Spinning Banjo: 1940 Chevy Special Deluxe Coupe


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This old Chevy is listed on craigslist in Houston, Minnesota for a lofty $16,500. It was stored for many years and claimed to have only 66,594 miles and no rust. The interior is said to be original and there’s no word on when the repaint was done. I don’t believe this to be an original color except perhaps the top. There’s also no word on mechanical condition or any pictures of the engine. Why did I title this “spinning banjo”? Read on to find out.


The seller describes the steering wheel as being a “banjo” steering wheel. Perhaps it’s because it looks a little like a banjo. As you can see, the steering wheel is actually a rare, one year only “spinner” steering wheel. It’s worth $1500 or more even with the cracked rim. The dash looks very complete and original.

front seat

The upholstery is said to be original. It does appear nice and possibly original in this picture with only the expected wear and one discolored and damaged place where the seat pivots.


While not perfectly straight, all the trim bits are there. Straightening the center override would make this end look a lot better.

left rear

This end looks pretty nice as well but the trunk and the drivers side door don’t fit very well. Could this be the result of a collision repair? The owner is representing this old Chevy as a good candidate for a hot rod or a street rod. I hope the new owner keeps it original. If this Chevy is as nice as it is represented and there are no mechanical issues, how much do you think it could be worth? If it’s not running and needs mechanical sorting it could still be a good start starting place, but it would be worth a great deal less. I would leave it stock and consider repainting it to the original color and chroming the bumpers. It will be interesting to see what our readers think. Please have mercy on this old coupe.

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  1. nessy

    I like these late pre war coupes alot. A nice driver to enjoy and show but not for 16500. 8 to 10g would be a fair price for both buyer and seller which is what I expect the car to sell for, otherwise, the owner may be keeping it.

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  2. geomechs geomechsMember

    There, ‘Shockwave Flash’ has crashed. Now I can actually write a comment. (Anyone else have this happen on their computers?).

    Anyways, a complete car like this HAS to be kept original and enjoyed; maybe change to a larger more powerful six like a 235, which, I might add, isn’t that much more powerful than what you’ve already got. I really bristle when I see an ad suggesting hot rod/street rod; that just suggests taking another historical artifact out of the works; there aren’t enough of these left to modify. If you’re into hot-rodding, find a car that’s already been stripped and go from there.

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    • Alan Brase

      Shockwave is a major problem to me. Just using this site makes my compute lock up every hour or so. Gotta get task manger to close shock wave every hour.
      WRT the 40 Chevy. Exactly I liked 235 Chevy engines a lot. I suspected with full pressure oiling, started with the advent of Powerglide, they were better motors than the trough oiled 216 built for the previous decade or more. BUT WERE THEY much better?
      GMC also built some slightly more powerful straight 6’s in at least 248 and 302 sizes, I think. I know the 302’s were more of a heavy truck motor, designed to run full power continuously, with sodium exhaust valves.
      While not a stickler for 100% originality,, I seriously doubt that putting a modern engine in is worth the trouble. True, you can then use factory brackets for alternator, a/c, power steering, etc. But, is it worth it. The stock 216 would cruise at 50-60 all day every day for the rest of my life, I think. I rode in a 46 Chevy a LOT in the 60’s driven by a crazy kid. It would go faster than the brakes or tires said it should. If the bottom end wears out, you can just pull the bearing caps off, take out shims to tighten the bearings, retighten and ENJOY.

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      • geomechs geomechsMember

        Hi Alan. My ’49 still runs the 216. It has 42K original miles on it and cruises right along at 55. I’m going to perform a major maintenance procedure on it hopefully this winter. I’ll be pulling the motor and transmission and replacing the rear seal, resealing the pan and while I’ve got the pan off, I might check out the rod bearings. Reseal the transmission and stuff the works right back in. All that to lessen the size(s) of the spots it leaves on the floor and driveway…

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  3. American_Badaz

    That is the coolest steering wheel I have seen in many moons. Is it as off-center as it appears, or is it just the angle the pic was taken?

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  4. MJM

    I own and drive a restored 1940 Chevrolet Cabriolet Convertible and it has that really neat spinning steering wheel. I agree that they go for about $1500 in good but unrestored condition. Actually i have two… A very serviable spare that could use a repair due to surface cracks . My Chevy is sea foam green which is identical to the roof on this car. Again I think it truly is fair to say that the dark color of Forest Green all along the body is a repainted area…not necessarily a true Chevy color. If this car has a buyer it is at a price of $8000 but not more than ten thousand.

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  5. GoodoleMike

    I have never seen one of these steering wheels. Anyone fill me in on them ?

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  6. MJM

    I have one that was original to my 1940 Chevy Convertible. It is basically a suicide knob but innovativly designed as part of an OEM steering wheel . The option cost $12.95 at the new car dealer in 1940. You look like a cool dude when you cruise along with one hand ” in the spinner in the wheel” spinning and steering. It’s probably not so safe to rely on it….after all in 1940 it wasn’t power steering so you really should have been holding on to the wheel 10 an 2

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    Is the roof the right color? Shouldn’t it be
    tan or white? Maybe the body is the wrong color
    Regardless, seems like a keeper to me

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      Guess I could read the post better before I ask dumb questions. Sorry folks.

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  8. Terry

    Drop a 250 and 5 speed in it and cruise.

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  9. Alan Brase

    Whatza 250? As in the 230-250-292 Chevy series? What’s the alloy inline DOHC 6 or 5 that newer Chevy SUV’s use? Pretty motor! That would be cute and sweet, IF you could find ECU that didn’t need VSS, cam position and ABS and key chip immobiliser and airbag sensors just to set and light off the petrol at the right mix and time.
    It really seems like SB Chevy and Edelbrock/Holley/ California-Bolt-On BS is all so over the top and unnecessary and stinky to just move a 1940 auto down the road at 60mph.
    I guess every person has to find his own road.

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  10. DWL

    It’s a ‘spinner’ steering wheel – not a ‘banjo’. The ‘banjo’ moniker is easy to see if you image search. Typical a three spoke design with each ‘spoke’ consisting of four wires/rods – like the four strings on a banjo. It is said the design helped isolate/buffer the vibrations from the road. I’ve seen two, three, four and five wire spokes and two, three and four spoke models.

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  11. Nick R.

    The much maligned 216 is actually a pretty stout mill. The caveat of course, is that it has to be driven within the specs the engineers designed it. It was NEVER designed to be over revved by some juvenile. Driven properly & reasonably the 216 WILL go much further than it is ever given credit for…..end of story!

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