15 October 2018

More than an old car #84: Chevrolet Master 85

Chevrolet has been increasing in prominence, ever since our taxis have also begun to sport the familiar gold cross logo. As a predominantly American brand, the range of cars that we get are significantly less compared to Europe for example. Coupled with the LHD concession for cars older than 1940, it is a pity that we don't get to see American classics as well. Hence, imagine my surprise when I came across this 1939 Chevrolet Master 85 JB!

It all began in 1911 when Swiss race car driver and engineer, Louis Chevrolet founded the Chevrolet Motor Company in Detroit along with some partners. It adopted the 'bowtie' emblem which we know today in 1914, and various reasons have been suggested: from wallpaper seen in a hotel room, a logo from a coal company and even a stylised Swiss cross which paid homage to Chevrolet's ancestry. Chevrolet gradually became a force to be reckoned with in the American motor industry and was one of the Big 3 car companies after Ford and Dodge. It experienced great success in the 50s and 60s with the Impala, which became an icon in itself. Currently, Chevrolet is part of the GM group of companies and is well-positioned in the automobile world today, with growing sales in more than 100 countries.

The Chevy Master was a series of vehicles made between 1933 and 1942, and it was the most expensive in the lineup at that time. For the 1939 version [JB series], there were a variety of styles produced such as 2-door/4-door sedans and coupes. This coupe was powered by a 3548 cc straight-6 engine and only 41,770 were made. It weighed 1320 kg and was 4691 mm long.

This unit may seem just like any other classic car, but what is more amazing was that it had entered in the Road to Saigon rally organised by the Endurance Rally Association! It had undergone a huge makeover when I last saw it in 2015, and it was also christened "Caroline" by the joint owner-drivers. According to its Facebook page, it was an original RHD version from South Africa, and it had been out of action since 2007. The owners decided to give it a classic look and this cued a year-long restoration process. In 2017, they took it for a test drive to assess its road-worthiness for the upcoming rally. It entered the competition under the "Vintage" category for cars older than 1939 and was 1 of 2 cars that crossed the finish line in Vietnam. For a car that old, it had a pretty decent timing and even did better than some of the younger cars in the competition.

Rallying really is a test of ingenuity, determination and perseverance, and it demands 100% attention on the road. It is not for everyone and I was also rather surprised by their car choice--it would have looked more at home cruising down the road rather than roughing it out on rural lanes. Perhaps you may be able to find this rally legend one day!

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