m-mman

The single Full Classic Plymouth. Any information?

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Plymouth is not a name that is normally associated with the term Full Classic. There is however a single Plymouth that has been awarded this coveted designation and I am asking if anyone can assist in adding to its factual history which may or may not support its rumored history.

 

There exists today at the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, California a 1932 Plymouth PB that is carrying a Brewster town car body. It's condition is a combination of a restored exterior and largely original interior.

Plymouths were recognized for durability and quality engineering (4 wheel hydraulic brakes in 1928) but never for status. The Brewster Plymouth shows serial number 1741417 and a (Briggs) Body number 537-1963. 1932 Plymouth numbers ranged from 1680001 to 1758001 and production ran from February to September of 1932, so it is likely that this car was assembled around July or August of 1932. This Plymouth has the longer 121” wheelbase that was used for Plymouth 7 passenger cars. (standard wheelbase being 112”) For 1932 Plymouth used a 4-cylinder engine of 65 horsepower and a ‘Silver Dome’ head. The cylinder head on this Brewster Plymouth has been chromed but the under hood otherwise appears stock 32 Plymouth. In 1932 Plymouth did build great cars, but the bigger question is how did this one end up with a Brewster body?

 

1932 was a down time in the American economy and things were especially bad at Rolls Royce of America and Brewster (which was owned by RR of America) They were assembling Phantom I’s from parts leftover in the Springfield factory and they were importing a few Phantom IIs from England. Information suggests that their main income came from repair, maintenance and refitting existing bodies to another chassis.

In an effort to not have the Rolls Royce name pass through the inevitable bankruptcy, the organization was renamed the Springfield Manufacturing Corporation. John Inskip became president and by 1934 they were producing the well-known Brewster Fords with their heart shaped grilles.

 

I am working to sort out the actual history of the Brewster-Plymouth for the museum. It was granted it’s Full Classic status in 2007. This Plymouth has been known in car circles for many years but its history seems to be based more on rumors and very little on actual documentation. Stories are that it was owned by James Melton in 1953 and later Leo Gephart when Melton’s collection was liquidated. It was subsequently offered at many an auction and sales over the years and each offering meant there was the opportunity to try to enhance its historical value with unsubstantiated tales. It is now time to add some documentation and certainty to what is currently just possibly true.

 

Does anyone in the Classic Car world have or know any documentation or have any period photos concerning this car? I have found information related to the RRs produced at this time, but do any Brewster body records from 1932 exist anywhere?

I have not been able to find a Brewster body number on the car. Are there any Brewster experts out there who can direct me where to look? It is possible that the Brewster body had been removed from an older car and remounted on the Plymouth. How might one determine this? Is it possible that during 1932 RR/Brewster was experimenting with using quality bodies on a low-priced chassis and this Plymouth is the original 'proof of concept' for what became the later Brewster-Fords?

 

This car has been linked with Eleanor Roosevelt but again no firm documentation has yet been found. The FDR library claims no knowledge of the car. Was she the owner? Was it something she just used? In 1932 Eleanor was the wife of the Governor of New York State.  By March of 1933 Eleanor was the First Lady of the United States, it does not seem likely that during this time she would need to be the owner of a Plymouth Town Car. Could it have been owned at this time by the State of New York or the Federal government? A photograph does exist of Eleanor sitting in a new 1933 Plymouth convertible coupe, but for her famous 3 week road trip in the summer of 1933, she drove a new Buick convertible.

 

It has been insinuated that perhaps Franklin Roosevelt used the car at his Warm Springs Georgia resort. Warm Springs was a vacation type destination. It was a casual place. It is well known that FDR kept a 1932 Plymouth phaeton equipped with hand controls there and liked to drive it fast on the dirt roads of the area. The casual, recreational aspect of Warm Springs does not seem to be the setting for a formal town car.

