MARCH 8, 2012: A 1963 PLYMOUTH RAISES A FEW QUESTIONS ABOUT PERSONAL TASTE IN CUSTOMS

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One of the minefields in an interview with the owner of an old car is the custom side of the vehicle.

 

I’ve seen tens of thousands of cars and done thousands of interviews-in that time I’ve seen things done to old iron that I would rank as excessive.

 

I have to remind myself that old vehicles are a very personal statement-you don’t own them because they’re practical. You own them because they reflect something from your past. A mental cue locked in your memory banks triggered a need for a particular old car or truck or a look and eventually you are the proud owner of an iconic ride. That highly impractical vehicle is for you, not mainstream society-otherwise buy a Subaru.

 

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That’s how I rationalize the “off the beaten path” cars but this 1963 Plymouth pushed the envelope in a big way.

 

I’m a huge fan of the ‘63 Plymouth for the most basic reason-my Dad drove one. I saw this lime green neon car across the parking lot and it had the unmistakable profile of a 1963 Plymouth. I could live with the paint but from a distance it looked like the guy had rolled this car on the way to the show because the clearance between beltline and roofline was askew. It was a misshapen monstrosity.

 

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I had to talk to the guy but my first reaction wasn’t good-I respect these cars based on my own “mental cue from the past”. I don’t see many ‘63 Plymouths at shows so this version was a shock. You have to fight through your bias in an interview and ignore what repulses you…and this car repulsed me. Admittedly, it’s not even close to the same level of anxiety that imbedded combat reporters coming under live fire face to get a story but this car was a shock.

 

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Consequently I submerged my personal bias, brought up my impartial inner car guy and found out that car’s owner is a guy named Herb Dueck. He bought the car on an impulse-in his own words, “I had to have it”. Herb’s an interesting guy and clearly he didn’t mind the spotlight that followed this car around. Most car guys at the show condemned the Plymouth on sight for its excess but they were also in the first wave of sightseers around this car.

 

Car guys are hardwired to be naturally curious, so they had to see how this thing was built from a technical point of view. Chopping a roof is an art form so they wanted to examine the quality of the work and the degree of difficulty. Most real car guys will admit that they are on a constant learning curve so this was a great opportunity to see something different. They were still appalled by the look of this Plymouth but techniques are transferable across projects.

 

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They also like to look under the hood and in this case it was a 440 big block with dual quads. That met their standards but they were a little lukewarm about the devil airbrush on the dash.

 

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Herb’s a big guy and he definitely displayed a latent Barnum and Bailey circus gene when he pointed out that people had to wait until he left to see a large guy squeeze into a small driving area. When he did leave it took him 5 minutes to get behind the wheel-it probably would take less time for Herb to squeeze into a suitcase.

 

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Herb was a really good guy about the wild-looking Plymouth because he had a great sense of humor. He bought it on spec and he knew that it was probably going to take him more than an ad in the local paper to sell a chopped lime green 1963 Plymouth but until that happened, he was simply going to have fun with this car.

 

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Ultimately, I never did change my opinion on this car-to me it was still a monstrosity. I did get used to it-more or less. But it was the biggest test I’ve ever faced as a car guy/interviewer.

 

As for a sale? Push the marketing side because this car is an advertising campaign on 4 wheels.

 

It took me half an hour to get a picture of it without 20 guys looking at it.

Jerry Sutherland

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