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Customized and Factory Original Chevrolet Fleetline DeLuxe Sedans

Today’s featured images dated by the source to June 6 of 1952, contains a pair of 1950s Chevrolet Fleetline DeLuxe Sedans. The stock model on the left-hand side of the photo was produced in 1950, although what year the customized version on the right was manufactured in is not known at this point.

The pictures were taken at Ken Garff’s body shop in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Eutectic Welding Alloys Corporation (still in operation today) name is included in the photo title, signifying that these images may have been shot for Eutectic welding rod advertising. The Garff name lives on today as the Ken Garff Automotive Group of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Please share with us all of the modifications you find that were made during the custom’s construction (it wasn’t finished at the time of the photos were taken as the tail lights had not been installed and painting in that area had not been finished.) In addition, tell us what vehicles the added parts and pieces used on this one-off creation originated from.

The photographs by Harry Shipler are courtesy of the University of Utah Digital Library.  

41 responses to “Customized and Factory Original Chevrolet Fleetline DeLuxe Sedans

  1. In all pictures, behind the two CHEVROLET cars in the foreground & on the left side, is a four-door 1947 to ’49 STUDEBAKER Commander Sedan.

    • My first car was a (gorgeous) yellow 1949 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe that I bought in 1961. The side vents had three small horizontal pieces of chrome trim. I don’t see them on this car. Perhaps it’s not a Commander?

  2. In all photographs, behind the two CHEVROLET cars in the foreground & on the right side, is a four-door 1950 OLDSMOBILE Futuramic 98 sedan.

  3. We never, ever saw customized cars in the midwest. The weather is so dismal, why bother? The wrecker appears to be a Diamond T or Federal.

    • Howard, while I recognize you personally may not have ever seen a customized car in the Milwaukee area, that’s a pretty broad statement to make for the rest of the Midwest. They certainly weren’t commonplace, but near beaches and parks and recreation areas I recall seeing a fair, though admittedly small, number of mildly customized cars in the Minneapolis area. Also on the more popular cruising streets in the evening. Basically, anywhere that gave the owner the opportunity to show off their car…and be seen in it.

      • Hi Pat, yeah, my “broad statements” get me in a lot of trouble( thanks , dad) I’ve found, Minnesota has a MUCH bigger classic car following than Wisconsin, or any northern midwest state, for that matter, except maybe lower Mich. Not sure why, even Colorado is disappointing. Minnesota’s “Back to the 50’s” show, and BIR’s “Zoo”, proves, they are just more interested in that stuff. I suppose we in Wisconsin were into building H-D’s, Ramblers and tractors instead of lead sleds.

    • While metro Milwaukee was never a hotbed of the car culture like LA, we held our own. There was the Hotrod Shop, for instance, on about 74th and Beecher. These fellows did serious grade customizing, as in choppong, channeling and sectioning. Professional upholsters finished the interiors. Then in close proximity was the car club housed in the old car barn on 84th betwee Greenfield and National. Minor to moderate sheetmetal bending was always the order of the day. Or how about master painter Butchie B on Ramsey, whose clients included Hollywood’ celebrity types, and who a local TV station interviewed because of the attention he was getting. On any Friday or Saturday night anyone who cared to look would see plenty of mild to moderate customs cruising Wisconsin Avenue.

        • Thanks for your thought Andy. Frankly I was unaware of John Buttera prior to your note. His online bio suggests he was widely respected, even nationally. At the tender age of 79 I still find it a real joy to discover new tidbits of history that have escaped me in the past. John has become one of those fragments thanks to you and Old Motor. One might try to argue hot rodding and custom cars are/were two seperate catagories. Not so! There has always been an overlap of the two, which brings me to a point I should have made but didn’t: the Great Lakes Dragstrip on KR in Kenosha County in SE Wisconsin. I believe the place was opened as early as 1955, maybe 56. The initial investment alone in the track is evidence of a belief by the owner that there was enough of a regional car culture mentality to supprt such a facility.

  4. In the Lead Photo and Item 1 of 2, as David specified on the left a ’50 Chevy Fleetline Deluxe 2-door sedan. The companion on the right is a ’49 or ’50 Fleetline Deluxe 4-door sedan (both years had the taller mud shield on the rear quarter panel). The slightly narrowed grille unit and surround seems to be from a ’49 Mercury with the center emblem portion removed. The source of the round turn signal lights are anyone’s guess. They could be contemporary Pontiac taillight bezels with a clear lens adapted…those clean round Pontiac taillights certainly were a favorite of customizers.

