I purchased my 1940 Chevrolet Special Deluxe Sport Sedan in Scottsdale, AZ, in June 1999, from the grandson of its original owner – Henry Heller.
Henry had been ill for many years and the car had been parked in his backyard for quite some time. He finally asked his grandson to sell it for him, but only to someone who promised to restore it and not turn it into a street rod. I assured the grandson that was my goal.
While I had completed other restorations, I had never taken on a project this big, but I just felt a connection with this car. I have always loved the cars of the ‘40s with their huge fenders and long hoods; also, 1940 was the last year that Chevrolet had running boards and “suicide” doors.
My first car was a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air. Back then it was said that guys either like blonds, brunettes, or red heads. It was similar for cars, some guys liked Ford, others Dodge, Plymouth or Hudson, but I was always a Chevy guy. At the time I only wanted a “cool” coupe or convertible. Now I want a four door to make room for the grandchildren. Time really does change you!
I told my wife about the car, she was excited to buy it, so we made the deal. When the car arrived she was in shock. My excitement and descriptions didn’t quite match up to what was sitting on the trailer in front of our house. Important, . . . with an old car you must be able to look past the dirt and rust and
envision the dream it will become!
Click photos to enlarge
The car had only 57,038 miles on it, but 60 years in the Arizona sun had ruined its original black paint and interior, not to mention the countless black widow spider webs and dried weeds that had accumulated during its inactivity, which now encased the wheels and brake drums.
The car was pretty much complete, almost frozen in time. Henry had started work on the car in the ‘70's and many boxes of extra parts - from steering wheels and its rare, original flying lady hood ornament, to stainless steel trim pieces and under-the-seat front and rear heaters - were included with the sale.
I researched the data tag and learned that the car was manufactured in March, 1940 at the plant in Oakland, CA. (I was excited to learn this fact as I was born and raised in Oakland.) I worked for Safeway Stores during college at a new store that opened in 1963 and had been built on the site of the Chevrolet plant where this car was made.
Over the last fifty years, the four-door sedan, was the family car, not what restorer's wanted. The models of choice, the coups, 2-door sedans and the convertibles. People just didn't save and restore
the four-doors. Chevrolet produced 138,811 Special Deluxe Sport Sedans and now few are left. It is estimated that less than 1,000 remain today!