'39 Plymouth Musings
Mostly unprofound thoughts expressed while driving my old coupe
Trailered Away: Regular readers of my blog know that I've been getting a lot of '39 Plymouth drives in lately. There's a reason why.
Last Tuesday (5/19/15), my old coupe was hauled off to the shop to get some body work done as well as a fresh paint job. There are many small body flaws, including a misaligned trunk, Bondo pops and fenders which need a little straightening. The paint on the car is almost 30 years old and has developed a slew of micro-blisters. While the paint looks good from five feet away, the number of blisters is increasing every year, so it's time for a repaint. (My paint guy said the blisters are caused by poor prep work before painting.) We're keeping the color almost the same with a little more silver metallic added.
I'm glad I didn't wash the car because it was raining when I drove it up on the trailer.
Hopefully, I'll get the Plymouth back in early June. This cosmetic work is in addition to all the mechanical work I had done in April. All of the little mechanical and electrical annoyances which have built up over the last several years are now fixed. I also had the gasket at the top of the tank - where the sending unit is located - replaced. The result is no more leaks and gas odor after each fill up and, apparently, a more-accurate gas gauge as well.
The biggest problem was the original 76 year-old radiator which had sprung (another) leak. It had been patched so many times that it was unrepairable. Rather than having a duplicate of the original fabricated, I had a custom radiator made, with a thicker core and more tank capacity. This has improved the cooling substantially.
When I bought this car in 1994, I was told that it "ran hot." Obviously, it had a marginal radiator even 21 years ago. I can only speculate that all the years of filling it with untreated water - no one used distilled water in radiators before the 1970s; most of the people I know filled theirs with a garden hose - probably left the tubes full of scale. The temperature gauge indicates that the car's Chevy V8 engine now runs 40-60 degrees cooler than before. I also had the leaky gas tank - a problem with the sending unit's gasket - fixed. The original heater core also was leaking and I had a new one installed.
The repair bill was high but much less than, say, the first year's depreciation on a new Corvette. The Plymouth now runs great. After the paint and body work are compete, it will look great, too. (posted 5/26/15, permalink)
Sunny Morning Comin' Down: If you read much of my writing, you'd think that it rains continuously from November 1st to July 10th around here. The fact is that we do get a few sunny days even in Winter. Wednesday was one such day. This is the view at 7:30 am from our deck - the outside temperature was a chilly 30 degrees:
By 1:00 pm, it had warmed up to 44 degrees, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took my first drive of 2015. By then, the clouds were beginning to move in - the rains returned Thursday - but I had a nice country roads drive.
There was enough sun and clear skies remaining to permit a good view of the giant white Hostess Sno Ball known as Mount St. Helens. The Plymouth fired right up and, after a little cold stumbling - the automatic choke has never worked properly - I settled in for a smooth ride, serenaded by the coupe's dual Glasspacks.
The original 1939 heater is pretty useless and the vinyl seats will suck the heat out of buttocks within a half-mile radius.
Nevertheless, I had a fun ride and a good beginning to 2015. Perhaps it's a sign of better times ahead. (posted 1/16/15, permalink)
Four-Wheeled Therapy: Regular readers of 'The View Through The Windshield' blog already know of my medical issues. In April 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had surgery a couple of weeks later. The operation took longer than expected due to complications and I was hospitalized for eight days. In May, I had more surgery to install a port; in early June, I began a six-month regimen of infusion chemotherapy, to be followed by additional surgery early next year.
While this sounds ominous, the fact is that my post-chemo prognosis looks pretty good. Nevertheless, I can use any prayers you'd care to offer on my behalf.
I have had a lot of love from family and friends and am being cared for by an excellent team of doctors and nurses. But an unexpected area of support is the uplifting feeling I get whenever I slide behind the wheel of my '39 Plymouth coupe.
Driving it makes me feel like I'm 16 years old again. It makes me forget my troubles for a bit and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and rumble of the V8 engine.