    In Item 2 of 2, unless there’s the most narrow sliver of a taillight lens without any surrounding bezel fitted into the metal of the rear fender…or some light fixture concealed in the darkness under the bumper, I don’t see any taillights. Possibly they’re concealed behind the rear portion of the rear door drip molding…who knows? Also, nothing comes to mind on the source of the license guard.

    The Olds behind it is a ’50 Ninety-Eight sedan (vs a ’51 with a “chrome shovel” on the side).

  5. Nice looking mild custom. It’s not chopped or channeled, but it has been lowered and appears to be sporting Cadillac sombrero hubcaps. It’s been nosed and decked and the grill opening has been reshaped to fit a Mercury grill. Can’t tell where they got the parking lights from. They’ve added a pair of spotlights (can’t tell if they’re functional) and painted it a nice rich dark color (probably maroon) that was so popular in the early days of customizing.

  6. It’s hard to improve on perfection and, for my money, the ’49-’52 Chevrolet Fleetline is one of the best shapes of the era along with all the other GM fastbacks in those years.

    This one has been lowered slightly, nosed and decked and the stock tail lights have been shaved. The grille is from a ’49-’50 Merc with parking lights from a ’49, perhaps and it has cowl mounted spotlights (either dummy or real). The hood and grille opening have been rather awkwardly reshaped. Also, it has ’49 Cadillac “sombrero” wheel covers.

    The rear license plate has been relocated to the rear bumper and has a different light on it that I don’t recognize. I see absolutely no evidence of tail lights of any kind. I looked long and hard for them, but I don’t see any!

    • Gene, I initially thought the parking lights might’ve been from the Mercury, but I see the ’49 Mercury had almost “squared” bezels on their parking lights, they weren’t round. I believe the grille surround is taken right off that Mercury…unlike so many other cars, the Mercury’s surround was horizontal across the top, rather than slightly arched…resulting in a perfect fit for the grille.
      Cadillac offered the “sombrero” style wheel covers that looked much the same from ’47 through ’52 with quite a revision in ’53. But they were also widely available from the aftermarket…I’ve got one in my entry hall display of car parts with a center medallion that oddly resembles a German V-1 rocket.
      As for the taillights, like you I couldn’t find any…so I’ll stick with my guess that somehow they’re concealed behind the rear portion of the rear door drip molding.

  7. I have a soft spot for those Chevy Fleetwoods; the customization barely improves on that sweeping body line. On the stock Chevy, the tail lights almost seem like an afterthought. Was that typical of US auto design in that era?

    • I agree that those Fleetline Chevys are nice to look at, but according to several Old Motor commentators who knew them well mechanically they were not well manufactured cars. I would not be surprised that under the hood of the custom Chevy there lies a different and more powerful engine, perhaps a Rocket 88 or a V-8 Ford or something like that.

      • The early Chevys with the Power Glide had hydraulic lifters with a splasher system on the rod bearings — stovebolt sixes were still babbitted at that point. It wasn’t a happy combination, since the oil pressure rarely rose above 10PSI. That also made feeding the rocker arms tricky, since there was only a single oil line that fed into the middle of the rocker shaft. It all worked well, until the engine began to wear and the oil pressure dropped. On the other hand, my father once told me that, if you lost your oil pump, you could just put in a couple extra quarts and keep driving.

        Until 1953, the Power Glide didn’t shift automatically — you had to manually shift from low to drive. Most people just put it in drive and took their time coming up to speed. And, of course, if you tried to run the splasher oil system too hard, you’d melt your bearings.

        They were beautiful cars, as long as you weren’t in a hurry.

        • Dave your opinion is pretty normal when it comes to the 216 and the early 235, personal experience with building two 216s is different. I abused them badly never had a problem with any of them and just recently sold my 3rd chevy with a 216 which was approaching 50,000 miles and still running strong. Seal were leaking . For their time they were a very good engine. They do not nor were they built to match oup to the later full pressure 235.

      • You’re probably right that the car on the right was souped up with a more powerful, perhaps high compression, engine. But I’m not sure I would trust expert opinions about the original build quality for this car. Chevys of the period were known for reliability, likely helping to maintain their rank as the number 1 selling car for most years in the frugal ’30s, ’40s and onward. Since 1997, I’ve owned an all original ’50 Fleetline Deluxe almost identical to the one on the left. Routine maintenance, new tires, a carburetor, a distributor, that’s it. Zero problems. Simple, reliable, comfortable, handles surprisingly well and peppy enough. Hard to imagine that this beauty was the 1950 equivalent of today’s Camry or Accord (so much for aesthetic progress…) And, yes, the stovebolt 6 engine wasn’t designed for freeway, left lane driving over 60 mph for extended periods….although I can tell you the car does manage to keep up with traffic on the interstate without a problem. That’s not what the average car owner needed in 30s, 40s and early 50s. It met it’s mission of family hauler and daily commuter, mostly in urban/suburban areas and on 2 lane roads. And BTW the fun, then and now, was in “going for a drive” (remember that?), working the 3 on the tree, windows open, back road bliss.

