By on February 16, 2015

07 - 1953 Plymouth Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen I visited Southern California back in December, I hit the jackpot with interesting junkyard cars to photograph. In addition to stuff I haven’t shared yet, there was this fully-loaded ’82 Subaru BRAT, John DeLorean’s weird rope-drive Tempest with 540-lb four-banger, this rust-free ’84 Cressida, and this ’51 Plymouth Cranbrook. The self-service yard that had the ’51 Plymouth also had today’s Junkyard Find, which tells you a lot about how spoiled Los Angeles car freaks are.
06 - 1953 Plymouth Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI can’t tell if this is a Cranbrook or Cambridge or whatever, because all the trim-level-specific emblems are long gone.
09 - 1953 Plymouth Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, it’s not rusty and it’s pretty much complete. Much as we talk about wanting to save all the old cars, there’s just not much value in a battered-yet-restorable ordinary bread-and-butter four-door of this era.
04 - 1953 Plymouth Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler made their flathead six-cylinder engine for nearly a half-century (if you count engines made for military vehicles and stationary industrial applications), making it one of the all-time engine legends. If this is the engine that came with this car from the factory (unlikely, but possible), it’s the 217-cubic-inch version.
13 - 1953 Plymouth Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAccording to the laws that established the CONELRAD system, all AM radios manufactured between 1953 and 1963 were supposed to have the “duck and cover” frequencies of 640 and 1240 kHz marked on their dials. Either Chrysler didn’t get the word, this radio was manufactured in 1952, or it was swapped in later.

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31 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1953 Plymouth Sedan...”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Interesting how the previous owner (I assume) took the trouble to get the seat and door panel upholstery redone, and then ditched the car. I’m not an expert on restorations, but I imagine the logical thing would be to do the body first, the interior later, would it not?

  • avatar

    If it was in slightly better shape, then it would be worth saving.
    Cheap way to get into a classic car though. You can still get a V8 and luxobarge ride/handling in a four door as well (if so equipped) :) .

    • 0 avatar

      Better shape how? The trim stuff was probably still on before it was sent to death row. Interior looks sound from the pics. No sign of feces. Needs some paint, and then do whatever you want with the rest of the canvas.

      This is all your fault.

    • 0 avatar

      The only factor about this car that would make it worthwhile is the sense of pride you would get by saving this model. Think of it, by rights, the metal from this car should have been used on a 1970’s Japanese ride who’s carcass would have been turned in itself in 1990- to build still more Japanese or Korean cars. I hate to use the word ‘amazing’ but that’s all I can think of when I still find a 1953-4 Plymouth currently in a junk yard uncrushed. I remember a couple of former nuns living across the street who kept their blue 1954 Plymouth the whole time I lived near them for the end of the ’50s and first half of the 60’s.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been rstoring and building antique cars for much of my life. None of the cars have ever been as good when I bought them as the Plymouth in this article.

      That is an amazing starting vehicle. Doesn’t look like it would need a whole new floor, the bottom six inches of the body all the way ’round, etc.

      That car looks like a project that just needs to be taken apart, cleaned, painted and reassembled with a few new door hinge bushings, a rebuilt steering and suspension, etc.

  • avatar

    “Much as we talk about wanting to save all the old cars, there’s just not much value in a battered-yet-restorable ordinary bread-and-butter four-door of this era.”

    There is a used car dealership in our town that has a four door Plymouth of this vintage on their lot; I think it is a Savoy. It is a lovely burgandy and silver two-tone, and in excellent shape.

    I don’t know what they are asking for it, but it has been sitting there for a long time now.

  • avatar

    I see cars just like this on E-Bay, and they do sell from time to time and bring a decent amount. It’s too bad this one ended up here.

  • avatar

    My dad used to buy these as very cheap used cars up until the mid-60’s. He used them as a second car for the family and drove them to and from work. He prefered the 49 to 52 models. Most of the time the engines were shot. A completely rebuilt engine could be bought from Sears automotive department or from the catalog for less than $100. Dad could change one out in a couple of hours and be ready to go.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Plymouths were an odd brand, the coupes look like Kim whatserface , which made the sedans look pretty good. Drop in a big block flathead six and you got a decent driving car.
    And so simple to work on…what has happened to car design where you need a computer to just tell you car isn’t running right?

    • 0 avatar


      Those things happened!

