More and more vintage Chrysler cars and trucks are being rescued from fields, woods, junk yards and the crusher than ever before.
The reason for this change in the hobby is largely related to the fact that as Fords and Chevy's (yawn) are getting fewer in numbers and subsequently more difficult to find in good restorable condition, restorers and street rodders are finding the old MoPars to be just the ticket for scratching the restoration/street rodding itch.
In this article, we will take a look at the MoPars of the early to late thirties and compare them to their GM and Ford counter parts.
From the beginning (1924), Walter Chrysler set out to build a superior automobile and in keeping with that idea throughout his tenure as the supreme leader of the company that bore his name, he was sure to include things that were uncommon for cars and trucks in the low and mid-price field.
One such aspect was four wheel hydraulic brake systems in every car and truck they built, while the competitors were still using mechanical brakes which required frequent adjustments and were unreliable in terms of uniform braking of each wheel. While the more luxurious and expensive cars of the day (Duesenberg, Packard, Cord, etc.) used hydraulic brakes all around, GM and Ford did not change over until the middle to late thirties respectively.
Shifting back to the 1930's we find that with the end of the 1934 model production run, Chrysler had built the last “Chrysler” badged automobile to use wood as a structural component as the 1935 model PJ introduced the era of the all steel bodied low price car. This type of construction was unusual for most cars at that time but unheard of in a car that sold for a mere $510 FOB. Ford and GM continued to use wood for several more years.
The all steel body provided a more rigid vehicle, less prone to body flex on rough terrain or roads and when coupled with the use of leaf springs made of “Mola” steel, on a 113 inch wheel base, the ride was smooth and quiet.
Finally, the 1935 model introduced the most advanced flathead six cylinder in the industry and Chrysler used this engine with relatively few modifications until it was replaced by the slant six engine in 1960.
Rated at 82 HP it placed fit neatly between the Chevrolet six at 80 HP and the (large) Ford flathead V8 at 85 HP. Additionally, this new engine known as the ‘L – Head' Six had the most advanced cooling system of any engine built at that time.
Using a water distribution tube that ran the length of the cam shaft and extending the water jacket to the bottom of the connecting rods produced a cooling process that kept the block uniformly cooled – front to rear and top to bottom.
As we all know, the cooler the engine runs the less friction is produced resulting in better fuel economy and oil consumption.
The engines are factory balanced and valves are located within the block and are perfectly uncomplicated requiring little or no maintenance.
All Chrysler engines were mounted on what Chrysler had dubbed “Floating Power” (introduced several years earlier) that is, mounting the engine on blocks of rubber instead of directly to the frame thus removing engine vibration that would ordinarily be transferred to the body through the frame.
Additionally, the positioning of these motor mounts gave the engine perfect weight balance which further reduced harshness and vibration.
This engine was used continually in regular production (with very minor changes) from 1935 – 1959 but carried over for nearly another two decades in commercial use. NOS parts are easy to locate making this one of the most economical engines to rebuild and operate.
Having owned many MoPars (from 1935 – 1951) with this venerable six cylinder engine I can attest to achieving between 18 and 22.5 MPG depending upon the conditions and the final drive ratio. They are so reliable that I purchased a 1951 Plymouth on e-bay, brought it home, tuned it up, replaced the battery hoses and tires, inspected the brakes and headed for Arizona in what turned out to be one of the hottest summers on record (2003).
With the temperatures in the low 100's every day or driving at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet through the Colorado mountain ranges, this little Plymouth performed flawlessly over more than 5,000 miles.
Before the year 2001, there were precious few manufactures of sheet metal replacement parts for these cars. Today however, the reproduction industry is responding to the needs of the restorer and street-rodder by producing the type of parts necessary to reconstruct these great old cars and trucks.
The following reproduction companies are both dedicated to the preservation of Chrysler products and the production of high quality parts to help ease the process of searching for what is needed to do the job right and get the desired result:
1933 – 1934 Plymouth & Dodge sheet metal
Mr. Floyd Riley
1935 – 1952 Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge & DeSoto automobile sheet metal and 1933 – 1947 Dodge, Plymouth & Fargo Truck sheet metal
Wayne Brandon – Plymouth Doctor Restoration Parts
P.O. Box 467 Perry, MI 48872 (517) 625-PLYM
1949 – 1966 Plymouth & Dodge automobile sheet metal
R/Car Customs & Restoration
570 Deming Rd. Berlin, CT. 06037 (860) 829-2076
Castro Valley Autohaus ('41 Steering Post Cover) 510-581-4525 510-581-4501
Metro Rubber Parts 800-878-2237
Will Knudsen ('37 – '41 Brown Floor Mat) 734-626-0261
Sal Salerno ('42 – '48) 90 Mil Floor Mat 717-697-7757
Restoration Specialties & Supply Co. 814-467-9842 or 814-467-5323
Steele Rubber Parts 800-544-8665
Paul Bowling – Buckeye Rubber 937-833-2885
Hunley Acuff 706-866-4875
Tires – Jim Benjaminson (Contact Plymouth Doctor Restoration Parts for contact information)