Attitude is said to be one of the key factors in overcoming disease. I am taking as many Plymouth rides as I can these days, realizing that, as the chemotherapy progresses, its side effects may prevent future joyrides in my old car.
I'm happy to be feeling good as I write this and am hopeful for a complete recovery so that I can fire up my old Plymouth whenever I want in 2015. (posted 6/6/14, permalink)
Sweet Spot: Everyone talks about heavy Labor Day traffic but, when I took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe at 10:00 am, the roads were practically empty.
I guess that everyone who was headed somewhere was already there and I was in the sweet spot of holiday traffic. The skies were pellucid blue with white clouds here and there and the temperature was a comfortable 63 degrees.
As I turned north on 142nd Avenue, a black Nissan Leaf rolled silently up to the stop sign. The Plymouth said to it, "Don't worry, little electromobile, my Glasspacks can make enough noise for both of us." And they did. (posted 9/3/13, permalink)
Celebrating Earth Day: Following a couple of rain-filled weeks, the sun finally appeared yesterday morning. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by firing up an old car, unrestrained by any pollution-contol devices, and driving along country roads, depleting the ozone layer which - in my opinion - has been getting waaay too thick.
It was a good day to be piloting a fuel-sucking, carbon-spewing vehicle - take that Gaia!
Time to teach the Earth who's boss.
At 11:00 am the skies were Spring Blue, virtually cloudless and the temperature was air-kissing 60 degrees. It was a perfect setting for an enjoyable '39 Plymouth drive. And enjoyable it was.
I'm happy to report that ozone levels are now back in spec - thinner than a heroin-abusing French fashion model knocking back an Ultra Slim-Fast shake, spiked with an emetic. Life is good. (posted 4/23/13, permalink)
First 2013 Drive: On Monday, it was sunny with clear skies that carried the hopeful blue hue of spring. I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe for the first time since late November, 2012 and took a drive.
It is said that it only rains once a year in the Pacific Northwest - from November 1st to July 15th. This winter, the weather has been relatively warm and wet with only one snow shower - it left only a trace of white stuff.
It was chilly - 42 degrees at 10:30 am on Monday - and the Plymouth's original heater box is never up to the task but the weather was just too inviting. The car fired right up without complaint. Nevertheless, the vinyl seats drained any lower body warmth so quickly that it seemed like they were violating several Laws of Heat Transfer.
I pointed the Plymouth's Mayflower-topped prow nose toward the public library and set sail. Afterwards, I headed east toward Hockinson to give the old coupe a little more exercise. It was so clear that I could the craggy white peak of Mount Hood sticking up over the snowy eastern hills like an old, arthritic proctologist's knuckle. The roads were lightly traveled and my drive was most pleasant.
I'm looking forward to more Plymouth mini-excursions in the near future. Alas, the rains returned on Tuesday. (posted 3/5/13, permalink)
Cold Travels: The joke among those living west of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest is that it only rains once a year - from November 1st to July 15th. Lately, the weather has been quite wet; I hadn't driven my '39 Plymouth in over a month.
We caught a break in the falling water from Saturday afternoon until late Tuesday with honest-to-God partly-sunny skies. On a chilly Monday morning (44 degrees at 11:30 am), I fired up the old coupe and went for a drive.
The heater in my car is original - a primitive box near the floor that takes its time warming up and then dispenses a feeble stream of warmth at the rate a stingy, bitter old man gives out throat lozenges as Halloween treats.
I did get a wave from a cheerful, hot blooded fellow crossing the street to pick up his mail; he was clothed in a thin T-shirt and shorts. I waved back with a gloved hand.
The skies were an anemic blue with streak of wispy clouds here and there. The view was quite good; in fact, the skies were so clear that for the first time in 23 years, I could spot the peak of Mt. Hood in the far distance. Snowy-white Mt. St. Helens resembled the top half of a giant Hostess Sno Ball. The sun was that pale winter color for which there's no Crayola match. Neither orange, nor yellow, it still managed to brighten the skies during this brief drive on a short day.
