m-mman

The single Full Classic Plymouth. Any information?

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m-mman    10

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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Walt G    61

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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SaddleRider    32
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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m-mman    10

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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SaddleRider    32
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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