By the time his 1957 Plymouth Savoy was seven years old, Roger Bentley was already battling the rust monster and the monster was winning.
The fateful day came on Aug. 6, 1964, when he drove into the Bob Banning dealership on Baltimore Avenue in Hyattsville. He always had taken his car back to the dealer for regular maintenance.
While his car was being serviced Mr. Bentley wandered out to the showroom to see if the 1965 models were on display. There at center stage was a car that took his breath away. The new models had not yet arrived but the car occupying the featured spot was a white 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury convertible with a white top and a black interior.
Mr. Bentley had always wanted a convertible and although he is not usually prone to impulse buying, especially on big-ticket items, he decided on the spot that Plymouth convertible was going to be his.
He informed the dealership they could keep his old car when they were done with the service work.
He also told them to prepare the 17-foot, 2.5-inch-long convertible so he would have a car to drive home.
Sitting in the 6-foot, 3.5-inch-wide Plymouth, Mr. Bentley drove out of the dealership with the top down while enjoying the Torsion-Aire Ride in his first convertible.
Of the total 27,553 Sport Fury cars built by Plymouth during the 1964 model year, only 3,858 of them were convertibles. The base price was $3,095.
The Plymouth came equipped with an AM push-button radio, variable speed wipers and washer, heater, left outside mirror, glareproof inside mirror, power steering, tinted windshield and a Torqueflite automatic three-speed transmission.
One accessory that Mr. Bentley wanted, but did not acquire at the time, was a center bumper guard with a rubber insert that sits atop the front bumper in front of the grille.
For almost nine years Mr. Bentley drove his car on a daily basis.
That practice came to an abrupt halt in 1973 when he stopped at a red light and the school bus behind him did not.
As the car was being repaired, Mr. Bentley went ahead and had the car restored including changing the color to red, the color he preferred.
He says that 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury convertibles that were red also had red interiors, which he thought was too much of a good thing.
Both bumpers and the door handles were replated with chrome and a new outside mirror was located.
There is a clock in the floor-mounted console just forward of the gearshift lever. Each door has a wing-vent window, a nice feature that seems to have been eliminated from most new cars.
At the rear of the Plymouth are four taillights. The two backup lights flank the license plate,
The convertible top currently on the car is only the second one in 43 years. The plastic rear window remains clear and unclouded, a testament to Mr. Bentley's practice of unzipping the window before putting the top down, that and always being garaged.
"I rented garages over a period of years," Mr. Bentley says, "until I built the garage of my dreams in 2005."
Chrome-plated letters spelling out S-P-O-R-T F-U-R-Y are mounted on each rear fender and on the trunk lid as well.
The odometer indicates that Mr. Bentley has driven his 3,406-pound Plymouth 137,000 miles. The 230-horsepower V-8 engine has always been up to the challenge, he says.
Other V-8 engines available that year in Sport Fury Plymouths included the 361-cubic-inch displacement, the 383 and the 426. "The 318 is the best engine they ever made," Mr. Bentley attests.
Mr. Bentley has driven his convertible as far west as Iowa and as far south as Cap Hatteras.
He has travelled in the car throughout New England and as far north as Toronto. His Plymouth has never let him down, he says.
The Plymouth Sport Fury convertible is now better than new according to the owner. He has located and installed that center bumper guard on the front bumper in front of the grille.
Of course he had to pay several times what it would have cost in 1964.
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