AN OLD CAR WILL KEEP YOU HUMBLE

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Most of our MyStarCollectorCar readers already know we took a long road trip in a 1963 Plymouth Belvedere this past spring and covered over 5300 miles in 8 days (over 8500 kilometers for the metric set) on a quest to connect with Route 66 in Texas before we headed west from Cadillac Ranch.

The happy ending to our story?

In fact, the long journey was a massive victory in a death match between an old car and too many fast miles over 8 days.

Truth is the old Plymouth has been a remarkable road warrior over the past 9 years and answered the bell in extremely cold winter weather (as well as blazing hot summer weather) during that time frame.

The net result is I got a little cocky after the trip and succumbed to a bad case of unbridled arrogance based upon the Plymouth’s reliability over the years up to (and including) its long high-speed road trip. Consequently, I must have angered the automotive gods and forced their hand in terms of a vigorous slap because the old Plymouth became very temperamental shortly after the trip.

The issue came to a head when the car suddenly died and came to a complete stop in the middle of an alley about a block away. The problem was severely magnified by the fact there was zero electrical power in the Plymouth and exactly no way to re-fire the old warrior.

Recent experience with what I believed were simply poor battery connections gave me faint hope, but the problem ran deeper at that point. A guy working out of his garage witnessed the car’s power failure, volunteered his services, and tried to boost the car to no avail.

Then he offered to tow the Plymouth back to my place where we were able to jockey it back into a parking space behind my home. The car’s electrical system was clinically dead but at least the old Plymouth was not in Amarillo, Texas or on the narrow shoulder of a steep mountain road when it decided to expire on me. Happily, the car was behind my place, and I was very relieved when the old Plymouth chose to die so close to home. In fact, I considered it to be a car guy lottery win.        

Full disclosure here: I am intimidated by automotive electrical systems because I do not like to dabble in what I consider to be the dark arts of a successful vintage ride electrical repair. It is a grim fact that an old vehicle’s electrical problems are magnified by the ravages of time and use, so a 1963 Plymouth Belvedere fresh off a very long road trip was an excellent candidate for issues in this department.

Nevertheless, I decided to dive into the deep end of attempted automotive electrical repair and figure out the problem or, as it turned out, the problems. The first issue was the connection between the starter and the power source because the car’s engine had been fitted with a mini starter and required an electrical adapter known as a “mini starter relocation kit” by a few aftermarket sellers.

The electrical adapter was broken just enough to cause intermittent problems and hinder the Plymouth’s starting process enough to make it a crap shoot to start at best. So I found a temporary solution when I hung the starter cable from a copper wire sling to keep it in position until I get another adapter via my online search.  It almost goes without saying the replacement piece is not a common item, but I found one. Hopefully the right one.  

The other issue was a secondary voltage regulator located behind the instrument panel was not plugged in all the way and shut down most of the Plymouth’s electrical system-except for the horn. This problem was the one to cause the car to shut down a block from home and help me meet a new neighbor.

The solution was a result of a dollop of online instruction and a heaping helping of blind luck, given my aversion to automotive electric repairs and the fact I am very challenged in this department. Suffice to say I would not be much help as a hot-wire expert in a stolen car ring.

Happily, the net result is the car now runs under its own steam but my cockiness about the old Plymouth is now imprisoned in a safe place in my car guy soul, so I will resist any urge to brag about its bullet-proof nature.

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. 

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