Q&A: February 28, 2019 Edition

Q. I was wondering if any of your [readers] know anyone with a rolling chassis for a 1951 Plymouth business coupe, or what type of newer chassis would work. Its frame is not repairable. Someone told me a Chevy S10 frame would work. I also need some parts: dashboard, taillights, glass, emblems, wiring. Thank you for your help.
      — Paul Weaver, Anchorage, Alaska

A.To begin, the chassis you use would have to at least approximate the wheelbase of your ’51 Plymouth Concord coupe (111 inches). Otherwise, the wheels won’t fit under the fenders properly, or you will have to modify the frame or vertically section the body. From what I read online, the short-bed S10 has a wheelbase of 108 inches, while the long bed is 123 inches; not a good match. You will also have to improvise body mounts in order to install it on the frame. There’s also the steering column. Where does that mount in relation to the dashboard? Of course, anything is possible with enough ingenuity and money.

Plymouth was the only Chrysler Corp. make to use the 111-inch wheelbase in that period; P17 models in 1949, P19 in 1950, and P22 in 1951 and ’52. Other body styles that shared the chassis were a slope-back two-door sedan and Suburban and Savoy all-steel station wagons. The combined 1949-’52 production was about 320,000 cars, out of 2.2 million Plymouths of all types. There are probably not many survivors to be found in Alaska.

I think you should start by joining the Plymouth Owners Club (www.plymouthowners.club or P.O. Box 416, Cavalier, North Dakota 58220-0146). They are the people who know where the parts are, although they probably won’t have much experience with transplanting to different chassis.

Q. [In the Jan. 3 Q&A, Barry Henderson asked about the rarity of the turquoise cloth-vinyl interior, code 77, in his 1963 Thunderbird.] The Vintage Thunderbird Club International did a survey of their owners and contributors covering the years 1958 to 1966. For 1963, 24 reported a #77 code, or 1.46%. Only 5.15% of those responding reported vinyl-cloth codes.  While this is not an exact figure, we can assume that this survey is representative of the total production, allowing for some percentage of error. We can assume from these figures that the cloth interior is at least a rare option for the 1963 Thunderbirds. I, like Mr. Henderson, have seen mostly vinyl interiors, including some that claimed to be leather. Under the “Thunderbird Stuff” tab on www.vintagethunerbirdclub.net you can find more information on production statistics and color codes. 
                  — Brad Kershaw, via e-mail

A. Thank you. Our readers, as always, are inexhaustible founts of knowledge.

Q. In response to Nicholas Pitch inquiring about power steering [for his 1937 Packard, Sept. 6, 2018], it can be done. I have a 1956 Ford F100 with wide standard radials and have found the same conditions, being 75 years young. I have looked into various methods, but have not done the conversion. Some things to consider are:
   — At low speed, keeping the tires rolling reduces the turning effort.
    — All methods and equipment will require about the same overall cost for material and labor.
    — The weight on the front of the unit, condition of the existing components and any wear requiring replacement should be done first.
    — Will you personally be doing the work or have it done by others? (This requires evaluation and selection of equipment and shop.)
     These are not all the things to consider, only a start. In my online searches, the best idea is with electric power steering mounted as an integral part of steering column. All that I found require a 12-volt system. This can be overcome by adding a 6-volt battery in series with the existing system and servicing only the steering motor, and a 12-volt alternator in place of the generator.
    I know many details are left out and I’ve only tried to add to the good advice given in the answer. I think this is a worthy project, considering how long you have owned this car and the love you have for it. As one commercial puts it: replace it — $30,000; sell it — $1,000; modify it — priceless.
                    — Joe Ennesser, via e-mail

A. All good points. I’m not sure how well the series batteries will work, considering that one of them will be much more heavily loaded than the other. My reading suggests that while you can charge two 6-volt batteries in series with a 12-volt charger (or alternator), the more heavily used battery will wear out sooner. You can probably mitigate this by swapping the batteries periodically. Has anyone done this, perhaps for using 6-volt accessories on a twelve volt system? Also, Packard electrical systems of the period were positive ground, while modern electronics generally require negative grounds.


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