By on November 29, 2012

When I first visited the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard earlier this year, I was keeping my eyes open for early postwar Plymouth sedans. I’ve always liked the look of those cars, with their sailing-ship hood ornaments and suicide doors. This yard has endless 1946-1950 Dodges, plus lots of Frazers, Willys, Kaisers, but not much in the way of Plymouths. However, if I expanded my search there to include late prewar Plymouths, this car jumps right out.
This 1947 Plymouth sedan that I shot for the Down On The Street series in my former home of Alameda, California, would rumble around town on a regular basis and I thought it was the best-looking car I’d seen in a long time. Someday I’ll have one of my own, I thought.
This one is a bit rougher, having sat in a field in eastern Colorado for decades prior to showing up at the Brain-Melting Yard a few years back. As is typical for cars exposed to the elements in the high desert east of Pikes Peak, the interior is utterly nuked, but there’s not much serious rust.
It was last registered in Nebraska in 1966. 46 years of sitting, waiting to be rescued… or crushed.
All the emblems and most of the chrome are in good shape.
The Chrysler Flathead Six was built from 1929 through 1972 (in later years it was used for military trucks and then as a power source for pumps and farm equipment), a production run length surpassed by just a handful of engines (e.g., small-block Chevrolet, Ford Flathead V8, Volkswagen air-cooled). This one may be seized solid, but you never know on a car that kept its hood closed in the single-digit Colorado humidity.
I’ve been wanting to buy a postwar Plymouth sedan as a recipient for a modern drivetrain and suspension transplant, but this slightly older (yet nearly identical) car really tempted me.
So, what the hell, I went and bought it yesterday. Mine, all mine!

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54 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe Sedan...”

  • avatar

    I was not expecting that ending. Good luck!

  • avatar

    No you didn’t… you did. I have the same problem, fatally addicted to project cars.

    Any idea what you want to swap in? Pentastar swap? Modern Hemi? What’s it gonna be?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I think a contemporary V6 or V8 would just be somehow wrong for this vintage. How about one of those hot-dog Australian slant-6es?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m still shopping for an engine/trans donor car/truck. I must have a manual transmission, I can’t afford a Hemi or LS, and OHC V8 engines won’t fit the engine compartment, so it’s going to be a pushrod V8 or big L6 with good manual-trans availability.

      Hmmm… might make a good Question of the Day.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know about man-trans, I don’t see this as being a hot rod fun-to-drive sort of car and an auto would suit me just fine.

        I would be looking for a smashed rwd Trailblazer right now if I were in your shoes.

      • 0 avatar

        4.0 Jeep motor? Should be pretty easy to find a wrecked late 80s or 90s Jeep for cheap in Colorado. Or for more power, 300 Ford straight six out of a 90s F150?

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with Parkwood. 4.0 Jeep. You can get whatever you want. Carb or EFI, Stick or Auto. Plus it keeps the brand, kind of. Keeping the flathead may be tempting but it has a throttle valve the size of a nickel.
        You may be disappointed at how slow you will have to cruize.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d get the measuring tape out. You might get lucky and that thing could sit on a Dakota chassis. That way you get upgraded engine, gearbox, rear end and suspension all in one shot.

      • 0 avatar

        AMC 4.0 is not bad. I’m a fan of the 7mge as the go-to for inline 6 swaps.

        A header and a custom valve cover, and you’re most of the way to a period look as well.

      • 0 avatar

        You might be surprised. The LS swap might actually be one of your cheapest options if you want to go with a modern, powerful and light engine. The LS swap is the 350/350 of today!

        I agree on the Hemi swap, while awesome, very expensive.

        As already stated an AMC 4.0L HO would be pretty cool. Cheap and available, plus it sticks with the straight six theme.

      • 0 avatar

        How about a fuel injected 4.0 liter 6 from a 1997-2001 Cherokee? Manual trans should be easily available and there’s a place here in Seattle that builds high-performance versions at a reasonable price.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        I don’t think they’re in the cheepniss range of your budget, but the LL8 I6 should offer good bellhousing compatibility with the ubiquitous Turbo-Hydramatic transmission family. Perhaps you can score a good deal on a wrecked Trailblazer for same?

        The best choice would be to discover the existing engine can still run and only needs a bit of loosening up prior to turning over.

    • 0 avatar

      It seems to me a guy with a resto-mod A100 van should have no problem finding another Slant Six to pop into that old Plymouth. As much of a fan I am of the SBC in all it’s permutations, that would be a distant second choice, just because of the magnificence of this car. I’d keep it all Mopar.

  • avatar


    As I was reading I thought to myself… Buy it buy it, it is a PERFECT restorable car!!!
    I almost cheered at the end, congrats!
    I would just restore it to its original look, hope the engine is not seized.

