- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

The most recent news concerning Plymouth has been about the unfortunate demise of the car line that was introduced by Chrysler Corp. in July 1928.
Successful from the beginning, Plymouth's sales figures actually rose during the early 1930s even after the 1929 stock market crash. In 1937, sales of Chrysler Corporation's low-priced competition to Chevrolet and Ford were at such levels to warrant the addition of a pickup truck to the lineup of available models.
Pickup trucks with the name PLYMOUTH stamped in the tailgate faded from the automotive scene before World War II. From 1937 to 1941 a five-year total of 34,462 Plymouth pickups were manufactured until corporate minds decided that selling a rebadged Dodge truck with a Plymouth name didn't make economic sense.
In 1939 a Plymouth Express pickup rolling on 6.00 x 16-inch tires left its Detroit factory and was shipped to Florida. The body rode on top of a ladder frame chassis supported by a 116-inch wheelbase.
The 2,800-pound pickup, one of 6,181 produced that year, carried a base price of $575. The original owner kept the truck for more than five decades before his son-in-law took it to Illinois. After four years it was sold to a Maryland man, who also kept it four years before putting it on the market in 2000.
Long before that, Jack Gallagher, a property manager at Polinger Shannon and Luchs real estate services, became interested in antique vehicles.
For two or three years he educated himself about the antique car hobby.
In September 2000, Mr. Gallagher found the 1939 Plymouth pickup for sale in Hagerstown, Md. After inspecting the dark green vehicle with black fenders Mr. Gallagher began negotiating its price with the owner.
On Dec. 8, three months later, the deal was consummated. With a friend driving him to fetch the truck, Mr. Gallagher anxiously returned and quickly climbed into the cab. The odometer beneath the 90 mph speedometer showed 52,285 miles a figure that must be taken on faith.
Switching on the ignition, Mr. Gallagher watched the temperature and oil pressure gauges to the left of speedometer begin to register. The fuel gauge and ammeter to the right of the speedometer also showed signs of life.
Settling in behind the three-spoke steering wheel with only a Spartan horn button at the hub, Mr. Gallagher stepped on the floor starter and marveled at the sound of the trusty six-cylinder engine.
Mr. Gallagher knows that while the engine isn't the original, it's similar.
Sprouting from the floor is the gearshift lever to operate the three-speed transmission. Beside the gearshift lever is the hand brake. After releasing the brake Mr. Gallagher worked his way through the gears, double clutching all the way.
He acknowledges that he doesn't need to double clutch but does so to slow down to 1939 shift speeds. "That way I don't grind a quarter pound of gears with each shift," he explains.
Driving his new/old treasure home he found 45 to 50 mph a comfortable speed. "It won't go much more than that," he said. "Below 50 mph its solid with no shimmy," he reports. "At 55 mph it's really screaming."
In warmer weather Mr. Gallagher may open the cowl ventilator to cool the cab. If the heat is still unbearable, he can use the thumbscrew at the base of the windshield to crank open the windshield at the bottom. The oval mirror is suspended from the frame above the windshield.
The previous owner converted the windshield wipers, suspended from the top, from vacuum to electrically operated units. Mr. Gallagher has no complaints.
Mr. Gallagher, who recently had used a big Oldsmobile sedan as a truck in his real estate business, thought this antique truck might be the way to go for future projects. His wife, Cher, was supportive decorating it with a bow at Christmas.
"I intend to use it," Mr. Gallagher said, "I don't want a museum piece."
However, after seeing the six finished oak slats between the five stainless steel runners forming the bed floor, he is beginning to rethink his decision about the daily use of his truck.
What might have tipped him over the edge was the glass lens in the single taillight, across the top of which are indentations spelling PLYMOUTH. Some things are too nice to use on a daily basis.


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