I had a very pleasant ride on almost-empty country roads. On a related note, did I mention that my grandson now has his driver's permit?
Oh, The Days Dwindle Down: It's been almost two weeks since my last '39 Plymouth ride. Ever since I gassed the car up, the weather has been against me - rain, fog, etc. When the sun finally returned, albeit briefly, I fired up the old coupe and took a drive.
The Fall colors are nearing their peak around here and the warmth of summer is gone - it was 53 degrees at 11:30 am. But the skies were a pale blue dotted with puffy clouds and it was a very pleasant ride. (posted 10/19/12, permalink)
Stabilizing: On Monday, I drove my '39 Plymouth to the local gas station and filled it up ($4.43/gallon ... ouch!) after dumping some Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer in the tank.
Soon, winter-formula gas will be arriving in Southwest Washington and I don't want any of that dreck in the Plymouth's gas tank. Accordingly, this was my last fill-up of the year.
While the weather is very pleasant right now, the forecast calls for it to turn later this week. I expect that my 2012 Plymouth travels are nearly at an end and the coupe will be hibernating in the garage until Spring 2013.
After the fill-up, I took a nice drive under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-50s. The last few nights have featured lows in the upper 30s and that has had an impact on the tree leaves. More are turning and there are flaming reds and bold yellow-oranges to be seen while driving the back roads of North Clark County. (posted 10/10/12, permalink)
Drive Time: The weather had not been very good since we arrived home from British Columbia, but Sunday dawned with lots of sunshine. Fall was definitely in the air though; at 8:00 am, the temperature was only 42 degrees. Nevertheless, I fired up the '39 Plymouth and went for a drive.
The leaves are just beginning to turn here; the summer green colors are gone - replaced by that washed-out, early-Fall dull green which precedes onset of yellow, red and brown. The tide has turned. Summer's gone. The days are shortening; the light at the end of day is wan. But the morning roads were almost empty and I had a very enjoyable ride.
I took a longer ride on Monday - to Hockinson and back - the sun was shining brightly but it was a little hazy/foggy in the distance at 10:30 am. Temperature was 59 degrees.
On Wednesday, it was foggy and quite cold in the early morning but, around 11:15, the sun came out and I took a third drive in the Plymouth. It was still not that warm - temperatures in the mid-50s - but the sky was blue with numerous Johnson & Johnson puffball clouds. It was a most enjoyable ride in fairly light traffic. (posted 9/27/12, permalink)
Dark O'Clock: I arose at 6:00 am Thursday and it was almost pitch black outside. At first, I thought it was overcast and ready to rain, but by 6:30 the sun began to crest the mountains and I could navigate without turning on lights. Sunrise was officially listed as 6:38 am.
Temperatures were in the 40s but, by 8:30, it was almost 60. At 9:45 am, I decided to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe since it was such a nice day and the temperature had risen to a comfy 65. (By 1:30 pm, it was 85 degrees.)
The skies were almost cloudless and visibility was endless on this rural end-of-summer day. The traffic was very light and my drive was most satisfying. The absence of cars on my rural loop made it hard to tell whether the year was 2012, 1959 or 1939, as you can see from the view through the windshield (a phrase befitting this blog):
Last month, I wrote about the harvested hay in the field just off Brush Prairie's 170th Ave. and quipped that the resulting bunch of circular bales enrobed in white shrink wrap looked like giant albino Hostess Ding Dongs. See what I mean:
One of this blog's readers, Sam, used to tell his kids that fields such as this were marshmallow farms.
Sunset is now 7:38 pm; the days are getting noticeably shorter. (posted 9/7/12, permalink)
'Endless Summer': Unfortunately, that old Beach Boys album name is a lie. On Wednesday, when we took our 7:00 am walk, it was a chilly 47 degrees. My wife said, "Fall is in the air."