  • avatar
    Ted Grant

    Congrats on your purchase! Love the front bumper guards and the field fresh patina. I’d leave the body untouched and drop it on a modern frame and powertrain. Please keep us posted on your progress…

  • avatar

    Finally…a car with class!

    MM, you had better treat this project right. I mean fix the body properly and paint the thing and NO HAND-MADE DASHBOARD!

    As an old-school Plymouth fan, I mean it!

    Keep it as original as possible – it deserves it. However, the upholstery can be anything attractive, just not old-school nylon strap aluminum-frame lawn chairs – those are a bear to sit it while trying to drive. Don’t ask how I know.

  • avatar

    FYI – Nebraska plates typically show the county number followed by a plate number. This has changed recently for the two most populous counties in NE. 48 county is Red Willow County. The largest town in that county is McCook. That might prove useful in case you’re interested in looking into the history of your new car. Congrats!

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    you brought back memories. A high school best friend had a ’41 Plymouth in the late 60s, and drove it from Missouri to Virginia to visit me. Great car (for its time.) It also had been sitting in their family’s back 40 for some time before he pulled it into the garage, did what I feel was fairly minor work in the engine, and started it right up. It ran faithfully until sometimes in the early 70s when he sold it to someone who I believe was planning the same future for it as you. Good luck! Good car.

  • avatar

    To reiterate…Your wife must be an absolute saint.

  • avatar


    Congratulations on your new acquisition. May you drive it in good health. Great pics too. I’d just do a mechanical restomod, fix the serious rust and clear coat the body as is. That patina is perfect. BTW, the ’41 front end and grille had a lot more character than the ’47, which frankly looks like a Chevy to me.

    Any chance he’s got some late ’40s, early ’50s Dodge panel trucks there? I’m a fan of postwar R. Crumb style panel trucks, but what’s cool about the Dodges is that they retained the side opening center hinged prewar hood style. If I had the money, I’d buy one and put it on a modern Ram chassis w/ a Hemi.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Good luck . Good choice . I always thought this was one of the nicest front ends of all times , and definitely in the top five for forties cars much nicer than the postwar Plymouths .

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Very cool, congrats and have fun with it.

  • avatar

    Wow, Murilee….

    The minute I saw your first photo, I thought, “Boy, that thing is in great shape”, and, “It’s not going to last long since you publicized it on TTAC”, and “No way is it going to the crusher!!” All at the same time!

    And then I saw the ending to your story, and thought, ‘Thank God!”

    Gee, maybe you could even get that original engine working again…..


  • avatar

    Great find! That car has amazing “patina”.

    I usually shudder at the concept of a rat rod, but this looks almost too cool to paint and restore. Put it on fresh steelies, resuscitate the stock drivetrain or replace with something modern that retains character, stitch up something nice for the interior, and you’re done. Or, do it right with a full-blown restoration. Either way, this is as cool as they come.

  • avatar

    The 1941 Plymouth was the car that three men drove to Cape Horn on the Pan-American Highway before there really was anything worthy of the name. There is a book about their adventure called, “Adventure south; three men and a lone car blaze the Pan American highway route down two continents to Cape Horn!” by Sullivan Calvin Richardson. Here’s a film about one leg of their journey:

    Any fan of ’41 Plymouths ought to check it out.

  • avatar

    Congrats! That has to be the coolest factory spark plug wire holder I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar

    Holy cats…. the condition is just staggering to a Hoosier/Cheesehead/FIB like me. Like it was preserved on the moon.
    And that grille is beautimous.

  • avatar

    Not that you won’t, BUT…
    LOTS of pictures as you go.
    I love to live thru other people’s projects.

  • avatar

    Those engines, in good shape, will idle down and the only sound will be the fanbelt and fan.

  • avatar

    Spectacular! Me? I’d just clear coat that thing, leave that preciously gorgeous patina in place. New engine? I like the straight six idea.

  • avatar

    Well Mz Martin you really are in Project Hell territory now! IF you haven’t found them yet, the forum of choice (so I hear) for these cars is

    Word of warning in you engine swap quest, the steering box can present some interference issues when putting in non stock motors. My vote is for a early baby Hemi, or maybe an older straight six such as a slant six?

  • avatar

    Very cool. I’ll be watching for more on this project.

    There’s always the thought of a Chrysler Spitfire six – bit longer version of the stock engine with a bit more cubic inches, a bit more torque….

    • 0 avatar

      …oh, and save the license plates even if they just stay in the trunk under the spare tire. They’ve been with that ’41 sedan for half a century and are part of its history.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking keep the venerable six and add a shorrock or Whipple to it.

  • avatar

    Congratulations! My unsought advice is to consider staying with an L-head six, perhaps with dual carbs and a split exhaust.

