When GM’s Chevrolet Motor Division rolled out its 1938 models the big auto maker was able to meet and top the competition by offering a car with top speeds in its basic coupes of about 40 miles per hour.
Dennis Brown’s Master Deluxe model that he calls a “cruiser” (not a hot rod, mind you) will go twice that fast, thanks to a 350-cubic-inch engine installed in it – something that had not yet been invented in the pre-war era of automobiles.
“I had worked on one like it more than 20 years ago and been looking for another since then,” Dennis says. “About a year ago, a buddy in Dallas found this car for me, I checked it out while it was still in the upholstery shop, and bought it without ever taking it out for a drive.”
It’s all because he likes “tinkering” with cars and trucks – something he’s been doing since he was a kid at Arlington’s Roark Elementary in the mid 1960s.
Even as a 12-year-old he managed to acquire a Suzuki T90 motorcycle that he enjoyed tearing down and discovering all its parts and how they came together to make it run. When his father saw it all disassembled and spread out across the garage he responded, “I hope you know how to put this thing back together because I know nothing about these Japanese motorcycles.”
It was a self-taught experience that would serve the junior Brown well in years to come.
By the time he was approaching driving age as a ninth grader at Ferguson Junior High, he and his dad were working on restoring a 1956 Chevy Pickup that would be his for making his daily run to Sam Houston High School.
He was anticipating how cool that would be when one day upon returning home from school, he couldn’t help but notice it wasn’t there. His dad explained that “a guy came by with more money than sense, and I sold it to him.”
That’s when a not-so-cool ’59 Chevy Nomad station wagon became a substitute for the one that got away. It would later be traded for a ’55 Chevy Pickup that became his “original” truck.
By the time he had reached his 20th birthday, Dennis acquired a new, red-on-red, 1979 Corvette Stingray and settled the coolness factor once and for all time.
Since then, Dennis describes having pursued his passion of working on, restoring and retrofitting a “bunch” of vehicles. Among them are a couple of fire trucks, long out of service, as well as some tractors and a wide variety of cars.
To say he is passionate about his hobby would be obvious considering his lifetime of finding great satisfaction in its pursuit. His recollection is that he has found pleasure in the pastime that has included two dozen or more vehicles across the years.
These days he is enjoying this sparkling Chevy from the depression days of the 1930s that represents a turning point in the company’s history.
The decade began with Chevrolet playing keep-up with Ford that had begun to upgrade its designs from the earlier Model A to still affordable coupes and sedans that, along with the Model B, offered buyers choices that were serious competition for the cars from Chevrolet.
Chevy regained production supremacy for the model year ’38 with cars like the one Dennis enjoys, and rarely surrendered it in decades to follow.
Yes, Dennis has a day job that he has practiced as a lifetime career. He describes it as the “business of dirt moving.”
Residential subdivisions all over the area began when he showed up for his developer clients and began preparing the land that would soon become neighborhoods where countless residents would come to lay residential roots.
There’s always time, however, to enjoy taking the head-turning, bright-red vehicle out for a spin and onto the highways, where he can test that 80-MPH performance of his 80-year-old classic right along with the rest of them.