Like most American cars of the early post-war era, Chevrolet’s 1946 models were essentially warmed-over versions of their 1942 lineup. Americans were clamoring for new vehicles, and it was the Big Three did everything they could to meet demand amidst material shortages and the time and expense of retooling from supporting the war effort. Chevrolet quickly assumed the role of the sales leader with their conservatively styled and engineered Stylemaster, Fleetmaster, and Fleetline series. Based around the overhead-valve, cast-iron “Stovebolt” inline-six, these cars were robust, economical, and of outstanding quality. With roots going back to 1929, the dutiful Stovebolt six served General Motors for some seventy years in various forms. Between ’46 and ’48, not much changed in the Chevy line except for some minor trim and equipment variations. Customers seemed perfectly content with this, as they kept Chevrolet firmly in the lead of the sales charts.
Typical for the era, Chevy offered a diverse range of body styles. Prices started at $1,380 for the 2-door Town Sedan and climbed up to $2,013 for the Fleetmaster Station Wagon. The 1948 model year marked the end of an era, as it was the final year for Fisher’s beautifully crafted all-wood station wagon. While it shared the same 116-inch wheelbase chassis, the wagon was 207-inches long overall, which allowed for a capacious, eight-passenger interior. The labor-intensive nature of building these cars drove up the price and kept sales down, with just over 10,000 built – compared to more than 93,000 four-door sedans.
This 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster wagon is a marvelous example that is the subject of an award-winning restoration and presents with a lightly mellowed character following years of enjoyment. A Pennsylvania Hyman Vintage Car Sales for much of its life, the first owner was from Philipsburg, not far from State College, PA, and the car still wears its original 1948 state inspection sticker in the windshield! It is believed the second owner purchased the car in the early 1950s. An avid collector and lifelong member of the AACA, the second owner kept the Chevy in his care for the next 55 years. His time with the car included a high-quality restoration in the late 1980s/early 1990s which earned it an AACA National First Prize in 1991, followed by a Grand National First Prize in 1992. The restorers were careful to preserve significant original features, such as the original 1948 date-coded Hi-Test Safety Glass. As a Deluxe model, it includes rare and desirable equipment, including rear fender skirts, a fully-enclosed rear-mounted spare wheel, deluxe heater, and factory AM radio.
The current owner acquired the Chevy in 2014, and it presents today with a matured restoration that invites regular enjoyment. The Oxford Maroon paint is excellent, finished to a high standard and exceptionally well-maintained. There are a few minor touchups that do little to detract from the overall presentation. Woodwork is in similarly excellent condition, with a warm luster to the varnish and solid ash-frame structure with beautiful mahogany panels. Doors open and shut well, including the large tailgate that also carries the fully enclosed spare wheel. Brightwork and plating are quite good, and the car wears original deluxe trim including the lower rocker moldings and stainless chip guards on the rear fenders. Likewise, the bumpers and intricate grille are in excellent condition, with just some light hazing to the finish from age.
Form follows function inside the cabin, with the seats upholstered in original-style brown vinyl material, rubber-lined floors, and rich interior woodwork finished to the same high standard as the exterior. The dash features gorgeous woodgrain-effect paint and houses the factory pushbutton radio flanked by the large round speedometer and clock. Minor instruments such as the fuel and temp gauges sit directly in front of the driver, along with a beautifully restored original steering wheel.
Lifting the hood reveals a highly-detailed Stovebolt OHV inline-six, finished appropriately in gray with gloss black ancillaries and inner panels. Components such as the manifolds and carburetor show some evidence of use, while the paint on the block and valve cover is in excellent condition. The wiring, plumbing, and minor hardware all appear period correct and appropriate for a high-level AACA award winner. The engine runs well, sending power through a column-shifted three-speed manual transmission, and the most recent owner has enjoyed the Fleetmaster in local events, parades, and shows.
Like similar cars of the era, the wood body attributed to a high attrition rate. By the 1950s, California surfers were snapping up cheap used woodies to haul people and boards from beach to beach. Hot rodders, too, took to the Fleetmaster’s lines and as a result, very few unmodified examples exist. The next owner of this lovely Fleetmaster is sure to delight in the beautifully mellowed restoration and attractive colors. This rare and delightful Chevrolet is ideally suited for enjoying on family picnics or cruising unhurriedly to your favorite country retreat.