 

Whatever it's history, the car is a special artifact. But as the only Full Classic Plymouth it deserves to have its past based on better quality research than currently exists. If you can add to any of the above information or even point me toward an archive, please do so. If you would like to see this unusual Classic for yourself, please stop by the Automobile Driving Museum when you are in El Segundo, California.

32 ply 2.jpg

32 ply.jpg

Edited by m-mman (see edit history)

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To the best of my knowledge no build records of Brewster exist for that period. If you can take some of the door trim caps off you may find a number stamped underneath. I know Brewster did that with the bodies they built for Rolls Royce . If you can remove any of the wood and do see a number check to see if other pieces have the same number. Did Brewster use a stock Plymouth dashboard when they built this body, or just the gauge panel or? Same question applies to the firewall, was this stock 1932 Plymouth PB or ? Comparison with a stock Briggs body would give you a better picture of what was common with the regular Plymouth line.

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On ‎8‎/‎20‎/‎2017 at 9:54 PM, m-mman said:

Plymouth is not a name that is normally associated with the term Full Classic.

 

Yes - and for good reason.

 

As originally constituted,  the CLASSIC CAR CLUB OF AMERICA's purpose was to celebrate the super-luxury cars of the late 1920's thru when American car production ended for the duration of World WAR TWO  ( Feb. 1942 to be exact). 

 

In those years, the term "classic" had a very precise and limited meaning - "the best of the best",   "something unique, of first rank, representing the highest standard of excellence".

 

Who can doubt that the early 1930's Plymouth was an outstanding buy for the money, certainly at least equal if not superior in some ways to anything else in its price class.  

 

But where would any ordinary car like a Plymouth fit in,  in the minds of the traditional CCCA member?    Well,  one member suggested to better understand, visualize opening night at the Metropolitan Opera,  or a diplomatic reception.  The elegant cars delivering guests to the front entrance were most likely classics,  again, the largest, most elegant "top-of-the-line" super cars.   Ordinary cars  - the "non-classics"   could be found parked out in back out of sight - the transportation of the trades and service people.

 

But those days and that thinking are long gone.  The CCCA in more recent years started accepting as "classic" all manner of nice ordinary cars, provided they have been "dressed up" with nice bodies.   Packard "120" series ( another example of an outstanding buy in its price class,  but hardly in the same league as the big "super" Packards)   Fords,  streamlined cars - all manner of things that would have been considered laughable (or worse) had their admission to "classic" status been proposed in the old days.

 

No point in fighting the passage of time.   True,  some people will argue that if you throw an expensive dress on a bag-lady, that wont turn her into a high class fashion model.  But their influence over the word and use of the term "classic" is long gone.    The word "classic" most certainly is now appropriate to use at Plymouths,   potato salad,  fried chicken, and even shoe-laces.   Getting harder to find anything someone has to sell, that isn't advertised as "classic".    

 

Anyone else own a 2003 Toyota RAV 4  like mine ?  Be patient..just a couple more years and nobody will dare object to our calling these well-made reliable cars "classics".....!

Edited by SaddleRider
I are havin trouble speeelinch (see edit history)
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I absolutely agree! The base Plymouth chassis seems really out of place.  I think that it was as out of place then, as it seems today.

 

However. . . WHY??  "Lipstick on a pig" perhaps, but  in this case somebody actually did it! WHY?  

That's what I would love to get to the bottom of. (always history first) 

 

I heard the story of a wealthy person/family that had a coach-built town car body mounted on a Model T chassis because their chauffeur couldn't drive anything else.  (wow! what devotion to your employees)  Truth or urban legend, it does explain how that vehicle happened. 

 

During the depression there certainly was class envy and wealth animosity and perhaps having a Plymouth would be a way to try to connect with the masses? 

 

If it can be rooted out and documented, the story of how a Brewster body ended up on a 1932 Plymouth will be historically more interesting and illustrative of the Classic era than how a one off coach-built body ended up on a  large multi cylinder chassis. 

