Thursday, October 6, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1939 Plymouth P7 Roadking

You've probably noticed that the majority of the cars featured here are 1960s and newer. Pre-1960 cars are harder to find, harder to care for, harder to get parts for, and probably less reliable than more current iron. As such, the older it gets, the less likely it is to have remained factory-stock. Certain older cars were never particularly sporty, so they lend themselves to being modified and used as cruising cars. And still others never became super-rare or valuable, so they can still be had on a budget. Case in point: this 1939 Plymouth P7 Roadking sedan in the Mission District. It appears to be a sort of low-budget hot rod or cruiser.

The 1939 Plymouth was a cheap car in its day, which is interesting given that Chrysler stylists (and more importantly, accountants) spent the money for fancy rounded-square headlights instead of standard round units. It came with otherwise conventional body design, and a six-cylinder powerplant. They were advertised as beautiful and luxurious, Chrysler quality at the lowest price possible. They were not described as quick. Therefore, a person seeking to build a hot rod out of their used car might yank out the six-banger boat anchor and drop in a 1950s-era Dodge Red Ram or Chrysler FirePower Hemi. A person doing the same thing nowadays would probably take the easy route and select a contemporary Chevy small block V8.
A friend once described this car as something one might see in Cuba: a decades-old American car with a straight body, decent paint, but missing trim and incorrect wheels for the period (this one seems to have aftermarket wire hubcaps that would look at home on a 1980s Chrysler New Yorker). The owner has also doubled up on the hood ornaments, installing a chrome woman atop the standard Plymouth sailing ship. Curiously, this car only has one taillamp, making it a base Roadking model. A second taillight was an option on the cheapest Roadking models, as was a passenger side windshield wiper. At first glance I thought it was a P8 Deluxe sedan with the body trim missing, but Roadkings only had a small amount of chrome that ran from the radiator shell (where mounting holes are visible in my pictures) about 8 inches onto the hood and ended in a point. The horizontal chrome strips that should line the grille bars are also missing, as is the Plymouth badge that should adorn the passenger side of the radiator shell above the grille. Perhaps those will be reinstalled later (or may have already been, since these pictures were taken nearly a year before this writing).
I'm no fan of the hubcaps, but I understand that original hubcaps for a car like this are rare and expensive. The paint has significant orange peel, but one has to remember: budget hot rod or cruiser. Maybe it still has the original straight-six in it, even. Not everyone is able to realize their plans right away because life gets in the way. To a casual observer, this old Plymouth has all the presence and a fair amount of the style of a classic 1930s car, while being cheaper to run and maintain than a high-dollar, spit-polished, gas-sucking V8 hot rod. I'd be interested to see if the owner plans to restore it someday or modify it further.

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