A 1932 Plymouth Model PB Roadster Hot Rod Story...


Bob Mead's first attempt to build a hot rod...  
I have loved old cars for a long, long time.  When I was eleven years old, I joined my first car club, The Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley.  During the time I was in the navy in the early 1960's, I acquired a 1932 Plymouth coupe that was my everyday car for the next few years.  I still have that car, did a full ground-up restoration on it in 1996-98, and have driven it around 20,000 miles since the restoration, many of those miles in the Great American Race.   Much as I loved that little coupe, I dreamed of someday owning a 1932 Plymouth Model PB roadster.  The opportunities were few and never seemed to work out.  These cars are exceptionally rare for a number of reasons:
  • There were only about 2,200 built (That's a lower production number than the limited edition Mark II Continental!) -- The Model PB was only in production for about 6 months.  Compare this number with the 12,600 1932 Ford roadsters built and you may appreciate how hard it is to find a PB Plymouth roadster.
  • Much of the body reinforcement was made of wood.  In 1932, Chrysler had farmed out all closed car production to the Briggs Body Co., which had transitioned to all-steel construction.  The open cars, such as the roadsters, were being built in the old Maxwell Body Works, which still built bodies in the tradition of the carriage builders.  If the wood-reinforced cars were ever exposed to the elements for very long, they disintegrated.
  • The scrap drives of World War II decimated the numbers of surviving early-'30's cars.
  • The hot rodders of the 1950's did a pretty good job of further reducing the numbers of survivors.
  • It's been eighty years since they were built.
While I was participating in the 1998 Great American Race, we had an overnight stop in Canton, Ohio.  A gentleman named Ray Dodds came up to me during the evening Parc Fermé and said how much he admired the restoration I had done on my coupe.  He also asked if I was interested in buying a Model PB sport roadster.  It was a car that he had owned since the 1950's.  He had modified the running gear, putting a later, 6-cylinder engine and later transmission in the car.  He had also started painting the car, piece by piece.  The car would need a lot of finishing but appeared to be "all there."  After a year of discussion and a couple trips to Ohio, I became the proud owner:

After much consideration, I have decided to make a traditional hot rod out of this car.  Much as I love the Model PB Plymouths  as they came from the factory, they are really difficult to drive in modern traffic. 
  • They have only 65 horsepower.  They cannot be driven safely on an interstate because of their limited top speed - about 60 mph.
  • If you have a breakdown while on the road, they are impossible to find parts for.  Even when I bought my coupe in 1962 that was true.  I always carried a spare water pump, fuel pump, and ignition parts along with my tool box.
  • They are quite uncomfortable, especially for a person who is 6 ft, 2 in. tall.  The seating was adequate only for a much smaller person.
A restored 1932 Model PB Roadster
(Look at that l-o-o-o-w sexy windshield)
My goal is to make a safer, more drivable car.  I intend to keep the fenders and running boards; it won't be a so-called high-boy roadster.  I plan to keep the height and the stance as normal as possible.  But it will have significant upgrades to the running gear and creature comforts and safety items.  It will be powered by a 241 cubic inch displacement Dodge V-8 engine that originally resided in a 1954 Dodge fire truck.

In 2009, I attended the National Street Rod Association's National Meet in Louisville, Kentucky.  While there, I looked at hundreds, if not thousands of cars.  There were 11,000 cars present!  I saw only 6 Model PB Plymouths.  None of them were open cars -- roadsters, cabriolets, or convertible sedans.   I never saw a single 241 cubic inch Dodge hemi engine.  Therefore, I'm certain that this car, when finished, will be an exceptionally rare combination.  I don't expect to see another one like it anytime soon !

I hope to use this Web site to describe the process of building the car -- the decisions that need to be made, how I acquire parts, the people who make it all come alive, and the adventures that are a natural part of every project.  Please join me on the journey.
The site is organized by "system" -- the chassis, the engine, the transmission, the interior, top and upholstery, body and paint, and of course, the final assembly.  And within each section, I'll try to arrange things chronologically.  We'll see what happens...

Here is the car as Monty Love and I prepared to load it onto a trailer for its delivery to Deron and Dan Shady's shop. 
The date is June 6, 2009.

16 June 2012 -- Bulletin...Bulletin...Bulletin
Today, while attending the Southeastern Regional Meet of the Antique Automoble Club of America, held this year in Shelbyville, Tennessee, I spotted a 1932 Plymouth roadster.  It was amazingly similar to my car as it was delivered -- rear-mounted spare, Sport Roadster (rumble seat) model, painted mostly Merrimac Beige (which was my car's original color.  The owner is a gentleman named Bill Sebastian.  Needless to say, we talked for a long time.  He knew of my car, and in fact said that he has been following the progress of this Web site!  Considering the rarity of any 1932 Plymouth roadsters, this was a remarkable coincidence.  Here's a slide show:

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