interviewed by Marc Rozman and David Zatz
Burke Brown led the second-generation LH and the LX projects, among other key projects at Chrysler.
During high school, I had a couple of cars that – well, one I should have kept, the other I did keep. But one of my first cars was a ’60 Dodge.
It was a D-500 ram manifold car, although when I found it, it was at the back row of a Ford dealership and the rams were gone off of it and it had just a single four barrel on it. So I started talking to the salesman.
Here I’m a 16-year-old kid, just got my driver’s license, and the salesman really doesn’t know if I’m really serious about it or not but of course I was. And I could tell I wasn’t getting very far by myself, but he said it doesn’t run very good. He said the mechanics took a look at it and they think the cam’s bad in it. We’re not sure what we’re going to do. We may auction it off. We’re not sure.
So I dragged my dad over there, and the typical salesman kind of guy, they start talking and there’s a bar across the street. Well I’m too young to go in it, but they said – so we heard it run, and I guess we actually did drive it a little bit. It was spitting back through the carburetor, and there was wires hanging everywhere. It was obvious that someone, just before they traded it in, sold the ram manifolds off of it and just stuck an intake on it and made it run and probably bought a – let’s see, what year was that? It was ‘66, so I don’t know what they bought a Fairlane or something, I suppose. But anyway, so dad says, “I’ve got this.”
So he goes across the street. I’m drooling over the car. Rust free, no rust on it. It’s well-kept from that standpoint, and I’m kind of looking at what I thought… I thought no, I bet it’s not the cam, because it only had like 50,000 on it or something like that. He comes back and he says you’ve got it for $42, and I had $600 with me or something like that.
So we drove it home. It was about 30 miles away from home. It would hardly go 50. It would kind of tip into it a little bit, then it’d start popping back through the carburetor. So got back to my dad’s place, stuck an old meter on some of the plug wires and two or three of them were open. So I stuck a set of plug wires on it and took it out and it just ran strong to about 110, and then it started running out of fuel. I brought it back and he said how’s it doing? I said it’s better, but I think it needs a fuel filter.
So I put a fuel filter on it and the speedometer in that car went to 120 and it just kept on going. So I brought it back, and he said how is it? And I said I got it. He said, “Well, let me drive it.” I said okay. He comes back and he says, “Holy cow.” He said, “You’ve got to be careful with that thing. [laughs] It can really go.”
They still have the old manifold, you know?
Well, yeah, I often thought about trying to scrounge up a ram set and put them back on it, but then I was in – oh, that was still in high school and then into college. I was going to college in Indiana, lived in Ohio, so I had a fair amount of travelling. So fuel economy was kind of important. It had a 3:31 axle in it, so it wasn’t bad.
So anyway, that was car number one. I kept that all through college and actually had it when I started to work at Chrysler at the proving grounds, but I always yearned for a four-speed car so I found a ’66 Charger, a 383 four-speed and bought that and fixed that up a little. But I’ve got to circle back to my other high school car.
I’d always been interested in old cars and so was my dad, and we found an ad in – we lived a little north of Columbus, so that was kind of the big-town newspaper and so forth, and found a ’37 Desoto advertised. So we went to look at it. Didn’t exactly tell my mom all about what we were doing.
We saw the car – well, it appeared that it had been put away about during the war probably, ’41-42 or something like that, so it hadn’t been on the street a lot before the war then it sat. Because this was again would be back around ‘66, it was summer of ’66 because I was still in high school. It was rust free. We were in awe of the thing as far as the condition. It needed some work. Actually, it had been junked I think. Somebody probably cleaning out a house maybe … I don’t know why, but the guy we bought it from found it in a junkyard and a few people had started to take some parts off and somebody came to their senses and said no, sell it as a whole car. So he bought it and made himself a few bucks I suppose, but it was pretty complete and runnable. So the good news is I kept it. It’s in my garage.
If I’d have known it was going to be this nice a day, I could’ve almost driven it here.
Original interior. Original paint on most of the car except for the fenders. They were scraped up a little bit, not bad. I painted some of those with a spray can when I was still in high school. One of those fenders is still on the car as it is, painted with a spray can in ’66, because as time marched on I always said well when I get a better job and get some extra money I’ll restore it. Well it was always so nice, it was hard to tear it apart. And then the light bulb came on after a few years. I’m sure you’ve heard the story. Only original once, and why would I… so I went into a preservation mode with it.
