At some point or another, car guys sit around talking about the one that got away, the barnyard find that was just down the street, and the cars they wish they never sold that are now worth six figures, if not millions of dollars. It’s an intriguing subject that mystifies us, and while most of us will never get to really experience such a chance occurrence, there are the special few who do. Take Juan Bustos for example; he’s the guy you’ll love to hate.

But the details of his find will probably make you even more upset because while he stumbled across a true barnyard find, he let his fingers do more of the walking than his feet. You see he actually found the car listed on Craigslist. It was an all-original 1938 Chevy Master DeLuxe coupe that was complete and located pretty much in his backyard in Albuquerque’s North Valley. With very minimal rust, the car was all he had dreamed of but by the time he made the call it was already sold.

Months had passed since he missed the rare opportunity when he found the same car relisted. Puzzled but wasting no time, he called the number and that’s when he found out that the original deal fell through, so Juan jumped on the opportunity to own this automotive gem.

With the car in original condition, many would think the transformation would be easy, but it simply wasn’t the case—and something that could only be understood by anyone who’s ever worked on a classic. In its simplest explanation, the restoration of a classic car comes with plenty of surprises. From snapping bolts to surprise rust damage, a classic car almost seems to fall apart as fast as you can take it apart. But Juan was already aware.

Having restored a few rides in the past, Juan had a vision to retain the most of the Master DeLuxe’s originality with just a few minor upgrades and mods. He started by rebuilding the original 216 and drivetrain while converting to disc brakes to help bring this land tank to a stop. Once all mechanicals were dialed in and tuned he started on the cosmetics.

Having done all his own body- and paintwork in the past, he didn’t have to go far to find the right man for the job, but since he wanted to paint the car black he already knew that it would require a ton of blocking. With a day job and a budding family, he managed to massage a bit of time during the week to get on the car, a process that would ultimately take two years to complete.

Reminiscing about the build, Juan talks about how his son, Cruz, would come out to the shop to watch him work as he pretended to drive. Moments like this were enough to drive him harder to complete the car; it was the motivation he needed to power through the process.

Once the paint was buffed, polished, and waxed to perfection, the Master Deluxe was delivered to Chito’s Upholstery where they brought life back into the cabin with an interior that takes you way back to when life was simple and less polluted. To finalize the build it was bolted up to a set of Artillery wheels wrapped in Coker 560s and its maiden voyage set sail with Cruz riding shotgun.

These are the moments we cherish, and the ones that leave the greatest impression on a child. This is where they get to see what hard work and patience rewards you, and it’s a testament to the value of a man’s worth to be a caretaker to a loving family and a once-needy car that is now welcomed as their latest member.

1938 Chevy Master Deluxe Coupe

Juan A. Bustos

Albuquerque, NM

Original 216 6V engine

Axalta black basecoat, clearcoat, lowered bumpers 3 inches, expanded body lines

Disc brake conversion with a Mustang II front suspension

Black velvet and tweed original style

15-inch Artillery Coker 560s

Esperanza Martinez, Son Juan “Cruz” Bustos, Daughter Arriana Anita Bustos, Dad Johnny Bustos, uncle Archie Bustos, and in loving memory of his mom Anita Bustos