by Jim Benjaminson. Copyrighted by the Plymouth Bulletin. Reprinted by permission. Transcribed by David Hoffman.
Chrysler Corporations owns a 1928 Model Q Deluxe Coupe with "First Plymouth" painted in big white letters on the side. It was used by Plymouth for many years, passed off as the first Plymouth car built, but it was never Plymouth Number One; in fact, the car was the 23,426th Plymouth built. The car’s serial number (RW292L) shows that it was built between August 31st and September 15th, 1928, long after the first Plymouth was made (on June 11, 1928).
For publicity purposes, Chrysler said that the first Plymouth car had been sold to Mrs. Ethel Miller of Turlock, California. The story goes that Mrs. Miller, upon hearing that Chrysler was about to complete its one millionth car in 1934, wired Walter Chrysler and asked him to reserve the car for her. In August 1934, Mrs. Miller drove her 1928 coupe from California to the factory to take delivery; the 1928 coupe was then driven from Detroit to the Chicago World's Fair, where it was put on display - as had been the one millionth Plymouth, a PE sedan.
Following the stint at the World's Fair, the 1928 coupe spent many years knocking around various plant buildings. For some time it even sat outside under a tarp.
In the early sixties, the car left the factory grounds and went into the garage of Donald Wood, a Chrysler employee and Plymouth Club member. After two years the car was returned to Chrysler, and has, fixed up, appeared at both the 40th and 50th Anniversary Meets held in Detroit.
In 1988, on the 60th Anniversary of Plymouth, Plymouth Owners Club Membership Secretary Jim Benjaminson instituted a "Search for the Oldest Plymouth."
Jim began by sending news releases announcing the club's search to major automotive and club magazines inviting owners of 1928 Model Q Plymouths to send in the serial, body and engine numbers of their cars. A number of people responded, but none of these cars proved to have come from very early in the 1928 Plymouth production run.
Using the FEDCO code, it is possible to determine the approximate date a particular US-built Plymouth was produced. The Canada-built cars used a different coding system. As of this time, no way has been found to break this code.
The car owned by the Chrysler Corporation and called "The First Plymouth" is actually #30 on our list!
According to the club records, the honor of owning the oldest known Plymouth goes to William Kelhi of Florida. Unfortunately, at the time, Kelhi was no longer on the club roster and did not respond to attempts to communicate. The car did show up two decades later, in Wainwright, Alberta. On August 8, 2010, it was sold for $25,000 (Canadian) to a buyer in Windsor, Ontario, where it was built; CTV covered the story, which is, with photos, also at Allpar (auction of the oldest known Plymouth).
The member who had the oldest Plymouth on the club's list was Doug Kennedy of Adelaide, South Australia, who had the honor of owning a right hand drive four door sedan built in Detroit in early August 1928, and bearing an Australian-built S & W body.
Doug, together with his wife Lyn and friend and fellow club member Barry Kenyon, was in attendance at the 1988 Grand National Meet in Detroit. One could tell on show day that he dearly would have loved to have had his '28 there with him. Congratulations, Doug!
However worthy a recipient we know Doug is, we hope the honor of owning the club's oldest Plymouth won't stay his for long. The search goes on. Who knows? Maybe one day we will find the first Plymouth ever made!
Interested in reading about more historical Plymouths? Visit our main history page or the Plymouth Owners' Club.
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