If you walk through your grandmother’s house, you’re likely to find more than a few antiques, and several of them will even be heirlooms, those artifacts handed down through the family for generations. It’s that piece of jewelry, that end table, or that serving dish, the one great-great-great grandpa so-and-so brought over from the homeland.
Cars have been a consumer industry for over a century now, which means they can be handed down in just the same way, but we’re hesitant to call them heirlooms. They have more personality than that old lamp, and unlike that broken clock, they have a way of living, of breathing, of greeting you with a friendly, sputtering growl when you turn their keys. No, heirloom cars are more like family members, and though they keep getting older, with proper care, they never pass away. Our reader Ben has taken such care of his 1960 Plymouth Savoy.
Nearly 52 years ago, Ben’s father rolled into Rossmeyer Chrysler Plymouth in Metuchen, New Jersey, needing a new car. His 1949 Plymouth was in its death throes, but it had served him well, so he sought another Plymouth. He needed a daily driver, a family hauler, something reliable and practical, yet stylish and even cool. He chose a brand new Plymouth Savoy with a 225 slant six and Chrysler’s push-button activated Torqueflite automatic.
It served Ben’s family well, often lugging six people and their luggage all over the country, and was Ben’s mother’s daily driver for 12 years. This, it was later discovered, was an appropriate post, since this Savoy left the factory on May 26th, Ben’s mother’s birthday. They finally bought another car in 1972, passing the still running Savoy down to Ben’s older sister.
But when that 225 started to smoke, Ben let his “friend” take a look. Most of us would have checked the seals and gaskets, but this self-proclaimed expert decided that it needed a complete rebuild, and that he was the man for the job. Ben turned it over to him. When he got the Savoy back, it wouldn’t even start.
Sadly, the old Plymouth sat for about a year and a half while Ben tried to get it running. He bought a used engine from a mail-order service, but there were no internet forum watchdogs to warn him about disreputable companies back then, and the used engine wouldn’t work, either. Plus, the engine sat for over three months while Ben was trying to have it installed, and this voided the warranty.
Don’t worry. This isn’t the end of the story. Ben finally found a shop willing to rebuild the used slant-six, and though they dragged their feet for six months and ruined his transmission, they eventually had the car back together, including a new gearbox. The year was 1974, and the following year, when Ben got his license, he was finally ready to roll.
Years passed, and when he found the money, he began to restore the Savoy to factory newness. As mentioned before, the internet was still a twinkle Tim Berners-Lee’s eye back then, so there were no old gurus to email for fabricated parts. Finding everything he needed took him down two paths: clubs and shows. Over the years, Ben found everything, even upgrading from his original trim level with factory power steering, power brakes, a clock, a front sway bar, and one other item of particular interest.
It was July of 1991, a month before Ben’s wedding, and he was sitting beside the Savoy at a car show in Fairfield, New Jersey, when an old man approached him with a picture of a part. It was perfect, the key ingredient Ben had needed for years. But the seller wanted $200, and when you have a wedding coming up, you’re counting your pennies. Ben took the man’s number and discussed the purchase with his fiancé later that evening.
To Ben’s surprise, she had to have it, doubtless giving Ben a little more confidence about his decision to spend the rest of his life with this woman. She’d wisely opted to use the Savoy as their wedding limo, and this last part would be the icing on the cake, as it were. So two weeks before his wedding, Ben spent an afternoon installing a Plymouth factory Highway Hi-Fi radio with an RCA 45 turntable record player.
You just don’t see that very often.
The Savoy did its musical duty for their wedding day, and later ferried their new son Martin home from the hospital- his very first car ride. It seemed to make an impression, because as he grew, Martin spent countless hours in the Savoy, turning its non-locking steering wheel, pretending to drive. Martin is now 18 and has his own American classic to restore- an ’87 Cutlass with a built 403.
Ben still owns, drives, and loves his ’60 Savoy, but that’s only natural. After all, it’s a family member, and hopefully it will be for years to come.