BY VERN PARKER
On October 30, 1951, the Gage family purchased a six-passenger 1951 Chevrolet four-door sedan. They paid $2,124 for the car that was driven exclusively by Mrs. Gage for the next 19 years. Then the Chevrolet was retired, and four years later, donated to charity.
Franklin Gage can’t remember a time when his parents’ 1951 Chevrolet wasn’t a part of the family. His youth was spent being transported to typical childhood events in that sedan. Gage’s mother had taught him to drive behind the two-spoke steering wheel of the Chevrolet.
Decades later, Franklin Gage saw a 1951 Chevrolet advertised for sale. Just for old-time sake memories, he answered the ad. But once he saw the old Chevy he became enraptured by the virtual duplicate of his parents’ car: a Styleline DeLuxe four-door sedan, with only 75,000 miles on the odometer. He bought the car.
This model was by far the most popular Chevrolet offered in 1951, with 380,270 models manufactured. Each one weighed 3,150 pounds. The cast-iron, 235.5-cubic-inch, inline six-cylinder engine delivered 105 horsepower.
The shift pattern from the left is park-neutral-drive-low-reverse — which takes a bit of getting used to after driving a modern car with a different shift pattern. The Powerglide transmission is notorious for consuming large amounts of transmission fluid.
Fond memories of his youth swept over Gage as he drove the Styleline DeLuxe Chevrolet sedan home. The clock protrudes above the dashboard just the way he remembers it from his parents’ car. He bought the Chevrolet not as a show car but as one to drive, which he has done. However, for him to do so, the car needed some help.
A faulty starter kept giving him problems until it had to be replaced. To duplicate his parents’ car, Gage purchased bumper-guard overriders for the rear bumper from an Oregon junkyard.
The trusty old stovebolt six burnt one of the valves, which Gage remedied with a valve job followed by a ring job to keep oil consumption somewhat under control.
The Chevrolet had been tested enough to satisfy Gage that it was prepared to tackle a round trip to Oklahoma for an Antique Automobile Club of America spring tour. He spent two days driving halfway across the country to Bartlesville.
Air conditioning was provided by the four open windows, as well as by the four functional wing-vent windows. Although the speedometer on the “Safety-Sight” dashboard is marked to register speeds as high as 100 mph, Gage has never pushed the car to perform at that limit.
The front of the Styleline was given a wider-looking “Fashion-Front” grille, new for 1951 and, at the opposite end of the car, the rear fenders were — for the first time for Chevrolet — molded into the body with no visible fender welt.
The rear fenders also held faired-in “Reflector-Guard” taillights that were merely regular taillights with a red reflector mounted below the taillight lens. At night, the rear license plate is illuminated by taglights mounted on the splash pan between the bumper and the body.
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