Rita Codling and Alden Chapman owned this beauty, a 1930 Plymouth Roadster
Our 1930 Plymouth Roadster
By Alden Chapman (Written in 1980)
Having had three roadsters previously and selling them for various reasons, we decided it was time to find another one, this time to restore and enjoy. At the 1974 Gypson Tour, mention was made of a Plymouth Roadster up for bid in an estate sale. Asking a few questions, it turned out that another member of VAE, Steve Stepheson, had been trying to purchase the car for a number of years from the original owner, but had been put off each time.
Steve would visit the owner several times a year, and the owner would have a different reason each time for not selling. I called Steve and related what I had learned. Steve said that he had enough cars and to go ahead and bid on it. A few minutes later, I called and made a bid of what I thought I could afford. I was told there were other bids from folks who had high hopes, but empty pockets. I was then told the car was mine, but that I had to get it off the property by 8 the next Saturday morning.
Having purchased the car, sight unseen, and wondering what I had bought Steve suggested that we go down Wednesday night and see the car. It turned out the car was basically complete and in not too bad shape. Some rust, but all wood was very good. The administrator had repeated that he wanted the car gone by Saturday morning with nothing fishy, make the check out to the estate and be gone by 8 AM. Saturday morning, Stephenson, Del Saben and I left Barre with Steve’s truck and a borrowed trailer long before sane people were awake and headed for West Rutland, arriving at the farm around 7. We loaded the Plymouth with no trouble and headed home, well before the deadline.
Back home again, we had a close look at the car in daylight. It would need a new engine, water had been left in and froze. Parts of the head were at least 1/4 inch above the rest with cracks around each plug hole and bolt. The rear wheel seals were gone with no brake linings, just metal against metal. We wondered how old Sam stopped?
The next evening Del Sabens stopped by. He had found an engine for me. Did I want it before the junkman got it….I sure did!
Now that I had a car and an engine, I needed to finish my garage to make a place to work on it. My nephew, Charles Codling, installed the ceiling and insulation and added a heater. I was now ready to start the restoration.
Bill Werneke straightened the fenders while they were still on the car and made a new rear fender from a collection of new and old pieces. With the fender basically straight the car was then dismantled.
Although most Chrysler-built cars had black fenders and undercarriage, this Plymouth has a green undercarriage and fenders in body color. As my sister and I are the second owners and the car had never been in an accident, this would have to be a factory job.
As finances permitted, work went on. The upholstery material was selected to come close to the green leather and compliment the original colors. Romania Grenier of Washington thought it would be an interesting experience to upholster an antique car compared to antique furniture. Sure is, isn’t it?
The engine was pulled out of the car and stripped of all usable parts and the rest junked. The engine that was to be used was sent off to the rebuilders for a complete rebuild. More about this engine overhaul later.
After having been disassembled for two years, the parts were stored in the attic, the cellar, my bedroom and everywhere else that you would find old car parts. The frame was cleaned, sanded and painted.
Then assembly started and things went slowly but smoothly. The engine came back from the rebuilders, was installed and given a short run. A new clutch was installed, but proved defective. Another new clutch was obtained and worked fine although I think I can take out the transmission and clutch and replace them blindfolded by now.
By April ‘79 things had progressed far enough to register the car and get it inspected. Early one Saturday morning we started the Plymouth up and headed for the inspection station 3 miles away. We never made it. In less than a miles a knock developed. Not knowing what was wrong, and not wishing to do any more damage, we rode home on the back of a flatbed wrecker.
We put the car in the garage up on ramps and I started to tear into the engine. All of a sudden, the car rolled off the ramps, out of the garage, and into the back of my everyday transportation. Minor damage to the Plymouth (no dents or scratches– just one bent bolt and a broken bar), but the Chrysler almost collapsed into a pile of rust. Getting the Plymouth back into the garage and properly secured, the engine was pulled. Number one rod was burned out for no apparent reason. The engine was further disassembled and it was found that the oil channels in the main bearings had not been opened up. No other damage was done. The rebuilder supplied a new rod and the engine was reassembled, installed and started. Still a knock. Good oil pressure, but still a knock. We pulled the engine apart again and still found nothing wrong. The third time, it was discovered that the wrist pin bolts were only finger tight.
Replacing the old bolts and torquing them properly, the engine ran just like a four cylinder Plymouth should.
In 1980, when Alden wrote this story about he and his sister buying and restoring their Plymouth, Alden and Chris Barbieri were the editors of Wheel Tracks. Alden had also served as VAE president in 1977. I met Alden for the first time in 2013, when I took this picture for Wheel Tracks. It seems a hundred years ago. He told me in a very positive way that he missed his old cars and driving them, and had found collecting diecast cars was the next best thing. One of his two cats insisted on attention from me, the second just stood and stared at me the whole time. Alden assured me, with that great grin of his, that I was safe that the cat would not attack. We had a great talk that day.Alden Charles Chapman
June 8, 1927 – May 23, 2016