I did repaint the other three fenders that needed it. One of them I think had been bunged up a little probably back in the ’30s, and some of that paint was starting to chip and crack. That’s kind of the way it sits today. It’s got 60 to 70,000 miles on it.
A buddy of mine and I drove it to Florida as a little high school graduation present for ourselves before we went off to college. Threw a tent in the back of it and cruised down to the Keys and back. One thing I did, I added overdrive to the car, which was a factory option. That one just didn’t happen to have it. Made a nice highway cruiser out of it, flathead six which I rebuilt of course.
So that’s at least half of my ’37 story. Might as well tell you the other half now. It’s a business coupe, and dad and I would often talk about how cool it would be if it was a convertible. Well he passed away in ’79, so no action went towards finding a convertible then. But over the years I just kept kind of looking for a ’37 Desoto convertible. They made 990 of them, so not a lot to be found. A couple fully restored ones showed up for really big bucks. Didn’t fit.
A couple of rust buckets showed up, and I’m more of a mechanical guy. I learned a long time ago if you can find a rust-free car, that’s the place to start at least for me. So I passed on that. And in 1998, a friend of mine was hard after looking for a certain Packard, and he was taking Hemmings Motor News first class. So you got it three or four days before most people did. He was paying quite a bit extra, because before the Internet there wasn’t anything going on there much. He calls me up and tells me there’s this ’37 convertible, and it’s connected in New York. I thought he was kidding at first, because it sounded like a description of my car. He said rust free, such and such, needs some attention but solid car. The restoration’s been started.
So I looked into flying up there, went right before Thanksgiving. It was kind of expensive. Called a friend who called a friend and went to look at it within a couple or three hours of my phone calls. Faxed me back a little sheet of here’s what I saw, and he bought one of those cameras that – you know, instant camera things, disposable cameras; took a dozen, probably 24 pictures and put it in the overnight mail and called me. And his bottom line was if you don’t buy it I will. And he said by 8:00 tomorrow morning, he said you can take that camera to a one hour – forget the pictures, he answered all my questions. So I called the guy and he was solid on his price. It wasn’t a bargain basement price but it wasn’t outrageous. It was probably a very accurate, reasonable price for it in the condition it was in. He said it’s not negotiable. He said you’re the 7th guy that’s called that wants to come look at it this weekend, and this was the day before Thanksgiving. And I just said I’ll take it. I said what do we need to do for that? He said if you show up here Friday morning with a trailer, he said it’s yours. With cash of course.
So that’s exactly what we did. We got up early the Friday after Thanksgiving and went to New York, and it was everything he said it was pretty much. And it was a loaded car. It had factory overdrive and the steering wheel and all the nice stuff. And it was sold new, right there in that area. It was shipped by boat from Detroit to Buffalo. I ended up through the museum, got the build card on it of course.
The guy I bought it from was kind of a used car dealer/broker kind of guy, an older guy. He’d known about the car for many years and kept trying to buy it from the guy that had it, and he gave me his name. And he said the only reason the guy sold it was he got into a divorce. So I got to talk to the guy that had it before, and turns out he’d had it since 1959 and he knew the car. He was born in ’39 I think he said. So as he was growing up this car was next door, so by the time he was like five the car was just a few years old. He told me about the people that had it, and the guy was a banker and the wife was a schoolteacher and this was kind of his car. He just drove it back and forth to the bank. Then when he got to be around 16, he bought it from them and drove it. It's kind of what we call a rat rod these days. He got rid of the original interior and put bright-red naugahyde in it and black car, kind of the old Tijuana look. And powertrain and all that stuff was all original. But he had had the body off the frame and he’d started restoring it and ran into his problems. But I got to talk to him and got to hear pretty much the day-one story from at least as far back as he could remember, when he was probably five or six.
So that’s how I have two ’37 DeSotos...
Actually what I’m doing now that you might find somewhat interesting is I’m building up a ’58 truck engine for my ’58 pickup, a 315 poly. I’m restoring the whole truck. It has the original engine in it.
But it’s kind of a little bit of trivia back then. Everybody knows about the early Hemi engines and then the so-called low-cost single rocker or poly head. Well I was – actually I’ve got a couple of those engines. I’ve got the original engine and I’ve got another one I’d torn apart and just kind of cherry-picking parts. Then once set, these poly heads look really good so I had them sitting on the bench and I’m looking at those heads. The chamber looks pretty good, really.