Rats. I don't want summer to end. But the days are getting noticeably shorter. Nevertheless, by 11:00 am, temperatures had risen to the mid-60s and while it appeared sunny, there were still a lot of hefty clouds in the sky.
Knowing that the amount of nice weather is dwindling down, I fired up the '39 Plymouth and took a drive. I had the windows down so I could listen to the Glasspacks purr.
At a rural stop sign, I accelerated too quickly and actually burned rubber.
Geezer delinquent. (posted 8/24/12, permalink)
Drive-By Economics: On Friday at noontime, I drove to the library to pick up a reserved book. Since the sun had finally come out and the temperature was a pleasant 71 degrees, I took my '39 Plymouth coupe.
I did a short drive afterwards and was surprised at the lack of business at three restaurants I passed. In the old days, Friday was the busiest day of the week at lunchtime. People celebrated the end of the work week and, for some, payday, too. Not now, though. These dining establishments were near-dead - just a few cars parked out front.
During my micro-economic tour, I passed several retail establishments and looked in the windows. No customers inside. Nada. Just bored shopkeepers sitting by (or slumped over) cash registers. Sales are so low that their Quickbooks 'Sales Ledger' pages have been retitled 'Mariana Trench'.
Financial advisor Malcolm Berko recently wrote, "Steve L. is a second-generation owner of a four-store appliance/furniture business in Ohio. Steve is 54. Two years ago, he came within nine inches of declaring Chapter 11. Steve notes that his middle-class customers, who accounted for 70% of revenues, are disappearing and that those who remain standing have lower incomes and higher debt than they did five years ago. His ticket size is lower; his (customers) can't get credit; and good jobs are scarce. ... Steve tells me he knows many small-business owners in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati who are treading fearfully in the same bouillabaisse. And because merchandise and operating costs have risen by more than 20% and because his vendors won't floor-plan as generously as they have in the past, Steve will close two stores this January."
I read all kinds of reports stating that the economy is ... (more >>>)
Fun In The Sun: Last Friday morning dawned quite overcast and it pretty much stayed that way until almost noon. Then the sun made a solid, lasting appearance.
At 2:30 pm, after returning from a lunch visit with a friend, I swapped the Lexus for the Plymouth coupe and took a short drive in the 74 degree, low-humidity weather. Traffic was heavy in spots, impeded by construction, but I managed to get in a pretty good ride.
Saturday was off & on cloudy all day but, at noon, I fired up the '39 coupe and took a drive in comfortable 70-degree weather. I encountered a mix of clouds and sun, but spotted a couple of interesting vehicles. One was a brand-new white Toyota Camry. It reminded me that I've forgotten to mention how many examples of the latest generation Camry I've seen in the past month or so. Most were either white or silver. Those Toyos must be selling faster than tickets to a Lindsay Lohan demolition derby.
On the way home, a cherry-red Nissan Leaf glided silently by in the opposite direction heading toward Hockinson. Don't worry little electromobile, my dual Glasspacks were makin' enough noise for both of us.
On Monday, at 9:15 am under mostly sunny skies and 64 degree temperature, I decided to take another ride. As I headed east toward Hockinson on 199th Street, I spotted two Smart cars heading west within 30 seconds of each other. In these here rural parts, such micromobiles are seen about as often as a Higgs boson particle. Was there some kind of Smart Club function in the area? If so, no one told me about it. TTAC's resident vehicle auction expert, Steven Lang, wrote, "The Smart Fortwo is quickly becoming the equivalent of herpes at the auctions." No one wants 'em. It's not hard to figure out why - scary-tiny, cramped, near-zero luggage space, lousy tranny, surprisingly poor gas mileage and weird looks for openers.
In any case, I had a most enjoyable old car drive in very light traffic. (posted 7/17/12, permalink)
Nice Weather We're Having: On Wednesday, the temperature was a very comfortable 68 degrees at 11:30 am. So, I took my old Plymouth coupe out for a spin.
