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My First 51 Plymouth Cambridge 4 door!!!

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Eric Clymer, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. Eric Clymer
    Joined: Oct 11, 2015
    Posts: 6

    Eric Clymer

    All of my friends wear Bowties but I fell in love with a 51 Plymouth Cambridge two weeks ago at Charlotte AutoFair. This is my first classic car - my grandfather died about 2 years ago and he was a mechanic and owned an Esso station for a 25+ years; my last conversation with him was about classic cars I wanted to buy. So this project is for him...

    The wonderful seller (Cliff) I purchased my 51 Cambridge from already went ImageUploadedByH.A.M.B.1444625814.846781.jpg ImageUploadedByH.A.M.B.1444625843.067124.jpg over the 218 engine and converted to disc brakes and 12 volt electrical. Interior is bare bones but who cares as long as it's mechanically sound.

    I'm weighing my options / budget regarding what will make the car most enjoyable to drive. My wish list includes =
    - transmission upgrade (thinking B-W R10 OD vs T-5) depending on which conversion is most manageable vs easiest parts to acquire vs cost.
    - new seats + carpet (need to solve widow/trunk leak situation before carpet)
    - update intake manifold for 2 carbs (have single barrel Carter + Oil bath air intake now) and do headers at same time. I like the HP boost but am not a super experienced mechanic so I'm concerned about messing with a reliable engine at this point.
    - change out rear end, aka "replace the pumpkin ball", as my uncle says, to improve highway drivability
    - accessorize with exterior sun visor and stone guard trim

    I'm open to suggestions and plan to blog about any projects I start, so the next newbie can learn from my mistakes ...

    All I want is a highway-friendly cruiser that is as original as possible but easy/fun to drive!

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
     
  2. ol'stinky
    Joined: Oct 3, 2010
    Posts: 258

    ol'stinky
    Member
    from New Jersey

    Looks like a nice solid car. Just drive it "as is" for a while, and the car will tell you what it wants upgraded. Have fun!
     
  3. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,384

    porknbeaner
    Member

    Well I doubt that you'll see much of a HP gain out of the 6 with the extra carb but they look cool with twin pots. headers or just splitting the stock exhaust manifold would be cool in the noise dept, a pair of smithy's and tail pipes to the bumper will help sound wise as well.

    before I went looking to invest in an OD I would just drive it, that old heap should run 60-65 all day long no problem. You will think that it is running to hard but if you throw a tach on it you'll discover that it really is not it just doesn't sound the same as a modern car. But that is your choice I suppose.

    Nice old car hoe you enjoy it.
     
  4. Eric Clymer
    Joined: Oct 11, 2015
    Posts: 6

    Eric Clymer

    Thanks! I'm already enjoying it... tach might not be a bad idea. My first priority is fixing front & rear windshield leaks and replacing dimmer switch because my low beams are gone.
     
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  5. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,384

    porknbeaner
    Member

    Before you replace the dimmer switch make sure that the low beams are not just burnt out they usually go long before the highs and check to make sure that they are wired right. never start by throwing money at a problem, first rule of becoming a mechanic. :)

    If you find that your ignition switch takes a dump on you I am pretty sure I have a stock switch with keys here somewhere. Just for future information. ;)
     
  6. Very Cool welcome to the Plymouth four door club! These cars make a really cool mild custom and there is plenty of information on here don't be afraid to ask questions and don't forget to listen have fun with your build drive it Hobo Jim
     
  7. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 10,961

    Hnstray
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Quincy, IL

    Plymouths were offered with optional BW-R10 overdrive from the '52 models onward. The same transmission through 1956, except they were 12 volt. The trans is a "bolt in" replacement for your stock three speed. You only have to add the cable control and (ideally) wire it up with the kick down switch and relay. That's the good news. The bad news is, they have long been in some demand and are a bit hard to find. I did such a conversion on my '49 Club Coupe 20 years ago (and still have it) and I think I paid $300 for a decent trans back then.

    Either a Ford/Mazda pickup trans, or a BW T-5 are reasonable (good) alternatives and offer driving flexibility with the range of ratios for any occasion. That said, a rear end swap would likely be the easiest and lowesr cost method of reducing engine rpm on the highway. A '90s era Jeep Cherokee rear end is an excellent choice. The most plentiful is a 3.55 ratio used in the 6 cyl/automatic models. The 6 cyl/5 spd versions were 3.07. Ideal, IMO, would be around 3.25 with the stock 6 engine. There are a number of other rear axle choices that could work as well. Width, bolt pattern (4.5" bolt circle) and ratio are the key issues.

    The real question is, how much highway driving will you do? For occasional highway use there is no economic gain to such changes.

    I would recommend splitting the stock exhaust manifold for duals vs a 'header', unless that header is very well made and includes heat to the intake. As Porknbeaner commented, little performance to be had from a header on this engine. The exhaust note, from split manifold and duals, on the other hand, is music to the ears. I had such a setup on a '53 Belvedere some years ago and just loved driving around and shifting through the gears.