    Then again, I’m no longer in a position to speak from immediate experience, as I sold my ’37 Plymouth a couple of weeks ago after acquiring my Maestro. I was quite happy with its stock drivetrain, but less so with its increasingly structural rust.

  • avatar

    Whoa, surprise ending, the comatose Plymouth got adopted. How cool.

    … and you passed on the ’89 Dodge Colt ??? lol

    Really looking forward to watching this progress. Nice work.

  • avatar

    Put a 13B Rotary Turbo in it.

    Should fit just fine. <3

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Mate, I tell ya, we need to send you a BA Falcon carcass over there (I am talking ex taxi stuff, if you don’t mind the 700K+ kms). The “hard” part would be finding a manual gearbox, although some poor soul might have totaled a manual XR6…

    Right out the bat: IRS, IFS (double wishbone), DOHC I6 with HEAPS of torque (you would have to figure out petrol EFI however). Perfect for your project.

    I reckon sourcing and shipping costs would be the real [email protected]#$%tch there.

    I will add myself to the I6 wagon: Atlas, AMC 4.0, slant six (motor borracho in Vzla)… nothing JDM or esoteric, although the Toyota 4.5 DOHC would be nice. All of the above made tastier with turbo :)

    In any case, no powetrain option will ever be able to touch a mouse in cost terms.

  • avatar

    For those of us keeping score at home and wondering how you find the time/space/spousal consent:

    1) A100 hell project – we know it stops and drives, but what about that TBI swap? Mural?

    2) 20R Sprite Hell project – yes yes, we know its in an Evil Genius controlled interment camp

    3) GSR engine and Integra suspension to Civic

    4) This lovely, but basket case, Plymouth (and don’t you dare paint it)

    We hope to see FREQUENT updates about all of the foregoing (I can only take so many articles about the off-lining of a 4th tier supplier that makes 189% of the world’s automotive diamondkote).

  • avatar

    Murilee, I think you should think outside the box. A 4BT Cummins diesel is what needs to be installed in the Plymouth. It would be a different and unique vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      The only problem is that the 4bt is becoming rather dear. Unless he can find a Stepvan in a yard and yank it from that then it’ll be too much. I’d suggest a RAM 2500. Grab either a 12V or 24V 5.9L Cummins. Dodge made a ton of them and there should be some around. If it comes with the NV4500, even better.

  • avatar

    Nice pics, but where’s the picture of the new earrings that Mrs MM was presented with before she saw the newest piece of steel in the garage?

  • avatar

    Now this will be interesting. Do this right, and you’ll look like something right out of Havana, any time between 1941 and right now. ;)

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    Congrats MM.

    Consider a 4.9 ford with a turbo. There is a video on youtube that you can probably find of a 4.9 turbo Maverick. Very impressive. Should still be readily available and cheap. Cannot recall a better engine in any car I owned or drove. Suspect it would easily fit and you should be able to back up with any manner of ford transmission. Mine had a C6 and I loved it.

  • avatar

    So this poor beastie was a mere 25 years old when it was taken off the road. On the other hand, just about any 1941 car was considered hopelessly obsolete in 1987, in a way that many if not most 1987 cars aren’t today. Consider a 1987 Mustang or Civic versus today’s model.

  • avatar

    Glad to see you saved this ! .

    Where the hell were you in 1984 when I had difficulties _GIVING_AWAY_ my old 1939 Dodge sedan with fair interior and original paint ? . over ONE YEAR in the L.A. RECYCLER and no one ever came to look , I gave it to a junkyard . rust free all original Ca. car with black plates , current tags and new brakes .


  • avatar
    Andy D

    Did you see any 47 Dodge business coupes? My vote for an engine is the Jaguar 4.2 Good catch MM

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Hey MM, wabbout a nice sub 75 k mile BMW 2.5 M 30 engine? If you come get it , it is yours. Complete, has harness and exhaust, L jetronic

  • avatar

    Good for you, sir. I wish people would rescue these rides more, there are few left. FWIW, I too recommend an AMC and/or Mopar 4.0 I6. That coupled with either a Muncie 4spd or T56 would be awesome.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Back before it was known as the home of Burning Man, the Black Rock Desert in Nevada was the place to go for land sailing (as well as racing experimental vehicles). The favorite camping spot among my fathers gang was a point somewhere in the middle of the desert known as Plymouth Wreck, named after the rusty old 41 sedan with its entire right side missing, slowly sinking back into the soil. Throughout the seventies and eighties this landmark was iconic among the groups of eccentrics who congregated in the Black Rock Playa. countless photos were taken of it, decorations would be applied, some even draped it in Christmas lights during the holidays. It marked the end of an era when some fool blew it up at the beginning of the 90s.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Murilee, if you read this, please let us know if you’ve done anything with this Plymouth. Thanks!

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