In the mid-1960s, high school students weren’t supposed to drive to school. Instead, they were encouraged to walk or take a bus. Young Roy Harmon, however, skirted the driving prohibition by parking his 1948 Plymouth in the driveway of his older brother who lived near the school.
Even after that Plymouth was traded for another car, Harmon held good memories of it. In 2004, Harmon and his wife, Janice, were traveling to visit their daughter at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa., he saw a 1948 Plymouth by the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign in the window.
After visiting his daughter, Harmon drove back to the old Plymouth and gave it a quick inspection. “I got a fender cover and crawled under the car in my good clothes,” he says. He and his wife were impressed with the car and were prepared to buy it if the motor sounded good.
When the owner fired up the 218-cubic-inch, inline six-cylinder engine the deal was done. A week later Harmon returned with a trailer to tow his 1948 Plymouth home to Fairless Hills, Pa. He learned that his car had been re-sprayed in the original black by the previous owner. At that time virtually all of the stainless steel trim was removed and buffed to a like-new sheen.
“We took short excursions at first,” Harmon says, not wanting to be too far from home while ascertaining the car’s reliability. Harmon reports that the running gear was in pretty good shape, but the carburetor was troublesome. He rebuilt the single-barrel carburetor and tended to a leaking three-speed manual transmission.
The new owner discovered that his 1948 Plymouth Deluxe four-door sedan was built Dec. 7, 1948 and then was shipped to Eshelman Motor Co. in Lancaster, Pa., where it was purchased by a local doctor.
“We believe the car was used for house calls in the then-rural area of Lancaster,” Harmon says. That would explain one of the dealer-installed accessories on the Plymouth — the spotlight. Such an optional extra would be useful in finding addresses after dark.
The base price of the Plymouth when new was $1,346. Harmon’s car is also equipped with an optional heater, as well as a cigar lighter. Beside the mechanical work, Harmon had the interior reupholstered from the headliner on down, added trim rings for the wheels, and with a nod toward safety, installed turn signals.
When new 60 years ago, the front floor of the Plymouth was covered with rubber. Horsehair carpeting covered the floor in the rear. Harmon has replaced both the front and rear floors with carpeting. What is not chrome on the dashboard is wood-grained metal.
Harmon refinished the wood graining on the dashboard, along with all the window frames.
“Eight of the 11 pieces of glass are original, “Harmon says. Records with the car show that all the non-original parts on the car are Chrysler “MOPAR” parts. “This suggests dealer service,” Harmon observes.
The odometer shows the car has been driven 76,000 miles and even now Harmon says, “It’s always ready to go. I drive it about 80 miles a month.”
Checking the numbers stamped into the car, Harmon found that the engine is the one that was in the car when it rolled out of the factory on 6.70×15-inch tires six decades ago.
“The head has been off,” Harmon says. He guesses that was probably to have the valves ground. He says the only difficult thing about the car is the brake system.
“The Lockheed drum brakes are tricky to set up,” he says, “but if done correctly, are excellent.”
When his car was new all of the Chrysler products had a separate brake light in the center of the trunk lid. According to Harmon his car runs very well, is nice to drive, handles good and stops efficiently. Harmon and his wife find the Plymouth comfortable on the frequent hour-long excursions on the nearby back roads along the Delaware River.
“I’ve had this car up to about 75,” Harmon says, adding that his car is happier at 45 or 50 mph. “I don’t want to go fast,” Harmon says. “I don’t want the ride to be over.” — Vern Parker