by Ben Deutschman, President, the Slant Six Club of New York and New Jersey
My 1960 Plymouth Savoy was purchased new by my father on June 13, 1960 from Rossmeyer Chrysler/Plymouth in Metuchen, New Jersey. (The dealership disappeared around ten years ago.)
The 1960 Plymouths
Since the purchase of the 1960
came not long after having moved into a new home, my father wasn't exactly flush
with cash with which to buy or run a new car. However, the 1949 Plymouth he was
driving was on its last legs, and a replacement for it was imperative. Therefore,
though a new car purchase had been decided upon as unavoidable, the car had to be
reasonable in cost to purchase and operate, and a six cylinder Savoy model became
the vehicle of choice for my father.
As time went on, and the miles rolled by, the
choice made in 1960 proved to be a wise one, as the 1960 Plymouth provided many
faithful, economical years of service as the family taxi, grocery getter, etc. The slant six
which powered what is now my Plymouth definitely gave the economy of
operation my father needed from the car, while giving ample power to haul a full
complement of passengers comfortably, (six at least), and their luggage.
My Plymouth was the household mainstay until June 1972, when it was
displaced from its top dog position. By 1972 my Plymouth was starting to show the
effects of 12 years of heavy duty service, and my parents decided it was time to
purchase a new family car. Unlike its predecessor though, my Plymouth was not
traded in on its replacement, but as can be surmised, just demoted to second banana.
Unfortunately for my Plymouth, demotion wasn't the worst fate it was to suffer.
About a year after its demotion, a "friend of mine", convinced this then naïve
teenager that my Plymouth's engine needed to be rebuilt, and lucky me, he could
help me in that endeavor. It seems that my Plymouth's engine would smoke upon
start-up, and for short time thereafter. So knowing little about engines, or cars in
general, I believed my friend had to be right about the need to overhaul the engine.
Well, you know 20/20 hindsight is wonderful, in that now I can say, what a mistake
that was believing my friend's astute observations, not to mention my unbridled faith
in his mechanical abilities. After the "rebuild," the Plymouth's engine wouldn't even
turn, didn't smoke, but it also didn't do anything else. The first thing that dawned on
me at that point in time, was I should have checked with an experienced mechanic
regarding what to do about the smoke problem. The next thing I realized, was I
should have asked my father if I should even think of getting involved in such a big
job as an engine overhaul, without his supervision; after all, Dad was a mechanical engineer.
After the ill-fated engine overhaul, my Plymouth sat for about a year. At one
point during that year of sitting idle, my father considered simply junking the car, but
the paltry $25 he was offered for the car, if he hauled it down to the junkyard,
dissuaded him from doing so. At the end of the year of idle time, I made yet another
not so good decision. I decided I was going to purchase a "good used engine" from a
well know national automotive mail order firm. The engine turned out to be a piece of
junk, and since it took my High School Auto-Shop teacher three months to get around
to installing it, the mail order company refused to take back the engine. The end
result of this latest fiasco, was still more idle time for my Plymouth, until I could find
an engine rebuilder who would be at least willing to look at the used engine to
determine if it was at all salvageable.
I finally did locate an engine rebuilder through
my aunt, who happened to be doing accounting work for the rebuilder. The rebuilder
looked over the used motor, and determined that it would cost more to salvage it
than it was worth, and offered me core credit towards an already rebuilt motor. The
rebuilt engine was installed, and the rebuilder also replaced the transmission they
damaged due to errors made by their workers doing the engine installation.
months after arriving at the rebuilder's shop, and what ended up being 1-1/2 years
after my original fateful engine rebuild decision, plus some threats of legal action
brought on by the rebuilder's foot dragging in the engine installation process, my
Plymouth emerged from the shop under her own power for the first time. The year by this time was 1975, the month was February.
I then embarked on the long, arduous task of restoring my Plymouth to her
former glory. The task was complicated by my lack of knowledge as to where to
source needed restoration parts from, (i.e. fenders, patch panels for the rear
quarters, and trim pieces), and an over exuberant youth's driving technique. Needless
to say that between what was already deteriorated from age, what broke by my
pushing the old gal to the limit quite often, compounded by my lack of knowledge as
to where to get many of the parts my car needed, slowed the rate of progress in the restoration of my car.
