Early memories trigger events later in life for many of us, and that's especially true in the rod and custom world, as early automotive experiences can have lasting effects. No one knows this better than Fred White, whose father and his business partner both drove Plymouth wagons, a '50 and '51 respectively, in a crop-dusting business back in the '50s. Memories of those wagons drove Fred and his wife, Diana, to search several years for a similar longroof. Finally, some 12 years ago, a friend saw one for sale in San Bernardino, California. The Whites drove down to view the car, which was owned by the original owner's son.
Stored for years and suffering from substantial rust in the floorpans and door bottoms, it was in good shape otherwise, so the non-running Deluxe Suburban was hauled home. Bizarrely, after so long looking, on the day they finalized the purchase of this wagon, Fred found another, and bought that too, though it's since moved on. This one spent another eight years in storage before the project was started. "We wanted to create a comfortable and practical street car that could be used for longer street rod runs with our friends," Fred explained. "We have built several street rods and classics over the years, so we knew what we didn't want!"
With the decision made to start on the wagon, Fred and Diana disassembled it, sandblasted the chassis and body, patched the floorpans, and handled the bodywork and paint, citing the latter as the most challenging part of the build, as they wanted the body, and especially the roof, to be ripple-free. Part of the smoothing-out process involved shaving the door and tailgate handles, body badges, and hood trim, losing the stock taillights, and fabricating custom-hidden tailgate hinges before laying on the DuPont custom yellow topcoats.
The bodywork was only part of the process, however, as Team White made a number of modifications to the chassis too, namely new shock, engine, and trans mounts, filling numerous holes, notching and boxing around the power steering and fuel pumps, and removing the stock crossmembers. The original independent front suspension was retained, though the coils were cut and 3-inch dropped Fatman Fabrications uprights were fitted, mounting 10-inch Chrysler disc brakes. This is the one area Fred would re-do on the wagon, installing a non-stock suspension with a more refined ride quality, rather than the almost 60-year-old Plymouth design.
Sticking with the do-it-yourself ethos, Fred and Diana tackled the assembly of the Chevy 350 motor, starting with a GM long-block and adding an Edelbrock cam, intake, and carburetor, and Mallory ignition. Summit Racing supplied the engine dress-up parts, as well as the headers and mufflers. Filling the gap between the motor and the Maverick 8-inch is a shift kit-equipped TH350 and custom driveshaft; the trans and driveshaft assembly are pretty much the only mechanical jobs farmed out during the build.
Bringing it back in-house, the Whites tackled the wiring and most of the rust-colored leather and vinyl upholstery, only passing on covering the Chrysler LeBaron seats, which were ably handled by Cayucas Auto Upholstery. After two years of work, it was finally time to get behind the woodgrained dash and hit the road, which so far has included two trips from the Whites' home in Arroyo Grande, California, to Pleasanton. We guess they hit their target of a comfortable and practical cruiser then!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Fred & Diana White
Arroyo Grande, California
1950 Plymouth Deluxe Suburban
The Plymouth retains its factory chassis, though it's now cleaned up and painted with all excess holes filled, new crossmembers and trans mount, notched to clear the power steering and fuel pumps, fitted with new shock towers and steering rack mounts for the '94 Pontiac LeMans power rack. The stock front suspension was retained, with 3-inch lowered Fatman Fabrications uprights, chopped coils, and powdercoated A-arms. A Corvette dual master cylinder operates Chrysler disc brakes. The stock parallel leaf springs, assisted by air shocks, now mount a Maverick 8-inch with 2.79:1 cruiser gears. A 21-gallon steel gas tank was owner-fabricated.
Fred bought a GM long-block and assembled the remainder of the 350 himself, using an Edelbrock intake, carb, and cam; Bill's Hot Rod Co. accessory brackets; Summit valve covers and air cleaner; and Mallory ignition and wires. The 2 1/2-inch exhaust system employs Summit mufflers, spent gases exiting the block through ceramic-coated headers from the same source. Bob Pyne Transmissions assembled the TH350, complete with shift kit and 2,000-rpm stall converter, feeding power through a Santa Maria Driveline driveshaft.
Wheels & Tires
The Suburban's wheel arches are filled with Colorado Custom polished Lazear rims wearing 205/60 Goodyears on the 16x7 fronts and Eagle 235/60s on the 17x8 rears.
Body & Paint
Fred and Diana handled the body and paint on their project car, recessing the firewall; shaving the handles, badges, and some trim; losing the windwings and rear sliding glass; and swapping out the stock taillights for Bob Drake items. The stock bumpers were straightened and re-chromed by A.C. Plating in Bakersfield, while the glass is all-new clear safety plate. Fred laid down the custom-mixed DuPont ChromaOne Acrylic urethane yellow before bolting on the Sun Specs mirror and remaining stock trim.
Chrysler LeBaron seats turned out to be a perfect fit in the wagon, now reupholstered in rust-colored leather to match the door and side panels, which are accented using chrome trim. Berber corduroy carpet with rust piping covers the fresh floorpans, while a woodgrained and painted steel dash now houses Classic Instruments and the original chrome trim. A LeCarra MK4 steering wheel connects to the power rack through an ididit tilt column. The Whites tackled the wiring using an Enos Black Box, adding a complete Sony stereo system (head, amps, speakers, and subwoofers all from the same brand) to make things a little more complicated for themselves!