326 Red Ram V-8,
Powerflight Push-button Transmission, Power Steering, Radio, Heater,
Solex Glass. 40,000 original miles.
|July 2006 - The Dodge went to an antique vehicle auction held locally and was bought by a friend in the club. He kept it briefly but turned it around at national auction shortly afterwards. I have wondered where it went to - it was really a terrific car, but just did not appeal to me for whatever reason. The correct brake shoes did correct the stopping issue, and I replaced the head set on the car to cure the coolant leak.
|March 8, 2006 - The
poor old Dodge has been suffering extreme neglect. I have had it
parked in various garages more than thee years, and other than starting
her once last year, have ignored the car completely. Although it is
a beautiful looking car and is in mostly terrific shape, she has two
lingering problems. The brakes have never been right despite a total
replacement of all hydraulics with new parts, new hardware, pressure
bleeding, and professional adjustment and testing. The reason the
car was laid up back in the 1980s was trouble after a brake job, and I
believe I have the answer at last.
Dodge used three different brake shoe sizes in 1959 - I think the mechanic who did the brakes in the 1980s used a set that was too small. Since they were new, they were the only parts of the system I did not replace. The other issue is my fault. When I redid the heads, I forgot to re-torque the head bolts after it had been run a while. The car developed a minor exhaust gas leak into the cooling passages which pushed coolant out. Re-torqueing later cut back on the leak, but the damage was done to the head gasket. I have to replace it and also check the head for any burning. Once I take care of those things, I will re-examine the car and determine if I want to hang onto her or send her on her way.
|Background - This car was bought new from
Tysinger Dodge in Hampton, Virginia, by an older German couple. They kept
it until the husband died in the late 1960s, when it was bought by an elderly
friend who lived next door. This lady kept the car until infirmity forced
her into a nursing home. The car was then sold to another neighbor in 1988
for $500, with only 38K original miles on it.
The car had been sitting in a garage for years, and needed brake and ignition system work. The new owner had it towed to a local mechanic's shop to have the work done. After not hearing anything for a few weeks, she went by and discovered that the shop had gone out of business, and the Dodge was parked out on the street!
Changing plans eliminated the need for another car, so she had it towed back home and parked it at the end of her driveway under a hard plastic tarp. Although she planned to get it fixed 'someday,' it ended up not moving for the next decade. Shortly after coming to work for the same company I am at, she heard me talking about my old cars and told me about hers.
I had originally planned just to help her get the car running. The moment I saw those ridiculous fins sticking out from under the tarp, I was in love. The car suffered a lot under the tarp - the entire body was covered with surface rust and the interior was badly mildewed. Also, the engine was stuck and the brakes were shot. This was a lot more work than she wanted to get involved in, and she told me she was going to try selling the car for $700. I thought it over about two seconds, and bought it.
I was supposed to move the car on a Sunday afternoon. However, I managed to get the engine freed up the Friday before, and was able to get the car towed home that night. Sunday morning, the top half of a neighbor's pecan tree broke off and landed where the Dodge had been parked for nearly ten years! If I had waited to move it as planned, the car would have been crushed. As usual with projects like this, there were surprises - both good and not-so-good. The original cloth and vinyl interior turned out to be perfect under split and mildewed dealer-installed clear plastic covers. The engine ended up having most of the valves stuck - made for quite a fog bank when I managed to get it running on 4 cylinders. After a top-end rebuild, new brakes (there's a horror story that hasn't ended), cleaning the algae out of the gas tank, and lots of scrounging, the car was running and complete, but still looked pretty rough.
Body work is not my forte, especially when there turned out to be NO body under the rear window molding! Cliff Harmon, of Harmon's Body Shop in Hampton, VA, did a fantastic job. The complex sheet metal was recreated and welded in, and all dings and dents were smoothed out with no filler anywhere. He even had three different paint suppliers come in to match the original turquoise and black color scheme. The cost of the paint and body work ($2700!) was a bargain considering the results - too bad he decided to retire!
While the car was in the shop, I hand-polished all of the chrome and stainless. Happily, only the taillight pods and the fin tips required replating. That completed the major work. A set of wide whitewall tires made a huge difference in the finished appearance, and I got the engine compartment detailed out with new decals and hood pads. I went ahead and detailed the chassis some, but still haven't gotten around to installing the correct under-dash air conditioning unit I've had for two years.
While the car was in the shop, I hand-polished all of the chrome and stainless. Happily, only the taillight pods and the fin tips required replating. That completed the major work. A set of wide whitewall tires made a huge difference in the finished appearance, and I got the engine compartment detailed out with new decals and hood pads. I went ahead and detailed the chassis some, but still haven't gotten around to installing the correct under-dash air conditioning unit I've had for two years. This car is proof that you don't have to spend big bucks to enjoy the car hobby. I have a total of about $7,500 in the car including purchase price. And while she isn't perfect, the car has worked up to Second Place trophies in AACA judged events, and took a Best in Show at a local car show. Nothing I did can't be managed by anyone with patience, time, and basic hand tools.