Kim Lubeck’s teenage car lives on.
The 1939 Chevrolet sedan features four doors with the two back doors having rear hinges. The designs of early automobiles were borrowed from horse-drawn carriages and coaches. Doors opening backward were more convenient for passengers to get in and out, especially for women wearing long dresses.
By Susan Thompson | Lake Panorama Times
More than five years after his death, Kim Lubeck’s dream of restoring a 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe four-door sedan came true.
The front of the Lubeck 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe sedan features an original hood ornament for this car model.
Lubeck passed away Sept. 27, 2018, while waterskiing on Lake Panorama. He had been diagnosed with Lyme disease after being bitten by a deer tick. An autopsy stated his death was caused by a sudden cardiac event, with a likely link to Lyme disease.
In May 1973, Lubeck moved to Panora to work at the Panora Oil Company. In February 1974, he purchased the business, which he owned and operated for 42 years before retiring in 2016. His interest in the service station business had strong roots, since his father owned four stations where he worked during high school.
A rear view of the Lubeck 1939 Chevrolet after restoration was complete in late December.
Kim and his wife, Maureen, were married in November 1974. The couple raised two children, Courtney and Phillip.
Maureen picks up the story of the 1939 Chevy.
“Kim’s dad bought the car for him in 1965 as a surprise for his 14th birthday. It was in a hay field in Nebraska and belonged to Kim’s aunt, who bought it new,” she says. “Kim’s dad paid his sister $40 for the car. Kim drove it through high school. He and his buddies had a grand old time in it.”
The last time the Chevy was licensed was 1968. For 25 years, it was stored in the Lubecks’ boathouse at Lake Panorama.
“You should have heard the neighbors when Kim used the tow truck to take it down the steep driveway and tuck it into the boathouse,” Maureen says. “It was quite the attraction with several of them shouting, ‘Kim, that thing won’t float!’ But with his usual expertise, he maneuvered it smoothly into place.”
Maureen says Kim had a dream of restoring the 1939 Chevrolet.
Kim Lubeck did most of the needed mechanical work on the car including installation of the steering wheel, on-the-floor automatic transmission, windshield wipers, radio, and instrument panel. Sam Mapes of Sam’s Upholstery in Winterset put the finishing touches on the interior.
“I can’t tell you how many car shows and museums we went to over the years,” she says. “He loved talking to other gearheads, and he continued to formulate his restoration plan. I encouraged him to take it into the station where he could begin the process. I told him if it took him as long to restore it as it had been stored, I would never get to ride in it.”
In 2014, Kim towed the car to the Panora Oil Company.
“So many of his customers had stories to tell about relatives or friends who had a similar car,” Maureen says. “They were so interested in his plans for restoration. Some of his customers and friends looked at the rust bucket condition and shook their heads, thinking he would never get it done.”
Kim Lubeck installed bucket seats from an S-10 Chevy truck in the old car. During interior restoration by Sam Mapes, those seats were recovered, plus the rear seats restored and upholstered and floors carpeted.
Yet, when the doubters came back to check on the progress, they were pleasantly surprised. He took the engine and bucket seats from an S-10 Chevrolet truck and installed those in the old car. He did lots of welding work on the chassis and flooring. The original car was equipped with a manual transmission, but Kim installed an automatic on-the-floor transmission.
“I can’t drive a straight stick,” Maureen says. “He tried to teach me when we were first married, but it was too painful for him to hear the gears moaning. He was looking forward to taking it to car shows and parades. We also had plans to take it on some trips, hence the automatic transmission for my benefit. Several car groups travel from place to place together, and we hoped to join them.”
While Kim Lubeck was able to do most of the mechanical work on this 1939 Chevy, he died before the exterior and interior restoration could be done. In 2019, the car was loaded onto a trailer and moved to the Panora Service Center, where Dennis Shroyer did the exterior restoration.
Maureen says that Kim worked on the vehicle as much as time allowed.
“One of the benefits of him retiring in 2016 was he had more time to work on the car,” she says. “He researched parts, always thinking about his ultimate goal.”
Maureen says he even worked on it the morning he died.
Dennis Shroyer’s last big job before he retired in December was to restore and paint the exterior of Kim Lubeck’s 1939 Chevrolet.
“My memory tells me he said he put the windshield wipers, radio and instrument panel in,” she says.
After Kim’s death, Maureen thought about what to do with the 1939 Chevy. Kim had done the majority of the mechanical work needed, but the exterior and interior were in rough shape.
“It was such a special car for Kim,” she says. “If it hadn’t always been in the family, if he didn’t have high school memories in it, and if he didn’t have ambitious plans to restore it, I might not have been anxious to complete the task. Yet I truly felt I had to honor him and do my best to finish the job.”
She contacted Dennis Shroyer, who for many years owned the Panora Service Center. In 2019, when Lubeck’s Panora Oil Company building sold, the 1939 Chevy was towed to Shroyer’s nearby building.
“Dennis and Kim were good friends,” Maureen says. “He did the bodywork and painting. He told me this would be the last big job he did before retirement, and he did a wonderful job.” Shroyer sold his building and retired this past December.
In August 2023, the car was moved to Sam’s Upholstery in Winterset, where Sam Mapes did the interior restoration.
“I am amazed at the quality of his work,” Maureen says. “Both he and Dennis listened to my ideas and supported me. Several of Kim’s gearhead friends helped me with advice. I had joined Kim at enough car events over the years and listened to his dream, so I had a pretty good idea of what he would want.”
Shroyer painted the exterior of the Chevy the original color, a deep maroon. The interior is beige with maroon stitching. The original seats were covered with a horsehair fabric. The rear seat is the original seat, minus the horsehair fabric.
“One of the fun things Sam did was create a ‘suitcase’ to hide the battery, which is in the trunk behind the back seat,” Maureen says. “With my love of travel, it makes sense.”
Maureen Lubeck was able to bring the car to her Lake Panorama condo a few days before Christmas so family members could enjoy a ride when they visited. Most of the time, the car will be stored in a friend’s garage.
Lubeck plans to take the Chevy to some car shows and parades.
“It drives really well. It has some creaks and squeaks, but it is very comfortable. My biggest challenge is that it doesn’t have a backup camera,” she exclaims.
One final decision needed to be made about the 1939 Chevrolet four-door sedan. What should be used on the car’s vanity license plate? Daughter Courtney wanted the license plate to be Dad’s 39, but that was already in use. Maureen considered Kim’s 39 but didn’t want people to think she was Kim. The final wording is just as perfect as the restored car — His 39.
This photo taken in 2015 shows Kim Lubeck with the car he owned since he was 14 years old. At this point he had moved the 1939 Chevy from his Lake Panorama boathouse to the Panora Oil Company building but had not yet started restoration.