Edited by m-mman (see edit history)

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3 hours ago, m-mman said:

I absolutely agree! The base Plymouth chassis seems really out of place.  I think that it was as out of place then, as it seems today.. . WHY??  "Lipstick on a pig" ......

 

During the depression there certainly was class envy and wealth animosity and perhaps having a Plymouth would be a way to try to connect with the masses? ........., the story of how a Brewster body ended up on a 1932 Plymouth will be historically more interesting and illustrative of the Classic era than how a one off coach-built body ended up on a  large multi cylinder chassis. 

 

I agree with you - well, to a limited extent in spirit !   

 

By no means should my above post be interpreted as making fun of or casting dispersions on Chrysler Corporation products.  Certainly don't want you folks to think I was calling a used Plymouth with a Brewster (or any other quality coach-built body)  a PIG !

 

True.. this MAY be the only Plymouth that had its body altered to imitate the big super-luxury cars of the classic era,.  But the practice wasn't all that unusual.   There are a number of "junior" Packards running around with fancy custom coachwork, along with some Fords,  and several other makes.   The story to me isn't all that exciting or unique - merely a reflection of the times.

 

"The times"....?  Yes.   As the economic hardship for so many people in the 1930's wore on,  people of money and power became more and more concerned about "showing off".   Plus, the technical advances of synchronized shifting, rubber motor mounts,  dramatically improved roads and handling,  reduced the advantage the incredibly expensive "super cars" had over the "ordinary man" car.

 

For example,  the difference in driving comfort, power,  performance, and general "feel" between, say, a 1930 Ford Model "A" , Chevrolet, or Plymouth ( or, for that matter any ordinary car that the middle class could afford)   and a 1930 Cadillac V-16,  Packard, Pierce Arrow, etc...is significant.

 

But look what happened by the late 1930's.   Even most of the cheapo cars had independent front suspension, hydraulic shock absorbers,  and those rubber motor mounts that dramatically reduced the need for multiple-cylinder motors to get quiet, smooth operation.

 

Bottom line - the story of how a fancy luxury car custom body wound up on a Plymouth,  I feel,  is only interesting, if at all,   as part of the whole story of the march forward of technology and economics.

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On ‎8‎/‎23‎/‎2017 at 2:55 PM, SaddleRider said:

By no means should my above post be interpreted as making fun of or casting dispersions on Chrysler Corporation products. 

 

Bottom line - the story of how a fancy luxury car custom body wound up on a Plymouth,  I feel,  is only interesting, if at all,   as part of the whole story of the march forward of technology and economics.

No reason to 'make fun' of Chrysler in the 1930's, considering the Imperial has CCCA status.

 

This Plymouth is unusual and 'different'; not unlike a 1957 Chevrolet "El Morocco" pretending to be a Cadillac.

 

Craig

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14 hours ago, 8E45E said:

This Plymouth is unusual and 'different'; not unlike a 1957 Chevrolet "El Morocco" pretending to be a Cadillac.

 

yes - definitely a "fine and unusual car".     By the late 1920's,  that could be said about any American car....with all major manufacturers adopting quality and function standards published by the SAE/ASTM.  When is the last time you saw a 1932 Plymouth of ANY body style ?

 

The confusion here is due to some of the last surviving old "hold-outs" from the earlier days of the CLASSIC  CAR  CLUB  OF  AMERICA.

 

Your view represents current policy.   Some of us from the earlier days need to "get with the program" and recognize the old standards are gone.  Irrelevant to the needs of car hobbyists today.

 

All one has to do is open the page of the CCCA's Rule Book to the section on "Significant Club Policy Statements"  and see how they have changed thru the years...now even that is "over-printed"   "may not represent current Club policies".

