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Old 04-12-2023, 01:12 AM
gene49 gene49 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2023
Location: Freeport IL
Posts: 116
Default My 49 Plymouth coupe build

This one is going to be different then most builds. on top of that, it was built years ago and has been driven nearly 100,0000 miles, been driven through 18 states since it first hit the streets in 2012.

Since this build started, I've lost many pictures of the process caused by computer crashes over the years. that probably means I can't post many pictures other then what your going to see here.

Like most builds, this one started with a pretty simple thought that morphed into action, which brought on the reality that some things were not as easy as I thought it was going to be.

So here is the story. My 20 something daughter broke up with her long term boyfriend. That break up left her with a very young son. Fortunately she had a decent job, but he left her with a Dodge Dakota pickup as transportation. The truck wasn't too bad, except for one problem. The truck had a manual 5 speed transmission and she didn't know how to drive a manual transmission truck. A crash course course in manual transmission training gave her enough information she managed for a few months when she would get her income tax refund. Her tax refund netted her almost enough for a beater car she could drive. The car lot wasn't interested in trading in her manual trans Dakota. Dad bought the Dakota for the amount she needed for the car and the tax and plates. just what I needed, another vehicle I didn't need laying around, but Daddies little girl and her son had transportation she could drive.

The truck laid around for several months until I needed a beater truck. I ended up driving that Dakota a little over a year before the much abused clutch finally gave up. I parked the Dakota on my side yard and drove something else.

That was about the time the crazy thought came into my head. When I was a kid, our local dirt track raced old coupes. The vision of those old cars coming off that #4 turn and down the front straight to get that green flag is forever burned into mu brain. I was looking at that Dakota, and the thought that it would make a perfect starting point for an old race car like those from my memory. i could take the basic chassis, add a 4 point roll cage, throw an old body on it, use as much of the Dakota as I needed to build a beater my wife and I could cruise around town on nice days during the summer. If we got a year or two out of it, that would be cool, because it would be a really cheap car. I could then part it out and get most of my money back out of it. This was far from the first time I had these crazy ideas, We ran a dirt track car for years, and I'd already built a few old hot rods. I pitched the idea to my wife, and she thought it could be fun for a couple years. All I had to do was fid an old body. There were a few restrictions though. It had to be a Mopar, and since it had to be a Mopar, it had to be at least a 54 or older car. 2 door of 4 door didn't matter, but a 2 door would be better. The search was on.
On Killbillet I saw an ad for a 48 Plymouth coupe for $200. Perfect!
I called and found out is was only about 90 miles from home. "The car is a rust bucket." the guy said. "Cool!, are all the body panels there?" "Everything is really rusty, nothing is good!" "I don't care about the rust, I want to know if both doors, all the fenders, the hood and trunk lid are present." "Yea, but everything is really rusty." "Where, and when, can I look at it?"

He gave me his address and we agreed on the next Sunday. My wife and I made that 90 mile trip, we were pretty excited! He was surprised that we really did show up. He took us back behind the fence that separated his home and business from the farm pasture. The told me the car's life history, every junk yard and pasture it had been in since 1948. He finished with "I can get $200 scrap price for it so if you want it, I need $200."
OK"OK, when can I pick it up, and can you help me load it?" (it had no tires or wheels on it and it was sitting on logs). "I have a big bobcat and a well drilling rig, I can get it loaded onto your car trailer." "Can I get it next Sunday?" "You really want it for $200?" I think he thought I was crazy. My wife and I were really excited!

He was surprised the next week when we pulled in his driveway with the truck and trailer! True to his word, he drug the car around and onto his blacktop driveway with his big Bobcat. Then he got his boom truck out. We positioned the trailer, and he picked the front end with the boom truck, and the back end with the Bobcat and lifter the car high enough I backed the trailer right under it. It was the easiest old car I ever loaded. Unloading it would be a much different story. Pictures or it didn't happen, right?

