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Consider Restoring A Vintage Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge Or Desoto



More and more vintage Chrysler cars and trucks are being rescued from fields, woods, junkyards and the crusher than ever before. From the beginning (1924), Walter Chrysler set out to build a superior automobile and in keeping with that idea throughout his tenure as the supreme leader of the company that bore his name, he was sure to include things that were uncommon for cars and trucks in the low and mid-price field. One such aspect was four-wheel hydraulic brake systems in every car and truck they built, while the competitors were still using mechanical brakes which required frequent adjustments and were unreliable in terms of uniform braking of each wheel. While the more luxurious and expensive cars of the day (Duisenberg, Packard, Cord, etc.) used hydraulic brakes all around, GM and Ford did not change over until the middle to late thirties respectively. Shifting back to the 1930’s we find that with the end of the 1934 model production run, Chrysler had built the last “Chrysler” badged automobile to use wood as a structural component as the 1935 model PJ introduced the era of the all steel bodied low price car. This type of construction was unusual for most cars at that time but unheard of in a car that sold for a mere $510 FOB. Ford and GM continued to use wood for several more years.


Finally, the 1935 model introduced the most advanced flathead six cylinder in the industry and Chrysler used this engine with relatively few modifications until it was replaced by the slant six engine in 1960.Rated at 82 HP it placed fit neatly between the Chevrolet six at 80 HP and the (large) Ford flathead V8 at 85 HP. Additionally, this new engine known as the ‘L – Head’ Six had the most advanced cooling system of any engine built at that time. Using a water distribution tube that ran the length of the camshaft and extending the water jacket to the bottom of the connecting rods produced a cooling process that kept the block uniformly cooled – front to rear and top to bottom. As we all know, the cooler the engine runs the less friction is produced resulting in better fuel economy and oil consumption. The engines are factory balanced and valves are located within the block and are perfectly uncomplicated requiring little or no maintenance. All Chrysler engines were mounted on what Chrysler had dubbed “Floating Power” (introduced several years earlier) that is, mounting the engine on blocks of rubber instead of directly to the frame thus removing engine vibration that would ordinarily be transferred to the body through the frame. Additionally, the positioning of these motor mounts gave the engine perfect weight balance which further reduced harshness and vibration. This engine was used continually in regular production (with very minor changes) from 1935 – 1959 but carried over for nearly another two decades in commercial use. NOS parts are easy to locate making this one of the most economical engines to rebuild and operate.



Having owned many MoPars (from 1935 – 1951) with this venerable six-cylinder engine I can attest to achieving between 18 and 22.5 MPG depending upon the conditions and the final drive ratio. They are so reliable that I purchased a 1951 Plymouth on e-bay, brought it home, tuned it up, replaced the battery hoses and tires, inspected the brakes and headed for Arizona in what turned out to be one of the hottest summers on record (2003).With the temperatures in the low 100’s every day or driving at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet through the Colorado mountain ranges, this little Plymouth performed flawlessly over more than 5,000 miles. Before the year 2001, there were precious few manufactures of sheet metal replacement parts for these cars. Today, however, the reproduction industry is responding to the needs of the restorer and street-rodder by producing the type of parts necessary to reconstruct these great old cars and trucks.The Big Boy Toys have been put away for a couple months, the holidays are behind us, its 5 degrees outside with a foot of snow on the ground and our minds in this part of the world are turning back to, and you guessed it – our cars. Last week I watched the Barrett Jackson and Mecum auctions on TV, later I went to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and visited a swap meet put Hosted by the Walter P. Chrysler car club. Coming up I’ll be visiting Autorama and the boat show. These events combined with some bench racing among friends and I’ll be able to get my car itch scratched a little until springtime finally arrives.


