A NEW STABLE MATE - BY BRIAN McKAY
1948 Plymouth Coupe
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Most club members will be familiar with my two “rag top” vintage cars (1929 Chev Tourer and 1930 Model A Ford Roadster) which I have owned and rallied for much of our club’s long history. Although I dearly love these sometimes cantankerous old girls, there are nonetheless times when I have wished for a vehicle more suitable to drive on the longer rallies we sometimes get involved in. As many members are well aware, old vintage cars can be quite tiring on really long trips.
Accordingly, last October found me at the famous US Hershey car swap meet, largely to check out what the market was offering there. My interest for a possible purchase tended to something a bit rare to Australia, such as a coupe or convertible from the 1940s. (I actually owned a ‘47 Ford Mercury coupe many years ago when living in Canada.) Of course, I saw many interesting cars at Hershey, but anything nice cost plenty. Furthermore, there was nothing reasonable in the brand and body style I favoured, namely a 1940s era Plymouth.
It wasn’t until I was on my way home, in part travelling by train from Hershey/Carlysle to Detroit and Chicago that I spotted an ad in Hemmings Motor News, listing a 1948 Plymouth coupe for sale. This was described as an original unrestored, low mileage model, located in the eastern state of Ohio. Unfortunately, by then I wasn’t in a position to sidetrack my journey, so had to put off further enquiries until I returned home.
Back in Canberra a week later, I called ‘Gene’, the Plymouth owner in Ohio. When I obtained more details about his car (and that he approved of its export), my interest went into overdrive! However, I still was not convinced enough to make an offer on the car without a formal inspection. Fortunately, by a stroke of luck, a Vancouver friend had relatives in Ohio living within 40 miles of the Plymouth. Furthermore, they had a background in farm equipment/motor mechanics, and seemed quite happy to inspect the car for me. To cut a long story short, back came a fairly glowing report that “my” car was a little beauty, being solid and well cared for, with low (43,000) miles and with great potential. By then, wild horses couldn’t dissuade me, and, as other buyers were ‘in the wings’, I immediately contacted Gene offering him the listed price and commenced arrangements for shipping the car to Australia out of New York.
When the car arrived in Sydney this autumn, readers can imagine my excitement as I pulled up at the Botany shipping terminal with my ute and car trailer. There it was, an original 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe Coupe, just out of its shipping container, parked beside the Customs facilities. It was slightly travel stained from its long voyage, but nevertheless, to me it looked pretty terrific and very pleasing to the eye.
Once back in Canberra, I carefully checked out the car and was amazed to find it in such good order. Virtually everything worked, including the various electrical accessories; the cloth upholstery was original and spotless while the black (factory?) paint was very acceptable for a 63 year old vehicle. Even more surprising, the chromed bumpers and stainless steel trim were unmarked while the motor ticked over like the proverbial clock. All in all, I was now convinced what a fortunate purchase this had been.
Later, on putting the car through rego, I was not too perturbed that the inspectors found a few minor faults. These were principally leaking seals on the brakes, transmission and differential, probably suggesting long periods of storage. Fortunately, Gene had sent a parts/repair manual with the car, and I was able to order replacement seals from the US. Our club’s Albert Neuss (a Chrysler product fanatic if ever there was one!) wrestled with the very rusty bolts etc on the brake cylinders and a Fyshwick company adjusted the steering. (I have no plans, by the way, to convert the car’s left hand drive.) The final motor registry inspection took place in early June and the car now carries historic plates on club registration.
So there you have it, the story of yet another car (a ridiculous 3rd) in my stable. This car I feel will quite satisfy my needs at this stage in my ‘vintage’ life, although the true test will only come with extended driving and how it stands up to future events. I can only wish we both will have many years ahead of happy rallying together.