The car was big enough for a barn dance but was not cool at all for a seventeen-year-old boy. Nor was the car a chick magnet. And since I didn’t play football, that was strike two.
When the transmission went out of the 1960 Ford Station Wagon, my Dad traded it and $100 for a 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook. It was the definition of ugly. It was a large four-door car with some of the original green paint showing through the rust. It was not attractive in any way.
Under the hood was a mealy flat-head six cylinder engine backed by a three-speed column shifter. Oh, and it ran on 6-volts so my four-track tape deck wouldn’t work. No, this was not my ideal car, but still, it beat walking to school or taking the school bus.
All Ready a Geek
My High School was like most in the late sixties. There were the haves and the have nots. There were the cool kids and those from the South Side of Amarillo. There were football players and the rest of us geeks.
I was in the band and liked it. I started in the fifth or sixth grade and enjoyed the camaraderie of like-minded kids. I even tried out for Drum Major my Junior year and beat out the competition. That was an enjoyable year for me.
Back to Cars
The school parking lot was full of neat cars. Mustangs, Z-28s, Barracudas, Road Runners, Corvettes, Camero SSs, Chevelle SSs. Then there was my 1952 Plymouth. Wow!
But it gets even better. Mom and Dad decided they would give me a paint job for my birthday that year. Not just a paint job but a $29.95 Earl Scheib Special. The Special, as you can imagine, was not a super duper paint job. It didn’t include any sanding, priming, or bodywork. They rolled the car into the booth and shot it one of two color choices. Crystal Turquoise and a color that escapes me today. Let’s just say it was worse than the Crystal Turquoise.
When I got the car back the only good part was it was all one color. But that color looked much better on the paint chip than on the car. It almost glowed in the dark. It was so bright.
Then there was the 6-volt system
As a teenager, music was everything in the ’60s. I liked bands like CCR, Steppenwolf, and Iron Butterfly. The type of music the radio did not play. We all listened to 1440 AM KPUR. It was a Top 40 station, so my listening preference was missing. I had to get my tunes back.
I still had my 4-track tape deck, but how to get it working in a 6-volt system. I talked to Dad and he gave me several options.
- Install and wire a separate battery just to run the tape deck. Charging would be the issue with this option.
- Convert the Plymouth’s electrical system to 12-volt from the existing 6-volt.
The second alternative was my choice. The hardest part was tracking down everything needed for the conversion. I replaced every bulb in the car: headlights, taillights, and even the dash lights. Hardest was finding a newer generator to keep the 12-volt system charged. With Dad’s help, I accomplished that, too.
I don’t remember how I handled the windshield wipers and heater motor, but the starter motor stayed 6-volt. Dad thought it could handle the extra juice and it was still cranking when I traded the car off.
Once done, I installed the tape deck and I had tunes once again.
Late in my Senior year, the Plymouth developed a cracked block and leaked water faster than you could pour it in. No problem. Since Dad was a welder by trade, he took it to his shop on a Saturday and welded to block up. The weld was visible but looked like it belonged. I never had any further issues with water.
The car was reliable for the time I drove it. It only left me stranded on the side of the road a few times. Back then that was good.