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Projects First Project: 1949 Plymouth

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by SamMan, Oct 24, 2017.

  1. SamMan
    Joined: Oct 24, 2017
    Posts: 5


    Where to begin...

    So I'm 22, and I've always wanted a classic car that I could say that I built, just kicking around a few ideas with what car to start with. I thought of some 60's and 70's muscle cars, some 50's cruisers, but I didn't really pictured myself in those. One day going out to a showing of American Graffiti, I was awed by this beautiful light green 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster with all the chrome, a roof rack, and sun visor. The engine didn't run too well, but that did not phase me from deciding that was the car I wanted. I even found a post here on the HAMB that really reinforced my desire to acquire one. So I scoured the local Craiglist in search of one and found a Fleetmaster coupe for $3000. I called up the seller and went to go look at it; it was in really bad shape. It was formerly a hot rod that was stripped for parts, so a rolling chassis without an engine or transmission, which featured very rusted chassis and an entire rear end that was reinterpreted in Bondo. Naturally, I walked from it.

    Many months and a girlfriend later, I was driving around through an unfamiliar neighborhood and spotted a coupe parked in a driveway; definitely 40's or 50's and I had no idea what it was. After a quick Google search based on the badges, it was a 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe club coupe! I went home and read more and more about the car, and was very intrigued by it, more so than the Chevies. My opportunity came to buy one when I saw, yet again, a listing on Craigslist in a town about an hour and half from where I live. I took a small road trip after school to go look at it.

    20170919_154259.jpg 20170919_154333.jpg 20170919_154431.jpg 20170919_154548.jpg

    He bought it as a restoration project and was selling it to make room for some pretty fun bikes. I later found out he barely had 300 miles on the thing. 76,000 miles and all of the pieces were there, a rebuilt engine with the break-in oil still in it, working tube radio, rebuilt starter and generator, new wire harness, new radiator, a sun visor (which I don't think was period correct). However, the car did need a little bit of body work; the floor qualified it to be a Fred Flintstone vehicle. We agreed to $3000 and I made plans to pick it up less than a week later with some friends. Of course my friends had to make a bit of scene on the way there.


    Guess who realized they bought a four door instead a two door halfway home? Oh well.


    After about 2 hours on the road, we arrived home late around 7 or 8, and we we dropped the car off at my friend's place as a temporary storage spot. Still on the trailer, my friend's dad (who at one time had a 1954 Plymouth) came out to take a look at it; I learned more about 1950's Plymouths in that twenty minutes than I did in all the time researching the vehicle beforehand. We agreed to just leave it on the trailer and offload it the next morning. When pulling it off the trailer, a guy by the name of Hershel McGriff complimented my car, saying, "I used to drive those things back when they were new." Apparently, my friend's neighbor just happens to be a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. We pulled the car to the back and parked it there. Just to make it more sightly for my friend's mom, we fit all the panel pieces together that way it could be recognized as a vehicle.

    The funny thing is, being a college student with a job living at home, I am hiding this vehicle from my parents. Now you may ask, "Son, aren't you an adult?"

    "Yeah, that's why I bought it."

    Isn't she a beaut?


    My plans for it, I still don't know. I have no idea if I want to continue this project as a restoration, a hot rod, or a very custom job. But what I do know that this car is practically a blank and stock slate, which I can do anything to.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  2. gene-koning
    Joined: Oct 28, 2016
    Posts: 1,122


    Completely assemble it and fix the floors, if the brakes are OK drive it for a bit. You may, or may not like the way it drives. Some people really like the way old cars run and drive, since this is your first, you have no idea if you are one of those people or not. After driving it a bit, you will know what you want to change and what you will want to keep the same.

    By today's standards, the brakes and drive train power will be somewhat crude and limited, but back in the car's day, the old Plymouth was pretty advanced. They were among the first modern day automobiles and can be driven down the road safely at 65 mph. Just keep in mind the brakes and power level won't be up to today's standards. Gene
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  3. 1953naegle
    Joined: Nov 18, 2013
    Posts: 149


    Nice find! I agree to get it going and enjoy it as is before you start making changes. I got both my cars prior to high school and by the time I graduated, my plans for both had changed multiple times. After driving the 53' around for several years, I've landed on "restoration" wagon. When my brother got his 59' Apache, he immediately started to tear it down with plans for all kinds of changes. That was 20 years ago and it still isn't done....
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  4. plym_46
    Joined: Sep 8, 2005
    Posts: 3,717

    from central NY

    Check out the P15 - D24 forum for info and discussion on 30 - 50's Mopar cars. Lots of good info. Brakes are a bit weird to deal with but other than that well engineered and dependable rides.
    HotRodRyan, SamMan and chryslerfan55 like this.
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  5. SamMan
    Joined: Oct 24, 2017
    Posts: 5