Though it took a few years, some dented fenders, and lots of
hard earned money, I did finally wise up, treating my aging Plymouth more carefully.
I also started attending car shows, as well as joining a couple of car clubs, finding
along the way, that through the car clubs and shows I could get information on
where to locate parts for my car. I also made many new friends through my
involvement in the clubs.
Now that I had a means via which to locate the parts I needed for my project,
I set about procuring them. In 1978 I had the first body restoration done on my
Plymouth. In the summer of 1985 I finally got the interior redone. I then embarked
on making other improvements to my Plymouth, such as adding factory power
steering, power brakes, clock, am radio, and factory front anti-sway bar. In the
summer of 1989, I had the bodywork redone, and the bumpers and tail lamps
rechromed. Though the body shop didn't do all they were supposed to, my Plymouth
did look better than it did back in February 1975.
In July of 1991 another milestone was reached in the ongoing project my
Plymouth had become. I was sitting by my car at a show in Fairfield, N.J., when an
older gentleman approached me, asking if I owned the car I was sitting near. I
replied yes, whereupon the man showed me a photograph of a factory authorized
optional RCA record player that fit my Plymouth. The gentleman then asked me if I
knew what the item in the photograph was, I replied yes. I then asked what the man
wanted for the player. The price quoted was $200, which included the correct
radio to go with the record player. Mind you, all this occurs just 1 month before I was
getting married, and the fiancée is off shopping at a nearby mall. I asked the man if
he had a business card, he replied yes, and handed me one.
When my fiancée
returned from the mall, I asked if she approved of my buying the record player, she
emphatically agreed. When I got home I called to see if the player was still available,
the answer was yes. I then made arrangements to go up to where the owner of the
player lived to pick it up. I took my find home, and 2 weeks before my wedding day, found myself under the dashboard installing my new find. Of course one might
wonder why someone would so hurriedly install something, especially since it wasn't
crucial to the operation of the vehicle. Well, you see my soon to be wife wanted to
use my Plymouth as our wedding limousine, and she wanted that record player in
there too. I succeeded on both counts.
Though it has now been 25 years since I first got started on the restoration of
my Plymouth, and I have had more than my share of ups and downs with this project,
I can say it has been worth it. Not only has my Plymouth served as the wedding limo
for my wife, and I, it also has survived long enough to serve as transport home from
the hospital for my son, Martin, after he was born. As a matter of fact my son initially
liked my Plymouth over my other toy, due to the fact it doesn't have a locking
steering column. So, therefore my Plymouth served as the world's largest pacifier
when he was younger. My son would sit in the car at shows, and pretend drive to his
heart's content. He was and is, also fascinated by the record player, as are many who
have viewed it at shows I have attended since its installation.
I've even had the
pleasure of showing my Plymouth, along with its "RCA Record Player", to Martin's
2nd grade class, and the aforementioned "Record Player" generated quite a
bit of attention, not to mention a humorous moment. Seems I decided to remove one
of the 45 rpm records from the "Record Player" tray, and ask my son's classmates if
they could identify what I was holding up. One intrepid young fellow held up his hand
and I called upon him. In a rather timid, sort of half questioning tone of voice, the
little boy said - "a CD"? I smiled, and replied, um, sort of. I then instructed my son's
classmates to ask their Moms and Dads to explain to them what a 45 rpm record was.
Oh, and the reason I was showing my Plymouth to a 2nd grade class, was it was
there as an example of "rolling history."
So it’s been a long and winding road, filled with potholes, and detours,
but it has been worth the effort. Much like the mythical Phoenix, my
Plymouth rose from the ashes to live again, to serve three generations of our family, and
become a rolling piece of automotive history in the process.
One other thing: of
approximately 51,000 of her kind produced in 1960 for sale to the general public, my
Plymouth has survived to become one of 87 of her kind left nationally, and one of three still surviving in New Jersey.
Interested in historical Plymouths? Visit the Slant Six Club of New York and New Jersey, our history page, or the Plymouth Owners' Club.
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