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.
Dave's restoration business is a one-man shop, and he's fortunate enough to have the skills and clientele that allow him to set his own pace. "As soon as you start rushing, things start to get screwed up," Dave says, although he admits that his Plymouth's two-decade journey from parts car to cool custom was a bit excessive. We prefer to take a cue from the car's wine-colored hue and declare that the passing of time merely allowed this sweet coupe to age to perfection.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
San Juan Capistrano, California
1948 Plymouth Business Coupe
The Plymouth rides on its original frame, which was C-notched to provide extra clearance for the 3:1-geared Currie 9-inch rearend. A modified Total Cost Involved triangulated four-bar setup with RideTech air springs locates the axle assembly, while an antiroll bar minimizes sway. The stock front suspension was rebuilt and updated with Fatman dropped uprights, RideTech airsprings, an '89 Cavalier rack-and-pinion setup, plus disc brakes.
What better way to motivate a vintage Mopar than with a vintage Hemi? Bob McCray from Mission Viejo, CA, rebuilt the '55 Chrysler mill, which had previously been punched from 331 to 354 ci. It features Venolia forged pistons, a mild cam, and a vintage Weiand intake supporting twin Edelbrock carbs. An MSD ignition lights the fuse and stock manifolds guide fumes to a stainless exhaust with Bassani mufflers. A custom radiator from Mattson's keeps things cool. Luke's Custom Machine made the adapter to mate the Hemi to an '84 TorqueFlite, which was rebuilt by Westminster Transmission.
Wheels & Tires
Chrysler 15x6 wheels are shod in 185/70 and 205/75 BFGoodrich wide whitewall radials, with '57 Cadillac hubcaps and three-bar knock-offs topping things off.
Body & Paint
There's plenty of custom business on this business coupe, starting with the tasteful 3-inch top chop. Dave also integrated in a set of '58 Chevy quad headlights, peaked the hood and cowl to match the windshield, filled the cowl vent, and had Sir Michaels vent the hood with louvers. After filling the trim and door handle holes, Dave extended the beltline crease into the cowl and hood, frenched an antenna into the right front fender, and eliminated the vent windows on the doors. Around back, the rear fenders were molded to the body and fitted with a quartet of '59 Cad taillight bullets. The rear license plate was frenched into the shaved decklid, and shaved front bumpers were employed both fore and aft. Dave not only gets credit for the fine metalwork, but also the rich House of Kolor Candy Brandywine paint.
Cadillac goodies fill the eclectic cabin, ranging from a '78 Seville speedometer, to an '84 Eldorado seat, to a '60s-era tilt column and wheel. Dave built the rear seat and armrests before having Pacific Coast Mobile Upholstery stitch up taupe leather for all the soft surfaces. Dave wired the car with an EZ Wiring kit, cooled it with Vintage Air, and added Pioneer tunes with Sony speakers. Striper Jimmy C. provided the finishing touch by wood graining the dash and garnish moldings.