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westaus29

1938 Aussie 7 Passenger Plymouth

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I have visited this site a few times in the past but recently started again and have been impressed with the activity, the assistance offered and the relevance to my interests. I currently have a 1929 Plymouth tourer with body by Holden Australia restored on club licence since 1999, a 1955 Plymouth Belvedere Suburban RHD built in Detroit with 259 V8 and 2 speed auto also on club licence, and a 1938 7 passenger Plymouth with Aussie Richards body, in a million pieces.

 

This my first attempt at a post with pics so hope it works.

 

I purchased the '38 running and licensed in Feb 1981 with the plan of having a car I could use for club events while I slowly rebuilt my 1929 Plymouth from a wreck. It was painted black, the engine barely ran and the leather upholstery was falling apart, but we drove it onto the trailer under its own steam. I cant find any pictures of it as bought but I must have been dazzled by the fact it was a 7 passenger and had all its chrome and fittings. There was no water in the radiator and It turned out the engine had a hole in the head above No 1 cylinder, every pot had broken rings, and water had corroded the bearings, crank and camshaft. The bottom of each centre door post was rusted out, and there was rust in the boot (trunk) area.

 

By July 1982 I had it on the road with new paint (Ford Neptune Blue), new tyres and a temporary engine out of a 1936 Dodge utility (pickup) that we found abandoned up in the hills, and sheets tacked over rebuilt seat frames. My daughter in the pic below is now 41!

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In the next couple of years I fixed oil leaks, replaced spring bushings, brakes and wheel bearings and changed the diff from original 7 passenger 4.3 to standard 4.1 ratio as we tend to travel longish distances. By 1984 I was ready to replace the interior with upholstery in original blue leather. When I stripped the hood lining I discovered I had serious rust issues under the lead used in large quantities on the roof, which was fabricated from a standard roof cut in half with a central insert about 18 inches wide. The repairs were completed by Nov 1985 and the car was back on the road, however the upholstery guy was no longer available. In 1988 we had a surprise addition to the family, a baby girl after 17 year drought! The upholstery money went on adding a bedroom. In the meantime the car was used as a daily driver by my wife on the school run - rule was "no running in the car"! By 1995 the brake lines had rusted thru, the radiator had collapsed for the second time, the exhaust was shot, valves keep sticking and to cap it off I backed it into our Falcon wagon and badly dented the boot. I deregistered it in disgust as by that time I was making progress on the 29.

 

Fast forward to 2012 and we have changed address, I now have 1/2 acre and a 5 bay shed. However to fit the 7 passenger in it I had to remove the front clip. The car is now a mobile storage unit for surfboards, wetsuits and a couple of broken chairs. But it still runs!

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I plan to post an outline of the rebuild process which started in 2012, but here is a recent pic of the body on a home made rotisserie - stripping back roof to bare metal after a VERY bad sand blast and prime job.  

Jim

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I just love the long wheelbase cars, probably  because my dad had, in succession, a 47 DeSoto Suburban, a 50 DeSoto Suburban, and a Cadillac Series 75. 

(He got tired of the six cylinder boats with the fluid drive, and went with the V8 Caddie with the Hydromatic, and the early tail fins.) 

After his two oldest daughters got married, my dad went to regular sedans.

Edited by DonaldSmith
tail fins, not fail fins

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Nice car, have only ever seen a couple of 7 passenger 30's mopars over the years, there were 2 in an old burnt out wrecking yard at Wingello, south of Sydney in the 1970's, both were I think ex taxis going by what was left of their colours........unfortunately that wrecking yard was cleaned out in the early 80's..............how does your cars Richards body specs compare to a USA 7 passenger car, ie, is the wheelbase the same also curious re the rear door length, etc........BTW does your car use the large splined FJ/FX Holden style internal door mechanisms or does it use the USA sourced 3/8 square shaft on the inside handles?..........thats one large rotisserie.............lol..........welcome aboard ..........Andy Douglas

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I am also glad to see another '38 Plymouth. 

 

I am amazed at the amount of work, expense, dedication and skills displaced when stripping a car down to the frame for a full restoration. The hours invested is humbling.

