Rodding and customizing are built on a proud tradition of scavenging. We thrive on taking neglected vehicles and combining them with cast-off parts to give birth to something fast, stylish, and cool.
Of course, there are varying degrees of this foraging philosophy even within the hobby. All vintage tin is not created equal. Where some see rubbish in a not-so-popular make or an excessively weathered model, others may see potential. To twist the wrench on a popular old adage: one man's parts car is another man's project.
That was quite literally the case with Dave McLaughlin's custom 1948 Plymouth Business Coupe. He discovered the business coupe in a storage garage more than two decades ago, when a friend was buying parts off of it for a '48 Plymouth woodie project. The coupe was similar to one Dave had owned and mildly customized as a teenager. He couldn't help but let the forlorn (but solid and rust-free) car follow him home.
A bodyman by trade, Dave didn't mind that the former parts car was missing much of its trim; he had more substantial changes in mind. Inspired by a custom '48 Chevy he'd seen in his formative years in British Columbia, Dave first tackled what may be the car's most striking-and difficult-modification: integrating hooded '58 Chevy headlights into the fenders. It required much more metalwork than you might suspect, plus reworking the upper grille bar. "I was bound and determined to make those headlights work," Dave says. "It was harder than chopping the roof!"
The chop itself seems almost subtle by comparison, even though a fairly substantial 3 inches was removed from the top's height. Credit Dave with using the necessary grace and taste to make it all fit and flow naturally.
Dave balanced out the car's facelift by frenching a quartet of '59 Cadillac taillights into the rear fenders, which were in turn molded to the body. Some of his other custom touches were less obvious; like the belt-line reveal he extended forward into the cowl and hood, or the peak he added to the hood and cowl to better match the windshield peak, or the deleted vent windows and filled cowl vent.
All of this metalwork was done 20-odd years ago, shortly after Dave bought the car. Then, like the personal projects of so many automotive specialists, the Plymouth got pushed to the side of the shop so Dave could make a living. Months passed, and then years. Before long, more than a decade had gone by.
Dave's friends routinely gave him grief about the perpetually unfinished Plymouth. Finally, a good pal offered the necessary inspiration to get it going again: a vintage Chrysler Hemi. The 354ci mill actually came out of a vintage race car, and was treated to a rebuild and fresh headwork by Bob McCray before being wedged into the Plymouth's engine bay.
With a worthy powerplant in place, Dave mustered the motivation to make a host of chassis upgrades. He installed Fatman dropped spindles, disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering up front, while the stock rear suspension gave way to a modified Total Cost Involved four-link setup and Ford 9-inch axle. Matched with airsprings fore and aft, the suspension mods can sufficiently tuck the wide whites and '57 Cadillac caps into the wheel openings.
The silver lining on the Plymouth's prolonged build was Dave's ability to choose from the current palette of House of Kolor hues in which to bathe his custom beauty. He ultimately laid down a rich, deep finish using a modified version of House of Kolor's Brandywine. It's nicely contrasted with taupe leather upholstery stitched over an '84 Cadillac split bench seat by Pacific Coast Mobile Upholstery.