My 49 Plymouth coupe build

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gene49

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 4, 2023
Messages
296
Location
Freeport IL
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.
 

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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.

I’ve 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.
 
Shoot, I thought you said it was rusty. Man that ain't rusty :cool::cool::cool:
[P[P[P

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.
 
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.
 

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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!
Gene
 
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
 
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.

You haven't offended anyone here that I know of.
I was just being a little bit of a smart azz about rust :D
This site is way different than any other that you may have been on.
Carry on.
[P[P[P
 
I’m really enjoying your pics and narrative on the coupe Gene. I knew you couldn’t share too much of it on the HAMB but I’ve always been curious about it and wanted to know more about it.
 
I figured you guys was just ribbing me, but there have been a few sites where some were always serious. I wasn't much better, I forgot to put a smiley face behind that comment. :eek:
So, back to my really long story.

Essentially, the bottom 6" of the coupe body was missing, but that bottom area was the only place I could attach anything to anything. After I trimmed the rear frame rails a bit closer to the rear spring shackles, and trimmed off the top of the Dakota firewall a bit more, the coupe body sat down over top of the Dakota chassis to the point I figured I wanted it. I just had to figure how to keep it in that position. At least now I could sit and look at what I had to work with.

A few things became very clear. Any firewall support in the coupe body was going to be useless and that area needed a lot of support. With the firewalls matched up as far as positions was concerned, the coupe door were about 4" longer then the Dakota doors were, but the front hinge area was almost perfectly lined up. The area above the coupe's lower door hinge was still pretty solid, I could weld to that area, and it was in very close proximity to the front cab floor body mount. I would have to build a support box on the floor pan because I had to cut the support off the Dakota floor pan.
Another thing was the rear reinforced area at the back of the Dakota cab (which was left intact) was in near perfect alignment with the coupes rear door post, and that area on the coupe body was also in good enough condition I could work with it.

The thing that caught me by surprise the most was the edge of the floor pan I cut on both sides was just about even in height as the bottom door hinge. If I connected the remaining structure of the coupe's door posts together with a piece of 1/8" x 4" flat stock just below the door hinge, I could weld it to the cut edge of the Dakota floor pan, and then I could build rockers off that 1/8" flat stock. Some careful measurements, and a few tack welds, actually supported the body well enough I could remove the engine hoist and the body didn't move. I could even close the doors and they lined up better then they did with the coupe body on its o0wn frame (which really isn't saying too much). The doors both swung open and closed very well, considering what was there to work with. I did walk around the car to be sure the rear body was centered, and that I had the rear tires pretty well centered in the wheel openings, even though nothing at the rear was connected to anything. Content with the fit, I spent the rest of the afternoon welding those two 1/8" pieces in. At the end of the day, it was already starting to look like a car! Gene
 

