Prologue

Follow Me on Pinterest In 1962, Bob Mead was a newly graduated and newly commissioned Ensign in the U.S. Navy and was looking for an everyday car.  He was fortunate to find a 1932 Plymouth Business Coupe in North Westport, Massachusetts.  With the help of a shipmate, he drove it back to Newport, Rhode Island, where he was based.  He named the car “Winston,” after Winston Churchill.  (The car seemed to have many of Churchill’s characteristics – ruggedness, a mind of its own, etc.).   The car had been initially delivered in Pawtucket, RI, and had fewer than 20,000 miles on it. 


For the next three years, Bob drove the car daily, including a trip from New London, Connecticut to Norman, Oklahoma, when he was assigned to a new duty station.  Before the trip, his roommate on the ship bet $100 that the car wouldn’t make it without a major repair.  The car made it; the $100 winnings paid for the gas. 

After a couple more years of driving the car, Bob sold it to his brother Bill.  Bill dismantled it and started a restoration, finally lost interest, and sold it back to Bob in pieces.  For the next 20 years, Winston was towed, pushed, shoved, and cursed from location to location.  Finally, Bob's wife, Margo, said, “We are not moving again until all of your cars can run under their own power.”  They didn't move again!

The New Challenge 
In the spring of 1997, a close friend, Bob King, challenged Bob to restore the car and enter it in the History Channel Great Race (so called because in 1998, the History Channel was the principal sponsor).  The two Bobs had talked for years about how much fun that event might be.  Bob King offered to pay the entry fee and navigate if Bob Mead would complete the car and drive it.  After conferring with Margo, he decided to invest the time and energy to restore the car.

The Restoration
Bob dismantled the car, finishing the job that his brother had started many years before.  He gathered parts from far and near.  He located a complete car except for the frame and the body in St. Louis, which he picked up in mid-December.  Then Bob and Margo went to Pittsburgh and York, PA over Christmas, 1997 to get more pieces.  Margo was puzzled about the line up of five engines in the shop.

Bob visited other owners of ’32 Model PB Plymouths, took lots of photographs, got his hands on some reference material, and made a lot of educated guesses as to how things went together. 

The first stroke of good luck was finding a superb machine shop – Wright’s Garage – within a mile of our home.  Richard Wright specializes in racing engines, but he took on the job of rebuilding the old Plymouth L-head four.  He spent untold hours making sure that every last piece was made better than new.
 
About a year earlier, Richard Wright had recommended a body shop, Maxwell Body and Frame, in Maxwell, Tennessee, to do the body work, assembly, and paint.  Robert Ralph Morris, the proprietor, came and looked at the car, accepted the job, and even got Charles “Slim” Crowell  to come out of retirement to work on the car.  The pictures of the finished product are a testament to the craftsmanship these gentlemen put into it.
 
 
 
 
In February, 1998, Bob was not terribly confident he’d “get there by then.”


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A little paint by the end of February gave Bob some renewed confidence

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Slim” Crowell admires the first “roll-out” from the shop in April

 

Our team was not lucky enough to have any spare time.  We finished the car four days before leaving for the start of the “race.”  The car had less than 100 miles on a newly rebuilt engine, and we were leaving on a 4,500-mile trek.  We had to borrow a precision speedometer from a friend, Bob Bentley, who used it on a 1927 Chrysler in the 1988 Great Race.  It was not calibrated to our Plymouth, so we had to constantly convert indicated to true speeds!