Collector Car Corner – Reader recalls ’55 Plymouth, cheap paint job, and his Shriners Edition ‘65 Imperial

Collector Car Corner - Reader recalls ’55 Plymouth, cheap paint job, and his Shriners Edition ‘65 ImperialThe 1955 Plymouth was all new, and came in Savoy and Belvedere trim. Both a V8 and flathead six-cylinder were available for power. Reader Paul Duff recalls his experiences with his 1955 Savoy purchased when he finished his tour of duty with the Marines in 1957. (Ad compliments Fiat / Chrysler)
Collector Car Corner - Reader recalls ’55 Plymouth, cheap paint job, and his Shriners Edition ‘65 Imperial

The 1965 Imperial was one of the top luxury cars available to U.S. consumers. The Imperial featured a 413-inch V8 for power, and competed with Cadillac and Lincoln for the consumer dollar. (Ad compliments Fiat/Chrysler).

Q: Hello Greg. In March of 1957 I finished a tour of duty in the Marine Corps and had moved to Omaha Nebraska. I didn’t have much money and needed a car.  On a shady used car lot I found a 1955 Plymouth Savoy, V8, stick, no power equipment and it was really sad looking. 

The car had belonged to a traveling salesman and was high mileage. The color was light green with some light surface rust, but it seemed to run good and the price fit me.

Car painter Earl Scheib had a new shop in Omaha on 15th and Howard. To get their business going they offered for just one week a paint job for $19.95. The catch was they only offered four paint colors at that price. One of their colors was a light green which was a perfect match with my 1955 Plymouth.

I drove into their shop on a Monday morning at about 9:30 a.m. There was a waiting room with a glass wall, so you could watch. A team of eight or nine women attacked my car with a purpose. They washed it and hand sanded it – sort of. They taped off the chrome and windows, and then they pushed it into the paint booth where a man on each side spray-painted with light green enamel.  Then they pushed it into a room with heat lamps. Shortly before noon I drove the car home with instructions to not wash it and to be careful with the “soft paint” for a few days. That ’55 Plymouth Savoy looked like a new one. I drove it for two years before trading it and it was one of the best and cheapest cars I ever owned.

I am currently restoring a rare 1965 Imperial. It is one of 23 Convertibles that Chrysler special built for the Omaha Shriners. It is the only one of the 23 that has surfaced and has been documented by the Chrysler Historical Society. The paint on this car cost a few thousand dollars more than the 1955 Plymouth and only time will tell if it’s any better.

I read your columns and especially enjoy your work on the collector cars. Paul E. Duff, Onawa, Iowa.

A: Thank you very much Paul for the kind words. Believe it or not, we have a 1955 Plymouth Savoy in common. Back in 1957, the same year you bought your Plymouth, my dad just got a new job selling advertising for a newspaper in Vineland, N.J. At that time, I remember my family relied on a 1951 Mercury flathead with suicide doors to get us where we had to go – hopefully. That old Merc’ was in pretty bad shape, and dad knew he had to get rid of it before we moved to Vineland.

So, my dad needed a good car and found our own 1955 Plymouth Savoy in the same color, light green on a used car lot. Dad’s’ was a four-door with a three speed stick and a flathead six for power. We traveled back and forth from Vineland to Ranshaw, Pa. where we had moved from every two weeks to visit my grandparents and it never let us down.

My dad finally traded it in for a brand new 1961 Chevy Belair two-door coupe, which was also six-cylinder powered. (I wanted my dad to get the 348 tri-power of course, but that never happened). The color of our new ’61 Chevy was not surprisingly Sea foam Green, almost identical to the Plymouth Savoy color.

Although we didn’t get any of our cars painted, I do remember the many Earl Scheib paint locations and they sure advertised a lot in the newspapers and on TV. I’m glad you got one of those $19.95 deals!

In ending, good luck with the restoration of your rare Omaha Shriners Edition 1965 Imperial ragtop. Please send us some photos when you get that beauty finished. Thanks again Paul.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader input and questions at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email at greg@gregzyla.com).

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