The clouds looked like a class project at some Celestial Kindergarten using several enormous cotton balls glued to a monstrous sheet of pale blue construction paper with humongous dollops of Elmer's glue. I had a very nice drive.
By 9:45 am Thursday, the temperature was 63 degrees and the morning fog was just clearing off. I took the Plymouth to town, fueled it up with Chevron Supreme with Techron polyetheramine fuel cleaner and went on a fairly long drive afterward, heading to Hockinson and then south towards Vancouver.
Depending on where I was, it was either mostly cloudy or mostly sunny. But, as soon as I arrived home and pulled into the garage, the sun came out for good. (posted 7/13/12, permalink)
What's The Weather? I am unsure of the dividing line between Partly Cloudy and Mostly Sunny. It's probably an example of obfuscation performed by television weather forecasters to cover their basic incompetence.
In any case, I would place the morning of July 4th in the Mostly Sunny category. Yes, there were some high clouds obscuring the mountains but the skies were more blue than white and it was definitely sunglasses weather.
At 9:30 am - to avoid the later-in-the-day heat, parades and traffic madness - when the temperature was a crisp 58 degrees, I fired up the '39 Plymouth and took a spin.
It was a most enjoyable ride. Traffic was light and the old coupe ran just fine.
It was a swell beginning to a great Fourth - celebrated with family and with the ritual cookout. (posted 7/5/12, permalink)
Saturday Fun: After a week of clouds and rain, it was 68 and sunny at 1:00 pm, so I took a spin in the Plymouth.
There was still plenty of snow to be seen on the mountains as I headed to Hockinson and back. I passed the Hockinson CookHouse and, even though the 'Open' sign was still on, the place was deserted and the parking lot was empty.
Since Sunday was that phony, tree-hugging, Gaia-loving hippie holiday, Earth Day, it was a good time to be piloting an old, fuel-sucking, carbon-spewing vehicle, depleting some of the ozone layer. Think of it as an early gift.
Time to teach the Earth who's boss.
Every time Earth Day rolls around, I am fondly reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella (on SNL) - who might have said: "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside? ... Oh. Never mind." (posted 4/23/12, permalink)
'Tis The Season: We're gettin' ready for Christmas around here. Decorations are going up, I burned a new CD of Christmas songs for the car and we bought a new tree - a fake one to replace our old fake one.
Last week, on cyber-Monday, we ordered a Christmas tree online. It is a hand-crafted Balsam Hill artificial Vermont White Spruce tree with built-in lights - 600 of 'em. And 1,326 branch tips. It's 5.5 feet tall and a full 46" diameter at base. It arrived by FedEx last Thursday.
We disassembled our huge, five-year old 7.5 foot Costco tree, which had numerous burned out lights and was now too big and to heavy for us to handle, reboxed it and dropped it off yesterday at Goodwill as a donation.
The only one of our cars with a trunk large enough to handle the old tree was my '39 Plymouth, with its big business coupe trunk. We've been having a spell of rain-free weather, so we enjoyed a nice sunny drive during the chilly, 34-degree late morning.
So, why don't we - who live in the heart of the Pacific Northwest and have a tree farm at the end of our block - get a real tree? I think James Lileks has expressed it best: "I do have a problem buying a real tree for $65, having it die on the way home, never drink the water we give it, drop a hundred needles every time you brush up against it, then dragging its corpse to the boulevard with a billion tiny needles left behind." (posted 12/6/11, permalink)
Now Horseless: I now have my new license plate on my '39 Plymouth. By declaring the car to be a 'Horseless Carriage' ... (more >>>)
Hot Rod: Last Friday was gorgeous, so I fired up the Plymouth and took a nice drive.
When I got home, I noticed that the temperature gauge was higher than usual, so I checked both the oil and radiator.
