Taylormade

The Ressurection of Daphne - a 1932 DL

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Taylormade    187

This is the story of Daphne, the Black Daliha, my once and future 1932 Dodge DL sedan.

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Warning: this is a story of lust, loss of innocence, betrayal and redemption. Read at your own risk.

It was 1965. I was a sophomore at Syracuse university. Life was good. Vietnam was just a distant dark cloud on the horizon. I had everything - except a car. I'd just joined Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. All the cool guys in the frat owned cars. I wanted to be a cool guy. I lusted after a set of wheels. But not the wheels the other brothers were driving; not an MGA, or a new Chevy convertible, or a 58 Corvette, no, I lusted after a big, black 1930s sedan. After all, my favorite TV show had been "The Untouchables." Those long, curvey, full-fendered monsters roaring down a rain-slicked street got my blood boiling. Not a coupe, not even a convertible, but a four door sedan - with sidemounts, of course. That was MY idea of a car! I was immediately shunned by most of my fraternity brothers.

On a pleasant spring day I was walking to class and happened to pass by the staff parking lot. Sitting there, under a huge oak, was the car of my dreams. Stunned, I pushed my way through the hedge to get a better look at her. It said Dodge Brothers on the winged badge that adorned the chrome radiator shell. The front fenders held magnificent spoked wheels and hulking Allstate tires. The four door body, black as coal, stretched off into the distance. Lust doesn't even describe my feeling at that moment. I had to own that car. I would kill to own that car. Two minor problems: I couldn't find the owner and I was broke.

Day after day I passed by my obsession on the way to class. She sat there, taunting me. My attention slipped, my grades suffered. I spent long nights staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. Then, one day, I noticed something different about the black beauty. Was it...? Yes, a sign in the window: black with red letters - FOR SALE. And below, in ball point pen - $400. My euphoria was short-lived as I suddenly realized the magnitude of my dilemma. My heart sank. I was doomed. Where was I going to come up with four hundred large? My palms grew damp, my eyesight dimmed. This couldn't be happening. Someone was bound to snap up this gem and she would be gone forever! What to do, what to do?

Holding up a convenience store was out of the question. What would my parents say if I got caught? My parents...hmmmm. Yeah, I could call my dad, already strapped with paying my tuition and gearing up for my brother's entrance into the ivy halls of higher academia, and try to extort the $400 from him. My mouth dry, my fingers numb, I dialed sunny California - where my parents had conveniently moved from New York just after I decided on Syracuse as college of choice - and hit up the old man for four hundred clams. Things remained fairly calm until I mentioned the car in question was a Dodge. My father, a GM claims adjuster/manager/executive for 18 years (it would be 40 years before he retired) was appalled. A Chrysler Product! Was I out of my mind? And what year was it? I wasn't sure; late twenties, early thirties? Who cared? It was cool! To this day I don't know why my father said yes to my buying a 33 year old non GM product, but he did. He sent me the money and I was the proud owner of a 1932 Dodge Brothers DL sedan.

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My loss of innocence came fast and hard. I treated my gem, my overwhelming desire, like dirt. She never let me down, despite my indifference, my abuse, my thoughtlessness. I was remiss in changing the oil, maintaining the fluid levels, washing her, keeping her safe. I drove her in the snow, in the slush, through the brutal upstate New York winters. I piled into a parked car during a blizzard and somehow managed to scrape up enough cash to have the damaged passenger side fender repaired - twenty-five bucks. I owed her that. A fellow Delt backed her out of the driveway - the driveway was our only parking space and musical cars was the game of the day - and he ran into a parked car across the street. The back window was small on these sedans - low visibility. Gone was the tail light and the fender was crumpled. I couldn't raise enough money to fix it, so I slapped on a cheap aftermarket tail light and soldiered on. She always started, always got me to where I was going, but my treatment of her was beyond the pale. Deep in my heart I knew I was the villain a she was the suffering victim.

Then, the call from my dad. Oh, the horror, the horror! My brother was in college now, times were tough and he couldn't afford the car insurance anymore. I'd have to sell the Dodge. I begged and pleaded, tried to talk him into putting her into storage. No deal, sell the car. I put an ad in the paper. The guy who sold it to me called. I wanted $400. He said that was too high. No one wanted my car. It wasn't cool. I wasn't cool. Then a fellow Delt, a kindred spirit, Phil Kennedy, found out I was selling the old girl. His sensibilities were apparently as strange and twisted as mine. He wanted to buy the car. He loved the thirties styling. He'd never owned a car. He lusted after my Dodge. Just one problem - he was broke. He nervously called his father, who read him the riot act and then agreed to give Phil the money. The deal was made and the Dodge passed out of my life - I thought forever.

