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Thread: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

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  1. #1
    Obi Wan
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    Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    I just bit off on a new project, a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook. What's so special about such a pedestrian car? Quite a bit. I've been a volunteer with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police for 10 years. When the Department was first established in 1954, the first squad car was, you guessed it, a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook. I always thought it would be a cool idea to find one and restore it as a replica of the very first car. I've looked on and off periodically over the years, and either the cars were complete rust buckets, or they were already restored to such a high standard that the buy-in was too great and it would be a disservice to start mutilating an already restored car for a police car conversion.

    I finally found my candidate. The car is in New York, but it was a West Coast car for almost its entire life. Gas tank and tranny are missing, but the seller is going to include a replacement tranny with the purchase. Just getting the paperwork straight. It's going to go to the workshop up in Emmitsburg, MD where we are currently restoring airplanes. The plan is to set up on bay for auto repair / restoration.

    1953 Plymouth.jpg old_car_000-359x246.jpg

    I figure mechanically, it's not going to be much different than LBC -- just bigger. Sourcing the 6-volt accessories to make it into a replica of "Stock #1" will probably be the hardest part.

  2. #2
    Moderator Mickey Richaud's Avatar
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Great project!

    You're gonna have a blast with that.

    Mickey
    "There are three kinds of men. One who learns by readin'. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on that electric fence for themselves." Will Rogers
    Mickey Richaud - '73 MGB, '69 MGB GT/V6 (both SOLD! ); Victor TF 1800; '03 Jaguar XK8
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    Jedi Warrior
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    My lesson for the day: Cranbrook, never heard that name. Thanks Saxman! Looks like several acres of sheet metal and interior.

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Car should be delivered next week. In the meantime, I'm researching what I'm getting into. Flathead 6, 100 hp, 177 pounds of torque at 1200 rpm, 6V positive ground electrics...this will be interesting. Never driven a 3-on-the-tree. Looking forward to trying that once it is running.

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    Darth Vader
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    They were solid, quiet running bullet proof cars - unless you pushed them too hard. My brother did and blew his rod bearings. It was his first car.

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Quote Originally Posted by pdplot View Post
    They were solid, quiet running bullet proof cars - unless you pushed them too hard. My brother did and blew his rod bearings. It was his first car.
    That seems to be the general consensus. These were very pedestrian cars that saw a lot of fleet service as taxis, police cars, etc.. Once they served their purpose, they were scrapped. You don't see a whole lot of them out there. There's a surprising amount of NOS parts available, but there's definitely quite a bit of sticker shock when you're used to ordering things from Moss and VB. Perhaps the most expensive part of the project will be outfitting the car with the period correct police equipment. I've been pricing the Federal Signal siren lights for the rooftop, and I'm looking around $800 to $1000 just for the roof light unit.

  7. #7
    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    An update: I widened my driveway and moved the car from Emmitsburg to my house. The upside is I've been able to obtain all the period correct police gear, even the Federal Signal siren light. The downside is the car needs a lot more work than I had originally anticipated. It's been torn down and I'm doing body work in anticipation for paint. I've discovered that body work is like Groundhog Day with cars: Add primer, sand down, add more primer on the low spots, sand down, and repeat. I thought I could get away with just hitting the existing paint with some 220 grit sandpaper and shoot over it, but the top surfaces are so burnt they need to be stripped.

    I haven't done much mechanically. I've run the engine a couple of times before the fuel pump conked out. I have a new one, but the gas tank is still not in the car as there is a rust hole in the trunk I have to address first.

    It's definitely a very different experience than the Sprite. But, when it's done, it will be one of the most historically accurate roadworthy 1950s era police cars out there.

  8. #8
    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    And, just to show that the vintage auto hobby is a disease, I'm mulling biting off on another car: a 1966 Buick Special, 4 door post sedan.

    Why such a pedestrian car? This was the same make and model car that was the first new car my parents ever bought. It was the same type of car that brought me and my younger sister home from the hospital after we were born. With my mother having recently purchased a 2019 Toyota Camry, which, now that she is in her mid-80s, it will likely be the last car she owns before she gives up driving, we thought it would be fun to go back and find a 1966 Buick Special and have it as a "bookend"

    I'm currently going back and forth with the owner of one in Cleveland. I need to get him to come down a bit on his price...stay tuned.

