One of the greatest sins in the vintage car hobby is to dismantle a vehicle, stop immediately after the carnage, and put the scattered remains into long term storage.
Ken Rice is the proud owner of a 1957 Dodge Custom Royal convertible that had an unfortunate Humpty Dumpty phase before he saved the car from an uncertain fate as a giant metal puzzle in long term storage.
A 1957 Dodge Custom Royal convertible is an incredibly rare vehicle that was an excellent way to showcase legendary fin car designer Virgil Exner’s Forward Look dream that required mandatory tailfins on Chrysler products during the late 1950s.
Exner set a style trend that many considered to be some of the best examples of the tailfin ever designed for domestic cars built during that era. Tailfins represented domestic automakers’ acknowledgement of the exciting possibilities for the then-young Space Age, so they built cars with rocket-esque rear ends. Some would argue that nobody did it better than Exner’s Forward Look fleet, including Ken Rice, a car who particularly loved the Crown Royal style tailfins during that era.
Ken was also keenly aware of the ’57 Dodge Crown Royal convertible’s scarcity, mainly because the cars were not sold in huge numbers and had major Forward Look model rust issues. He added, “I’m from PEI (Prince Edward Island, Canada) and we used to sit on the front porch and watch them rust”, so Ken was willing to resurrect a very rare Mopar convertible from the Exner era.
The restoration process took about two years, according to Ken, and required a 1958 Dodge donor sedan to complete the task, mainly because the convertible required a new floor and other details after it was dismantled and banished into long storage.
Odd issues cropped up during the restoration project, including a search for missing convertible roof support bars, but eventually they were found and used on the ’57 Crown Royal.
The dismantling process included the removal of the seat and front fenders, but fortunately they were stored along with the car, according to Ken.
The ’57 Dodge also still had its original 354 cubic inch engine, along with its iconic and reliable push button automatic transmission. The factory powertrain combination runs as smoothly as a Swiss watch because Ken likes to drive it at every opportunity and does not believe in a trailer queen philosophy.
He added a dual master cylinder brake system with a disc conversion because Ken likes to keep up with traffic whenever he takes his Custom Royal convertible on the highway. The 354 produces plenty of horsepower so it can easily keep up with modern traffic, but Ken wanted to ensure his 67-year-old car could stop faster than a factory brake system version whenever the situation warrants it.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.