Pic 1) The Dakota
Pic 2) 48 As found
Pic 3) Open the door
Pic 4) Rear 3/4 view
Pic 5) On the blacktop
Pic 6) Pick it up
Pic 7) Back under it
Pic 8) Getting there
Pic 9) Coming down
Pic 10) strapped, ready to head home.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Picture 001.jpg (93.7 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 001.jpg (194.7 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 002.jpg (161.4 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 003.jpg (166.6 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 004.jpg (102.6 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 007.jpg (70.5 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 008.jpg (87.0 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 010.jpg (132.1 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 012.jpg (62.2 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 015.jpg (76.2 KB, 21 views)
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Old 04-12-2023, 08:20 AM
Old Iron's Avatar
Old Iron Old Iron is offline
Rusty Rat Rodder
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Willard Mo.
Posts: 15,062

Shoot, I thought you said it was rusty. Man that ain't rusty
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Old 04-12-2023, 08:20 AM
Bamamav's Avatar
Bamamav Bamamav is offline
Rusty Rat Rodder
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Berry, Alabama
Posts: 6,067

Looks pretty sound.
Reminds me of how mine got loaded when I got it. Guy had a wrecker, he positioned it so I could back up to it, then he took the wrecker and just rolled it up onto my trailer, took about 5 minutes. I would have been there half a day yanking on a come along, no winch at that time.

Iíve lost a lot of my pics, too. Photo bucket screwed me out of a bunch, two three computer crashes, and a external hard drive backup that crashed got mine.
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Old 04-12-2023, 09:45 AM
zzrodder's Avatar
zzrodder zzrodder is offline
It ain't grey hair, it's chrome!
Join Date: May 2010
Location: The Sunny Okanagan B.C. Canada
Posts: 3,816

Originally Posted by Old Iron View Post
Shoot, I thought you said it was rusty. Man that ain't rusty
What OldIron said, I could work with that no prob! Good find!
This is just my personal opinion, so take no offense - the one thing that I find 'off' about Mopars of this era is the wheelwell shapes - I'd radius them out to uncover the wheels, it would make the body profile look less heavy, maybe a little more custom, especially if it is lowered.
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Old 04-12-2023, 12:07 PM
05snopro440's Avatar
05snopro440 05snopro440 is offline
Rusty Rat Rodder
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Sherwood Park, Alberta
Posts: 5,075

Here we call that a solid project!
1946 GMC Pickup (455 Buick and S10 frame) - Build Thread
1962 Bel Air
1982 S10
1986 Caprice
1928 Model A Roadster Pickup (project)
And when Iím gone, you can call me foolish but hopefully not boring. I will have lived.
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Old 04-12-2023, 01:37 PM
hansgoudzwaard hansgoudzwaard is offline
Rusty Rat Rodder
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 677
Default Inspration?

Attached Images
File Type: jpg 47ply.JPG (51.0 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg 47ply1.JPG (58.3 KB, 13 views)
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Old 04-12-2023, 09:35 PM
oneeye oneeye is offline
Super Member
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Palisade, MN
Posts: 223

The '48 has less rust then the Dakota!
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Old 04-12-2023, 09:44 PM
gene49 gene49 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2023
Location: Freeport IL
Posts: 116

Sorry to offend all of you.
The "Its rusty" statement was from the previous owner, not me. Remember, I bought it for the body shell, I really didn't care what was under that sheet metal.
Trust me, I know what "rusty" is. Pic 1) I brought this entire body (including that front clip) home in the box of a pickup and built it, but I only have 3 pictures of that build, it would be pretty short.

This build wasn't about saving rust, it was about building a dream.