So I sat a Hemi head beside it. For that engine, the Dodge Hemi. And it never really dawned on me, but the way they made that poly is just draw an imaginary line right about the middle of a Hemi spark plug so you capture the intake valve and the intake port, everything upstream of that. It’s all literally identical. I guess I kind of knew that, because the intake manifold is the same between a Hemi and a poly.
It’s the same. Port match, everything all lines up. So what they did is they kind of drew a line down through the middle and said okay, there’s the intake, that half’s done.
On a Hemi, the intake and exhaust valve are basically right in line with each other and then the spark plug’s right in the center, the crotch side in the middle. They just moved the exhaust valve sideways so the plug could go in beside it, and that’s all there was to it.
So everybody kind of pooh-poohs those heads a little and says that’s a poly, not a Hemi. And I’ve heard people call them semi-Hemi and I used to think nah, not really. But yeah, it really is. It’s half a Hemi anyway.
So then I started measuring valve sizes, and the ’58 truck engine has as big an intake valve in it as the biggest Hemi Dodge, the 325 ’57 V-500 intake valve. The exhaust valve was pretty close to the same size too. So the shape of the chamber is not a perfectly machine sphere like it is on a Hemi, it’s cast.
The more I look at those heads I say damn, these things are pretty damn good. They did a really good job on those things.
When you use a good kit and a good little port work…
Yeah, yeah. I’m just building a half-ton pickup, so I probably won’t bother. But the original block, got a nice surprise. It’d been bored 30 over, and there’s hardly any bore wear… but it had a problem.
The truck’s from California, and when I first got it, the water pump wouldn’t turn. My first reaction was that’s kind of strange to see a bearing seized up like that.
It wasn’t a bearing at all. Turned the pump off, and if you can just imagine corn flakes made out of ferrous, rusty metal it was just grown full and the impeller wouldn’t turn because it was so jam-packed full of this crap. But the California way, a lot of times, was no anti-freeze. They just ran water. So they probably got a hold of some crappy well water, but that block was just a mess. So I had to search around for a while to find somebody that still had a hot tank that could really…
Do a number on it?
Really do the old-style boil out as we used to call it. But it came back nice and clean.
It’s going to be just fine. It’s got the old, cast-iron * Torqueflite in it so I get to rebuild that so that’ll be fun. I haven’t rebuilt one of those for probably 25 to 30 years so that’ll be fun.
There’s a couple of companies that specialize in old automatic transmission stuff. In fact, I’ve already got the new seals and stuff for it. And it worked. I don’t think there’s anything major wrong with it. I’ll just put new cross-fits in and seals and stuff.
Wasn’t burned up too bad, eh?
No, I don’t think, not at all. I took the pan off of it while it was still in vehicle position because you don’t want to turn something like that – you turn it upside down on the bench with the pan up and all that crap goes down in the gears…
So I took the pan off it because it had been sitting for so many years. It was kind of a lot of settlement in it.
Okay, don’t want to mix it up, eh?
So I think it’ll turn out good. That’s my spring and summer project. I guess I forgot to mention, but one of the things that I did when I retired, I restored that ’37 convertible that we talked about in the beginning. So I got that done in ’10 I guess it was.
I don’t think I’ve seen it have I?
I’ve had it at museum night. Black with green interior. ... Not that they’re anything like Mark’s pictures, but I took a bunch of pictures of the two cars side-by-side and front-to-back. They both happened to be black. The original car with the original paint on it’s black, and this convertible, once I got the build code, I was pretty sure it was originally a black car and sure enough it was.
When I was talking to the original owner, or the guy that had it since ’59, I asked what was the interior like when you put that red naugahyde in there and he said it was green leather. I said really, green? He said yeah. And I said are you sure it was always green? And he said since I was about five or six years old it was green. So I said that’s a little strange, because back then almost all black cars had a tan interior. Once in a while you’d see burgundy, but not so much.
As I’m digging through different literature and so forth, I came across the salesman’s kind of order form and there it was. It had a bunch of boxes, and it said what color. If you ordered the car in black convertible, you got green leather.
Is the top black?
Yes. The top could have been black or tan, and I couldn’t see anything on the build card that told what the top was. It had a black top on it when I bought it, but it also had a tag from the upholstery shop that put it on in 1957 with a little bill. $28 or whatever they charged him to put a top on it. So I did it in black. The top’s black. Everything on the car, everything’s either black or green.
