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Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Andrew Johnson of Southfield, Mich., looks over his 1940 Chevrolet at the 39th annual Muddy River Run at IPFW on Saturday.

’39 Chevy owner loves to drive it

Steve Dorcey drove his 1939 Chevrolet from Florida to the Muddy River Run.

– It’s a good saying to live by if you’re Steve Dorcey, who, for 17 hours across two days, drove his vintage car from his home near Ocala, Fla., to Fort Wayne.

“My opinion is if you got it, you drive it,” Dorcey said.

And he’s got it – an eye-popping purple 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe, one of an estimated 500 hood-open cars on proud display Saturday at the 39th annual Muddy River Run, the charity car show at IPFW hosted by the Fort Wayne Street Rod Association.

“Why trailer it?” asked Dorcey, 61. “That’s no fun. Hell, half the fun is pulling into a gas station and having people come up to you and say, ‘My God, I haven’t seen one of those in years. My grandfather used to drive one of them.’ Or, ‘I had one of those when I was a kid.’ ”

Despite needing occasional dialysis treatment, Dorcey remains insistent on driving the car back to Florida even though it has twice needed mechanical attention in the past few days.

The first time was just over the Florida-Georgia line, on Interstate 75, where the car cruised to a halt.

“The problem is the gas gauge isn’t real accurate,” said Dorcey, whose pack of Maverick cigarettes sits close to his Diet Coke. “Sometimes it reads three-quarters empty, then it’ll read empty.”

The gauge read three-quarters gone when the tank was really empty.

“I called Triple-A (auto club) and they were there within 45 minutes,” he said.

Then Friday morning, just as he pulled out of the IPFW parking lot, the purple Chevy rolled to a stop again.

Dorcey said the problem was in the fuel system. “I ran to the Advance (Auto Parts) store on Clinton,” he said. “Cost me a dollar, 59 cents for a piece of fuel hose, and that was it.”

Since 2007, a year after he retired from General Motors, Dorcey has called Wildwood, Fla., his home. “It’s a pretty small town,” he said. “Makes Bluffton look big.”

But as a 20-year member of the local street rod association, its president for three years, and a three-term Muddy River Run chairman, he returns north in the summer to see old friends and meet new ones.

Jim Gager, this year’s president, keeps the tradition alive.

“We like to show our cars off,” Gager said. “We’re proud of them. We like to drive them. So it’s an opportunity for us as enthusiasts to get together.

“But in addition to that, with the proceeds we get, we make a donation to Turnstone, and they, in turn, use the money for things they don’t budget.

“And we also have an endowment for scholarships for disabled students at IPFW.”

As for Dorcey, he says he’ll throw his stuff in the back of the ’39 Chevy and take off around 3 o’clock this morning. But he’ll be back.

“I still call Fort Wayne home,” he said.