 

In earlier years of the CCCA there was no confusion. The term "classic car" meant a car that was "unique,  of first rank, representing the HIGHEST standard of excellence.   It has "classic" lines, meaning the theory of design whereby "form follows function:  Thus a headlight shell, a radiator grill... a hood...each separate from the other, defined by their function.     Thus it did not occur to the Club in those days to consider for membership streamlined cars of "art-deco" design.  The largest, most elegant, most powerful "super cars" were what showed up at our events.   An ordinary 8 cyl La Salle, Buick   or Packard 120 owner would have had the decency not to try and intrude.

 

I recall with astonishment when someone proposed cars like the 1941 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special.  I owned one, so I know how superior it is to the ordinary car of its era.   And how light-years more advanced it is to cars from the earlier "classic" era.

 

With its pressurized cooling system,  factory available power windows, seat,  air conditioning with cabin  automatic thermostat control, "high speed" (lo numerical) rear axle ratio.. heck..even a radio...!   .who could deny that it would be far more preferable to cross the Mojave Desert in the summer than an elegant 1931 Cadillac V-16.....!  What a difference 10 years meant in technology !

 

But was 1941 Cadillac a "classic".....?    .c'mon...modern stream-lining, in which the headlight, fender, grill are all one design theme... all metal body (except for some wood "formers" in the trunk-lid area.....!)

 

But again...that kind of thinking was then.   People who have things to sell today  recognize ...if you fail to call something a "classic/antique" you could be in trouble.

 

Who can deny that Chrysler products of ANY price range were an excellent buy for the money in that price range.....and who can deny if you put a fancy body on a Plymouth it is unusual.

 

Well...by today's more flexible definitions...more "accommodating" to those who need to sell cars.....aren't ALL  pre-war old cars "unusual".....?   

Edited by SaddleRider
asparagus (see edit history)

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Peter, As a long time CCCA member it is good to read what the perspective of the CCCA was like in the first decade or more of the club. It was also then that 1925 was set in stone as a starting date for classic cars. All the big Pierce Arrow's, Locomobile's, Packard twin Six, WInton's, Mwercer's du Pont's etc  were deemed non classics.  Three years ago the CCCA membership voted in favor by a good majority that the 1915-24 era cars should be considered on a make to make and model to model basis. Just look at the two Pierce Arrows you and I were able to see at the annual meeting in Reno. Sure this Plymouth has a working man's chassis and drive train, the feature that is looked upon favorably is the coachwork which probably cost twice what the chassis did when new. This is done for other series cars that are not full classics with factory coachwork, the Packard 120 isn't but those that have Rollston or Rollson coachwork are, same goes for some Buick's with Special or Century chassis, Lancefield, Maltby  or Carlton coachwork and the craftsmanship they represent are indeed classic in styling and design , even if not of huge wheelbase or capacity of power in the engine.

Is it about "more "accommodating " to those who need to sell cars "  or finally recognizing cars that are of excellent quality ?

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7 hours ago, Walt G said:

Sure this Plymouth has a working man's chassis and drive train, the feature that is looked upon favorably is the coachwork which probably cost twice what the chassis did when new.

 

Here is a prime example where custom body builders like Brewster, Salmon & Sons in England and Graber in Europe who rebodied 'working man's cars' and transformed them into rolling sculpture should be recognized for their efforts; not so much upon which it was based.  In the 1960's some of the smaller Italian coachbuilders such as Frua rebodied several 'working mans' cars into special one-offs which are highly collectible now.

 

Craig

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17 hours ago, SaddleRider said:

...  It has "classic" lines, meaning the theory of design whereby "form follows function:  Thus a headlight shell, a radiator grill... a hood...each separate from the other, defined by their function. ..

 

I guess we need to toss (most of the) Pierce Arrows out of the club then ;)

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23 minutes ago, CBoz said:

guess we need to toss (most of the) Pierce Arrows out of the club then ;)

CBoz, please don't feed the trolls.....

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On ‎10‎/‎26‎/‎2017 at 1:07 PM, CBoz said:

 

I guess we need to toss (most of the) Pierce Arrows out of the club then ;)

 

Relax guys...not to worry...if  these posters had  even read about the  Pierce Arrow,  much less seen one,  they'd understand why we called them "classics".  