Marc: Some people, in their restoration process, you may favor a different color interior. If it was available, they may favor that color and do that even though it didn’t come with that color originally. But you stuck to the correct as it came.
Yeah. At first I had green – you know, I had 11 years to think about it from when I bought it.
It might’ve been tan before, but now you’re like green’s okay now.
Something like that. I took it off the trailer and started restoring it. So I obviously thought about it a lot, and I said most everything is tan or maroon.
Makes it more unique.
It does. Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time with Ralph Gilles, so one day I found this pretty handy. I went to like Home Depot where they’ve got all those 3x5 cards with all the different paint colors.
So I took half a dozen green ones and sat down with Ralph. I had a picture of a black car that a friend of mine had drawn. Well, he traced. I forget how he did it. So anyway, Ralph and I are looking through these and it appeared to be a green that – one guy called it celery green … so it’s kind of a light green, it’s not a real dark, but it’s not olive drab either. I wanted it to look kind of light and summery or springy. So I had it down to a couple, three in my mind, and Ralph looked at them and he said yeah I’d go with that one or that one. Then trying to find vinyl and leather in a light, celery green.
Find it or make it?
Cadillac had a color that was a little close to it back in the early 70s but nobody had any of it. So I went to a vinyl place first, and there’s a lot more to choose from there. They had a vinyl that looked really good. In fact, I guess maybe by the time Ralph and I kind of finished the discussions I had some chunks of vinyl. So we picked the vinyl and then had the leather made to go with it.
It’s the only way I could do it. Otherwise I would’ve had to just forget it and go back to the standard old tan or something.
Probably a little more available.
Oh yeah. You could buy that all day long, and you can probably find maroon that matches.
But who asks for green?
I’ve really never had anybody publically tell me I don’t like it. But that doesn’t…
At least you didn’t hear them, eh? Behind your back.
Yeah. You park the thing at a car show then you walk up when nobody knows you’re there. Oh jeez, who in the world would’ve put that in there? I’ve never heard that. But everybody seems to think it’s kind of neat. And the wheels are green to go with it, so it looks pretty good I think.
Was that factory too?
Near as I can tell, yeah.
Yeah. Convertibles only.
So wheels though with a cap?
Just a small, center cap. Yeah, then an optional trim ring, which this car has all that.
That’d be nice.
Well, it kind of sets my more lower-line coupe apart, which is a black car with black wheels and no trim rings. I wanted the two to be kind of brother and sister, but not just perfect replicas of each other.
Was there one plant for that car? One plant for production?
The so-called Desoto plant there in Wyoming that they just tore down not long ago. That was brand-new in ’37. In fact…
They both came out of there?
Yeah, it’s the only place they could come from. My coupe is a very, very late build. It’s probably within the last week or two of production. The convertible was built more in the spring, probably March or something like that. So they’re quite a few apart. Let’s see, the coupe is 55-95-126 and the convertible is 55-86-826, so 86 to 95, so about 9000 cars apart. I think they built maybe 50,000 Desotos that year or something.
You really don’t see many running either.
No. And they only built 990-some of the convertibles, so I just can’t imagine that low of a production for something that’s that unique. I mean, it’s a totally different body, totally different frame. Well, the frame’s a lot different. It’s got a lot of the guts that’s in it and the doors are all different. I mean, everything’s all different. I mean, we do a couple thousand run of a special color on a Charger Daytona or a Super Bee or something. That’s one thing to have four or five unique parts painted a different color. But when you think about all the extra work that went into making an extra convertible and they sold 900 of them…
Well, ’37 and ’38 I guess were pretty similar. Then in ’39 they went to a vacuum-operated top. It’s still a mechanical or manual top on mine, but it’s pretty small. It’s not hard to do because there’s no back seat. It’s got a rumble seat in it. It’s no big deal, it’s easy to operate.
Pretty cool. It’s different. It’s a two-seater with a big back end, a lot of trunk space.
Yeah. Well, my coupe’s got a huge trunk in it. In fact, I was telling you I drove it to Florida right after I got out of high school with a buddy of mine. We camped either in a tent or one of us would sleep in the trunk.
You could lay out…
Yeah, it’s that long. It’s almost flat, not quite but pretty close. But the rumble seat takes up most all that space in the convertibles.
The museum has one downstairs… what year was that? Downstairs, the grey one downstairs?
