This 1939 Chevrolet Master Sedan Is A Lovely Survivor

Some classic car people love a challenge, and rust, dents, ripped upholstery and an engine that last ran when Nixon was in office are all welcome developments. But others just like to get handed a set of keys. And that’s what will happen here because this 1939 Chevrolet Master 85 is a good-running and nice-looking “turn-key” proposition. It’s a Barn Finds Classified in Polk City, Florida, with an $18,500 price.

Everything we learn is good news. It’s in “great shape inside and out,” “mostly original,” “runs and drives well.” The motor runs “strong” (thanks for avoiding the grammatically challenged “runs good”) and the transmission shifts “smooth.” Nothing is leaking, and it’s solid underneath. The previous owner babied the sedan for 29 years, and always stored in indoors. But the Florida weather would probably have been kind in any case.

The photos of the car do not let it down. The handsome cloth interior appears to be totally original and usable, which itself is a minor miracle after 82 years. The moths must have taken a wrong turn. Judging by this period document from the GM Heritage Center, there were quite a few variations on the Master 85 and (the upper trim model) Master Deluxe in 1939. This one has a trunk so I think that makes it a five-passenger Club Sedan, but you tell me. The prettiest ’39 Chevy was probably the two-door Sports Coupe, only available in the Master Deluxe line.

Four-door sedans (in this case with suicide doors) have often been shunned by collectors, and that makes them somewhat scarce on the ground. Originals this nice are certainly rare. All of these sedans were powered by an overhead-valve 216.5-cubic-inch inline-six with a cast-iron block and 85 horsepower. No, they weren’t barn burners but if you weren’t in a hurry they’d get you there.

In 1939, the two-door town sedan version of the Master 85 was by far the popular choice, with 124,000 built. Of the $710 Sport/Club Sedan, only 22,000 hit the market. The rarest is the $848 four-door wagon—only 430 were made. Big spenders who opted for the Master Deluxe got bumper guards and twin taillights, plus the “knee action” coil spring front suspension. The market has gravitated to the Fords built-in 1939, so Chevrolet survivors are worth a second look. This one has the (easily added) bumper guards, but not the twin taillights, and I’m pretty sure it’s the entry model. There isn’t even a radio. Do you care to own this cream puff?


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  1. DRV

    I haven’t seen a surviver this nice or this old for a DD in forever. The plain Jane thirties is very attractive to me. I picture it at the grocery store or for a night out .

    Like 10
  2. Pete R.

    Too bad the air conditioner appears to be broken, hahaha.

    Like 3
    • bob

      Appears to have the “city horn”,”country horn” switch . My uncle had a ’39 with that feature. I liked playing with it when I was a kid.

      Like 2
  3. Ron

    The radiator is missing some hoses!

  4. bob

    Appears to have the “city horn”,”country horn” switch . My uncle had a ’39 with that feature. I liked playing with it when I was a kid.

    Like 1
  5. Ron Ron

    I usually don’t gravitate towards cars from the 30’s and 40’s, but I find this car to be exceptionally beautiful! I hope the winning bidder has many more years with her!

    Like 1
  6. Bellingham Fred

    When you said twin taillights I thought you meant 1 on each side, which this one has. Two taillights weren’t required in ’39, so most manufacturer’s standard models didn’t have one on the right.
    If you meant that twin taillights were 2 per side, I’ve seen hundreds of ’39 Chevys in person and in pictures and never seen 2 per side.

    Like 1
  7. Gary Lund

    does this car have the Knee action?

  8. Robert Hagedorn

    That black paint is so beautiful and deep. This deal sounds like a bargain.

    Like 1
  9. Carroll Harris

    Article says coupes come in master deluxe only. I own a 1939 Master 85 coupe which I believe a business coupe because there is no back seat.

  10. cyclemikey

    Not to be too pedantic, but “runs strong” and “shifts smooth” are both every bit as grammatically challenged as “runs good”, and for exactly the same fault.

    Adverbs exist for a reason. Runs strongly, shifts smoothly, and runs well would be the better descriptions.

    Like 3
    • jim motavalli Staff

      I thought of going after “runs smooth” too but ultimately left it alone. You’re right, but shouldn’t the comma be inside the parents in your “runs good” quote?

      • cyclemikey

        Yes, in American preferred usage. I prefer to do it the British way; it seems cleaner to me.

  11. Rob Hunter

    This brought back memories of a 39 Chevy coupe I found in the woods when I was teenager in the 80’s. It was a complete body and didn’t have bullet holes so no one knew it was there.

    I was curious about the 39 Chevy offerings so I found a document from the GM Heritage center that shows the 1939 body styles.

    Like 1
    • Bellingham Fred

      Thank you Rob.
      That is an amazing resource.

      Like 1

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