Jardine: Almost showroom-new 1950 Chevy has a story to tell

June 23, 2009 

Jardine Chevy 1

This 1950 Chevy Club Coupe, which has only 437 actual miles, was owned by Mrs. Jessie Trueblood of Modesto from 1950 until 1962, and by Bill Wilson of Modesto from 1962 until 2007. He sold it to a Hughson man who quickly sold it at an auction in Lake Havasu. The current owner, Mark Young of The Chev Connection in Portland, Ore., plans to sell it at auction in Arizona in January.

MARK YOUNG — Mark Young

A 59-year-old car with only 437 actual miles and Modesto connections.

Mark Young of Oregon isn't quite sure why the story of the 1950 Chevy Club Coupe he acquired last year has been such a hit on the Internet. Not that he's complaining -- he plans to sell it during an auction in January.

The attention-getter, it seems, is the story of how this mint-condition Chevy stayed that way all these decades.

When Young bought the car, he found a note in the glove box. It was written by William Wilson, the car's second owner, and detailed some of its history. The tale intrigued Young.

"I called him up and he told me the story," Young said. "I wrote it up a little clearer, though just like he told me."

Young then posted the story on his www.chevconnection.com Web site, listing the car for sale for more than $59,000. He pulled the ad after deciding to sell the car at a prestigious Barrett Jackson auction in Arizona.

"Somebody must have copied (the posting)," Young said. "You wouldn't believe how many people have called me about it, even since I took it off."

Two readers independently forwarded the story to The Bee. One of them got it from a relative who lives in Minnesota.

Wilson's note told that a Modesto couple named Trueblood bought the coupe brand-new from a dealership here in 1950.

Shortly thereafter, Harry Trueblood drove to the Old Fisherman's Club west of Modesto. He saw a woman tumble out of a boat on the San Joaquin River and tried to rescue her. The excitement must have gotten to him. He suffered a heart attack and died.

The odometer registered 413 miles after his wife, Jessie Trueblood, drove the car back to Modesto and stored it at the plumbing supply business that her husband had owned in downtown Modesto for 30 years.

She never drove it again.

Wilson, who owned a used-car lot next to the plumbing store, repeatedly tried to buy the car from her. She refused to sell.

Then one day in 1962, she told him she wanted a car for her bookkeeper to drive. But the employee preferred Ramblers to Chevys. So Wilson went to the Rambler dealership and bought a new sedan for $1,650 and traded her straight up.

Jessie Trueblood died in 1984, leaving no immediate family, according to her obituary in The Bee.

I tracked down Wilson, now 81 and living in Tuolumne County, and he confirmed the tale.

"(The Chevy) was absolutely brand-new," Wilson said. "(Jessie Trueblood) had them put puncture-proof tubes in the tires. They still even had the original air. They didn't lose more than five pounds of pressure in all those years."

Those small, soft rubber spikes that protrude from brand-new tires were still on the Chevy a dozen years after it rolled off the lot, Wilson said.

"The tabs had never worn off," he said.

He drove it only 20 miles before storing the car beneath layers of blankets in the garage of his home near Salida.

"I never drove it after that," Wilson said. "I was always afraid somebody would run into me and wreck it."

He trailered the car to the Watson Brothers Upholstery Shop on North H Street and had the Watsons install custom seat covers for a whopping $47. Then it went back to his garage, and only a few chosen friends enjoyed private viewings.

"All the ones I'd show it to, they'd want to put their hands on it," Wilson said.

Wilson kept the car until 2007, when he sold it to a Hilmar man for $60,000 -- and regretted it because he got creamed by the Internal Revenue Service on the capitals gains tax.

The odometer now read 433.9 miles. Hey, about time for a lube and oil job, right?

The new owner added only three miles before taking it to a sale in Lake Havasu, Ariz., where he sold it to someone who bought it on Young's behalf.

The car turned 437 miles and 59 years old when he rolled it off of trailer at his classic car dealership in Portland.

He got a beauty of a car, well-rested in two of Modesto's most comfortable garages and one that has intrigued car buffs all over the country and the Internet.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or jjardine@modbee.com.

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