’39. That’s a ’39 Plymouth.
That was the last year for rumble seat.
Yeah. And that car’s a lot like mine, but they’ve gone to a V windshield so the whole cowl and body’s different because my windshield’s just flat, ’37 and ’38. And that’s got a V two-piece.
Oh really? Was that one year only?
Well it kept going after that.
Yeah, the two-piece glass with a little bit of a V to it.
Yeah, it went downstairs, the museum was actually say the ’39. If I understand, it’s our last year for rumble seat and that’s why a museum makes a point of having that seat open. If you have a rumble seat, you have it exposed.
That’s about when they went out of fashion.
Safety issues I’d think.
I don’t know if it was just safety. I mean, it’s not that practical. It’s hard to get in and out of, although it’s kind of fun watching ladies try to get in and out. If it rains you’re kind of stuck. You’ve got to stop and crowded inside. There’s no way to… kids love it though. They like being back there, or when the kids are little enough, you could kind of go down to the foot well if they get cold or whatever.
They made a few four-door convertibles. If you remember that yellow ’38 Imperial that Darren had had? They made the ’37 Desoto like that. In fact, I actually found one of those before I found this. Darren found it. He called and said hey, I found a ’37 convertible.
Tempted you, eh?
Not really, because that four-door convertible just doesn’t do that much for me. I just wanted the rumble seat coupe. And it kind of goes more parallel to my other coupe as well.
Yeah, you were driven to get that matching car. Cool. So how many cars do you have now? I think you had six or seven cars?
Yeah, I guess it depends. A couple of them are kind of my son’s, but I have a ’55 convertible – Dodge convertible…
That’s a nice car too.
’62 300 Letter H, then that ’58 truck I’m doing.
Okay. Enough to keep you busy, eh?
Yeah. Easily. I’m anxious to get that truck done because it’s in a good spot now. It’s all painted, and most of the upholstery’s done. Haven’t done a headliner yet, but everything else is done and ready to go. The frame’s done. The bed’s back on. The cab’s back on. So it’s just a matter of building up the engine and dropping that in and trans and wiring and stuff like that.
Oh, good. I look forward to seeing it, yeah? You know? Think the summer probably? It depends?
Well, there’s some luck.
Depending on how you’re working.
I’m still trying to get in some travelling and things. My daughter’s still in California. We were out there in December and going back again in the spring.
It’ll be a fun truck. I looked for – it’s the one with the quarter panels on it, the swept wing. Like the one in the basement.
Oh, so ’57 or ’58. Yeah.
’57, ’58 and ’59. Not much in ‘59. I think they might’ve made a handful. You’ve seen the one in the basement here, the two-tone.
Yours is two-tone or is it black? Is it two-tone?
No, it’s red and white.
Red-white? I thought you said black, sorry.
Well, the Desotos are black.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Those are cool. Those are nice, I like those. And they’re hard to find.
Well yeah, and I kind of always wanted one. I had a ’56 – remember the ’56 truck that I had? Remember when they were bringing cars in to CTC in the winter time? It sat outside in front of Alan’s office.
So it was red and white as well, and I sold that. I was just running out of garage room and so forth. But then I always kind of wanted one of these. I’d see them on eBay and they’re way far away and you’d have to spend a lot of money getting them shipped back here and some of them were really rusty. Then I found this one from California that was here in Detroit in the Packard building.
Well actually I didn’t find it, * Tim Conley found it and called me one day, and he said I saw this truck that can’t be right and he starts describing it. I said yeah, that’s right. They made a few like that.
So Tim gave me the info and I followed up on it. It wasn’t a great bargain, but then the more I thought about it, well hell if I bought a California vehicle in California I’d have to ship it back here. That’s another several hundred bucks, maybe a grand almost.
Yeah. I think I might know who had it, but I won’t say.
Well it was – I’m having trouble thinking of his name.
Was it Tony? No? That’s a scary place, to go to Packard Plant.
Richard Kughn. He had that car rail museum. He owned Lionel Trains at one time, a local collector. I don’t know, I think this vehicle – I don’t know if he bought it deliberately or he kind of ended up with it after some settlement or something, but the title was in his name. But Don Summer, he and his son – that’s who Tim knew – they were up there and that’s when they saw it. Don was helping him get rid of the cars that were up there I guess.
