1939 Chevy 5-window Coupe

1939 Chevy 5-window Coupe
Red Master (formerly the Pink Lady)
By Gerhard Van Vuuren
Photos: Jacques Lamprecht

The Chevrolet Master and Master Deluxe were manufactured by Chevrolet between 1933 and 1942. They were powered by the then familiar Chevy Stove Bolt inline six motor. Right-hand drive Chevrolets were produced outside the USA in New Zealand, Australia and yes, South Africa. General Motors SA was founded in 1913 and initially distributed Chevrolet vehicles before they started to manufacture vehicles locally for all the GM brands in 1926. 

Now fast forward to 2011. Marius Ackermann, a hot rodder and petrolhead from Kimberley, purchased a 1938 Chevy 5-window Coupe project to build a fat-fendered rod. However, the car had been butchered by the previous owner and Marius was looking for a donor ‘38 or ‘39 to supply replacement body parts for the ‘38 as they share 90% of parts with the ‘39 (being a “facelift” model of the ’38). In the December 2011/Jan 2012 issue of SA Hot Rod’s “Kakpraat” column, he spotted a photo of the accident damaged “Pink Lady” ‘39 Master Coupe belonging to Andre van Rooyen, originally built and owned by Johnny Kotze. 

He called Andre and asked if he wanted to sell, but Andre was not interested. A few days later he spoke to Andre again and a deal was struck. To further sweeten the deal, Andre gracefully threw intwo front fenders and a bonnet. Marius had his spares-car at last. He promptly drove down to Johannesburg, collected his find and trailered it back to Kimberley. The following day, he was sitting inside the ‘39, sipping coffee and made the decision not to use it for parts, but to repair and rebuild it.

As things go with having a full-time job and a family, the project then sat dormant for several months, until Gerrie Rautenbach, a local rodder and friend, suggested Marius send his car to rodding legend, Danie van der Merwe in Port Elizabeth, to do the final repairs and paint it in an eye-searing bright red. Needless to say, the car was stripped and trailered to PE by Marius. 

He left the car with Danie and returned to Kimberley where he stripped and cleaned the motor which was then delivered to Gerrie Rautenbach, who rebuilt it. In addition to the rebuild, a new Edelbrock Performer manifold and 600 cfm Holley was fitted. Before final assembly, Marius sprayed the motor and the Turbo 350 tranny, bright red to match the colour of the car.

Forty-three days after the car was delivered to Danie, Marius got a phone call from him, informing Marius that the work was completed. The next weekend, Marius made the trip to PE again, collectedthe car and trailered it back to Kimberley. Marius rewired the car completely and then started the mission to get the right wheel and tyre combo for it to replace its tired-looking Mazda MX-6 rims. It could not run on anything other than American Racing Torq Thrusts, a classic hot rod rim. After searching high and low, Ridwaan Samoodien of Wheel Nutz in Langlaagte came to his rescue with a gorgeous set of Big & Small 15 and 17-inch Torq Thrusts shod with Achilles Radials. 

Lionel Swanepoel in Kimberley upholstered the electrically adjustable BMW seats and door panels in black leatherette with red double stitching. While busy with the interior, Marius installed a Classic Instruments gauge cluster to the dash and fitted a Speedline steering wheel. Apart from the seats, steering wheel and gauges, the interior was kept stock.

Since the car has been rebuilt, Marius has driven it whenever possible, as he believes it has been builtto be driven, and not just for showing off. He has done several road trips with it, the last one being to Bloemfontein’s Cars in the Park event in August. Marius is not a member of a rod club, but attends all the road trips the local Diamond City Streetrod Club organizes. Marius has an original ‘36 Ford 5-window Coupe with a dickey seat that is waiting to be turned into another stunning fat-fendered rod.

An interesting final twist to the whole story is that Marius discovered that the Chevy was originally from Kimberley, bought new from Potgieters Motors on the Market Square in 1939! In ending the story, Marius wishes to extend his thanks to the following for assisting and supporting him during the build: his wife Cindy, Ciny his daughter and CW his son, Frans Claasen, Gerrie Rautenbach, Danie vd Merwe, Ridwaan Samoodien, and Lionel Swanepoel.