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First Coast Gears: '51 Chevy Fleetline Deluxe turns heads at Krispy Kreme Mandarin cruise-in

6:57 PM, Mar 29, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: First Coast Gears: Krispy Kreme cruise-in

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Chevrolet Fleetline was among the sleekest automobiles of its time, incorporating a fastback design when it was overhauled for 1949.

One of the first new designs to go into production following World War II, it had a lower look than a traditional sedan, making it a favorite among customizers.  Ed Pierce is one of the original members of the cars and coffee cruise-in at the Krispy Kreme on San Jose Blvd. in Mandarin, and the owner of a 1951 Chevrolet Fleetline Deluxe two-door sedan.

Pierce's Fleetline came from Oregon and was in good shape when he traded his 1964 Rambler for it in 2011. He went to work making it his own within two weeks, prompted by a bit of bad luck while driving it into his backyard shop. "I got out to close the gate and it jumped into reverse and back out of the gate and made a slow back curve. It backed into my neighbor's truck next door and totaled the right rear corner," said Pierce.

That's when he decided to take the plunge and have it stripped down to the bare metal.  "We went ahead and took everything off of it. The hood, doors, chrome, everything."

Reflections Paint & Body went to work bringing the Fleetline back to life with three coats of paint and three coats of clear coat. Sherby Powell sanded and buffed it out, then came the pinstriping, which was done by Dr. D. Pinstriping in Deland.

Pierce's goal was to put together the type of hot rod that was typically done in the 1960s, although he made some concessions to the 21st century. Pierce's Fleetline has 18-inch wheels and halogen headlights. Under the hood is a stock Chevrolet 350 small block V-8 that makes just over 300 horsepower. He gets the power to the wheels with a ten-bolt Camaro rear-end.

The Fleetline is a regular at cruise-ins around the First Coast, including the weekly gathering at Krispy Kreme.  Unlike most cruise-ins, the one at Krispy Kreme is informal.  It's not sponsored by a car club. Mark Simmons put it together about five years ago with Pierce's help in getting the word out to car enthusiasts. The crowd varies from week to week. Sometimes there may only be a dozen or so cars but Pierce has also seen as many as 65 classics rumble through.

His lap-sized dogs, Zoey and Sassy, go with him every Saturday. "Everyone knows them as the Krispy Kreme mascots because they've been here, each one of them, since they were eight weeks old and know Saturday mornings better than any human does, because they know they're going to get a half donut on Saturday morning.  So they love Krispy," said Pierce.

As for the Fleetline, American tastes were changing fast in the 1950s.  The Chevrolet Bel Air was introduced in 1950 and quickly rocketed past the Fleetline, which saw sales plummet from a high of 405,405 in 1949 to just 37,154 in 1952, according to production numbers from chevy.oldcarmanualproject.com.

With its polished rounded grille, low-profile hood and smooth fenders, the second generation Fleetline's style seemed perfect for an early postwar America. Pierce's Fleetline is still turning heads today, proving a sleek design never grows old.

Now, a personal note.  This is scheduled to be my final story as FCN's automotive columnist. I want to thank the First Coast area car community for always making me feel welcome at area shows.

I've lived in six states but I've never seen a car culture more active than Jacksonville's, which is a  testament to the dedication of area organizers and collectors. 

As some online FCN readers may know, a print version of this column runs each Saturday in The Florida Times-Union. For now, I'll be continuing the Times-Union portion of the column. Longer term, we'll see. But let's just say not I'm not ready to park the car just yet.

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