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Projects 1961 Chrysler basket case, mild custom

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by safetythird, Sep 26, 2023.

  1. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    This will bop around a bit-it started a long time ago.

    My dad, being the ever loving cheapskate that he was, bought this car used in '65. It had a claimed original 300 miles on it, as apparently rolling it back wasn't real uncommon then.

    He then drove it until about '85. I came home from the hospital in it as a baby in 1980. He stopped driving it when he lost his job. Not knowing he'd have another job the following week and figuring he didn't need two cars, he pulled the insurance and let it sit.

    Sometime around '93 my mother got sick of seeing it in the driveway rotting away. What are you gonna do about the car? What are you gonna do about the car?

    Finally, in a moment of weakness he said alright, I'll sell it.

    This turned into "when you gonna sell it? When you gonna sell it?".

    I was 13 at the time, and wanted it. He sold it to me for a dollar.

    She didn't talk to him for over a month. Not one word.

    Baumi, chryslerfan55, NoSurf and 30 others like this.
  2. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 13,035


    Cool story!
    safetythird likes this.
  3. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    I was now 13 with my own car, which hadn't moved since I was about 5. Let's take it for a ride tonight, eh pops?

    Calling upon my vast knowledge of absolutely nothing I jumped in with both feet, as only a 13 year old can.
    Dragging my old man out (he was a radiologist, but had gone to trade school to be a mechanic) so he did have some pertinent knowledge.

    I was told to swap out the battery, because of course it'd be dead. I managed this only to get a "click" when the key was turned. Turns out it wasn't the battery. It must be the starter.

    I had bought a battery. We were committed at this point. In case you're unaware of the definition of "committed"-when you have ham and eggs in the morning-the chicken is involved. The pig is committed.

    The starter was removed, and rebuilt and reinstalled. Turn the key. "click" "click".

    Apparently a rust prone car stored outside in New England for the better part of a decade is prone to rust. Including the engine. Frozen solid. Oops.


    Do you see the light?

    LCGarage, Sancho, ClarkH and 10 others like this.
  4. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    The motor was being rebuilt at the machine shop. We figured we'd be smart and work on the other systems. The master cylinder was shot so that got replaced, and the fluid promptly leaked out over a dozen different places. We redid the lines but achieved no pressure. Pulling off a drum the parts just fell down in a rusty pile. We couldn't even tell what they were *supposed* to look like.

    Many trips to a NAPA that was staffed by a guy with plenty of snow on the roof managed to set us to rights.

    This inspired further concern for the rust-where, upon checking it was noticed there was no longer any trunk floor. No floor in the passenger compartment either-just structural rug. Fuel tank Rotted out, of course.

    The square box frame that ran throughout the car? All that was left was the top .

    But hell-we just paid to have the engine done, and we redid the brakes. The old man taught me how to weld doing those frame repairs.

    Here is the old guy with the car, not sure from when. He passed away a long time ago now, so there's no one to ask.


  5. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 17,312


    I already love it, looking forward to hearing more.
  6. Okie Pete
    Joined: Oct 29, 2008
    Posts: 4,892

    Okie Pete

    Great story. Please keep us updated
    41 GMC K-18 and SS327 like this.
  7. gene-koning
    Joined: Oct 28, 2016
    Posts: 3,964


    Great story! I can hardly wait for the next installment!

    A lot of hot rods start out as basket cases, but not many have family connections. Even fewer start off at the family connection at the age of 5 and then include owning the basket case at age 13. Then you add dad (that is no longer with us) helping you work on it.

    I'm hooked!
    41 GMC K-18, SS327 and Squablow like this.
  8. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 7,172

    from DFW USA

    Chrysler mild custom?! Count me in!
  9. stuart in mn
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
    Posts: 2,398

    stuart in mn

    1961 Chryslers almost qualify as radical customs in stock form. ;)
  10. aussie57wag
    Joined: Jul 13, 2011
    Posts: 671

    from australia

    A basket case is the perfect to make into a custom. Not destroying a nice survivor like many do.
    safetythird and Surfcityrocker like this.
  11. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 3,258


    Canted quads? What's not to like?
    LOST ANGEL, safetythird and SS327 like this.
  12. SS327
    Joined: Sep 11, 2017
    Posts: 2,396


    I’ve learned a lot from this story so far. I can see the light and how to shut up a woman for a month! Keep going.
  13. spudshaft
    Joined: Feb 28, 2003
    Posts: 614


    Can't wait for the next installment
  14. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 2,429

    from Minn. uSA

    "Structural rug". "See the Light". Well acquainted w/those entities. LMAO... Thanks for the verbal-visual-trip. Well written. You write in a style reminiscent of Tom Senter. :D . Somehow, I keep "hearing" 'Look on the Bright Side of Life' music in the background.
  15. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    Around this time we got the motor back and put it in (the old man refused to let me put a 440 in it-smart on his part). We had repaired the floors with some basic sheet metal work and the frame with some serious growing pains.

    That SOB forced me to do all the sheet metal work with an oxy-acetylene because he wanted me to learn. The frame was done with a MIG.

    We had brakes and a working motor! Lets go for a ride!

    Hey guess who doesn't have a working transmission? Yeah, of course.

    Like I said-we would've never started this if we had understood the extent of the work.

    Given that we were doing this in our driveway, out came the motor again, this time with the transmission. We found some guy in his 70's willing to work on it and brought it to him.





  16. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    We got the transmission back, and plopped it and the motor back in. Brakes are fixed, motor works, pushbutton transmission shifts-he we've solved all the problems right? Right?

    To give you an idea of the timeline, I could drive at this point.

    Did you know that a wiring harness makes an impressive mount of white smoke?

    I didn't, until the car filled with it.