    Ray
     
    73RR likes this.
  8. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 14,049

    Squablow
    Member

    Neat car, good one for a first timer.

    One of the hardest lessons I've learned building old cars is never to mess with something that works. A trans upgrade always seems like an awesome idea until you tear into it and it's still sitting there unfinished 2 years later. If the car runs and drives nice as-is, keep it that way.

    Spend your time getting your leaks fixed and your lights working, and spend your money on some period appropriate wheels and tires.
     
  9. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    What a neat car. Suggest you take care of the weatherstripping and window seal problems first then redo the interior. In the meantime drive it and get used to the way it drives and handles. After that you will know whether you want to change engine, trans, etc.

    If you decide to go 5 speed you will have to change the rear axle anyway because your stock rear axle has no hand brake, it is on the transmission, which will be gone if you change the trans.

    You are smart not to change the engine at this time. Lots of old engines will run for years if you baby them, but blow sky high in a month if you try to hop them up. Before you do any mods to the engine, you must make sure the bearings, crankshaft, pistons, rings, valves, oil pump, timing chain etc are up to par. At least check your oil pressure and compression. By the way your oil pressure should be 45PSI @ 45 MPH and your compression should be 100 - 110 on all cylinders. If significantly lower plan on an overhaul in the future. Those engines are very well mannered, and will continue to run with no bangs or knocks when in an advanced state of wear. Fortunately they are also one of the simplest, easiest to rebuild, and all parts are available.
     
  10. Eric Clymer
    Joined: Oct 11, 2015
    Posts: 6

    Eric Clymer

    Thanks to everyone for all of the input! I hear you all & will drive it before 'messing up a good thing' with my desire to tinker.

    @Hnstray: I need it to reliably go 50-100 highway miles (round trip) to visit car friends and local shows maybe twice a month. Drive it 2-3 times a week for fun. I was thinking that the engine needs balance, so IF/WHEN I do dual carb/intake manifold upgrade I would want to do a proportional header upgrade.

    @porknbeaner: Low beams are intact. Have had to "wiggle" the dimmer switch to make even high beam come on - and blew the headlight fuse on the maiden voyage home but none since.
     
  11. Eric Clymer
    Joined: Oct 11, 2015
    Posts: 6

    Eric Clymer

    @Squablow: I have a set of the original dog dishes that I want to put on it! But it has 15" wheels now instead of the stock 14", and the tires are brand new so it feels wasteful to ditch them. Is there a 15" rim that I can fit the original dogs on, so I don't have to buy tires?
     
  12. U-235
    Joined: Dec 18, 2010
    Posts: 452

    U-235
    Member

    "accessorize with exterior sun visor and stone guard trim"

    Why is it that people just getting into the old car hobby, think they have to have a sunvisor on their car....? Sunvisors were what old geezers (of which sadly I am one now) pit on their cars. Look thru any early mag, you won't find any featured car with a sunvisor...! I do like your car, I think 4-doors are really cool. I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, one of the seniors had a 4-door Plymouth (53) that was nosed and decked, rear door handles shaved and lowered in the back with skirts......it was a bitchen car...
     
    302GMC likes this.
  13. 51cambridge
    Joined: Jan 16, 2015
    Posts: 107

    51cambridge
    Member

  14. Eric Clymer
    Joined: Oct 11, 2015
    Posts: 6

    Eric Clymer

    Thanks for the intel - I'm not a geezer yet, so, looks like you saved me some money!
     
  15. Nailhead Brooklyn
    Joined: Jul 31, 2012
    Posts: 567

    Nailhead Brooklyn
    Member

    Congratulations, welcome to the 4 door club! ♤
     
  16. ol'stinky
    Joined: Oct 3, 2010
    Posts: 258

    ol'stinky
    Member
    from New Jersey

    Nice car, I put a 225 in my 54 belvedere years ago. Did you have to stagger the motor mounts to clear the steering?
     
  17. 51 fat bottom.jpg I believe its a Cranbrook. I own a 51 also.
    EDITED: I did some searching and really can't tell the difference between the cambridge and cranbrook, I have looked at mine (cranbrook) and cant see any difference from mine to yours (cambridge)....soooooo, anybody know what the differences were?
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015
  18. original was a 15" rim
     
    Squablow likes this.
  19. 51cambridge
    Joined: Jan 16, 2015
    Posts: 107

    51cambridge
    Member

    I didnt build it, header is real close though.
     
