File Under Misc

A 1956 Plymouth Wagon

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Dad called it a Hippiwampus. I’m not sure where that name was birthed, but it seemed to fit. What started as a typical 1956 Plymouth Suburban Station Wagon was now a full blown hunting buggy, with no resemblance to the former station wagon.

Dad was a serious, quail hunter. I don’t think he ever missed opening day of hunting season. Once he even quit a job because they wouldn’t let him off. It was that big a deal to him.

In the early sixties, he bought a 1956 Plymouth Station Wagon for Mom to drive. Later he bought her a 1960 Ford Wagon, and he took over the Plymouth. It became his daily driver, but he had plans. Plans that would forever change the look of this car.

The modifications took place in Amarillo, Texas in the mid to late nineteen sixties. Dad worked at a big welding shop in town, and over many weekends, he transformed the vehicle to something else. I wish I had pictures.

The Beginnings

Dad bought the wagon when we lived in Aurora, Colorado. He and mom were planning, to my knowledge, our first big two-week family vacation. I was nine, and my sister was four.

It was two-tone silver/gray and blue with four doors, a V-8 (272 ci. I believe) and a three-speed standard transmission with a column shifter. It was roomy, and the four of us headed out by the northern route ending in Oregon. Then down to California and eventually back through Texas by the southern way. Returning to Colorado two weeks later with five of us. We picked up a cousin in California who came to stay part of the summer.

Mom’s Car

Mom drove the car for years afterward. First in Colorado, then in Spearman, Texas, and finally in Amarillo. By then, it was a high-mileage car by the standard of the day, and Dad, in about 1965, decided to move Mom up to a1960 Ford Wagon. That’s when he took over the Plymouth. It was a back-and-forth to work car for a few years.

Modification Begins

His first move was to shorten the wheelbase. He cut the body off immediately behind the front doors and chopped the frame and drive shaft to match. Dad found a wrecked mid-fifties pickup cab that he cut apart at the back in order to keep the rear window glass. Then he welded it to the back of the cut off wagon. The old cab had black paint, and he didn’t bother to change anything.

Now the car was shortened where the drive shaft was less than a foot long, and Dad continued to drive it back and forth to work. But this was only the beginning.

He built a small bed to cover the rear frame in front of the rear wheels. He carried a chain and a tire tool in it, though I don’t remember a spare tire,

Next Steps, More Mods

A good friend of Dad’s spent a weekend each month in Little Sahara, Oklahoma. Dad decided it would be fun to take the Plymouth along and see how it did in the sand. It turns out regular street tires aren’t that good in the loose sand.

Back home, Dad gathered a set of wheels, and after cutting them apart, he added a 4″ spacer to the front wheels and a 6″ spacer to the back rims. With some bigger, wider tires, the buggy was taking shape.

We took it on several hunting trips after that, and it was an excellent quail hunting buggy.

By this time, I had my license, and I got to drive it some. It was fun because of two things: the short wheelbase made it quick handling, and with all the weight off the back, it would really burn rubber. Hey, I was fifteen.

But Wait, There’s More

Dad spied a 1954 Ford Pickup a buddy at work was selling. The price was reasonable, so Dad bought it. He’d been without a pickup for a few years and was ready for another. By the way, it was an awesome pickup, but more on that another time.

He decided the roof and cab on the ’56 Plymouth buggy was no longer needed so the cutting torch came out again and off they came. Now it was a short wheel-based convertible buggy. That lasted about six months.

On a particular hunting trip, Dad was feeling bad, so we were cutting across a field, driving the hunting buggy, to get to a tree row. Suddenly, we spooked a covey of quail and Dad slammed on the brakes, grabbed his shotgun and in getting out of the buggy, the shotgun barrel hit the A-pillar and kept him from getting out of the driver’s seat.

That was the day, using his 12 gauge shotgun, the windshield was removed. Honestly, he shot it off with four or five shots.

Don’t believe the cop shows on television showing the police hiding behind the car door and remaining safe from all the flying bullets. Pure nonsense. Bullets will pierce the metal quicker than you can believe.

We kept the buggy for a couple more years, and then Dad sold it to someone who wanted a project. It was definitely that.