    The fact that the car's engineering was so far advanced to the Chevies and Fords of the era was really what I liked about them the most, how they were the most practical of all the cars. Where Plymouth/ Dodge put their chips on engineering and functional design, their competitors really put more effort proportionally speaking into their cars' aesthetics. Granted, the car has its share of chrome, but it's not too flashy.
    chryslerfan55 and Hnstray like this.
  6. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 10,232

    from Quincy, IL

    I have no illusions that Plymouths from that era are a high point in styling.......but that said, I have always had a soft spot for them. I have a '49 Club Coupe (aka 2 dr sedan) that I have owned since
    1995 and have no plans to sell it. Over time, before and since, I have had a couple other '49s as well, but sent them on their way to new owners. Also have owned and driven several '53 Plymouths, 2 of them convertibles, 2 Belvedere Hardtops.

    I completely agree with SamMan’s post about Mopar engineering superiority.

    I hope you get the car on the road and really enjoy it!

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    SamMan and chryslerfan55 like this.
  7. SamMan
    Joined: Oct 24, 2017
    Posts: 5


    That's what I'm afraid of too, because I don't want to really spend more than a couple years on a car. I mean even the minimal work I plan to do now on it seems daunting because of the emotional void in my life that I refer to as "higher education", because stuff like that just butts in way too quickly.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  8. Jonnie King
    Joined: Aug 12, 2007
    Posts: 2,077

    Jonnie King
    from St. Louis

    When I was a kid my Dad had a '49 Plymouth Special Deluxe 2dr. Coupe, Maroon with a grey interior. Lots of great memories with that one.

    Then in '55 when I was in high school he purchased a '54 4dr. Belvedere...EXACTLY like this one:

    It was a very cool car ! That Powder Blue Body/White Top Combo was a knockout ! White Wall, Full Chrome (actually Stainless Steel as I remember) Hub Caps, Radio, Heater, and, HyDrive Tranny. I learned to drive in that car, took out my first girlfriends' in it, and just really enjoyed that car...seeing this one always brings back that one.

    Here's a little piece of R&C History for you: Around 2000, Troy Trepanier built the "Sniper", designed by Chip Foose, and built for one of the "ultimate car guys" George Poteet, and based on a '54 Plymouth Savoy. I met George when he was at Starbird's Museum for the Induction Ceremonies one year and I told him the story about our '54 Plymouth.

    Then he told me that he'd either learned to drive in one like I did, or, had one in his early days too...and that's why he wanted the "Sniper" built out of a '54 !

    Sometimes your earliest car, like your earliest girlfriend, never leaves your mind...or your heart.

    Enjoy yours...SamMan,

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  9. Torchie
    Joined: Apr 17, 2011
    Posts: 975


    Agree with the posts that suggest getting it put back together and driving first. From the looks of it, other then the floor, that shouldn't be a great deal of work. Plus there is nothing that beats the feeling of that first ride......
    I had to snort out loud about the fact that you didn't realize that it was a 4 door until you were half way home. That will be one of the many memories from your first vintage car.
    My Mom encouraged me in my love of old cars as she figured that I would be less likely to get in trouble out in the back yard tinkering then out on the streets running. She was right about that most of the time.......:)
    Good luck and have fun.
    chryslerfan55, SamMan and Hnstray like this.
  10. scrap_metal
    Joined: Sep 26, 2017
    Posts: 182


    Like the others said get it on the road. start simple so you don't get over it. Driving stopping and so forth. I remember my fist project, I got it going and driving great, them some one tolled me to pull everything apart for paint and patch panels windows, door sand all. That was a mistake, sat that way for 2.5 years. If to do it again I would have done patch panels as I drove it around still. Makes the car more enjoyable we you can drive it, instead of just working on it. Keep it simple and have fun.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  11. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 15,891


    I worked up one for a guy a works at Pixar.

