This car has been in my family since well before I was born. I was lucky enough to drive this beauty today. It’s a 1932 Plymouth PB Sports Roadster, with a dog-leg 3 speed manual gearbox and free-wheeling clutch. It was originally sold to somebody in Massachusetts, went through a few subsequent owners and repaints, and was bought by my grandfather sometime in the early ‘60s. It spent the next thirty years mostly stationary and unrestored in his garage while my cousins and I hopped around in it, jumped up and down on the mouse-eaten springy bench seat, and slammed the hood and doors of its tattered shell. Sometime in the early 90's, he shipped it off to a restorer around Hershey, PA and got it back more-or-less as it sits today.
These days it doesn’t get used all that much. My grandpa is all of 93 years old and doesn’t drive it much, although he still could. I think he’s a bit afraid of the single circuit brake system with drums on all four corners. That and the effort required to move the non-hydraulically assisted steering wheel at low speeds is quite a lot!
Visibility through the pillbox sized windshield is comical, a mixed result of the original styling and the NYS inspection sticker taking up an inconsiderate amount of what’s left of the windshield. Trying to place it on the road is very strange compared to a modern car; it feels much wider than it actually is, and the long hood looms out in front of you, making it hard to place the passenger front tire.
It drives remarkably well for its age, although steering inputs above 40mph are more like suggestions. Braking is, well, about what you’d expect. That said, the car cruises very comfortably at 30-40 mph. You can even tip the bottom of the windshield forward for a bit of fresh air if the cabin temperature gets a bit toasty from that big four cylinder humming away just ahead of the firewall.
He also has an old tin advertisement for the thing hanging in the garage. The MSRP in 1932 was $595, which works out to be around $11,000 today. Seems amazingly cheap for a nicely finished machine. I guess airbags and modern safety probably add quite a bit of cost to the modern automobile. https://www.ply33.com/Models/PB/
He wrote the Chrysler Historical Society a few years back and they actually sent him a great trove of historical info on his car, including a bunch of period advertising material and the original delivery sheet!
70 MPH! I don’t think you could pay me to go that speed. Anything above 45 mph and the vague inputs from the overly large non-collapsing steering wheel and bias ply tires begin to remind you that you’re tempting fate at that point. I can’t even contemplate pushing this car to 50mph in second as the ad states it can do. At 30mph, the engine is loudly asking you “Sir, could you change up, please.”
I don’t know if the automatic clutch works or not, I don’t know if my grandfather’s ever tested it, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to try it. It does have a synchro that works going up, but going back down requires a double clutch if you’re going to do it smoothly.
The Chrysler Historical Society even sent along this photo of the car in front of a place I immediately recognized, being about a mile from my house, as the Woodward entrance to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I hope one day I can recreate this photo, although it might take a considerable amount of schmoozing with the right people, as I think today this driveway is only occasionally used for valets for fancy events and things like that, otherwise it’s closed to vehicular traffic.
Anyways, the car will probably head into the care of my uncle soon, maybe then it’ll get driven a bit more than it is now. Hopefully in a few years I can buy it off of him when I’ve found a place with a bit more garage space. A gravel parking lot just wouldn’t be right for a car that’s survived nearly 90 years and still looks this good. Thanks for reading!