A year or so ago, Old Cars Weekly readers were bantering back and forth about merits and drawbacks of four-door sedans as hobby cars. I think most would agree that the four-door is well down the desirability scale when choosing a hobby car.
Many of us seek out either 1) the make and model we owned in our youth, associated with many fond memories, or 2) the make and model we wanted back then, but were prevented from owning, usually by the cost.
In high school, I drove a 1947 Dodge four-door sedan. I wanted a ’50 Plymouth convertible, or something like it. But stuck with the Dodge, I did what I could to make it a decent ride. Like many of my friends, I would save what I could from my meager allowance and a part-time job until I had enough to send off to J.C. Whitney for something for the car. One month, it was a pair of fender skirts, another month, some two-inch lowering blocks. A set of Port-a-Walls installed over the well-used, unmatched tires made it look at lot cooler.
Eventually, a full-time summer job at a dealership allowed me to get a good buy on some needed bodywork. I helped swap a crinkled fender for a used straight one and shave the hood and deck, and one day it emerged with a beautiful, dark metallic blue paint job.
Several of my friends were also driving four-doors, but not by choice. When his dad bought a new Chrysler, Kent got the old one, a 1948 Windsor sedan, to drive. Warren was more fortunate. His hand-me-down ’55 Ford four-door was only two years old. With Fairlane trim, it already had two-tone paint and duals, so all he added was flipper hubcaps.
Those of us smart — or weird — enough to want to fix up 50- or 60-year-old Chrysler products are at another disadvantage. Not only were there fewer Plymouths, Dodges, De Sotos and Chryslers built, but the cooler convertible, coupes and hardtops made up a smaller percentage of the production, at least so it seems. Before the muscle car era, Chrysler Corp.’s bread and butter was family cars, which meant lots of sedans.
The biggest advantage a four-door sedan can boast is the purchase price, which can often be a fraction the cost of the more sought-after ragtop or hardtop. And that leaves more money in the pot to fix up the old girl!
Whitewall tires and full wheel covers will go a long way toward improving the appearance of a four-door sedan, as will sport wheels, if they are right for the era. A number of years ago, I bought a low- mileage ‘73 Dodge Dart sedan just out of 20-some years of storage. It didn’t take long for the belts in the like-new but 20-year-old tires to literally come apart. I put new whitewalls on a set of correct rally wheels I had sitting around, and it looked like a different car.
The gold paint shined up really nice, and garage storage had kept the white vinyl top that came with the Custom trim level in great shape.
The muffler and tailpipe were shot, so I had a complete new dual exhaust system with turbo mufflers installed. The Dart got a lot of favorable looks and comments during the couple years it was my daily driver.
When I first met my good friend, the late Mel Masur, in the late 1970s, he was driving to car events in a ’50 Dodge four-door. A Coronet, it came with plenty of chrome trim and was a very clean original. Mel sprayed on new paint in the original pastel green. Once outfitted with whitewalls and full wheel covers, accessory fender skirts, door handle guards and a Fulton sun visor, the four-door could hold its own with the more popular coupes and hardtops – and comfortably seat his wife and the four kids still at home.
Bob Klein had held onto the ’54 Plymouth Belvedere four-door he had driven to high school, and he turned it over to Mel to be freshened up. With a shiny white-over-blue finish, whitewalls, full wheel covers and skirts, it’s a very cool cruiser.
Two-tone paint will often brighten up a rather dull four-door. Stainless side window visors, door handle guards, spotlights, outside rearview mirrors and sometimes backup and fog lamps can also help dress it up. Stick with either factory or aftermarket accessories that are correct for the car or the era. Don’t go overboard with a lot of extra trim. I cringe to think of what stainless headlight hoods would do to a pedestrian who might accidentally get in their way!
So if a nice four-door Chrysler product happens to cross your path, don’t walk past it to look for a two-door hardtop. Take a few minutes to look at the possibilities!
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