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So I threw a few pictures in ahead of time.
That next morning I was sitting there wondering how I was going to put a floor in the back 7 1/2' of the car. I was really stumped, but then I looked at the Dakota's bed. This Dakota had an 8' bed, and that bed floor had a pretty nice steel floor. Lots of measuring told me that if I cut the sides of the bed, it would be long enough to go from the rear end of the cab floor all the way to the trunk lid, and wide enough to from one side to the other side, and still leave me a few inches extra in both directions. Remember, I shortened the frame behind the cab, so that gave me 7" extra, and then I had to cut the back end of the frame off, so that gave me a bit extra too. The plasma cutter made quick work of the truck bed.
This was about the point where you start slapping yourself side of your head. If I would have thought about the bed floor the day before, I could have lifted the body off the frame, and just sat the bed floor on there, then I could have trimmed it like i did the floor pan. Now I was going to have to cut the floor to get it inside of the car, and I was going to have to measure carefully to get the sides narrow enough to fit in, but close enough to attach it to the sides of the car. to make matters even more fun, nothing inside of this car is straight, everything has a curve in it.
as I pondered how and where to cut that floor I discovered 2 things. The bed floor was about 7" higher off the ground then the cab floor. that meant there was going to be a step up in the floor. This truck bed bolted to the frame in 8 places, 4 sets of 2 bolts straight across the frame from each other. The front pair of bed mounting brackets got cut off when the section was cut out of the floor, and the back pair got cut off when the rear frame rails were trimmed down. Both pairs of the center bed mounting points were still intact, I could still bolt the bed floor to the frame. I also discovered through measurements that if I bolted the bed to the frame using the factory mounts, I had just over 7" hanging above the cab floor. If I could bend that down, it would sit right on top of the cab floor.
The couple was a business coupe and never had a back seat, but there was the seat structure that hung down from the base of the back window to where the original floor would have been. I cut the bottom of that bracing when I cut the coupes floor before I lifted the body off. Originally this car had a piece of plywood where the seat back would have been, and on the passenger side, it had 3 shelves and the driver side had the spare tire mounted to the plywood. I'll see if I still have a pic of that shelf here. As it measures out, where the old seat back bracket originally sat, was about the mid way point between the two remaining pairs of the bed mounting bolts. If I cut across the floor there, I could put the front part of the bed floor in through the front doors, and the rear I could feed in through the trunk lid. I would have to rejoin the cut, but at this point that didn't matter much.
I did the cut, and put the front piece in first. The intent was to still put a 4 point roll cage in the car, so I made a 1/8" plate platform on both sides of the car on top of the rear cab floor frame mounts and tacked the main roll bar hoop in place. Then I cut cardboard templates of each side and cut the front section of the bed floor's width. The bed floor was corrugated, so I had to cut the bottom of each slot so I could ben it at 7". It trimmed the two corners where the roll bar platform was, I would encase that cut later. On the drivers side was the Dakota gas fill door. The tank was reinstalled in its original position, and the fill tube would have come up between the inside of the bed wall and the bed's outer sheet metal. I cut the fuel fill door out of the side of the bed outer wall and welded it into the side of the coupe's body, and built the front part of the bed floor around the gas fill tube. Later I would finish sealing that area, but for now there were more important things to do. Days are clicking off the calendar and I wanted to get this as sealed up as possible before winter hit. I bolted the front part of the bed floor o the frame and I welded the the two floor pans together, and I welded the bed floor to the front of the body rear wheel tubs. Other then closing up the two front sides of the quarters, the front floor was done.

Originally the coupe's truck lid came down to the original floor pan. The bottom end of the truck lid was really rotted out, so the guy I bought it from hacked off the bottom 6" of the trunk and added his own trunk lid filler panel. The issue I had was now the trunk floor was 7" higher then it was originally. I ended up removing his panel. Other then the trunk lid, there was nothing to keep the sides of the rear sheet metal in position once that panel was removed. To be honest, I'm not real sure those two sides were in their proper position to begin with. To compound the problem, both rear fenders were still bolted to the body. Those fenders were not coming off in one piece, and probably would never have gone back on. Removing the rear fenders was not really an option unless I wanted to go fender less. That was a choice I was not ready to make at that time. I sort of propped the rear end of the fenders where I thought they needed to be so the trunk lid pretty well. I concluded it would be better to get the rear floor bolted into place and make a filler panel for each side rather then trying to make everything fit all at once. I could adjust each side a bit if need be. I cut the rear floor and slid it into place, bolting the one pair of mounting bolts to hold everything in position. Then I made a rear floor extension and added a pair of floor mounts that bolted to the end of the frame. With the floor solid, I could set each side on position according to how the tires set in the rear wheel opening and test the lid fit. I could add a side extension and tack it in place then do the same thing on the other side. When I was happy with the results, I finished welding everything with plug welds to the wheel wells and the bolted down floor. With both sides in position, I added a new rear panel below the trunk lid and above the rear bumper, then finished the rear end of the trunk floor. Then I cut a piece of the corrugated floor and filled in the area that was cut between the front and rear. With the body attached I moved back to the front and finished off the firewall bracing on both sides, the built the passenger side rocker and door bottom.

The las big Harrah before winter came was a quick radiator support patch in so I could hang the fenders and had something to rest the hood on so I could strap it down.

There were a couple windows missing or broken. I removed the broken pieces and cut up some particle board to use as windows to fill the holes where the missing glass was. I ratchet strapped the hood in place just before the snow came.

So there pictures are pictures of pictures from an old photo book. The quality of the original pictures is crap, so the pictures of those pictures may be really bad
 

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Many folks confuse surface rust with "very rusty". So you got the good deal.

