We all know good things take time, and there ain’t no way this car would ever be built in 16 minutes! But, that’s how long this super-cool video by Hot Rod Hoarder himself, Tommy Lee Byrd, takes to tell the story. And what a story to tell! It starts off like so many other tales from the early years of hot rodding. Tommy Lee’s father-in-law started building the car from the money he earned on his paper route, purchasing the ’34 Plymouth shell of a body for $100. A ’40 Ford chassis came next, to which Charles worked out a way to stuff the longer and wider frame under the Plymouth’s floorboards.
Charles cut off the rear portion of the frame and widened the firewall to keep everything under all the corners. Then he fabbed up his own radius rods out of the remaining bits. Since the Ford already had liquid brakes, he simply used the front axle and replaced the rear with a stronger unit out of a newer Lincoln. With a rolling chassis on-hand, Charles experimented with different engines to find the right “balance” if you will. Originally designed for a small-block Chevy (YES, they did install them into hot rods way back when), Charles got a line on a ’57 Chrysler with a 392. Of course, who wouldn’t want a hemi in their hot rod!
Tommy explains that Charles did swap in the first-gen hemi, but, “he said it just drove terribly,” he explains. “I can imagine, ‘cause it really doesn’t drive that great now!” Macpherson struts and rack & pinion steering be damned! What makes these historical hot rods so special isn’t how they contrast today’s offerings, but how they withstand the tests of time and live to tell about it. Many vintage rides have recently come out of hiding. Sometimes, they wither behind a barn, with the words, “someday” slowing ringing their siren song.
The lucky ones bide their time in dark but dry surroundings, protected from the elements. Such is the case with this car. The last time Charles drove the car was back in the 80s. He drove the car from his old house to his new house, where it would sit in silent seclusion. Life poured sand through the hourglass as a family and career filled most of Charles’ days for the next three decades.
That’s when our host of the video, Tommy Lee Byrd, comes in. Who wouldn’t love having a hot rodder for a father-in-law? Likewise, having a son-in-law who knows a fuelie-head from a hemi-head can be a great addition to the family! Long story made somewhat shorter, Tommy Lee marries Charles’ daughter. Over time, Tommy Lee convinces his father-in-law to let him get the car out and get it running again.
The Plymouth Revisited
Bringing back such a cool car doesn’t mean you need to make it better than before and Tommy Lee explains how he kept with the car’s original build and sought only to bring it back to a usable and safe condition, since age and stagnation have taken the biggest toll on this car’s components.
Even though the carbs hadn’t sipped a thimble-full of today’s alcohol-infused gasoline, those 450cfm Holleys were touched-up with new innards and gaskets and placed atop a ‘70s-era Weiand tunnel-ram. A Mr. Gasket electric fuel pump was added since ’61 Corvette’s 283 still use a front mount. The engine received a fresh tune-up and aerosol overhaul, but is still the same engine Charles used back in the ‘60s. The Muncie 4-speed transmission is also the same as before.
Technology has improved in so many ways since this car was built and Tommy Lee walked a fine line between upgrading and maintaining a vintage vibe. The dual reservoir GMC master cylinder is a newer unit, but the exact same style as Charles used years ago. The dual-point distributor was upgraded with a Pertronix unit, but it resides under the cap, so no points lost there in our book. The wheels and tires were obviously upgraded, and we think they blend with the car’s build beautifully and bring safety as well!
While Charles’ Plymouth may not be a famed racer or hot rod from a bygone era, it does serve as a timepiece of how cars were built, not bought, back in the days. When the common man made his ride what it is. They poured their soul into the car, and in this Plymouth’s case, it lives on, thanks to a family of hot rodders who have cared for it since the ‘60s. Check out the video. We’re sure you’ll agree.