After 85 years, this 1938 Chevy Master Deluxe is still a member of the family

1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Tobin family
Ron Tobin with the beloved family Chevy. Courtesy Michael Tobin

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Michael Tobin’s great-grandfather Walter Cory went all out on the last new car he ever purchased, and his family is still enjoying the 1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe years after his death.

Michael, who lives in Savannah, Texas, says his great-grandpa bought the car in June of 1938. “The base price for a Master Deluxe was around $700, but Walt had managed, by ordering just about every option available, to boost the price to over $1000,” Tobin says. “It had fender skirts, fog lights, a spotlight, push-button radio, deluxe heater, banjo steering wheel with town and country horns, special chrome fender trim, and a rubber-bladed fan on the dash. He even had his initials added to the hood. The paint—Robin’s Egg Blue—was also special ordered with cream stripes on the body and wheels.

“As Great-Grandpa Walt said, ‘This is the last car I’ll ever buy, and I want it just right.’”

He nailed it. When Cory retired to the small town of Twenty Nine Palms, California, the Chevy—with its 85-horsepower, 216-cubic-inch Stovebolt Six with “knee-action” front end—was soon pressed into service hauling soldiers and supplies from the Marine Corps base to the train station at Whitewater.

1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Tobin family
Courtesy Michael Tobin

“My father, Ron, often rode along on these trips with a full load of soldiers—often pulling a two-wheel trailer full of mail, ice cream, or whatever,” Michael says. “Walt often told him, ‘Someday, when I get too old to drive, I want you to have this car.’”

Walt drove his beloved Chevy until 1967. “When he was in the hospital at nearly 90,” Michael says, “his main concern was to get the pink slip signed over to my father.”

Following Great-Grandpa Walt’s death, the Chevy took up residence at the family cabin in Big Bear Lake, California. “It was our summer car, wintering under a tarp, as we didn’t yet have a garage,” Michael recalls. “As cracks appeared in the old lacquer finish, we covered them with Ricky Ticky stickers, large flower decals popular in the ’60s. Many times, while driving through the village, we would get a vee (peace) sign from the kids. At the time, the car was referred to by many of the locals as the Heavy Chevy.”

In 1985, Michael’s family built a garage exclusively for the Master Deluxe. At last, it was out of the weather. “Thanks to the smogless and salt-free air of the mountains, there was little or no rust on the body or chrome,” Michael says. “Finally, in 1992 my father brought the Chevy to a professional restorer. Thirteen months and a whole lot of money later, it was finished.”

The ’38 Chevy is all-stock except for a Hampton interior kit with synthetic fibers rather than mohair, “because he didn’t want to worry about ice cream cones in the back seat,” Michael says.

The car returned to Big Bear and is driven on weekends and summer vacations. “It always draws a crowd, and we have met a lot of new friends. It seems everyone has had one, ridden in one as a kid, or wanted one.”

1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Tobin family
Courtesy Michael Tobin

Michael says his father always enjoyed taking his grandkids for a ride in the Chevy, just as Walt had driven him. “With his passing (in May 2014), the stewardship of Great-Grandpa’s Chevy has now been transferred to us,” he says. “I take it to various shows in the Dallas area. My dad thought long and hard about whether to leave the car stock or go the restomod route. While not as flashy as some of the ‘new old cars,’ it always gets its share of compliments.”

Add us to the list of admirers.


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