Back on target.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 100_0788.jpg (89.8 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 0009.jpg (54.7 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 0014.jpg (103.9 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 0016.jpg (84.7 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 0017.jpg (53.6 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 0002.jpg (169.3 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg 48 coupe 0005.jpg (105.5 KB, 11 views)

Last edited by gene49; 04-12-2023 at 10:57 PM.
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Old 04-12-2023, 10:55 PM
gene49 gene49 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2023
Location: Freeport IL
Posts: 116

Moving on.
Getting the car off the trailer with no wheels (wouldn't have rolled anyway) was much harder then loading it was.
I have a 2 car garage. At the time, I was making a living out of that garage, so I had to have access to it all the time. My cement driveway is 19' wide, and 88' long. 4' to the east of the drive is the house (the garage is on the west side, but actually behind the house, the driveway goes from the street directly into the garage). On the west side of the driveway is a grass covered empty lot (Its mine) that is 75' wide and 88' long. This place is zoned business, and that lot is my "customer storage lot". The city doesn't mess with me.
The only thing here I have to lift with is an engine hoist, and it doesn't roll worth a darn in the grass. I can lift, but can't move anything, and the wheels on the hoist does sink into the ground. I try to keep my lifting confined to the driveway.
To get the car off the trailer, I parked the Dakota up close to the garage on the west side of the driveway, it still moves with the shot clutch, barely. I put it in gear and set the e brake. Then I backed the trailer up to the front of the Dakota and chained the coupe to it (after I removed the chains holding the coupe on the trailer). The coupe slid pretty easy on the steel floor of the trailer, the biggest deal was it not hanging up as it came off. I put the hoist between the trailer and the Dakota, and hooked a chain to the back of the couple and lifted it just enough to pick the back axle off the trailer. Then I slowly pulled the trailer our from under the coupe. When I got to where just the front end of the coupe was on the trailer I left the rear end down onto a couple 4x4s so I could get the hoist out. I moved the hoist to the east side of the trailer and hooked a chain up to the motor in the coupe and lifted it enough to lift the front end of the trailer and pulled it the rest of the way our from under the coupe. Once cleared of the trailer, I put down a couple more 4x4s so I could get the hoist out from under the car once it was down. It sounds simple, but working alone, it took a good part of the day.

No pictures of most of the Dakota dissembled, pretty sure you guys know how to unbolt stuff.
Picture the frame with the drive train complete, and the cab with the doors removed, and the roof and back of the cab cut off, and no bed, and a big pile of parts removed sitting a few feet away. Just the firewall and steering column, and the floor and seat sitting on the frame with the complete drive train, and the gas tank. If the clutch wasn't almost dead, I could have driven it around the block. I figured I wanted to keep the Dakota moving under its own power as long as possible, so I resisted that temptation of beating just once around the block. Yea, it was hard!
I moved the Dakota to along side of the coupe body so I could figure out what I needed to do to sort of match up the wheel base between the Dakota and the coupe. it didn't have to be perfect, I planned on opening up the wheel openings in the fenders, if I was even going to use the fenders. At this point, the coupe had been here less then 2 weeks.

The side by side comparison gave me a 7" difference between the longer Dakota wheel base and the coupe wheel base. I decided to shorten the Dakota wheel base 7" It was pretty clear the easiest place to remove those 7" was right behind the Dakota cab. I also determined I was going to have to cut everything off the front of the frame ahead of the front spring pockets and build from there, and I was going to have to cut the rear frame just behind the rear spring shackles. it also became apparent that if I moved the "cab" back on the frame 7", the Dakota firewall and the coupe firewall would be in the same position on the frame. This was beginning to look easier then I thought it was going to be!
The plan was moving forward, but it meant the Dakota soon would not be moving under its own power. It was towards the end of August, and I really didn't want to leave the Dakota drive train uncovered through the winter, and it couldn't just sit in my garage, I still had to work in there. things would have to progress fast!
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Old 04-13-2023, 12:19 AM
gene49 gene49 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2023
Location: Freeport IL
Posts: 116

I disconnected everything between the firewall and the motor, and everything between the floor pan and the frame, removed the steering column and the seat, and dropped the fuel tank. Then I unbolted the 4 body mounts that held the cab in place, and slid it back on the frame. Then the motor & trans got covered with a tarp. I had a week long project so I could pay some bills.