Great story and documentation
I Hope you don't mind, I included the pic of my '48 Dodge, having just purchased it in 1972. This one still had the butterfly hood, later in that year, they had the one piece, not sure the Plymouth followed along or if yours was later in the year.

The only rust was the typical under chrome rocker panel, was my daily driver until 1976.
 

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Following Right Along.

Thanks for all the details . That's a chore in itself.

Looking thru craigslist car parts, this popped up.

Cheers.
 

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Many folks confuse surface rust with "very rusty". So you got the good deal.

Great story and documentation
I Hope you don't mind, I included the pic of my '48 Dodge, having just purchased it in 1972. This one still had the butterfly hood, later in that year, they had the one piece, not sure the Plymouth followed along or if yours was later in the year.

The only rust was the typical under chrome rocker panel, was my daily driver until 1976.

For Info sake: All of the P15s had the one-piece hood.
 
Your explanation of how the farmer got the car on your trailer brought back some memories of how the salvage owner got my 49 P15 out from the back row. We figured he would have to move a bunch of cars. Not so. He had a crane, and he lowered the windows, passed a beam through, and lifted the entire car up and over the other cars. Put small creases in the inside top of the window frames, but otherwise, didn't seem to have damaged anything. The car also had the engine still in it, although no transmission. The front spindles had been torched off, and I don't recall how we got it off of my brother's trailer. He had some Ford spindles, and he welded them onto the Plymouth suspension to get it so it would roll. (I'm thinking he must have done that welding while it was on the trailer.) But you couldn't steer it at all - it was just welded up to go as straight as he could eye ball it. It was that way until after he (my brother) delivered it to me down in Oklahoma. My younger brother had a 53 Cranbrook he was scrapping out, so I installed the front suspension from that car onto the 49, so then it could be steered again. Sorry no pictures - I only had one of those cheap 126 point & shoot cameras, and didn't have a lot of money to pay to develop pictures. (We have it really easy now, with digital cameras. At least there's SOMETHING that's better now than in "the good old days".)
 
Plymouth was the low cost produce line in the Chrysler line up. After Chrysler's Air Flow disasters, Chrysler had a tendency to use the Plymouth line as a field test for many new product thoughts, unless it was considered a luxury item (which showed up in the Chrysler line) or a work improvement (which showed up the the Dodge truck line). If the new things worked for the Plymouths, the other divisions had the tested items the next year or two. I think the one piece hood was such a test. The Plymouth hood had both 1/2s connected with under hood bracing, and the two 1/2s were bolted together with a chrome (or stainless) trim piece down the center.
That center joint on the hood caused me great distress later in the build!

Now, where was I...
The car mostly survived the winter, it did sit outside along the west side of the driveway. I managed to get most of the passenger side rocker and door bottom welded up. I got the lower section behind the door enclosed on both sides. I did make a change to those lower panels. Originally, the 46-48 Plymouth body swept outward on those bottom 6" and matched with the front and rear fenders because Chrysler eliminated the running boards after WWII. On this car, the lower sheet metal that swept out was already removed from the passenger side, and was crusty sheet metal remains on the driver side. You could literally crush the lower rockers and the bottom 6" of the door skin and the door's inner framework on the driver side by squeezing it between your fingers. It would break off and crumble to the ground into a pile of rust from between your fingers. Rather then attempt to reform all that sheet metal, I elected to simply bend it down and around the bottom and attach the bottom to the 1/8" x 4" flat stock welded to the floor pan. You can call me lazy, I don't mind. :D

I didn't make it around to the driver side to finish the door bottom nor the outer rocker. Another thing I didn't get done was the top of the firewall. I managed to get the cowl vent door closed, but both sides of that cowl was rotted out, and the Dakota firewall didn't come high enough. Those nice pretty white Dakota floor pans had standing water sitting on them all winter, and were surface rusted. Fortunately, none of the wiring was in the car at the time, so surface rust on the metal was the worst damage.