Auctions That Establish Car Prices


I usually find the TV auctions very entertaining, especially the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday broadcasts of Barrett Jackson where you can find more of the “regular gals and guys cars” as opposed to Saturday when most cars sell for six digits and some for seven. The Barrett Jackson TV coverage this year was frustrating to say the least, it was covered on three different networks, two of which I had. The other thing, I wish they would focus more on the cars on the block instead of some of the other features they do and the seemingly endless commercials. Every 5 minutes they break for 5 minutes of the same commercials over and over again. Mecum Auction house on the other hand has many more regular people’s cars and while not as glitzy as Barrett Jackson however the TV coverage was much stronger. You see more cars on the block and less fluff, the cars are a good quality yet are still attainable by the average collector. I like the Mecum Auctions and am looking forward to attending their May auction in Indy.


Detroit’s Grammy Awards


The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit was as large and glamorous as ever. One thing that is apparent to those of us over 50 is that the manufacturers now use this time in the spotlight to introduce their new models to us instead of the wild concept cars we use to see twenty and thirty years ago. While the new models are exciting I do miss the wild styling exercises of the concept cars that gave us clues as to what was coming in the future. The NAIAS is so large and has so many displays that I can see how difficult it is for the manufactures and models (cars, not girls) to stand out. The technology from all the manufacturers is amazing and the styling, fit and finish is better than ever. The thing that stood out for me is how the manufacturers across the board are doing such a broad array of finishes. Not like the wild colors of the Dodge’s and Plymouth’s of the late 60’s and early 70’s, a little more subtle than that. I saw cars with solid color gloss finishes, solid color flat finishes, light metal flake gloss finishes, light metal flake flat finishes, and even heavy metal flake gloss finishes rivaling those of the Bradley kit cars of the 70’s but much, much nicer! I was not a big fan of the flat finishes, that is until I visited this year’s NAIAS and saw the way they are doing them now and I can say I instantly became a fan.


Swap Meets, A Winter Time Cruise-In



In addition to doing some shopping or selling the winter, swap meets are a great opportunity to talk to people to hear about winter projects, catch up on some new trends, and run into some friends and acquaintances. I had intended to get a table and try to find new homes for my many leftover parts but the swap meet was sold out. While disappointed that I couldn’t get the garage cleaned out it was great to be able to walk around instead of being stuck at my table. The sold-out swap meet shows how strong the car hobby remains.My neighbor’s car is always gleaming. You can see yourself reflected in the paint. You never need to worry about getting dust on your clothes if you lean against it. My car, on the other hand, was a different story. My car, like my house, was not really clean. Oh, I take it for regular tune-ups and it drives like a dream but the paint was a bit chipped and there were a few small dents. The appliances in my house are well maintained but the walls could do with being repainted and the carpets are a bit threadbare underneath all the dust.


I began feeling a bit embarrassed, but, of course, not embarrassed enough to actually take the time to clean and polish my car. I went out and bought a chrysler 300 heavy duty car cover to hide the imperfections on my car. It did an excellent job and really protected my car from getting dustier and the neighborhood kids from trying to see if they could chip off more paint. (They couldn’t, it works to chip paint that’s peeling off of the sides of a house but not off of the body of a car.) Then I got to thinking. Maybe I should wash and polish my car and then use the car cover to protect a gleaming car. I couldn’t do it all at once but I discovered that cleaning it bit by bit and covering it with a car cover when I wasn’t driving it protected the car enough that the driving I did didn’t completely nullify the cleaning. Once it was nearly all washed off, I took the plunge and brought the car to get the paint touched up and the dents banged out. I then spent an entire day washing, waxing and polishing it. OK, I didn’t do it myself. I had next to no idea what I was doing. I asked my neighbor, he of the gleaming car, first to give me some tips and then for some actual physical help.


Now, my car is always gleaming. My car cover is a bit dusty but I can always whip it off when I want to show off my car. I have been thinking about getting a second car cover so I can hose off one, take it off of the car to dry and put a clean one on my clean car, but I think that’s probably taking things too far. You still can’t lean on my car or you’ll get your clothes dirty but at least it’s from the car cover and not from the car itself that stays perfectly clean. (Well, maybe not perfectly.) I still do drive it and it needs to be wiped off or sometimes even hosed off every so often, but it’s never as bad as it once was) I still don’t really know what I’m doing with my car. The mechanic takes care of the inside and the body shop takes care of the outside (when necessary) but I, at least, can take care of keeping it cleans, thanks to my car cover.

November 8, 2018