    When he drives, this is what he drives:
    I put disc brakes on it (customer request), and nice alternator, and the front anti-sway bar from a Jeep Cherokee (XJ), run upside-down. The sway bar makes for much more confident handling. Especially compared to the broken original one:
    The installation only took drilling a few holes, and the fabrication of the lower tabs. Super cheap. Totally worth it.
    HotRodRyan, chryslerfan55 and Hnstray like this.
  12. low budget
    Joined: Nov 15, 2006
    Posts: 5,073

    low budget
    from Central Ky

    Theres the money shot!
    Will look twice as cool even as is, only with your buddies loaded up and goin down the road under its own power.;)
    chryslerfan55 and SamMan like this.
  13. goatboy
    Joined: May 9, 2009
    Posts: 618

    from kansas

    those are cool cars, dad had a twin to that when i was young, my lemans was always broke so i used it a lot, broke the back seat in many many times !!!
  14. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 735


    Now that's a neat car. I think I prefer the 4door to the 2door on these. Remember seeing an article on a custom one in one of the old little mags. It had '49 Ford tailights mounted vertically and had an Olds grille bar. Main detail was a chopped top. The chop really nails this car but don't do it until you have some more experience. If you ever have to pull the engine, disconnect the flywheel from the engine first because the bell housing doesn't clear the flywheel. Just hope no one steps on the clutch when the engine is out.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  15. Corvette Fever
    Joined: Feb 18, 2014
    Posts: 119

    Corvette Fever
    from Michigan

    There is a local guy that has one like yours in the same color. He put a set of Chrysler wires on it and left every thing else stock. It will draw a crowd at every car show, really changes the cars looks at not to crazy a cost .
    I am in the process of building my first Mopar a 53 Chrysler Wagon and am amazed at the engineering that went in the Mopar in the 50s
    Enjoy your ride.

    Sent from my iPad using H.A.M.B.
    chryslerfan55 and SamMan like this.
  16. 'Mo
    Joined: Sep 26, 2007
    Posts: 6,745


    That would be Leroy French.
    Photo from Kustomrama.'s_1949_Plymouth

    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  17. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 735


    Yes! That's the car. January 1956 Rod & Custom. 1949 is an odd year for Plymouth. While the basic body style carried over until 1952, the smaller windshield and rear window appear only in 1949 making it the best one to chop. Also, it has the cleaner looking hippo style rear fenders and a great looking 3 gauge woodgrain dash.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  18. Johnboy34
    Joined: Jul 12, 2011
    Posts: 987

    from Seattle,Wa

    It'll be a fun project, I learned how to drive in one like it. Is it a three speed or fluid drive 3 speed?
  19. SamMan
    Joined: Oct 24, 2017
    Posts: 5


    Wow, so many replies on this thread!

    So to respond to gene-koning, 1953naegle, scrap_metal, and Torchie...
    I think I'm seeing a theme here...

    And I think I'm definitely going to do just that. The problem I was undecided about what to modify on the car, because I am a tinkerer; I have a desire to change things on a car, but it has one of those waterfall effects. Where it's like, "Oh, I want to do this, but I need to change this first, but before I can do that I have to..." and so on. And for somebody's first project, I have yet to prove any execution of any car so far. So thank you guys for that, making me think more consciously about time intensive mods.

    I like that sway bar mod. When I get the car running, I'll definitely keep that in mind, because that seems like a really easy swap. Like that Cherokee sway bar seems almost made for it. Also, for their alternator on that car, was it still on a 6V system or was it swapped over to 12V?

    Jonnie King...
    That is a cool car! I have a friend who is really opposed to the idea of modding old "beat up" cars, and I actually used the picture of the Sniper to try to convey him to the other side. From what he would call a "plain old car" could be turned into a very fun piece of art. I saw another custom recently which was this 1952 Ford coupe which I used to combat his stubbornness.

    goatboy, I actually took a screenshot of this and sent to my friends. Haha
    I actually am not sure. I think it is the fluid drive, but I'm not confident in what I think...

    Thanks to all for their input. I have a feeling I will never run short of experience and know-how on the HAMB.
    chryslerfan55 and Johnboy34 like this.
  20. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 15,891


    I converted it to 12V. I also modified the tail lights to take 1157 bulbs, so it has 3-brake lights.
    SamMan and chryslerfan55 like this.
  21. SamMan
    Joined: Oct 24, 2017
    Posts: 5


    So after many months of a hectic school schedule, I finally had an opportunity to even look at the car. So here's a teeny tiny update of progress! Now I did during the semester work on it a little bit, a few hours here and there, but mostly to inventory all of the big pieces and get them to fit together. And you can see my little field operation I was performing here, but would ultimately lead to me reassembling the car each time I was out there in order to store it. Naturally, I got tired of this and moved the car to a more desirable work area.