I am picking away slowly at my '38, thinking ahead, wondering how far I'll get into it. Welcome to the club here. We're happy to have another Mopar enthusiast,

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I remember one of those in the bush down here in tas 35 years ago , it was burnt then and no good but rare , at the time a friend had a 38 Chrysler imperial 8 cylinder car it was cool ,

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To answer Andy's questions, I got the tape out and my 7 passenger Plymouth wheelbase is 132 inch, same as US model. Serial number is 10548068 which means the chassis was built in Detroit about middle of production year, based on data in parts manual, and is original RHD. It has a TJ Richards body number of TJR 71563, and a stamping of P6-S7-4 on the firewall and inside top of trunk lid (which I discovered only while working on the lid recently) presumably because they were semi hand built to match.

 

The front doors are longer than sedan and have three hinges, I believe same as coupe. The rear doors are longer than standard, made by cutting a standard door and welding an extension in the middle. The roof is a standard roof with insert to extend it and there is a big mismatch in contours so lots of lead was used to 'bog' it. The floor also has an insert with twin wells for the two pop-up seats.

 

Many of the mechanical components are different to the sedan. It has 11 inch brakes compared to 10 inch standard, diff ratio is 4.3, and rear axles are beefier as I found when I changed diff to 4.1 .. an expensive exercise as had to swap axles and replace wheel bearings. The front axle is stamped S7 but dont know how it is different from standard. The prop shaft is two piece with a steady bearing in the middle. All over pretty lucky as all major components are present and in good shape.

 

I was told by the previous owner it was a taxi and I found lots of confetti behind the upholstery. The spring hangers and brake and clutch pedals were all badly worn and showed signs of having been repaired by brazing in the past. A friend in nearby Bunbury who has since passed had an identical low mileage car in excellent condition which was formerly a funeral car. He also had a 1938 Chrysler 7 passenger in similar condition. I dont know where they have gone.

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First step in the Plymouth teardown was to drain the fuel tank, put some fresh gas in and prove to my youngest 31 yr old daughter that it still runs. Out came a trickle of oily red liquid, took about an hour to drain as kept blocking with something like red sugar. So we fed the carby by gravity and fired up the old girl for a few minutes, and it ran ok.

 

Next step was to pull the fuel tank to clean it. The pics show the red liquid and solids that came out. I have never seen anything like it before.

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Yummy...........my understanding is that the Plymouth & Dodge 7 passenger cars used a lot of DeSoto & Chrysler suspension and steering parts instead of the smaller/shorter/"weaker" Plymouth & Dodge bits.......an example I've noticed is when king pin sets are advertised, they indicate that they are for the Dodge/Plymouth cars EXCEPT for the 7 passenger variants that Dodge & Plymouth had.........the closest I've come to a 7 passenger car apart from the pair of wrecks in the old Wingello Wreckers is the 1938 Imperial Limousine that was found by Russell Cope in the early 1970's and finally restored and owned by Les Sonter, its 1 of 122 on a 145 inch wheelbase.........I sat in it just after Russell Cope obtained it and sitting hard against the rear seat back you couldn't reach the front seat, it had the glass division and intercom, was apparently ex Queensland State Governors car..........a huge car.............andyd     

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I havent seen Les's Imperial in the flesh, but gave him a bunch of parts many years ago to help with his restoration, as I had picked up a short wheelbase 38 Imperial in Perth which had been savaged by an amateur restorerer who removed all the chrome including dash instruments with hammer and screwdriver, and lost half the engine parts including camshaft and lifters. I bought the wreck for $50 and Les drove over 3000 km west to pick up the bits and insisted on paying the $50!! I have since bought a few parts from his extensive stock ex Halvorsens.

