Restoring Chevy Coupe a labour of love

Duane Hicks

When Ron Hughes first bought his ’37 Chevy Coupe, it was a haven for rodents.
Five years later, it was a thing of shining beauty—catching the attention of automobile enthusiasts and winning awards at car shows.
Hughes recalled that in 2000, fellow members of the International Early Iron Car Club had told him about the car. And after shelling out $2,500 (U.S.)—back when the exchange rate was 60 cents on the dollar—his five-year labour of love began.
Hughes, who had rebuilt a 1975 Chevy Monza in the early 1990s, said he always had wanted a ’37 Chevy Coupe. He and his younger brother, Dale, had searched far and wide, going to North Dakota, Montana, and elsewhere to try and find one, but with no success.
“So then I came back here and my little brother said, ‘Phone this guy across the river. He’s got this one, see if he’ll sell it,’” recalled Hughes, who did just that.
The vehicle, which had been found on a truck route back in the bush, certainly was a far cry from the vehicle it is today.
“It was a basket case,” admitted Hughes. “There was no motor inside, no tranny.
“Animals were getting stuff out of the garden and going inside and eating the vegetables inside the car.
“It was pretty wild.”
Hughes, who works in upholstery at Selective Services here, said he spent countless hours working on the car over a five-year period. And when he wasn’t working on it at his garage at home, he was reading automobile magazines to get ideas—and even dreaming about it.
“Lotsa crazy sleeps at nights,” Hughes chuckled, adding he would toss and turn, thinking, “Aw, I should have changed that. I should’ve done that different.”
“I didn’t think it would turn out like that,” he added, pointing to the polished ’37 Chevy Coupe sitting in his driveway.
“But I just kept at it and kept at it, every day, every day,” he stressed.
“I ordered lots of parts from California—high-end parts. Boyd Codington built the wheels and everything.
“Then I got the grill from California, from I and I [Reproduction Inc.],” Hughes noted. “And I had to get the one-piece windshield from California.”
He also had to go to Watertown, S.D. to get the trunk lid while he got the front fenders from French Lake, Mn.
After buying the car, a new engine, transmission, and other parts (and getting some of those parts shipped here), Hughes spent about $60,000 to make the dream a reality.
“But it didn’t matter. I wanted to finish it,” he remarked. “That’s what I wanted, so I just kept going and going and going.
“Then I sold my other car [the ’75 Chevy Monza] and put all that money into this one.”
The car now sports a new GM 350 c.i. crate engine, 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission, power steering with a custom Flaming River tilt column, and power brakes.
The chassis has been rebuilt with new front and rear suspension. The front suspension is MacGyveres Mustang II-based with power rack and pinion steering while the new rear suspension is from Chassis Engineering with an S-10 truck rear end.
The wheels are billet aluminum from Boyd Codington, with Nitro tires.
It has custom body panels and trim, power bucket seats (from a ’98 Pontiac Bonneville), a vintage air-conditioning system, remote door release with power windows, and even a Sirius satellite radio with custom stereo system.
Since finishing the work on the ’37 Chevy Coupe in 2005, Hughes has brought it to auto shows in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Steinbach, and various locations in the U.S. Midwest, often taking overall “Best in Show,” as well as to community events in Borderland and across Rainy River District.
Hughes also regularly takes his classic car out to A&W on Thursday evenings, meeting up with other car club members.
When asked if he’d ever consider selling his ’37 Chevy Coupe and move onto restoring another classic roadster, Hughes replied, “I like it so much, I don’t know if I’d get rid of it.
“It’s my baby.
“It don’t give me no troubles, no nothing,” he added, noting it gets good mileage and handles better than his truck.
But it’s possible Hughes might set his sights on a ’34 Ford Coupe one of these days.
“The next one, I’d probably go so far that it would be crazy,” he remarked. “It would be over 100 grand because I know what I can do now and what I can build.
“It would be over the top.”
Hughes’ ’37 Chevy Coupe will be among the vehicles parked in downtown Fort Frances when the International Early Iron Car Club holds its Scott Street “Show ’n Shine” on Saturday, June 9 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.