 

For those who are wondering what this is all about - Pierce Arrows had many distinctive features, both technical and asthetic,  that separated these huge, powerful,  luxury motor cars from other super-luxury cars of their era.

 

Amongst those features was the placing of the headlight shell and apparatus  on TOP of the fenders,  rather than alongside the radiator,  as was the custom in those years.  And yes, I agree...the back of the headlight shell apparatus was streamlined, in a sort of anticipation of the "art-deco" streamlined era.      But again, those of us who actually know what Pierce Arrow cars looked like, know how distinctive those headlights were, sitting on TOP of the fenders.

 

Now, to be fair, even in our earliest years, we did allow a few  streamlined/"art-deco" types in our Club, considering them "classics".     So yes,  even in our earlier years,  we had some flexibility in our use of the term "classic".

 

There are a couple of other examples besides the "Silver Arrow" cars - the "Aerodynamic" Cad. V-12's and V'16's, for example.    Some of us remember the fuss when a fellow who,   even then, recognized the "sale value" of the word "classic"...wanted those stream-lined/"art deco" Lincoln Continentals accepted.

 

Well - he got his wish....the Club is still here... letting a couple of Plymouths,....Packard "120"'s ,  post war cars....  and the like in,  probably wont affect how MY real classic runs one bit.  We'll get over this !     Heck...the sun may even come up in the morning.....

 

But again....let me emphasize - I "get it"  - I understand.    It is now pretty much mandated that if you want to sell something, you call it a "classic/antique".    Yes, some of us remember owning a real classic car was the subject of ridicule - we've come a long way -  today   ..the most popular brand of macaroni salad in our grocery store's display is now called "classic" macaroni salad.   I was able to find some shoe-laces that were not labeled "CLASSIC " shoe laces,  but had look at the old stock at the bottom of the rack....

 

Bottom line....the Club has decided that if you place a nice body on the back of a used Plymouth....that makes it a classic.    It's a done deal.   And dosnt matter anyway.   The folks who remember the difference in how a Plymouth of that era drives,  compared to a super-luxury car of the same era,  are getting fewer every year.

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Pierce Arrow 'streamlined' ??? 

No, that's not what the headlights were all about. In 1913 even airplanes were hardly streamlined. They were for better illumination (and yes brand identification)

Read more about it here http://www.pierce-arrow.org/features/feature27/index.php

 

As for the original topic - custom bodies on low priced chassis- No one has mentioned that the bodies seem to have more 'Classic" status than the chassis.

Consider that this Plymouth is a Classic and a Rolls Royce made into a flat bed truck is not.

A Model L Lincoln made into a tow truck (as the factory recommended that its dealers do) is not displayable as a Classic. . . 

 

rolls truck.png

rolls truck1.png

lincoln truck.jpg

lincoln turck.jpg

Edited by m-mman (see edit history)

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I for one am sick unto death of hearing Pete's Standard Rant #1 ("classic" soft drinks, macaroni salad, etc.) three times a week at minimum.  Pete, how about just typing in STANDARD RANT #1 and save your typing fingers?

 

I also point out that the word "classic" was in our language LONG before any of the automobiles accepted by CCCA were even conceived much less built, so there is no lock on the word, as CCCA found out a few years ago when they unsuccessfully attempted to trademark it, even limited to automobiles.

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1 hour ago, m-mman said:

Pierce Arrow 'streamlined' ??? 

No, that's not what the headlights were all about. In 1913 even airplanes were hardly streamlined. They were for better illumination (and yes brand identification)

Read more about it here http://www.pierce-arrow.org/features/feature27/index.php

 

As for the original topic - custom bodies on low priced chassis- No one has mentioned that the bodies seem to have more 'Classic" status than the chassis.

Consider that this Plymouth is a Classic and a Rolls Royce made into a flat bed truck is not.

