Long before he was of driving age James Banks always looked forward to a visit from his Uncle James who would arrive at his parent's home in a 1951 Chevrolet Special two-door sedan.
Of course years pass and styles change but that Chevrolet of his uncles epitomized perfection to the youngster. Unfortunately the uncle's Chevrolet fell by the wayside and was eventually gone but not forgotten.
In the summer of 2001 Banks was working in Manassas, Virginia, when he was approached by a client who knew of his affection for old cars. She offered for sale – at a good price – her 1951 Chevrolet Special two-two sedan, a virtual twin to his uncle's car.
Banks says he thought about what to do about the offer for about two seconds before agreeing to the deal.
According to Banks the car had been driven about 105,000 miles. The old Chevrolet was in pretty good condition but after all, 50 years is 50 years.
Banks elected to have his new found treasure towed to his Woodbridge, Virginia, home. Once he got the car home he set about making it exactly like the one his uncle drove so many years before.
The original six-cylinder engine was still in place but was gasping. Consequently Banks decided to have it overhauled.
The 1951 Chevrolets equipped with a three-speed manual transmission had a 92-horsepower six-cylinder 216.5-cubic-inch engine while the cars with two-speed Powerglide automatic transmissions were equipped with a 105 horsepower 235-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine.
Records indicate that of the 1,250,803 Chevrolet cars built that model year a total of 456,030 were equipped with Powerglide transmissions.
Each 1951 Chevrolet automobile measured just a hair shy of 16-feet long and rode on 6.70x15-inch tires supporting the car on a 115-inch wheelbase. With a nod toward safety Banks now drives on 205/75x15-inch radial tires.
Chevrolet placed a base price of $1,540 on cars like Bank's. His was delivered with a two-tone smoke grey upholstery which has since been replaced.
While Banks had the engine out of the car he opted to have the transmission rebuilt at the same time even though it was functioning perfectly.
The 100 mile per hour speedometer is clearly visible through the three-spoke steering wheel. Located in the center of the dashboard is the AM radio, one of the few optional extras on the car. Since this was a basic transportation car the windows are cranked open and closed by hand and the vent windows are pushed open for ventilation. Carburetors by Carter were initially prescribed for Chevrolets such as this one but because of the high demand carburetors built by Stromberg as well as Rochester often were used.
While Banks was having the original black paint covered with a grey metallic finish he searched coast to coast and into Canada for replacement trim pieces including new bumpers and a grille as well as a new hood ornament and a chrome guard to protect the paint around the gas cap. He also located a new radiator and an oil bath air cleaner in Canada.
Banks saw no need to electrify the windshield wipers since the vacuum operated ones function perfectly. Besides, he doesn't plan on driving his car in the rain.
Returning the Chevrolet to the condition he remembers that his uncle's car was in has been a challenge
that has lasted a decade and a half.
Now that the long years of rehabilitation have successfully been completed Banks is free to enjoy fair weather cruising in his antique Chevrolet as evidenced by the odometer which now has recorded 128,000 miles.
The memory of his uncle lingers on.