      • 0 avatar

        my fiancee’s 10 year old daughter commented on the complex dash of my 77 Chevelle the other day. I told her that if she stopped and really thought about it, it’s simpler than her mom’s 2009 Toyota Yaris. The radio only has two knobs, two seconary tone/fader controls, 5 push buttons, and an AM/FM slider, along with an Eject button and FF/RW on the tape deck.

        The HVAC controls are even simpler, as you don’t need to think about turning the compressor on or off, just slide the top lever to where you want it, and the panel takes care of running the A/C compressor to freeze you out, bottom lever it temperature, and the fan speed is on the left, the wipers are on its own control to the left, next to the pullswitch for the headlights, turn signals are on the column, dimmer on the floor, and a simple lever for the transmission.. nothing terribly complex about it.

      • 0 avatar

        It is called the progress. If there was no progress dinos would still rule the world.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, and a fender bender in this at 30 will be more dangerous than wrecking a modern mid or large car at 60

  • avatar

    I rather like these plain old Plymouths and Dodges from the late 40s and early 50s…great hot rod material.

    The two vehicles from the issue of Wheeler Dealer I picked up the other day that I’d go out and buy tomorrow if I had the cash are a red 48 Dodge and a flat black 56 Mercury.

  • avatar

    That looks just like the one they have for sale at my local De Soto Plymouth dealer!

  • avatar

    My Dad had one of the ’50 or ’51 Plymouth sedans. I remember riding in the front seat and feeling that steel dashboard. Ours had the windshield wiper switch on the dash, just behind the windshield split. In the rain, the wipers would sometimes stick and could be freed by pounding on that steel dash. At least ours started in rainy weather; something that Plymouths of the late 50s were loath to do.

  • avatar

    Is it Acura TL sedan sitting next to it? I thought they are undestructable.

    • 0 avatar

      That Acura TL of the 1999-2003 generation had very common problems with the automatic transmission, so much so that most dealers did transmission swaps using replacement rebuilt transmissions from the factory at the rate of three per day and sometimes more. This also affected Honda Accord V6’s which used the same transmission, as well as Odysseys, Pilots, and MDX’s of the same era. The Hondas and Acura TL’s of pre-1999 and 2004 forwards had far better transmission life. The rebuilding program for the affected cars was carried out under extended warranty provisions the problem was so far-ranging. I don’t think this issue is still under warranty, but that question can be answered if you currently have one of the affected cars by calling the customer relations phone number in the back of the owners handbook. The white TL might also be in the yard because of accident damage on the passenger side, which we can’t see.

      • 0 avatar

        I know guy who totalled Toyota Camry which was like 7 y.o. with about 100K. On top of insurance payment he was able to sell it to junk yard for 4K and it likely still runs great somewhere in Mexico or Russia.

      • 0 avatar

        The way it was explained to me was that the Honda/Acura autobox had a filter setup that was not user replaceable. You had to remove the transmission and split the case to extract and replace the filter. I can’t imagine that any car company with a good reputation like Honda would sign off on something like that.

        I’ve wondered if the aftermarket came up with a solution since then?

        Who made these transmissions? Aisin or??? Anyone know?

  • avatar

    “The self-service yard that had the ’51 Plymouth also had today’s Junkyard Find, which tells you a lot about how spoiled Los Angeles car freaks are.”

    I totally agree with that. Coming from the East Coast where the only way to see a 50 year old car is either at the museum, auto show or in rust piles in someone’s backyard it completely amazed me to see 1940s cars still usable in Southern Cali. Northern Cali is a bit harder on cars but there are a few 50s cars still in use in my neighborhood. LA, on the other hand, is truly a car nut’s heaven in many ways.

  • avatar

    It’s remarkable how Plymouths went from no-nonsense to bizarre in only 4 model years.

    What a sober car. Is that hairshirt upholstery? Even the generic AM radio from JC Whitney or wherever looks sad.

    It’s my kind of vehicle!

  • avatar

    Cool old four door. Four doors are a great way to get into the classic car scene without a big investment. Anyone else interested in the yellow fastback coupe thing on the top of the doomed car stack in the background?

    I’m guessing it is an Opel GT, Ford Maverick, Ford/Mercury Capri, or Datsun 240/260/280z.

    Any guesses or interest?

  • avatar

    I seem to remember (through a foggy lens) my aunt visiting our house in the projects circa 1957-1958; she drove one of these, and I think it was pink.

    I was 3, I think.

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