A Model L Lincoln made into a tow truck (as the factory recommended that its dealers do) is not displayable as a Classic. . . 

 

 

Thank you for your interesting article with photos.    May I suggest you look at those photos and read the article?

 

You will find the article makes it clear that the "drum" style headlights were - wait for it "drum style"....and the Pierce started the concept of stream-lining the headlights - instead of using "drum style"  ( although you COULD order your new Pierce that way)  Pierce started the custom of mounting them out as wide as is practical.   Pierce did not use a standard headlight shell - they bought the reflectors and lenses from outside vendors,  but "stream-lined" the back of the fixture so as to blend the REAR portion of the headlight into the fender.  So yes,  that was an early attempt at stream-lining.  And of course I agree with you - great for "brand identification".

 

You are also correct about the CLASSIC CAR CLUB OF AMERICA as to chopped up and/or reconstructed bodies. 

 

The CCCA has tried to remain true to its historical purpose,   so a modified car that may have been a luxury car when new,  but has been altered to be something it was not when new,  is not eligible to participate in our  events (except under very restricted conditions - including not eligible for judging)

 

I personally think that is a wise policy...we had too many examples back in the earlier days of the Club...of people chopping up nice historically accurate  large super--luxury cars we call classics.....sedans, limos, and even town-cars,  to create a more saleable, more profitable open car.    I am told ( I have no idea whether this is true or not)  there are more Cadillac V-16 and Packard V-12 open cars today  than ever came out of their respective factories.

 

Edited by SaddleRider
ostrich stew (see edit history)

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1 hour ago, Grimy said:

I for one am sick unto death of hearing Pete's Standard Rant #1 ("classic" soft drinks, macaroni salad, etc.) three times a week at minimum.  Pete, how about just typing in STANDARD RANT #1 and save your typing fingers?    I also point out that the word "classic" was in our language LONG before any of the automobiles accepted by CCCA were even conceived much less built, so there is no lock on the word, as CCCA found out a few years ago when they unsuccessfully attempted to trademark it, even limited to automobiles.

 

Sorry - it isn't my fault.  I cannot control the evolution of our language and culture to where it is today.    My recommendation ....if the incredibly common use of the words "classic/antique"  are annoying....then just avoid them!     Turn away when you see an offending product.  Don't buy it!

 

Will take some doing....kinda hard to open the page of any old car or car parts magazine without seeing what is "classic" these days...good news.....it is still POSSIBLE to find things in a grocery store that are not called CLASSIC....(but takes some looking)....

 

Again.....please dont blame me.  It is the way things are.  Lighten up and have a sense of humor about it.... I had NOTHING to do with it !

 

Just remember....for those of you who are in the used car business...don't forget....call your inventory a bunch of "classics"....or people will think, at best...you are a little weird....and might even think there is something wrong with what you are trying to sell....!

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45 minutes ago, SaddleRider said:

Lighten up and have a sense of humor about it.... I had NOTHING to do with it !

The FIRST time I saw your Standard Rant #1, I was amused.  That was about 300 iterations ago, Pete, and for me you've worn it out..

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It's noted at the beginning of this thread that we can look abroad for many coachbuilt Plymouths.

If I owned any of these Plymouths, I would apply for and hope to receive Full Classic status for them,

as defined by current classifications standards. 

 

file.php?id=64251&t=1

1933 Plymouth by Castagna.

file.php?id=71259&t=1

1934 PE Cabriolet by Langenthal, design and construction of the patent Alexis Kellner.  

http://www.coachbuild.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=67595#p67595

 

file.php?id=34260&t=1

1933 Plymouth Cabriolet by Rosch of Austria.

file.php?id=3420

1934 Plymouth PE Cabriolet by Tüscher of Switzerland.

http://www.coachbuild.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2152#p2152

file.php?id=63180

1936 Plymouth by J.H. Jensen of Denmark.

http://www.coachbuild.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=997&t=14337&p=60761&hilit=plymouth#p60761

 

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