  20. U-235
    Joined: Dec 18, 2010
    Posts: 452

    U-235
    Member

    Turboroadster.......what a nice car. It sits just right. See my original post.
     
    turboroadster likes this.
  21. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 14,049

    Squablow
    Member

    As mentioned above, the original wheels were also 15", although they were pretty narrow. Depending on what size your tires are, you may be able to put the tires on a set of stock wheels and then you can use your hubcaps. The bigger cars used a slightly wider wheel, I have a set from a '54 DeSoto that are 6" wide I believe, compared to the Plymouth's 5" width, might help with the bigger tire. They both take the same cap, there are clips on the center of the rim that retain the caps.

    Or, get yourself a set of the 15" full wheelcovers like on Turboroadster's car above, and just pound them on over the top of those chrome abominations. Customizers loved full wheelcovers over dog dishes, and a decent driver set of caps is not expensive at all to find on eBay. It would change the whole look of the car with 10 minutes work.
     
  22. I am a geezer, but liked the looks of the visors even before I was geezer status.... just pimp.
     
  23. mine also has ford aerostar springs on the front with one coil clipped, rides so much nicer, dropped it 2" and doesnt float and boat around at highway speeds, much better driving car in corners etc etc, the rear of mine has 3" blocks, sits damn near level and rides smooooooooooooooooth.
    Another thing to do is get ford front shock mounts and bolt to frame and use them for the top mount instead of the shock going from the lower a-arm to the upper a-arm.
     
  24. 51cambridge
    Joined: Jan 16, 2015
    Posts: 107

    51cambridge
    Member

    Cranbrook has a fancyer dash. Probably seat s too. Full wheel covers.

    My 51 Plymouth Cambridge Kustom https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYi16sG
     
  25. 51pontiac
    Joined: Jun 12, 2009
    Posts: 126

    51pontiac
    Member
    from Alberta

    I disagree, I loved the look of the visor on my 51 Pontiac when I first saw it and decided I wanted it (I was 13 at the time and the car was only 24 years old). Everybody has things they like and dislike... go with what you like!
    Cheers on a nice start.
    The advice to not get carried away and tear apart a driver is good info!
     
    turboroadster likes this.
  26. BuckeyeBuicks
    Joined: Jan 4, 2010
    Posts: 1,684

    BuckeyeBuicks
    Member
    from ohio

    The man is right, the original wheels were 15 inch. I have a full set of stock wheels for that car with the correct clips to mount stock Plymouth caps if you would be interested. I am in southern Ohio, where are you located?
     
  27. raff23089
    Joined: May 15, 2010
    Posts: 65

    raff23089
    Member

    Congrats on picking up that Plymouth, looks solid. I've done most of the updates your thinking about. I rewired the entire car with an aftermarket kit and put the battery in the trunk and it was worth the time and effort. The original wiring was falling apart. I also put discs on the front, cut the front springs a coil, relocated the front shock mounts and put two inch blocks out back. I bolted up a front sway bar from a mid 90's Jeep Cherokee which made a night and day difference. I have nothing fancy in the wheel department, Caravan wheels up front and Mopar cop wheels out back because that's all I had. Finally I swapped out the original 3 speed for a T5 from an S10 mounted up with a custom adapter plate. I'm happy with the swap. Next up is a set of Aerostar front springs and a rear axle from the same Jeep that the sway bar came out of. By the way I had a Fulton visor on there and took it off. I think it looks better without it. I have a bunch of pics of the modifications if you're interested, I can post here or email them to you.

    ply4.jpg
     
    turboroadster likes this.
  28. Sweet ride! The 49-52 Plymouths have been gaining in popularity over the past few years, and there is a lot of good info out there as far as maintenance and upgrades.
    Like Raff, I have done a lot of similar upgrades on my '52 - Ford Explorer front discs, Cherokee sway bar, etc. I also installed a posi rear from an 80s Dodge Diplomat, used Ford Aerostar front coils and did the lower coil pad relocation, relocated the front upper shock mount, Cavalier power rack & pinion steering, 318 V8/904 auto, etc.
    Over the winter it's getting a chopped top and a front sheetmetal transplant from a 1950 parts car to replace the entire front clip.
    I think you're on the right track, keeping a good running vehicle pretty much untouched. If you feel you need a little extra oomph in that flatty 6, I'd do headers, dual carb manifold, mill the head down a bit to bump the compression, and an electronic ignition upgrade. But, I doubt you'd need much more than that to make a nice cruiser.
    Best of luck with your ride!
    [​IMG]
     
  29. raff23089
    Joined: May 15, 2010
    Posts: 65

    raff23089
    Member

     
  30. Well, here's a link to the old build thread, which shows some of my mods and the V8 install. If you like crappy, poorly-lit pictures, you'll really enjoy this!

    http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/the-pressures-on-my-52-plymouth-build-thread.762258/

    In all seriousness, right now the engine and trans are back out. I decided to do some detailing and paint on the chassis, and a few tweaks to the steering. I will be working on it over the winter, and I am planning on putting together a proper build thread with a ton of pictures when all is said and done, so stay tuned.
     

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