1938 Chevrolet Coupe Master Deluxe Weathers The Test Of Time

After graduating from Mar Vista High School in 1970, Stephen Vash started working at Gene’s Union 76 in nearby Imperial Beach, California. A 1938 Chevrolet Coupe Master Deluxe behind the station  was in pretty bad shape, and just sitting there, but always caught his eye.

The owner of the car, a friend of Stephen’s, was going through a divorce and didn’t have the time to restore it. As time went on the owner decided to sell the car to a local scrap yard. But Stephen intervened and bought it for $100 before it ended up as a cube of crushed metal.
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“I loaded parts into the back of my truck and towed it home,” Stephen said. “I put it in my folks driveway, went inside, and said, ‘Mom, want to see my new car?’ She took one look and said “Oh, shit!,” and my mom didn’t swear.”

He began working on rebuilding the car during his free time, installing a ’32 Chevrolet truck straight axle fitted with a set of ’69 Camaro front disc brakes and C-clip eliminator 12-bolt rear axle, and custom roller. The car was also outfitted with a Hilborn-injected 327ci coupled to a four-speed transmission. Joe Vash, Stephen’s dad, worked on upholstering the car, which turned out flawless, while Stephen worked on wiring and fitting the dash. Both continued to work as father and son until Stephen received his Army draft notice in 1970.

In the month prior to reporting for duty, Stephen managed to get the Coupe somewhat streetworthy. The night before leaving for the Army, he fired up the car  to take it for it first spin. By this time it had 4-inch straight exhaust pipes, a missing front end, and a ’32 Chevy grill. “The Deluxe was definitely rough around the edges at the time, but when I floored it, the front tires left the ground,” pronounced Stephen.

The interior of the this '38 features a set of Stewart Warner Gauges, Mallory Tach, Mustang Shifter, Moon Gas Pedal, Prototype Baja Bucket seats, and RJS Racing Belts.

All I can say is, it may not be the fastest car on the strip, or the fanciest car in the show, but over the years it has been the wildest ride and most fun for me.- Stephen

“When I got out of the Army in 1974 I started repairing the crushed front fenders, cowl, and hood, and primered the car grey. Since 100 octane gas was no longer 25 cents a gallon, I pulled the Hilborn’s and installed an Edelbrock Tunnel Ram topped with two 600 Holley carburetors, which still didn’t help the gas mileage much,” stated Stephen.
“Man, I loved those Hilborn’s (real injectors, not electronic fuel injection). They are still sitting in a display case in my shop. I also got tired of pushing clutches, so I built and installed a manual shifted TH400 with a 5,000 rpm stall converter. The first one I built lasted six minutes; the second one has been in the car for 40 years.”IMG_2656

Don Jenkins, a painter and friend of Stephen’s, traded some work in exchange for spraying the Coupe. They both worked on blocking and prepping the car for paint in Don’s garage. Six weeks later, on Stephens birthday, the ’38 rolled out with a pearl white lacquer paint job, finished with orange and red flames.

IMG_2645In 1976, the 327i small-block was overhauled and punched out .030-inch over. It received a set of TRW Pistons (Speed Pro Piston,) a Pete Jackson gear drive, a .510-inch lift 290 degree duration Crower Cams roller camshaft, ported and polished 202 fuel-injected heads, and a Mallory Unlit Ignition. This same engine has powered the Coupe Master Deluxe for the past 40 years, and remains unopened to this day.

“I put everything back together and started racing it at Carlsbad and Orange County Raceways in Southern California,” expanded Stephen. “I joined ‘The Over the Hill Gang’ car club and started showing and racing the car as often as I could. In 1976 it was featured as the cover of Hot Cars Magazine with the title ‘Great 38,’ so now the car had a name.

 “In the late 1970’s I drove the Great ’38 to a car show in Las Vegas. It was about 340 miles one-way and with 4.50 gears, and a rock hard suspension, I went through more than 100 gallons of gas, while in the company of three passengers. It was a great trip.”
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The dragstrips in Southern California were quickly disappearing so Stephen started showing more and racing less, but he tried to maintain and keep the car like it was when he first built it. As the years moved on, Stephen decided to make a change of scenery and moved to Snowflake, Arizona. Driving the ’38, just as he had before, he attended a Goodguys car show in Scottsdale, Arizona, but on the drive home something unexpected happened.
 

IMG_2654“Picture this … its November at One O’clock in the morning with the elevation almost 8,000 feet, and the temperature is below freezing … the steel body on the car shrank, and turned the 38-year old lacquer paint into a giant mosaic,” stated Stephen. “My wife cried. I’ve been told by car builder’s and show goers alike not to touch the resulting patina finish. Now when I return to the pit area after a race, the first thing I do is to fill in the paint chips that have blown off during the pass.”

IMG_2650Little did Stephen know that 40 years later he would be retired and still race the same car, with the same motor, paint, and transmission. This Chevy still pumps out low 13s in the 1/4-mile, which in the ’70s,  for a steel garage-built street/strip car is very impressive. There is no doubt that this awesome ’38 Chevy Coupe Master Deluxe has weathered the test of time.

“All I can say is, it may not be the fastest car on the strip, or the fanciest car in the show, but over the years it has been the wildest ride and most fun for me,” Stephen said.

About the author

Justen Spencer

Justen is a Ford modular motor fanatic with seven years of professional drag racing experience, and multiple championship seasons in NMCA West and PSCA. Originally from Las Vegas, he is the proud owner of four Mustangs, one that sees regular track time. When not racing, Justen can be found in the garage maintaining his championship-winning car.
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