  8. The hood on the customized Chevy is not only nosed, it has had the center seam filled to make it one piece. The rear 1/4 panels have also been filled to the rear body. 1949 and ’50 Oldsmobiles had this done at the factory for a smoother look. I also noticed the popular aftermarket chromed 1/2 moon headlamp covers.

  9. I’m finding it difficult to believe that the Builder left the Tail lights off of the Chevy. I believe they may be located in the top inside portion of the bumper guards which would illuminate off the beautiful paint on the rear deck section, a real custom touch at Night.

  10. The primer painted areas on the panel below the trunk lid suggest they might not have yet decided what the taillights would be changed to but have already welded and leaded the original taillight mounting and access holes closed. Something that could be mounted horizontally on that surface like 1949-’50 Ford units were popular.

  11. 1950’s Just all the beautiful
    Crome these cars came with
    Nice ,l got my fleetline
    50 chevy .10 years ago
    I will send picture when
    They let me !!!D

  12. The customized car has no door handles… how would one get in? As a whole, it looks like a job in progress and a very good one.

    • Removing the door handles is still popular to obtain a smooth look on the body sides. Entry is either through a window or adding an electrical set up and button somewhere on the car. Today, a fob is used. I understand it’s now illegal in Ca to remove the handles.

  13. The modified Chev has the chrome half covers on the headlamps, which were really counterproductive to light output, and there is a sales training video on YouTube in which the domed hood is supposed to be used as a positive feature vs. the “flat, featureless” hood of the more modern-looking Fords, but to me just makes the Chevys look behind the times.

  14. My first ever American car was a 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline De Luxe back in 1961. It was so cool driving on the narrow streets of Worcester (Worcester, England that is) even though the car did break down nearly every time I used it.

  15. When that photo of the Custom Chev popped up my brain said “I know that car” and i hadnt read a line yet saying the photo was taken in my back yard. Im from Salt Lake and i must have seen it driving around as a kid. 50 years down the road and A car is still in my gray matter – THATS GOOD!!!!!!!!!!

  16. OK, nobody else noticed? The “custom” darker colored car is a 4-door fastback! And the light-colored one appears to be a 2-door…amirite?

  17. BTW; why did Chevrolet (and maybe Pontiac, Olds, etc.) offer both the traditional trunk-back sedan, and the ‘fast-back’ seen here? Lots of choice; but why, functionally?

    • Jimmuh, I think the ‘40s/’50s fastbacks were little more than a styling fad and were something Harley Earl pushed at GM until only Chevy offered it in ’52 when sales of them was about 10% of their ’50 sales of fastbacks. Since GM sold about half the cars on the road, the other makers felt pressure to respond, at least initially. The Independents Nash and Hudson tried it postwar…Nash dropped it for ’52 and I suspect Hudson wished they could have. Packard’s fastbacks of ’48-51 were just re-fendered ’41 Clippers…their first postwar body in ’51 offered no fastbacks. Studebaker offered none. Chrysler Corp offered them only in the small Dodge Mayfair and the even smaller Plymouth P-19/Concord with some success while Ford tried it only on the ’49 Lincoln Cosmopolitan but dropped it after one year.
      I’ve often thought that with the reduced height of cars in the late ‘40s, the fastback models had rear windows that in many cases were now more horizontal than vertical. Unless the glass was kept fairly clean, fastback rear windows were tough to see out of. That, and that the fashion had increasingly moved to larger glass area and much more all-around visibility.

  18. My dad’s first post-war Chevrolet was a 1950 two-door Fleetline, customized with Packard hood ornament (a swan I believe). My first car, six years later was a 1950 Chevrolet two door sedan of the basic variety. Both were equipped with the automatic transmission, which we lovingly called “power-slush”. My dad was one who did not keep a car more than two or three years and he never had any problems as a result of the transmission by the time he traded for a new 1953. On the other hand I am not sure how many miles mine had gone and I did have to have a valve job before I disposed of it in 1959.

  19. The park lights may be 1947-48 Ford. The rear license guard is the front guard used on all 1949 Chevys. I used them front and rear on my high school ’50 Ford. Made templates and ground to fit.

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