Friday, April 22, 2011

Street sighting: Post-war Era Dodge Coupe



It's hard to believe this was a compact car at the time. This is a 1950 Dodge Wayfarer. The wicked sound is a flathead six engine running through a split manifold to two glasspacks. Very cool. That engine is mated to a three-on-the-tree manual via a fluid coupling -- like an early torque converter, without the torque multiplication. This whole thing is hotter than any metaphor I can come up with. I spotted it while exploring a state park near Sandwich, IL.


Pardon the terrible photos. Taken with a cell phone.

What follows is the owner's description, verbatim from his email, of this car's history after he bought it in 2004. I thought I'd parse it out into digestible nuggets, but I decided instead to leave all the geeky details in. Enjoy!

"It was basically all there, but with a good deal of entropy thrown in--carb in pieces (not all there) in a box, the stuck valves I mentioned, ignition scrambled (distributor inserted 180 degrees out of whack), wiring misconnected all over the place, and, of course, a good deal of rust everywhere. The left rear fender was hopeless, but I found an NOS* piece in Wisconsin."

"Gas tank contents had turned into something resembling blackstrap molasses (I eventually gave up and went with another used gas tank). Took until summer of 2008 to get things sorted out to where it would go on the road. The 4.30 rearend I mentioned came from a '55 Plymouth station wagon with overdrive. I also got the engine and transmission from it. The '55 cylinder head had a higher compression ratio (7.6 versus 7.0--some big deal!), so that went onto the Dodge engine.

"Made an adapter for the intake manifold to take a small 2-barrel unit in place of the original 1-barrel. Sent the exhaust manifold to the the guy at Kansas Kustoms, who does a beautiful job of making it into a split unit for duals (running through Smittys Glasspaks). Converted to 12 volts, with the usual GM one-wire alternator."

"The power brake and hydraulic clutch unit came from a Jeep Cherokee, Mopar disks in front installed with an adapter from Scarebird. In the rear, I put in a swaybar originally destined for a '68 Dodge Charger. The front springs were a bit 'relaxed,' so I put lowering blocks on the rear to get things in a (lower) line. Everything runs pretty well, though with the 4.30 rearend the engine is doing about 3000 rpm at 55 mph--the horsepower peak (such as it is) is at 3600, and the old-time racers generally said that the 'red line' was around 4800. I've gotten it to 4000 rpm without anything letting go, but it's probably not the best idea, since the stroke is really loooong and it only has 4 main bearings supporting the crank."

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*NOS, in the classic car world, is an abbreviation for "new old stock." This seemingly contradictory term refers to parts that are technically brand-new in that they've never been put on a car, but were originally made a long time ago. This is a distinction from new replacement parts being made today. The fashion industry calls this "dead stock."

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