But the interesting story there is I borrowed a trailer and a Durango, and if you’ve heard anything about the Packard building or not, it’s an old Albert Kahn factory, a concrete building, and it had ramps that go from each floor, kind of sort of a spiral. Like today’s parking garage a little bit.
So it was tight, but I was able to maneuver up to the third floor and he had a little Bobcat tractor thing that he brought up there because there was easily a dozen vehicles that had to be cleared out.
We loaded it on the trailer and got it out of there and went on our way. I was talking to Tim a couple days later and he said did you hear what happened after I left? And I said no…
I remember seeing a big International rollback that had come to pick up a car. And I think he had come up the spiral and he was up there on that floor…
I think I might’ve been the last one to go down the ramp until this International went down with a ’49 Cadillac on it, and it fell through. The duals went through. The concrete was so crumbly. I mean it didn’t fall a floor, but … that’s what they were describing to me.
So I was really lucky, because I could’ve been stuck up there with a borrowed vehicle. A borrowed truck and a borrowed trailer. Oh it’s on a wooden floor but we can’t get it out until somebody…
We need a crane to get your car out of there.
Gets a crane and gets this International out of there. So yeah, I was really lucky.
Well at the time, it was right around Christmas. “You’ve got to get these out of here because they’re going to tear it down in January,” but it definitely didn’t happen that fast. I wonder what year I bought that thing? It was about the time we were launching the LX, so it must’ve been around ’04 or ’05, somewhere around there.
A friend of mine had a storage facility there. I’ve been there once or twice and was not thrilled, you know? This part of town, the whole thing was kind of shaky. Big place though. Huge place.
My truck, I have no way to figure this out, but about six months ago Motor Trend had some retro pictures at the back of their magazine and they had a picture of a ’58 truck with a camper on it that was the Motor Trend, I don’t know, mobile office or whatever. It was at a race track or something when the picture was taken. I’m thinking Motor Trend, California, my truck’s from California. Again, they didn’t make hardly a thousand of these things. I wonder.
Did you ever ask?
I don’t know if I’d ever get a response, but I suppose I could write Motor Trend and ask them if anybody got the VIN. It’s the only way you’d known is if someone… especially a black and white picture, I mean they’re all two-tone so you couldn’t tell what color. But just looking at the picture…
There is one distinctive thing about it. There were two rear-windows that you could have in the cab. It was a standard rear window, kind of your regular two-feet wide, and then the premium cab had a glass that curved around the corners all the way across the back. My truck has it and so does the one in the picture from Motor Trend. So that was an option, so I’m going to guess maybe you could knock out half of them. Because I see a lot of pictures of the trucks with the little back window in it, so they certainly all didn’t have it. And as I understand, the way those trucks were ordered is a dealer could order just any half-ton pickup you wanted, long wheel-base half ton, because some of the cars that people were restoring, six-cylinder manual transmission, kind of no accessories at all. But often, mine’s probably a good example, it’s kind of a check all the boxes.
Yeah. V8 with an automatic?
V8, automatic, it’s got power steering on it, it’s got Sure-Grip rear-end in it which the ’58 is the first year for Sure-Grip, and it works.
Put overdrive in that and you’re all set. Do some serious driving, you know? Of course, in long terms, it’s not really functional for a long trip.
So used to the comforts of today.
Yeah, the trunk to put stuff in like you do in the business coupe. Yeah, I’ve done quite a few shows and I’ve only seen maybe one or two of those, those fin-type trunks, ’57 or ’58.
How many are still around?
A lot of them are rusted up pretty bad.
Every couple months it seems like one shows up on eBay one way or another. There’s just a ’57 that was there recently. Fairly rough, not too bad, but it wasn’t really bad. It certainly wasn’t beyond… you know, I mean it was certainly restorable. Yeah, I agree with you. I guess I’ve never seen one hot-rodded, but you could.
One thing that was pretty interesting was a few years ago I ran into a guy out near the GM proving grounds which was pretty near me, that had a ’58 and I went out and looked at it for the heck of it. It had no engine in it. It had probably had a B engine in it at one time, but it was originally a V8. I think it was a stick if I remember right. But it was, again, a very restorable truck. In fact, if I wouldn’t have had mine I’d have probably been wanting to buy it.
But it’s way rustier than mine. That was the beauty of mine is other than one little corner of a door, I didn’t repair any rust on that truck at all. The tailgate wasn’t all beat to death. That’s what makes me think maybe it was something like – I kind of think it ended up belonging to an electrical company because down inside the seat pockets, in the bed, were a whole bunch of electrical fittings. Household type stuff buried in there.
