- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

It wasn’t until after Barbara Griner acquired a 1940 Plymouth that her father, Howard Green, told her how wonderful his 1940 Plymouth was back when it was new. The difference was that his was a four-door sedan and hers is a convertible.

While she was still a gleam in her father’s eye, he bought his Plymouth sedan. That car, fondly remembered, was long gone by the time his daughter, Barbara, arrived on the scene.

In the summer of 1980 Mrs. Griner and her husband, Bob, went to College Park to investigate the condition of a 1940 Plymouth that was offered for sale. She had been wanting an antique car that was new enough to be fun to drive but old enough to have some style. At first glance, she told her husband, “That’s the one.”

It wasn’t too old or too new; it was just right. It was a perfect fit then and remains a perfect fit to this day.

Chrysler Corp. built 6,986 Plymouth DeLuxe convertibles in 1940, each of the 3,049-pound cars riding on a 117-inch wheelbase. Under the two-piece hood — which still opens from either side — was a 201-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine that generates 84 horsepower. The sporty little Plymouth carried a $950 price tag in pre-World War II America.

A comparable Ford cost $849 while a Chevrolet would set the buyer back $898.

When she bought the car, it was wearing one of the official eight colors offered on 1940 Plymouths — amphibian green.

The cute convertible was a hit wherever Mrs. Griner steered it with its shoulder-wide steering wheel. The wheel is adorned with a chrome-plated 360-degree horn ring.

Neither the speedometer in front of the driver nor the clock at the other end of the dashboard in the glove compartment door has hands to indicate speed or time.

Instead, both instruments feature indicators on rotating rings.

Plymouth was unusual in offering a push-button radio in a vertical position in the chrome-laden dashboard, although the juxtaposition to the driver is very convenient.

A set of 6.00x16-inch Firestone tires support the car as well as provide the grip to stop. From the beginning, all Chrysler Corp. cars have had hydraulic brakes.

Soon after acquiring the car Mrs. Griner drove her Plymouth to Pennsylvania and got caught in a pouring rainstorm while the vacuum-powered windshield wipers struggled valiantly to clear the two-piece windshield.

“Every place it could leak, it did,” she says.

For years her Plymouth was one of the props in the annual Spirit of America production in the Capital Center in Washington.

In 1990 a wheel on an airplane in the production fell off and damaged the Plymouth’s left front fender.

By 1993 the time had come to restore the 52-year-old convertible.

When it was dismantled and stripped, it was discovered that the original color of the car had been aviator blue. That’s the color Mrs. Griner opted for when it came time for repainting.

The car had remarkably little rust. Only the cancerous metal floor pan had to be cut away and replaced.

Both front fenders were replaced simply because it was less expensive than straightening the original ones that over the years had kissed too many garage doors.

Remembering her waterlogged adventure to Pennsylvania, Mrs. Griner insisted on a new waterproof top carefully fitted to make the interior snug and — more importantly — dry.

During the restoration, both bumpers were replated with chrome.

A metal splash pan covers the gap between the body and the rear bumper.

Now that ther Plymouth is restored, she has had her father look it over and he has pronounced it authentic.

“It’s loaded,” Mrs. Griner says while pointing out the glass wing vents and fog lights. She never tires of driving her cute 1940 Plymouth convertible.

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