove the Chevrolet almost daily for the next 53 years.
Schwartz, reportedly afflicted with polio as a child, wore braces on both legs. Regardless, with incredible upper body strength, he found in the 2,490-pound Chevrolet a compatible mechanical companion. It rolled, cushioned by Lovejoy hydraulic shock absorbers, on 4.75×19-inch Goodyear diamond-tread tires mounted on Deep-Cream-colored 40-spoke wheels on a 109-inch wheelbase, 5.5 inches longer than that of competitor Ford’s Model A.
The 194-cubic-inch engine produces a healthy 50 horsepower, which is funneled to the rear wheels through a three-speed manual floor-shift, non-synchromesh transmission requiring double-clutch upshifts, as well as downshifts. The engine was rebuilt in 1950, at which time a canister-type oil filter was installed.
Four fully enclosed four-wheel mechanical brakes keep the speed under control along with tackling the stopping chores. Even after automatic transmissions became common and dependable, Schwartz maintained loyalty to his trustworthy 1931 Chevrolet.
After 53 years of wrestling the three-spoke, hard rubber steering wheel, Schwartz decided he was too old to drive. He gave his treasured coupe to Lewis and Virginia Reyburn. For two years the Reyburns drove the well worn, but still serviceable, Chevrolet until a general sprucing up was deemed necessary. The well-cared-for car didn’t need a full restoration. Reyburn had the blue body and black fenders repainted and also replaced the taupe mohair upholstery.
Reyburn replaced the fabric roof insert, as well as the rubber running boards. After nine months he had the car in pristine condition. Then the strangest happenstance occurred: He didn’t have the time to drive his like-new Chevrolet. Aware that the worst thing for a car is disuse, he decided to find a good home for his 1931 Chevrolet so that it wouldn’t just sit and rot.
Reyburn knew exactly where to look. He called his nephew, Michael Anson, who would take good care of the refurbished Chevrolet. “My uncle passed it on to me with two stipulations,” Anson says. “I had to agree that I would drive it on a regular basis and I would, in turn, pass it on to my son when I was tired of it.”
Routine oil and filter changes were all that Anson had to contend with until a compression check revealed a bad valve. With the cylinder head removed, a machine shop soon fixed the problem.
Now that the Chevrolet was fitted with a new exhaust system and the engine was tuned to perfection, Anson took his car for a high-speed run. “Flat out, the car will do an indicated 47 mph,” he says.
Anson estimates highway fuel economy of about 15 mpg with the single-barrel updraft carburetor fed by a mechanical, diaphragm-type pump. To keep the occupants of the cabin comfortable, the flat windshield — with a World War II “C” gas ration stamp on the lower right corner — can be hand-cranked up to create a 2-inch opening at the bottom. The rear window, likewise, can be hand-cranked down the same amount to create a genuine, no-cost, flow-through ventilation system.
“It’s not all that easy to drive, but it is lots of fun.” Anson reports that he is honoring the deal he made with his uncle. “It’s a clean driver, not a trailer queen museum piece, and I’m keeping my word — I drive it about six to eight times a year,” he says.
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