It was like they’d carry – “oh, you’ve got an extra one of those? Don’t let the boss see it, you didn’t put it in. Just drop it in that hole.” Because when we took the bed off the thing and had it open upside down we were poking them and trying to fish all that stuff out because some of it kind of got wedged in there. We got it all out. Then in the glove box was some like matches and stuff from an electrical company.
I could see how it might be a good pickup truck like that. The guy was very…
Obviously they wouldn’t have kept it too long. I mean, I don’t know how long they would’ve kept it.
Maybe this electrical company bought it and used it for a few years. Probably had the engine rebuilt in it because that’s probably how it got more than 30 over. Yeah, I should find an address for those guys.
You’ve got to be curious now. Huge surprises out there, you know. I look forward to seeing that. Give me a call and let me know.
Well when I get it 99% done I’ll certainly bring it over to the museum, you know, to the cruise night. I’m sure I won’t wait for 100%.
Marc: That’s why I do a lot of the car cruise nights and car shows. I always look for that one vehicle. There’s always one vehicle that stands out as the one guy who brings that car out once a year or a new car, and if you weren’t there you missed it. But that’s why I try to make a point to catch all these places and shows. There’s always one car that sets it off and makes that whole effort to get the binge. To me, that’s what I kind of look for is that one, you know, oh this is cool. I’m glad you came. I’ve always appreciated – car guys appreciate when people bring out the cool stuff. Darren’s the same way. He’s got some nice stuff.
Oh yeah. In fact, Darren keeps bugging me. One thing I didn’t do yet, and I said 99%, I haven’t put the stripe on the wheel yet.
Marc: Yeah, he would notice that. He would know that.
As soon as I parked it that night and he starts looking it over – a real stickler for detail, this guy. It’s anything he can find. I said yeah, I haven’t done any yet. He was over at my house a while back, and the first thing he did was say why haven’t you put that stripe on there yet? And I said I’ll get to it.
He hasn’t forgave you yet, eh?
But the museum chose it for one of the curbside things.
Oh, coming up?
Yeah. So I’ve got to get it done by then or I’ll…
Or you’ll hear it. Yeah, okay.
Darren will be standing beside it with a sign. “Please do not look at this vehicle. It doesn’t have the stripe right on the wheels.”
That’s good. So you’ve got to make the correction before it happens.
Yeah. It doesn’t come until October so I’ve got some time.
You’ll fit it in somewhere, eh?
I’ll somehow find the day to do that.
It’s all done by paint.
Yeah, it’s a pain. I have a little roller.
How I did my other ’37, because I did paint the wheels on the car, my ’37 coupe, the one I bought in high school. The guy I bought it from saved it from a junkyard. Some parts were already starting to disappear, and the wheels were one of the things so when I got it, it had other wheels on it. So I found correct ’37 wheels, which by the way are one-year only wheels. Well, ’36 had lots of scallops, sometimes they call them artillery wheels. Then ’37, the look they were going for was no peak through. But because people used to use those tire chains that had like a strap, there were three really small little slots barely noticeable. And in the ’38 they went to a much bigger cut slots and put four slots in. So ’37 is a one-year only.
And then Plymouth and Dodge had a whopping 4 inch wheel – 4 inch wide wheel, but then Desoto and Chrysler had 4 ½. So I got a set of 4 ½’s on it, the right thing. So I painted them black and striped them years and years ago, but I just put them on one of the front hubs and then… I’ll come up with some kind of a device. I was trying to come up with a device with the wheel or something I could lock up against it, just turn it, and fix the striper tool against it. Where I used to live, there was a young kid who was probably 16 at the time and he loved cars. He was always hanging around. So one day I was fooling with that, and I said hey Danny, you think you could turn that wheel just hand over hand real steady? And he said sure, I can do that. So he did it, and that’s how we striped those.
They did it from production.
Well, they probably had some kind of small little motor or geared motor or something and just turned it really slow. So I’ll rig up something, but I’ve got to get that done. That’s about all it is that’s lacking.
Flathead six with overdrive. It’s kind of fun to drive, but if you drive V8s and other more powerful things it’s not quite as much fun. It’s just fun to peck around in with the top down and somebody in the rumble seat.
Other Burke Brown interview sections: Burke and engines • Creating the LX cars • LH Cars
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