by David Foley
How much would you pay for a 1928 Chrysler Plymouth Model Q? How much would you pay if it was also the World’s Oldest Known Plymouth car? Those were a couple of the questions buzzing around a small and friendly auction house called Scribner Auction in Wainwright, Alberta (Canada).
Auctioning off the world’s oldest anything in this relaxing little town is definitely an unusual event, but for it to be something as large and significant as a car, well - that was another story. I grew up in Wainwright and this kind of thing just didn't happen there. This town of about 6,000 people are usually more involved in things like sports, or providing support to the local agriculture and oil industry, and to the army base less than a mile from town. Putting the town on the map with an auction of a very old car wasn't something that happened every day.
This was actually the second opportunity that Kevin and Katrina Scribner of Scribner Auction had to sell this very car. The first time was back in 2006 where it was just another antique car that came up for auction and was sold.
The buyer from that 2006 auction, Keith Weninger of Provost, Alberta, contacted the Plymouth Owners Club. Through Jim Benjaminson's research there, Weninger was informed that the cryptic FEDCO VIN - GP028L - showed that this is the 287th Plymouth ever built, making it the worlds oldest known Plymouth, older than the one in the Walter P. Chrysler Museum (which was produced some 8 cars after Weninger’s).
After some starts and stops in his own restoration attempt, Weninger decided to sell the car. His admitted newness to body work, which for this car involved both metal and woodwork, made for a steep learning curve. He did what he could, but later changed his mind on the restoration and decided the car should go to someone with more experience. The significance of this specific car also played on his mind. Once the decision was done, it was back to the Scribners, but now the car was known to be a significant piece of history.
This 1928 Plymouth Model Q was clearly in need of a restoration, but the car appeared to be complete, and many of the parts were in surprisingly good shape. It was obviously stored inside for the vast majority of its life; the wood frames of the doors and body had no major dry rot, and the sheet metal appeared to be complete, though it showed the markings of a car hobbyist that was long on enthusiasm, but (as he readily admits) short on body work skills. There were parts that were sand blasted, and parts where the paint had been removed with a flat rotary wheel.
Everything appeared to be there and nothing appeared to be rusted through. There were a few spare mechanical and trim parts for it which would probably be hard to round up otherwise. Even the little chrome hub caps still had the blue colour inside the Gothic letter "P."
The carpets were removed, but all the upholstery was there, a rich, dark green velour. The upholstery on the corners of the seats was worn off, but nothing you wouldn't expect from a car that was over 80 years old, and had 68,116 miles on the odometer. The mechanism that raised the front windshield up a couple of inches to let air flow through the car, was even operational and the piece of windshield that had broken off was still with the car. (This was from the days before laminated glass windshields. When this windshield broke, it only broke off a chunk of glass, so they kept it.)
On August 7, 2010, Scribner Auction was packed full with people, some for the regularly scheduled antique auction, and many to see the car. It was easy to hear the varied opinions on what should be done with the old Plymouth once the new owner received it. Some felt it should be left as it is, as a sort of a time capsule. Most wanted to see it completely restored to its original dark green/black roof color scheme. There was even one spectator that said that if he bought it, he would chop the roof down and make it into a street rod! Luckily this opinion was connected to a man who apparently did not have the finances to act on this idea.
As the regular antique auction wore on, the excitement built. More and more people would make their way over and take a peek inside the World’s Oldest Known Plymouth, just to say they had seen it. This was a big part of Chrysler automotive history and it was being made here, in the little bustling town of Wainwright, and everybody knew it.
At 1:13 PM, with the the CTV National News cameras rolling, the the auction for the car started. Kevin Scribner started the car up for a few seconds which brought a huge cheer from the crowd.
Everyone settled down and the bidding began. Bidders were a little shy at first. The auctioneer work his best to excite the crowd and get things going, but everyone kept their hands down. After a precipitous drop in price, the first bid was in. It was for $5,000, but it only stayed there for a second. After that the amount went up very quickly. 10! 15! $20,000 all within just a few seconds.
The bid then hit C$25,000, and despite valiant work by the auctioneer Kevin Scribner, that is where the bidding stopped. Scribner shouted "I just sold the World’s Oldest Known Plymouth for $25,000!"
The car was bought by Michael Hunter of Windsor, Ontario, who plans to restore the car to its original glory. In its own way, this car is “going home,” as it was made in Windsor, which was once home to a bustling complex of Chrysler Corporation plants.
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