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Forty-five years passed. I met the girl of my dreams, got married, had a daughter, three grand-kids. I thought of my old Dodge often, wondering whatever had happened to her, figuring she was probably part of a 1986 Subaru or something equally horrifying. In a moment of insanity, I was talked into joining Facebook by my daughter and granddaughters. I began to catch up on old friends. I thought about Phil Kennedy and my old car. Any chance he still had...no, impossible. I finally tracked Phil down and discovered he had bought another 32 Dodge. My old car was sitting in his grandmother's - now his - garage, and had been there since 1970. At that point I had a 1948 Plymouth and a 50 Dodge Wayfarer roadster. Phil and I exchanged amenities and promptly lost track of each other for three years.

I came in from the workshop one day after fighting with the rusted out floorboards of the convertible. My wife could see I was miserable.
"Do you really care about the convertible?" she asked.
Now, I thought the Wayfarer was a neat old car, but I had to admit my heart wasn't really in it. And then it came to me - the car I really wanted to restore, the only car I really wanted, was my old Dodge, my first car. I struggled to find Phil again. Would he still have the car? Would he sell it? Through another Delt brother I found Phil's email and sent him off the message. It was like that spring day in Syracuse all over again. I lusted after my old car and this time, if I was lucky enough to get her back, I would treat her like the lady she always was. Phil's reply was too good to be true. Since he had purchased his all original 32 he had decided he'd never have time to restore "my" old Dodge. He was thinking about selling her, and had actually though of me first - but he figured that since I already had two cars, I wouldn't be interested. I quickly got that idea out of his head! We made a deal and my first car was coming back home after 45 years.

Over the last two months I have sold the Plymouth and the Wayfarer. I hated to see them go, but I wanted to devote all my time (and money) to the restoration of the Dodge.

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Here's the Plymouth heading off to Texas.

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I hope to have Daphne finished in time for the 100th anniversary of Dodge in 2014 and drive her up to the big show in Auburn Hills. It will be a daunting task, but she deserves it after what I put her through all those years ago.

Edited by Taylormade (see edit history)
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keiser31    976

What a GREAT story and I wish you all of the luck on your efforts to make it to the Dodge Brothers meet. I am striving to get there, too, but it's looking quite dim at this time. I am glad you got your old car back. I could never stand to think about selling my '31 coupes.

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Taylormade    187

Last month I traveled from Southern Illinois to Connecticut to get my first look at Daphne after 45 years. Phil Kennedy (the current editor of the Dodge Brothers Club magazine) had sent me pictures, so I was prepared. I didn't think she'd look like she had in 1967, but it was still something of a shock as I still remembered her as she was all those years ago.

She'd been sitting up on blocks in the same garage since 1970, most of the time sharing the space with Phil's grandmother's DeSoto Hemi. After Phil sold the DeSoto, Daphne shared the garage with Daisy, Phil's "new" 32 DL.

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This is what I saw when the garage door first opened.

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Although I think Phil was a much better caretaker than I was, a few bumps and bruises had appeared over the years. The first was an unpleasant encounter with the back of a truck that left the two front fenders a bit worse for wear.

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Next up was damage that occured in 1970 when an icy driveway made it impossible to get Daphne in the garage. As she sat in the drive that night, a giant slab of ice slid off the roof and landed square on her roof, leaving a dent, then it bounced off and mangled the cowl and hood. The result, a dent in the roof above the windshield, broken trim piece on the cowl, dented cowl, smashed driver's side hood, flattened headlight and dented radiator shell.

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The damage to the driver's side rear fender, done when I owned her, was still there. Note the chip off the tail light stalk.

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Sometime in the early eighties, Phil had attempted to replace the rear inner axle seals. Once he had everything apart, he discovered he couldn't find the correct seals, so the rear end remained disassembled for several decades. Phil and I put things back temporarily so we could transport the car to my place. Phil did most of the work while I took pictures.

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Then we took her off the blocks and set her on the 45 year old tires - which still hold air. We actually got her started and backed partially out of the garage where she enjoyed sunlight for the first time in nearly half a century.

All in all, it was great to see Phil again and catch up. It was also a sobering reminder that I wasn't going to have an easy job with the restoration.

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Edited by Taylormade (see edit history)

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keiser31    976

You have your work cut out for you, but you know what? You have your car back and can now love it back to sweetness. The top of the '31 DH hood may be the same. I have an extra that you can use. With measurements, we can determine if it will match. The sides of course, will not match since you have the turning latch and I have two latches per side.

Edited by keiser31 (see edit history)

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Taylormade    187

Daphne arrived in central Missouri yesterday, overshooting her eventual home in Illinois in order to get her to the body/sheetmetal shop where her fenders and other assorted damage will be addressed. Passport Transport did a nice job getting her there in one piece.

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She shared space with a Ferrari, a Tesla, a 427 Corvette and a Porsche. Slumming to say the least.

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We got her off loaded, onto the trailer and off to the restoration shop.

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Edited by Taylormade (see edit history)

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Taylormade    187

Once we arrived at the shop - too far back in the country for the semi to get to - we backed her into the shop and Ed, the body expert, and I took a close look at the car.

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Aside from the aforementioned problems a few other areas that will need work reared their ugly heads.

Mice had gotten in under the passenger side door sills and had eaten away a lot of the metal. this hole shows the worst of it, but the whole strip from cowl to the fender will need to be replaced.