I added about a half quart of oil but the radiator took a full gallon of mix.
On Saturday morning - another sunny, warm day - and took the ol' hot rod for a ride on the same country loop.
When I pulled the '39 back into the garage, the temperature gauge was almost 50 degrees lower than on Friday.
Note to self: Check fluids. We live in an age of cars that don't leak or burn fluids and get too spoiled. (posted 7/5/11, permalink)
Sunny ... With A Chance Of Jerks: The weather was so good on Wednesday, that I took a drive in the Plymouth. Yes, I saw Mt. St. Helens - it was snow-covered and blessedly quiet.
The sky was a light Spring blue with only a few wispy clouds here and there. Early afternoon temperatures were in the mid-60s.
I had just read an Autoblog post about VW-driving idiots in New York City and, on my drive, encountered one - piloting a black Jetta or Passat southbound on 182nd Ave just north of Hockinson. I was doing the speed limit (50) on this country road. The moron behind me decided that wasn't fast enough, so he crossed the double line and passed me at 60, just as the road narrowed over an old bridge - creating a very dangerous situation.
He was middle-aged and, I could tell by his driving position, short. With a bald spot. I have encountered his type before - driving VWs, too. Listen, bozo, if you feel that inadequate, buy shoe lifts and get prescriptions for Viagra and Rogaine.
Aside from the VW dolt, I had a very enjoyable drive. (posted 5/19/11, permalink)
Heat Wave: On Monday, the temperature in Vancouver hit 103 degrees Farenheit - a new record for the date. Our thermometer (in the shade) hit a cool 97. Vancouver recorded 101 at 8:15 pm. During the night, our air conditioner cycled-up at least twice. At 6:00 am Tuesday, the outside temperature was 75 degrees and the humidity was 65%. (Usually, July temperatures drop into the low 50s at night and the humidity stays quite moderate.)
At 8:45 am, I took a ride in the Plymouth before things got too hot. It was already 82 degrees; naturally, I ran the A/C. By noon, it was 101 in the shade at our house. By late afternoon, Battle Ground temperatures had peaked at 103, while Vancouver hit 106 - 11 degrees above the record set in 1907. (Update: On Wednesday the temperature in Battle Ground hit 105. It was like an oven outside. Vancouver hit 107 - the highest temperature ever observed since the city began keeping records.)
Triple-digit temperatures are forecast for the next couple of days but it's supposed to "cool off" to 88 degrees or so by Friday.
Meanwhile, Chicago is having the coldest July in 66 years. (posted 7/29/09, permalink)
Perils Of Old Car Ownership: I took the Plymouth for a ride, then parked in the driveway and cleaned it. When I went to start the car, sparks shot out from under the seat (again ... see April 22nd posting).
I removed the seat and found that the battery cable had cracked and was arcing at the break - hence the sparks. I went to disconnect it and the cable split in two. I tried taking everything apart to replace the cable but the arthritis in my hands and hips was killing me that day so I decided to leave it to the pros.
The tow company arrived with a flatbed and hauled the '39 to a local auto repair shop. They replaced the cable and, at my request, put refrigerant in the A/C unit. The car now runs chillingly fine and is back home in its usual spot in my garage.
Update: Took it for a nice ride this morning in light rural traffic. The Plymouth ran great. (posted 7/3/09, permalink)
Everything Old Is New Again: A recent article in the Detroit News proclaimed, 'For show cars, split hoods can score points'.
"It's an open and shut case: Aftermarket kits give regular rides the aesthetics of (Lamborghini-style) doors are cool, but, like, doesn't everyone parking on display at the custom car show have them already?
Now, to really score points with the judges - and the viewing public - what you might need is a split hood kit."
Gee, my '39 Plymouth coupe already has that feature - factory installed, too. Sixty-seven years ago. For the record, the photo is of my first Plymouth and was taken in 1959. (posted 9/28/05, permalink)
copyright 2005-14 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.
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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.
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