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    Great Pumpkin JPSmit's Avatar
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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    The reality kicked in overnight. I need to finish the '53 Plymouth before I can bite off on another project, not to mention that I am going to need to do a rebuild on the Sprite's motor eventually.

    I'll still keep an eye out for another '66. If it's closer to the same car (color and interior) that my parents had, I still just may pull the trigger.

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    Yoda waltesefalcon's Avatar
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    The main reason I wound up with my Cadillac is because it reminded me of the ones my dad owned when I was a kid. I am currently on the look out for a mid sixties IH Travelall for the same reason.
    Cheers,
    Walter
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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Quote Originally Posted by waltesefalcon View Post
    The main reason I wound up with my Cadillac is because it reminded me of the ones my dad owned when I was a kid. I am currently on the look out for a mid sixties IH Travelall for the same reason.
    That would be the one exception -- if I find a '66 Special in the same interior and exterior colors that my parents had, I'd bite off on it, even if I had to put it in storage for a few years.

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    Jedi Knight Bob Claffie's Avatar
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Not sure I recognize the nostalgia factor kicking in here. I did replicate the 1965 Mustang (bought new) that my bride and I took on our honeymoon but after a few years sent it down the road. Likewise I restored a 1966 Alfa Gulia, similar to my Dad's first sports car but sold that soon after finishing it. I cannot imagine doing a 1937 Desoto, the first car I remember my parents owning and the car I learned to drive in. Perhaps my genes are not aligned correctly ? I admire your intentions but not my cup of tea.
    Thank goodness the MG is finally gone, replaced by another Corvette

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Claffie View Post
    Not sure I recognize the nostalgia factor kicking in here. I did replicate the 1965 Mustang (bought new) that my bride and I took on our honeymoon but after a few years sent it down the road. Likewise I restored a 1966 Alfa Gulia, similar to my Dad's first sports car but sold that soon after finishing it. I cannot imagine doing a 1937 Desoto, the first car I remember my parents owning and the car I learned to drive in. Perhaps my genes are not aligned correctly ? I admire your intentions but not my cup of tea.
    There were a lot of happy family memories associated with this particular car, from trips to our grandparents, to playing in the car, to my sisters and I fighting over who got to sit with the "red seat belt" - an extra seatbelt added to the back seat so the three of us could sit restrained. In the wake of my father's passing last July, finding a copy of the car was something the three of us thought would be a neat idea. We sold the original '66 Special in 1973 when our family moved from New York to San Francisco. One of my father's coworkers bought the car and it was a faithful and reliable car into the mid-1980s when it was stolen in New York and never to be seen again.

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    Jedi Knight TRMark's Avatar
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Another Cranbrook https://billings.craigslist.org/cto/...837129588.html It is also listed at a Nextdoor site for $5000.
    ex spec5 Mark

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Quote Originally Posted by TRMark View Post
    Another Cranbrook https://billings.craigslist.org/cto/...837129588.html It is also listed at a Nextdoor site for $5000.
    That's a nice one. Too nice for my purposes, which is a conversion to a police car. Of course, the '53 I bought ended up being a lot rougher than I thought.

  19. #17
    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    So it's been a while since I posted an updated. The '53 Plymouth is now painted and externally complete. I did it that way so the car could be displayed, although it would need to be trailered. Still finding surprises that have needed to be addressed, but hoping it will finally be running and driving in 2020.

    David & Cranbrook 11 09 19.jpg

  20. #18
    Yoda
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    Years ago I remember this. Guy bought it, 12V with radios, had to do modern siren and stuff....and used it. Porsche speeders never tried to outrun him...they were too surprised.

  21. #19
    Obi Wan
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    I'm keeping the 6V -- all the equipment is period correct including the "bread box" radios that go in the trunk. The siren light atop the car sucks down a whopping 33 amps at 6 volts when engaged. You have to run a relay off the battery via a momentary switch on the floor. It's like the old high beam tilt/ray switch, but with no "catch".

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    Great Pumpkin JPSmit's Avatar
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    Re: Can't Believe I'm Doing This

    sounds great! pics please
    John-Peter Smit
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