The first project, as soon as the weather broke was to get that firewall sealed. One of the neat things about the Dakota firewall was that the lower part was flat, but the top part was pretty much a "vent" sealed box with side drains and an open top. That box was open under the hood, but was sealed to the outside of the windshield support and was sealed at the bottom of the vertical flat part of the firewall. The only opening to the inside of that Dakota "vent" box was a fresh air vent for the heater/AC box cut through the back wall of the vent box. That opening was 4" high, and 5" wide on the passenger side. That opening was an inch above the vent box floor, and an inch below the windshield frame work. The opening connects directly to the heater box with tubing and a flapper door, all complements of Dodge engineering. There was also a square opening on the driver side where the Dakota wiring harness entered the truck cab. That square hole was at the mid height of the back vent box wall and was also a factory design. Even if the side drains got plugged up, the water level in the box had to be at least an inch deep before any water could get inside the cab. Also inside that vent box was the entire windshield wiper system. It had the wiper motor mounted to the front of the vent box, and the Two wiper posts were mounted to brackets bolted to the rear vertical wall of the vent box.

The entire vent box sat behind the rear part of the hood with a removable cover that had two sections of a grilled opening and holes for the wiper posts to stick through. Under the metal cover the vent box had some bracing across the top but was mostly open. The open area had plastic grating to keep the big stuff out of the box that may have gotten through the grill openings. I really likes that set up and gave great thought about how I could reproduce it.

The 1st step was always the hardest. I had to cut the cowl part off the coupe body below the windshield and anything I put under that would have to be covered by screwing or welding a cover back on in front of the windshield. Since both outer edges of the cowl was rusted away, and I had already cut the bottom part off, my concerns quickly vanished. That body was already junk, it was headed for the crusher when I bought it, I figured I couldn't hurt it any more. The plasma cutter made really quick work of it. With the hood and front sheet metal already off, and now the cowl out of the way, building that vent box was going to be pretty straight forwards, and out in the open.

The drives side windshield was broken out when I bought the car and I had replaced the glass with particle board, but the passenger side was still had real glass in it, you really couldn't see through it, but it was good enough for a template. I popped it out, and cut another piece of particle board "glass" for the passenger side windshield. The particle board in the rubber gasket pretty much kept the water out of the car.

Before I got carried away, I bolted everything I thought I needed to the firewall. Since I was using all the Dakota stuff, everything bolted into place. As I was looking at it, I wondered if the Dakota heater box would fit in the car? It would be really easy to test that fit while everything is wide open. Why not try it? Well, it almost fit intact! The only part that did not fit was the extreme right side where the Dakota box had recirculating duct work. I could live without that! It was also painfully obvious I would have to reengineer the fresh air vent setup some, neither would be a no go. Heat and probably a defroster for little expense was an easy decision. I would deal with the duct work later. I hacked off the offending plastic recirculation section as carefully as possible with an air cut off wheel, and bolted the heater box onto the firewall.


Because the windshield on the coupe is a 2 piece flat glass "V" The cowl removal formed a "V" at the rear near the windshield, but a straight line at the front at the firewall. The Dakota stuff was all square and straight. That meant all new fabrication.

Drag out the cardboard. Its easier and cheaper to cut up cardboard then it is metal. If you screw it up bad, you thro it away and start over. You can cut it, trim it, bend it, make boxes with it and piece it back together with tape or staples if you screw up. It will hold a bend, and give you a reasonable flat surface. I make the pattern with card board, trim and bend it so it fits, then transfer the pattern to metal. You already know where the bends need to be, and you can figure out how your going to attach it before you cut any metal. I made each side separate incase they were different. Two basic "Ls" forming the back wall and the bottom and I would weld the centers together. I made the center 2" higher then the outer edges, I wanted to be sure any water that got in there was not going to stay in there. It was going to drain out both sides. With the metal cut, I welded in the drives side cowl vent box floor and back wall at the bottom front to the Dakota floor pan/lower firewall, at the top to the piece under the windshield, and the outside folded over the top of my firewall side. With that welded in place, I moved over to the passenger aide and repeated the welding process. I ended by welding the center. At this point I had no holes cut for the wiring harness nor the fresh air vent. I added a couple flanges so I could screw the original cowl vent back in place. With seam sealer along the edges and some black paint, the vent floor and back wall looked pretty good. With a few self tapping screws, I could remount the original Plymouth cowl. Later I would add the windshield wipers to my vent box. Gene
 

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