    Snapchat-1688600974.jpg 20171213_170016.jpg 20171216_140746.jpg 20171216_135155.jpg

    Now she looks cozy.


    With the car in now a more optimal spot, I spent an intimate morning now finding the stuff that I would need to fix and a much much much closer look at the underside of the car. Now, I knew buying it that it had a little bit of "work" done to it. But I didn't know to what extent. I was suspicious of this "weld" by the passenger side front door. Then underneath this joint, I saw daylight. The more I thought about, the more I wished I wouldn't see this all over the car. But yet, I did start seeing that quality of weld all over the car.

    20171213_162339.jpg 20171223_120046.jpg

    So fittingly, I made a to-do list to organize the things I have to do to the car before I can even drive it.


  22. NICE Plymouth sketch!
    jnaki, Peanut 1959 and chryslerfan55 like this.
  23. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 3,197


    upload_2019-5-13_2-23-14.png nice...@gimpyshotrods
    Hey S,

    Nice 4 door sedan find and build so far. The note you made to your self is pretty neat, nice drawing, too. It is enjoyable to see a 20 something get involved in old cars. Keep it up. Your story has some cool elements of surprise and it certainly looks like your are on the way to a complete, very cool sedan. The 1949 Plymouth Sedan has some great memories for us as little kids, growing up in Long Beach, CA.

    In 1952-53, we used to constantly go back to the elementary school playground during the summer vacations. The playground director was knowledgeable in all of the sports and became our team coach. (Baseball, basketball, football, kickball, etc.) During the playground days, the coach was as official as possible. He had a cute female, college age, playground assistant that always played baseball with us, but took the girls to do other stuff during the summer activities.

    The main things I remember about that big 4 door Plymouth sedan were the soft cushy seats and being asked to sit in the back seat with the other kids, on the way to a baseball tournament, somewhere in Long Beach. The other thing that the above photo (@gimpyshotrods) reminds me of the 4 door sedan was that the sunshade looked like a baseball hat bill. Our playground director always wore a baseball cap, whistle and a grey nylon jacket.

    Most of the time it was to several local parks and baseball diamonds. But several of the games were all the way across Long Beach, near Seal Beach and Orange County. Those were the long drives that we had to endure, while packed like sardines. But, the sedan actually rode well and was quiet. We were the ones making noise !!! A 49-50's cruiser with a bunch of noisy kids hanging out of the windows… what a sight.

    What stood our the most was that the car was a stick shift on the column. It was not like our dads’ big, automatic Chevy, Pontiac, and Buick sedans. The shifts were bumpy and we all suffered at each shift. All of these years later and when our high school teens gathered for some “old days” history talk, this 4 door Plymouth sedan popped up. It was a different car than most. We usually saw these sedans as police cars on TV.


    Why did this simple 1949 Plymouth Sedan stand out? Well, on the way to those baseball games, the coach realized that he was not on the playground under a supervisor’s scrutiny. Also, he was in his own car, so he lit up a big giant cigar. He always had the windows rolled up and only his window was down. He was an elbow out, hands on the wheel kind of driver.

    When the smoke started filling out the cabin, of course we all complained to him about the smoke, started coughing and kept on him to put it out. But, we also rolled down the windows. It was chaos in that back seat with everyone scrambling for the far side rear window. It must have looked hilarious to see several little kids with baseball caps on leaning out of the open windows of the 4 door sedan. Some of us were asking for help and laughing at the same time.

    Each time he shifted, we all moved forward and back with his terrible shifts. We were laughing all the way to the baseball games. A 1949 Plymouth Sedan, cigar smoke, laughing kids and a coach who cared about us, but chuckled all the way to the games. These were the 1950’s road trips in the old sedans.

    By the time we were in 6th grade, that funny, smoking, coach was gone from the school playground activities. (Retired) Our new playground director and coach was this cute college girl with sleeveless tops, tight shorts, a great figure, a chrome whistle hanging in a distinctly obvious place, and could “out throw” us from center field to home plate, anytime. Wow, what a package. ( and thankfully, no cigar…)
    Ron Funkhouser likes this.
  24. tub1
    Joined: May 29, 2010
    Posts: 365

    from tasmania

    great old car you have there young man my mate has a maroon one same year ive been known to steal it when he is not home just to go for a drive in it

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