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Just starting restoration project


MajD
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Hello, I have just started restoration on a 39 Plymouth with about 37,000 miles on it.  I'm interested in everyone's experience regarding wear and tear for this many miles.  I realize it's totally dependent on how well the car was maintained in conjunction with how it was driven and where, but assuming it was appropriately maintained, should I expect most of the suspension  and steering components to be serviceable?  For example, is it reasonable to expect the king pin assembly to just be cleaned up and lubricated?  I don't have any experience with the flat six, is 37,000 miles a lot for these engines?  Barring any findings such as rust caked cylinders, should I expect to only have to do a hone, if even that?

 

I have the shop manual for this car, but it is a pdf copy and the pictures are literally, black and white.  There are no grey tones, so details get lost.  Especially when arrows are pointing to something.  Are there vendors out there that reproduce these manuals with decent pictures?  I bought some aftermarket  copies of a Corvette shop manual for not a little money, and all the pictures were junk.  I called the company, and all their manuals were like that.  So were everyone else's.  Unfortunately, people want a fortune for the originals.  Same story here? 

 

I looked in my manual and couldn't find anything on checking the king pins for wear.  Is it in the manual, if so, can someone tell me where.  I looked in the suspension / steering section starting on page 32.  Maybe I just didn't get far enough.  If there is nothing in the manual, is there a procedure folks use to check them out?  Thanks.

 

MajD

 

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Hello,  Always great to start a project,  Go slow and easy.  You will find on the bottom   of your rear axle housing two grease fittings under the outside wheel bearings on each side.  Make sure you grease these.  I would join the Plymouth Owners Club.  It will save you money.   Don

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That is not a lot of miles, if the car has been well maintained should not need major work before 50,000 to 80,000 miles but of course, there are no guarantees with a car that old.

 

Suggest you start by doing a complete lubrication, oil change, and tuneup. Do a compression test. Get an idea what condition everything is in.

 

Why do you think king pins may be worn? Is there some symptom of loose steering, shimmy etc?

 

Worn king pins can be detected by pulling and pushing the top of the front tire. You should not feel any movement if the king pins are good. If you have a helper one can work the wheel while the other watches the king pin area for movement.

 

Check tie rod ends for free play and make sure the steering box bolts are tight. Sometimes they work loose and give the feeling of worn steering.

 

If the car has tubular shocks no doubt they need replacing. If they are lever action top them up with the correct type of oil.

 

Get a front end alignment.

 

You can usually buy the factory repair manual as supplied to car dealership service departments for around $50 bucks. They printed thousands of them and a lot are still around. They are the best source of information, with the factory parts manual a useful supplement. They not only tell what part fits what, they have diagrams showing all the parts and how they fit together.

 

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Something to watch out for if the car has been out of commission for years is bad gas. Blow some compressed air into the tank, if what comes out smells like gas you are ok if it smells like old stinky varnish DO NOT try to run the car on it. It can freeze up your motor so bad it would take a safe cracker 2 years to free it up again.  Rig up a separate gas can if you want to get it running, and replace the tank with a new one or take it off and have it cleaned. Usually it is better and cheaper to just replace the tank.

 

The flathead six is a reliable long lived motor. One problem common to all flatheads if left to sit around for years, is stuck valves. If it is only one valve and you get it running, the heat and vibration will usually free up the valve in a short time, like 10 or 20 minutes. Worst case you may need to take the head off and do a valve job.

 

Try to get alcohol free gas, alcohol is murder on old carburetors and fuel pumps. If they have been rebuilt since the eighties they should have alcohol compatible rubber parts.

 

With that low mileage it would be better NOT to do a full restoration but rather preserve what you have, doing minimal repairs as necessary especially if this is your first project. Do not get carried away and start tearing things apart, put your attention on one system at a time, mechanical work first then body then upholstery. Or however you feel like doing things. For example it is usually possible to clean up, polish, wax and save an old paint job unless the paint is absolutely worn off.

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Congratulations, it sounds like you have a great project.  First thing I'd do is find a complete original shop manual, not a CD or a reprint.

Every rubber component will need replacing, pull the gas tank and inspect it inside, replace the gas lines and hoses.  Remove all 4 corners of the brakes: replace all brake lines, hoses, wheel cylinders and master cylinder (the brake fluid will have collected water and the rust will be from the inside out, even in a garage kept car).  I'd send the radiator out for flushing and testing.  Muffler will probably be stopped up.  Carbs will need rebuilding.  Replace the oil, pull the sparkplus and start spinning the engine for brief periods on the starter.  Go thru the electrical, engine bay and under the dash.

On a low mileage car like your I'd be checking the steering stuff, the tierod ends, Kinkpins etc are all probably tight but I'd knock them apart to replace the rubber boots, pull the grease fitting and muck out the old crap, clean the fitting up for reuse.  Pull the differential cover for looksee, clean and replace the oil, drain and replace the transmission oils.

Have a close look at the motor/transmission mounts, they are rubber and will probably need replacing.

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Lots of good advice here.  I always pull the oil pan and clean it out, cheap insurance, the old oil turns to grease and can block the oil pick.  I always use alcohol free fuel.  Get her running and stopping.  Let us know the particular problems you are having it is much easier to help you.

 

Welcome aboard, sounds like a great driver.

 

Looks like this?

347502398_1939Plymouth.jpg.cde3dd9894dd4dde7f14b1ff0f3f09ba.jpg

Edited by Graham Man (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I hope it looks like that someday!  The car sat for a long time in a barn, and cars, no matter what make or model, do not age well when not being driven and maintained.  The one under discussion is pictured in my avatar.  The interior was trashed and once I got it home and cleaned out, I saw that the floor was rotted out in a few places as well.  Everything else that doesn't age well, such as fuel and brake systems, will likely need rebuilt.  The engine will need to be torn down too, but that's all part of the fun.

 

I've always worked on cars from the 60s and 70s, so I'm looking forward to working on something older and learning about how these things operate as well.  Also looking forward to learning from all the members on the forum that have tackled the same problems I'll be facing as I get this car on the road.  Thanks.

 

MajD

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Fear not...this is my 1933 Graham...before I owned it (1975) and now (2020) no paint yet just cleaning, looks better wet.  The engine has never been apart (lots of cleaning inside and out, lapped the valves, rebuilt the carburetor), still finding missing parts, interior was gone from a fire.  I have mostly been working on mechanical repairs and collecting parts for the real restoration.  Working on chrome, wheels restored, and tires.  Brakes were a big job.   I have just been doing baby steps, trying to keep it on the road, affordable and fun.  The longest trip under its own power was about 100 miles.

 

image.png.19e094e8412fe716711892ca74b8698d.png      image.png.bafccc8eb55ee5589ff9ca885cb3be41.png

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