Chuck Rogers' 1950 Chevrolet
1950 Chevrolet Club Coupe originally owned and restyled by Chuck Rogers of Gridley, California. The car was known as the "Black Panther" and Chuck spent 1800 hours restyling it. The build took five years to complete, and after completing the build Chuck landed a job as chief bodyman for Joe Bailon at Bailon's Custom Shop. In Trend Book 133 Custom Cars 1957 Annual the car was featured as a 1949 Chevrolet owned by "Chuck Rodgers", but both these facts were wrong.
Chuck chopped the top on his Club Coupe 4 inches and removed all stock trim and ornamentation from the body. After that, Chuck handmade new outer trim moldings for the fenders. The doors and deck lid were converted to electrical operation. In the front a new rolled grille opening was created and a grille that included a molded grille shell was installed. Two Oldsmobile bumper guards were fitted into a rolled panel of the grille and two short pieces of chrome ran from grille opening to the directional lights. The headlights were frenched, recessed and surrounded by perforated metal insets. In the rear, 1954 Buick taillights were frenched into the quarter panels and the exhaust was routed through the stock bumper bracket holes in the rear fender. The bumper was removed and replaced by two vertical nerf bars. Functional scoops were cut into the rear fenders and the car was lowered 6 inches. Inside, the Black Panther was fit with a complete bar setup, including martini glasses and an ice bucket. The center radio was sacrificed and replaced by a toggle-switchboard with twin recessed instruments. 1955 Buick instruments were installed in place of the stock Chevrolet gauges. The steering column, shift levers, pedals and most other removable parts were chrome plated. A panther head was painted on the heater cover and emblazoned on each door panel. 1935 Chevrolet bucket seats replaced the original sofa. Once the bodywork was done, the car was painted with ten coats of jet black lacquer.
Denny O'Keefe remembers the car from when he was 9 years old in 1955. The car was the talk of the town, and Chuck used to wait for his wife in the parking lot of the Spotlight Market at the top of the hill in Daly City every day. Chuck waited in the Black Panther, and Denny would go and wait with him. He even gave the young kid a ride in the car. Later on Denny heard that the car had been traded in for a brand new 1957 Chevrolet late in 1956. After that, The Black Panther was then displayed in the show room window of Gateway Chevrolet for about a year. According to Denny, the paint on the car was a mile deep and straight as an arrow.
In 1957 the Black Panther was shown at the National Roadster Show in Oakland, California. By then the car had changed hands and was owned by San Francisco Hub Cats member Salvadore LaBue of Daly City, California. While LaBue owned the car, his younger friend Bud Millard used to drive it to several local car shows for him while LaBue drove behind in his then-new 1958 Oldsmobile. After buying the car, LaBue updated the design by adding chromed side pipes and dual antennas in the rear. Traditional pinstriping was added over the taillights, a panther head was painted on the front fenders and the name "Black Panther" was painted on the rear of the car just below the deck lid.
In the early 1990s, about 20 years after LaBue sold the Black Panther, Bud tracked the car down in Kentucky. When Bud found the car, it had been painted yellow with black lace painted panels. Bud bought the car and brought it back with him to Hayward, California. He sold the car some time later and it ended up in Washington state.
October 2008 The Black Panther was offered for sale on Craigslist, the price was $2,900 US. A guy from Washington bought the car and intended to restore it back to its 1955 configuration. By then the car had been primered in grey and was in desperate need of a restoration as the floor and bottom of the doors were completely rusted out. In August 2009, the car was up for sale again. It was listed in the classifieds section of the HAMB and the asking price was $3,500 US. Around May, 2010 the car was sold to a new owner in California who intends to restore the Black Panther back to the 1955 version.
- The HAMB - Black Panther Returns; One California Custom's History Found w Pictures! Cite error: Invalid
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- The HAMB - Just bought the Black Panther custom
- Trend Book 133 Custom Cars 1957 Annual
- Rod & Custom August 1956
- Denny O'Keefe
- Motor Trend May 1957
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