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Interesting that you know Les........when Russell Cope bought the Imperial after seeing it in Walter Irelands wrecking yard feature in Custom Rodder magazine he found that the starter motor was missing and had major problems sourcing one, I had just given Russell a heap of addresses etc as he and Phil Gander were involved in starting the Chrysler Restorers Club and I had tried to get a Dodge Club started but being only 18 or 19 I decided these older guys were in a better position to do something re a club and joined the Chrysler Restorers Club.......I can't remember whether it was Russell or Les who finally found the starter motor and spares that Halvorsens had but I spent quite a few weekends at Russells place at different times.......he had a 1934 DR Dodge 7 Passnger Sedan  that he'd restored tho' I think it had a Falcon rear axle, Holden carby and various other minor "upgrades".......I installed a Holden steering box in the car as the original DR box was R/S..........thinking about these times brings a smile to my face, Russell must have been in his 40's, he had a son, Steven still at home who was maybe 16 or 17, I was 18 or 19 and Russell was a great teacher and mentor..........spoke to him a few months ago actually, he's still around and playing with cars, lives in Young, western NSW..........and if I need bits for the Dodge my first call is usually to Les Sonter as he still has a large range of Mopar parts ..........nice to remember my misspent youth.....lol...........Andy Douglas.     

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With the fuel tank out, it was obvious that there was still lots of solids in it and there was a baffle rattling around loose inside. So I decided to fix it up using the same process I used for my 1929 Plymouth tank which is still ok after 20 years.

- removed the fuel level sender and blanked off the hole

- washed the tank out with water as far as possible then rinsed it with a pint of denatured alcohol and dried it with compressed air

- removed one end of the tank by gently heating the solder joint with an LPG torch while tapping to make the solder run out and prising the joint open

- with the end off I was able to clean out the rest of the solids and see that the tank was in good shape with only light surface rust

- removed the fuel suction pipe by melting the solder and drilling out rivets, so as to get access to remove and repair the baffle

- cleaned out the rust with 10% muriatic acid using rubber gloves and safety goggles ( quick but I dont usually recommend using it on fragile items)

- prepared the inside surface with 10% phosphoric acid which coats the bare steel with an iron phosphate which resists rust, then rinsed and dried thoroughly

- soldered the baffle and the suction pipe back in the tank then soldered the end back on the tank

- poured in a quart of POR15 fuel tank sealer, sloshed it around then drained excess out and left it to dry

 

This process is very similar to what you would do if you buy a full POR15 tank sealer kit, but much cheaper.

 

See pics below

 

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The first time I restored this car back in 1982, it was just a freshen up, a temporary engine, a bit of rust removal and a coat of paint.

 

This time I decided to do a full back to bare metal resto as it is a fairly rare model and has suffered badly over the years. It is the first time I have done a car of this size and vintage, and I dont think I really understood what a BIG job it would be. First problem was the length of the vehicle. I needed to free up 2 bays of the shed, one for chassis and one for body. AS you can see below even with bumpers and front guards removed, it was parked up against my spares shelving.

 

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So all the spares had to go on the floor and the shelves were shifted to the end of the shed where I used to keep the garden gear.

 

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Next step was to unload the junk out of temporary storage in the 38 body. This included two broken chairs from our vintage kitchen set, which we had bought when we first moved to Mandurah after years of temporary living in mining towns. This was old by Aus standards, a simple design made of solid Tasmanian Oak with Walnut veneer hilites and the decision was made to restore and keep it. It turned out pretty well after I managed to get some more Walnut veneer from an artisan in the Perth hills. Sorry, a bit off topic I know.

 

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Then the real work started, stripping doors, seats, guards, bonnet and boot lid, lights, radiator etc. Note the jump seats which are specific to the 7 passenger.

 

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Now the problem was where to put all the bits? I hung as much as I could from the roof trusses. But that left a lot of big items like seats, running boards, glass, dash, bumpers and gas tank.

 

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So down to the salvage hardware to get the material to fabricate a mezzanine loft.

 

At last I have room to start! Two and a half months to get to this stage.