    Pulling over, I quickly shut off the car and went for the fire extinguisher. Around that time the car began to crank by itself-I dropped the extinguisher and grabbed a wrench and disconnected the battery, and then doused the flames with that evil dry powder in the extinguisher. To this day-I can still smell that shit.
  17. 41 GMC K-18
    Joined: Jun 27, 2019
    Posts: 3,501

    41 GMC K-18

    Hey @safetythird
    " It take's leather ball's to play Rugby "
    And it takes one of these to tackle, this noble project you have decided to save!
    Looking forward to more exciting updates !
    scotty t, alanp561 and SS327 like this.
  18. Gahrajmahal
    Joined: Oct 14, 2008
    Posts: 490


    I love the photo of your dad leaning on the hood!
    41 GMC K-18, safetythird and Squablow like this.
  19. caprockfabshop
    Joined: Dec 5, 2019
    Posts: 509


    This must be the part in the tale where you find out that Wiring Harnesses for 1961 Chryslers aren't cheap, especially if you want everything on the dash to work.

    Loving the content, great to see a Forward Look car heading in the custom direction!
    61Cruiser, alanp561, winr and 10 others like this.
  20. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    To move this along a bit, we found a shop that could make a wiring harness.

    Apparently, they somehow found a donor car and bought that harness, and reproduced it. We
    would have been happy to just buy the donor harness.

    I found some older pictures from way back when-note the luxury of my restoration shop.

    Scan_20230929 (3).png
    61Cruiser, Joemama, LCGarage and 11 others like this.
  21. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    We then did our version of completely uninformed body work. The rear wheel wells had rotted some pieces of metal were tacked on for support and then just shaped with filler. Metal in the trunk was just welded over the holes, sandwiching the rust. Same for the floor. All the things the anyone with knowledge would tell a newbie to avoid, we did. We didn't know any better. She turned out looking pretty good, and I drove her through high school. This would be 1998 or so.
    Scan_20230929 (4).png

    And no, we ain't done.
  22. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    Sometime after life happened....(I don't do sob stories), the poor car ended up sitting outside, unattended for several years while I had moved out to California and worked. I discovered then, why one doesn't do body work the way we did it. She rotted out in a hurry, or more likely, we never fixed it properly to begin with, and it caught up. Eventually I had the old gal trucked out west.

    Remember the earlier photos? The rear frame rails were shot. So was the trunk floor. I figured that was beyond my ability so I asked around about a shop that could do that sort of work. I ended up bringing it over to Gambino Kustoms.

    Alex had me bring him the car. I had him look it over and quote out the rear frame, so I left it with him.

    Sometime later when they started to work on it, he said really, the last foot of all the sheet metal or so is trashed. He suggested the most prudent course would be to find a shell, and swap the running gear.

    The thought of that is distressing to me. I am not restoring A car to just have a car. I'm restoring THE car. If I were to pick a classic car to tool around in, it likely wouldn't be a '61 Chrysler-the history of this car makes it more important to me than just buying another.

    But....there are times when one has to look at the costs, and that one could buy a complete one for less and just be on the road. These are things a reasonable man might do.

    The truth is, I've never been a reasonable man.

    He pointed out a number of issues that they were clear the best way to fix them would be to find the whole rear third of a non-rusty car and take what they needed. These cars were notorious for rusting out, no one makes panels for them, and they were low volume to begin with.

    Finding parts for it seemed unlikely to me so I told him that was no problem.

    Two days later I found this:



  23. 37 caddy
    Joined: Mar 4, 2010
    Posts: 483

    37 caddy
    from PEI Canada

    Back in 1984 i had a 61 windsor 2 door hardtop,black with a blue interior.Drove that car as our daily driver for a year or so,i really loved it,had a 361 in it,was good on gas,never drove it hard,was scared the transmission would crap the bed.This was before the internet days,parts were harder to find then.Paid 2200.00 for it at a Honda dealer,someone traded it it in on a new Honda?.At the end i traded it for a 69 Dodge Charger,another car i should of kept.:(. Harvey
    41 GMC K-18 and alanp561 like this.
  24. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    Age 1 day, actually ;) My mom is still around-she wants to see it done, so it's been a kick in the butt lately.

    I was hoping your painter dad would be in. :p Love your car, man.

    Honestly, they're pretty out there. I love the fins.

    Wait until we get to the record player I found.:eek:
    scotty t, Okie Pete, Sancho and 3 others like this.
  25. My dad and I bought a ‘62 Newport from a used car dealer back in 1970. The cost? $60. The car had a “miss” and the dealer said it needed a valve job. I followed my dad to a nearby gas station where we replaced the spark plugs. Drove it for several years before giving it to my brother, and it never missed again…
    61Cruiser, alanp561 and williebill like this.
  26. Los_Control
    Joined: Oct 7, 2016
    Posts: 1,114

    from TX

    Dude you need to fix That car then take your mother for a drive.
    I would keep a close eye on your mother .... if she blushes when she see's a certain dent or scratch in the interior ..... She may be a lady and not share any stories ..... quite possible that not only did they transport you home in the car, you were conceived in the car as well.
    To see her smile when riding it it again would be priceless ..... to see her blush would last you a lifetime.
  27. wheeldog57
    Joined: Dec 6, 2013
    Posts: 3,130


    Keep at it bro, great to see another New England car saved.
    safetythird likes this.
  28. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    ...I feel like I need new seats now.
  29. safetythird
    Joined: Feb 26, 2014
    Posts: 265


    With the proper bracing....and infinite amounts of stubborn.....great things are possible.




  30. Pav8427
    Joined: Jul 30, 2021
    Posts: 141


    You are staying traditional and gas welding. Correct?

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