Leon Krogman insists he wasn’t on the lookout for another old car when bought his 1931 Plymouth.
But, the way Krogman figures it, sometimes you just have to step in and perform an intervention when a nice old car is in need of a new home. That was definitely the case back in 1988 when Krogman, a retired resident of Spring Green, Wis., reunited with the old Plymouth he had known about since he was a boy.
“I bought it from a guy that was basically a distributor for Citgo here,” he said. “And he had bought it from the family that originally had it over in Arena, Wisconsin. And he was going to sell it to a guy, out in Nebraska I think, who was gonna street-rod it, and I couldn’t stand to have somebody do that to it. I saved it from the street-rodders. I just couldn’t see it going for that.”
Krogman was not in a hurry to do anything with the car, though, until about four years ago. Up to that point, he had been happy playing with his three Model T Fords and 1934 Ford coupe, which he drives regularly when there isn’t snow on the ground. When the itch came to finally get the Plymouth back in shape, Krogman decided to go all the way with it.
“One day I went down to Newton’s (Auto Restoration, in Spring Green), and I had about $5,000 in singles,” he recalled with a laugh. “And I gave it to them and said, ‘Let’s get started.’” From there the car got the full treatment with a frame-off restoration. “It had about 45,000 [miles] on it when I got it. It had gotten the engine rebuilt, but that was about the only thing I had done to it,” Krogman said. “I had that done in the early ‘90s because there was on old guy that did engines around here and he was getting up in years and I wanted to make sure he was the one that did it.”
“Other than the running boards, it had only one rust spot on it. The running boards, those were a mess. They’ve got matting on them, and water gets under there and just eats it up. Otherwise, the body was really good… But it was a bear to get parts for. They only made like 105,000 Plymouths that year [106,897 for the model year]. They ain’t like a Ford.”
The 1931 model year was a big one for Plymouth, which launched its new, totally redesigned PA lineup. The new menu was a big deal for Chrysler, which had made a substantial investment in the new Plymouths even as the Great Depression began to grip the nation.
A new “Floating Power” engine mount setup gave the car a smoother ride that stacked up well against he competition. Another big selling point were the hydraulic brakes, which was still an “upscale” feature at the time.
In its fourth year of operation, Plymouth still relied on four-cylinder inline motors for all of its offerings. The 196-cid mill produced 56 hp and was mated to a three-speed sliding-gear transmission with a floor shift. All the models rode on a 109-inch wheel base with 4.75 x 19-inch spoked wire wheels.
A long list of options were available, from front and rear bumpers to leather upholstery to a “Flying Lady” radiator cap. All of that, and the Plymouth’s new handsome redesign, which included more rounded corners and more curved radiator shell, helped solidify the nameplates No. 3 standing among U.S. automakers for 1931.
Krogman’s Plymouth was already getting up in age when a family in his town bought it. “I was in high school back in the early 1950s — I think the guy paid $25 for it. He bought it from a family over here in Arena, Wisconsin, and I don’t know how many people over there had owned it,” Krogman said. “ I just knew of the car for a long time and knew the history of the thing and I wanted to keep it around. There aren’t many like them around.”
Krogman’s car is a rumbleseat coupe, Model 482 in 1931 Plymouth nomenclature. It was one of about a dozen models offered that year and came with a base price of $610 and a curb weight of 2,645 lbs. A total of 9,696 were built for the model year, ranking them far behind the two- and four-door sedans in popularity. His beautiful coupe is finished in two-tone green, topped by hand pinstriping.
“This one would have been a cheaper model, because it didn’t have the side mounts on it or the cowl lights,” he said. “It didn’t have much on it, but the guy who owned it was a cobbler. He cobbled up all kinds of things on it. They put a heater in it after the got it, but I didn’t put that back in after I had it redone.
“It’s really a nice car, but I haven’t driven it that much. Nothing of any real distance, anyway. It’s got the free-wheeling, which I don’t really care for. For second and high you don’t even need the clutch. You just back off and shift.
“But it’s a lot nicer than a Model A. I see Model A’s all over and I had one one time and I sold the dang thing. I don’t like ‘em. This car is better than a Model A ever was. It’s got hydraulic brakes, for one thing.”
It’s also got a beautiful rumbleseat in back, but don’t ask Krogman for a ride in it.
“No, no,” he said with a laugh. “Nobody is gonna crawl up on those fenders. They’d have to be put in there with a fork truck. If it was an open car, maybe you could, but this is a closed car.
It’s just too dang nice.”
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