 

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Interesting that you live in Mandurah, my son Mark lived there for a few years when he worked for Harvey Norman at Mandurah, is still with Harveys but is the Franchisee at the Karatha store in WA now, we were over there for 10days in May this year...........when we moved to Grafton in 1992 the local Mitsubishi dealership Gordon Woods who had been the Crysler dealers since at least the 1960's had restored a 1938 Chrysler Imperial 4dr Sedan which sat in the showroom beside the spare parts counter, it was an older restoration but quite nice, still had the original straight 8 and as far as I know is still in the Grafton area tho' I have not seen it for a long time, the dealership closed in the late 90's and the buildings were demolished with a council car park and library built on the site..........nice table & chairs BTW............lol.............andyd   

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Overdue for an update on the 7-pass. With the arrival of coronavirus in WA I am stuck at home in self isolation with my wife, on the insistence of our 4 kids. We are both well and would like to stay that way, and it is good to have time to spend on this project.
After storing away all the easily removable bits of the body, next step was the doors. Boring but necessary! They were in good shape having had rust repairs years ago, but some of the locks and window winders were seized or broken. There were a few cracks in the inner door frames, and the RH rear window had never wound down properly, so it was a good time to fix them rather than wait till after they were painted. Here is the guts of the rear door. I have marked in chalk where 9 inches has been added to the frame. A very rough job. The outer skin is one piece. The front doors were stolen from the coupe and have three hinges. The 7-pass body overall is 20 inches longer.

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I made a hardboard template of the rear door glass rather than risk breaking it, and after checking clearances found that the rear guide had come loose at the top. Fixed that and still no go. Further checks showed that the front guide was installed crooked at the bottom, causing the glass to jam. Must have been like that since day 1. That involved drilling out the weld and moving the guide into alignment. I decided to bolt it on rather than weld it as otherwise it was impossible to remove the door lock mechanism for cleanup. Made the same mod to the other door.

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The door handle mounts were simple and just needed de-rusting, cleaning and lube. The window winders were in good nick except for the handle mounts which are a strange design with built in brake which seems to be an Aussie special. I had to grind off three lugs to get them apart, then found that they had a central diecast hub which had expanded and jammed in the housing. I turned them down a little which fixed that. The rest was just clean and lube then try and get them back together. They have a spiral spring which has to go in just right and I wouldn’t like to do it again!

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Edited by westaus29

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You may have noticed that the handle mounts have a large splined socket quite unlike USA cars, and USA handles don’t fit. Probably just as well because I have seen them on eBay for $400 Aus for 2 doors, plus $100 Aus postage. I have collected door handles over the years but have had no luck with window handles, just one damaged repro one.

 

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The same design of socket is used on some early GM Holden cars in Aus but they also are getting hard to find and expensive.

 

Next episode will be a bit more interesting, removing engine, gearbox and body.

 

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The handles lock and winders mechanisms were made as far as I am aware by a Melbourne company named Linard and those large splined bastards were used by Oz TJ Richards mopar bodies from the late 30's thru to the late 40's, also used by Oz Fords from 38/39 thru to Ford mid 50's Customlines and the FX and FJ Holdens from 1948 to 1956..........the FX handles use a white plastic winder handle, as pictured by you and the FJ winders are black with a chrome button........internal door handles for FX/FJ are identical.........repo handles are available for about $70 each from Rare Spares ...........the FX/FJ splined mechanism can be used to repair the mopar ones with some fiddling around......I couldn't find a decent complete set of inside original handles for my 1940 Oz Dodge so I've used FX handles for 45 yrs or more....see pic...........the large spline is an OZ only aberation from what I've seen......lol...........andyd

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@westaus29 I am enjoying your thread. Thanks for the updates. I'll be following along.

 

Does your '38 7P sedan utilize the same 201 engine and 3 speed manual transmission as my 1938 5P sedan? I suspect you have a larger 11" diameter clutch disc.

Looking at the production numbers in a book I have, it claims the following:

 

4 dr Taxi -7P 35 quantity built.

4 Dr, Westchester 7/8P 555 quantity built. (This is the Woody Wagon)

4 dr 7P Limo 75 quantity built

 

It seems you have a very rare car there. Maybe 1 of 35 taxis built?

Maybe the published numbers I have are for Detroit cars only? I'm unsure. Was there a Plymouth factory in Aussie in 1938?

Edited by keithb7

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Thanks Andyd, that is a nice job. Thanks for confirming the history of the door handles. I think there is a brand stamped on the casing, will look later today. Looks like I may go for the Rare Spares window window winders but use the original door handle which will come up reasonable.

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