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Not the kind of news I wanted to hear. Although the car was high and dry for 45 years, the mouse urine did a number on the metal.

I have no clue where this came from. Ed thinks something may have gotten behind the poor undercoating the car received at one point in its life. This is an easy fix.

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The rear door seems to have been sprung at one time. This will need some sheet metal massaging and hinge work.

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My wife and I are going back to the shop this weekend to remove the interior and get things ready for the woodgraining and upholstery work. The good news is that all the door handles, knobs, ashtrays and other hard to find items are still there. I am looking for a backseat footrest if anyone has one.

Edited by Taylormade (see edit history)

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Ian_Greenlaw    35

Great story and pics. It looks like when you're unloading her that your in the middle of nowhere !

It is interesting how things come full circle sometimes.

Keep us posted on your progress. I'm at the panel refitting stage and can't wait to get into the garage but family life and work keeps me away.

Cheers

Ian

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Taylormade    187
Great story and pics. It looks like when you're unloading her that your in the middle of nowhere !

It is interesting how things come full circle sometimes.

Keep us posted on your progress. I'm at the panel refitting stage and can't wait to get into the garage but family life and work keeps me away.

Cheers

Ian

Thanks, Ian. I've been reading your restoration thread with interest. I wish I was as far along as you are. Most of the Midwestern U.S. is, indeed, in the middle of nowhere, which is why a lot of us live here.

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Bob Zetnick    11

Great story, photos and descriptions. Glad you got her back again. Looking forward to see photos of her restoration in progress. Have fun. BTW, I didn't realize mouse urine could be such an issue.

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keiser31    976
Great story, photos and descriptions. Glad you got her back again. Looking forward to see photos of her restoration in progress. Have fun. BTW, I didn't realize mouse urine could be such an issue.

That stuff will eat through metal and rot wood.

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Taylormade    187

On my way to the body shop tomorrow to take the interior out of the DL. Sometime before I bought the car in 1965, someone started to reupholster the car in black vinyl. They did the front seat, the passenger side door panels and the headliner. Ever seen a black vinyl headliner before? I haven't. I guess something happened and they quit, leaving me with a mish-mash of original cloth and cheap vinyl. It will be interesting to see if LeBaron Bonney or SMS have anything close to the original fabric. It's a tan broadcloth with very small, almost invisible, close spaced ribs. Interestingly, the seats and the door panels have the same fabric - different from many cars of this era I've seen that use a less expensive cloth on the doors.. I'm going to have to rely on Phil Kennedy's photos for the original headliner. The plainer fabric around the rear window and between the doors is still there for a sample and patterns. I'll take some pictures of the process and of what I find lurking below. Also, as soon as the inner window frames have been removed it's time for woodgraining - something I'm really looking forward to.

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Taylormade    187

Maybe it was a Dodge thing. My fabric isn't mohair, more of a broadcloth. Phil Kennedy had what appeared to be the same fabric in his original car. By the way, I'll measure the hood when I'm there tomorrow and take a few more pictures.

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keiser31    976
Maybe it was a Dodge thing. My fabric isn't mohair, more of a broadcloth. Phil Kennedy had what appeared to be the same fabric in his original car. By the way, I'll measure the hood when I'm there tomorrow and take a few more pictures.

My other '31 coupe has broadcloth on the seats and door panels.

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keiser31    976
I wonder if it was an option? I obviously wasn't a coupe - sedan thing if your one coupe had broadcloth.

You were able to order either material according to my build records and master parts book.

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keiser31    976
Interesting. Does the parts book mention color options, or did you get whatever Dodge Brothers deemed was correct?

There were MANY options and are listed as "(as req.)" which I take to mean "as requested by the owner". There is also leather listed.

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Taylormade    187

In the middle of the depression I suppose most folks didn't want to spend any extra for unnecessary "frills" that took money out of their pocketbooks. I wonder if you could actually order a red mohair interior, or if their was some book or chart of fabrics you could choose from? I remember when I was restoring my 1929 Plymouth U, I discovered in the saleman's book that you could order the frame and under the fenders painted in the car's body color for five dollars extra. That always seemed very cheap for the amount of labor it would take to pull the car out of the line and do a custom paint job. But, five bucks was a day's pay back then, so maybe it wasn't all that cheap after all.

Edited by Taylormade (see edit history)

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ply33    62

You have some work to do but it still looks like a solid base for a great restoration project. Best of luck getting it all sorted out by 2014!

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Taylormade    187
You have some work to do but it still looks like a solid base for a great restoration project. Best of luck getting it all sorted out by 2014!

Thanks. Yes, she's pretty solid almost all there and my wife and I have a pretty comprehensive plan to get her ready for next year. Of course, when things like mice urine and a rusted body part you never expected somehow show up, things can get off track quickly. I'll keep our progress posted as we wade through this restoration. I've done it before with the 29 Plymouth U and I know what's in store for us, but at least I'll take an all steel body over wood framing any day of the week. It'll be interesting to see what other hidden treasures I find under the upholstery!

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