After getting some work done and paid some bills, I had 3 or 4 days down time before the next work project. I was determined to get the frame wheel base shortened. (Lost those pictures in a computer crash.) The 88-96 Dakota frame has straight parrilla frame rails between the front suspension and the rear axle kick up. I took the 7" out just behind the rear cab mounts because it left the fuel tank mounting (its inside of the frame rails) intact and that area is a "C" channel. I cut it square, made sure everything was square, straight, and level with cross measuring and inline measuring from factory frame check points. The I welded it back together (both inside of the frame and outside of the frame), and used the pieces I cut out to box in the cut area. Moving the firewall and cab floor required building 4 all new cab floor mounts. With the floor and firewall now 7 inches towards the rear, having the motor in its original position looked really strange to me.

The con's of moving the motor back would require modifying the motor and transmission mounts, shortening the driveshaft, different fuel lines (was already going to need a new rear brake line), but would probably need new front brake lines as well (the master cylinder is bolted to the firewall), and a modified exhaust. It would also require unbolting the cab floor again.

The pros about moving the motor back would be keeping everything motor related between the firewall and the motor intact with factory stuff, it would not require modifying the transmission shifter (it is part of the trans, a huge +), The motor would actually sit behind the front crossmember and would give huge clearances with anything bolted to the motor & trans. With the cab floor removed, modifying the motor and transmission mounts would be wide out in the open. I moved the motor back.
I discovered that the motor mounts bolted to the frame and I could simply extend that bold on location rearward the 7" very easily. I also discovered that the transmission crossmember also sat on and was bolted to brackets attached to the frame rails, moving the crossmember bac simply required extending those mounting brackets that were welded to the frame. That was easy! The driveshaft fuel and brake line modifications could come later. The motor & trans, and the cab floor was bolted back together, and the frame was pushed outside and covered. Time to pay more bills.

Time to turn my attention to the coupe body. Remember the goal was to put a 4 pint roll cage on the chassis, and mount the sheet metal to the cage for support. All I really needed was to be able to seal the firewall, create floor pan support, and enclose the lower body to the floor. That body sheet metal was just along for the ride, and maybe make it a little more comfortable then the old dirt track cars would have been. Since I really didn't care about anything more then the outer shell, removing the shell from the rusted chassis was going to be pretty straight forward. Cut the floor, shove a 4" x 6" piece of wood under the roof, and lift it off. There was no pretense about keeping the body straight. Even still attached to the frame, the only door that latched was the driver door, and once latched, you could pull the side of the car in or out almost 6" With the door open, you could move either the front or the rear edges of the door pretty much any direction you wanted to, and the drives side was the good side. The passenger door couldn't even latch. The only floor that remained was 18" of sheet metal on both sides, which was only the part going above the rear axle. Neither side was connected from the firewall to the rear wheel tubs, and both rear tubs had huge holes in them, and the trunk floor was completely cut out.
I started one morning, I removed the front sheet metal off the coupe and opened both doors and put the 4x6 on the top of my engine hoist and lifted just enough to start lifting the metal up. Then i cut the remaining floor and picked the body shell up off the frame. I lifted it up above the Dakota firewall and floor pan and checked what was going to be needed for the two to fit together. I determined (read that as guessed) the Dakota floor and firewall was about 6" wider then the coupe, so I cut about 3" off each side of the Dakota firewall and floor pan, and repositioned the body over it again to test fit. It took about 4 rounds of test, lift, trip, and retest before the body sat down close to the floor. I needed to trim some off the rear end of the frame before the body was going to sit down where it needed to be, but I was running out of day light. I just laid the coupe body down on the driveway with the engine hoist under it for the evening. I really wish I would have taken a picture of that, but a picture wasn't even on my mind at that time. I was trying to figure out how I was going to hold the body in place while I built some attaching points. I have a few pictures for the next installment. Gene
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