My story begins in the summer of 1963.
The author went through great pains, literally, to land this 1963
Plymouth Fury ragtop. The well-traveled car last changed hands
at Fall Carlisle in 1990 and has since been restored.
I had just graduated from high school in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., and had started working in the stockroom at what we used to call a “5 & 10” in Weirton, W. Va. I had hired into the management training program, and everyone had to start at the bottom.
The store was located on a main street, and one of my duties was to either sweep or hose off the front sidewalk every morning. This was the perfect place for a car crazy teenager to watch the cars of the day pass by, plus check out the front lot of the Ford dealer across the street. I grew up with Chrysler products as my father and uncle thought there weren’t any better cars on the road, and one passing MoPar product in particular caught my eye from the start: A new, red 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury convertible.
Every morning, I would watch for it to come by, heading west toward Steubenville, Ohio. In the MoPar style of the time, the front torsion bars were cranked up and it had a tach sitting on the dash. I never knew the driver or where he came from or went to, but oh, what a car! I was only making a little over a buck an hour, so there was little chance of buying a car like that, but I could dream.
I came to realize that store management was not for me and in October 1965, I went to work for Ford Motor Co. at the Lorain, Ohio, assembly plant. I don’t think my dad ever forgave me for joining the enemy. However, I still liked MoPars and had a variety of them over the years, including a ’68 Charger R/T and a ’70 Challenger R/T that I wish I still had. I also drag raced a little in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but after I married and started a family, hot car money soon turned into house mortgage money.
In the mid ’70s, a good friend and neighbor, Bill Cutcher, who had a restored ’41 Chevy, introduced me to the world of old cars. We went to swap meets and I soon purchased my first old car, a ’41 Buick that cost more to have towed home than I paid for it. I was hooked. I had a variety of old cars for the next few years, all General Motors products. Fall Carlisle became an annual trip for us and grew into a family event as my son, who was only 6 or 7 at the time, went with us until he graduated high school. I think the fact that he got to skip a couple days of school added to his fun.
By 1990, my daughter was married and my son was in the Army, and my wife and I were empty nesters. What better to fill the nest than a nice ’63 Plymouth Sport Fury convertible? My wife, Donna, agreed and the hunt was on.
I found there were not a lot of Plymouths of this era available. They were prone to rust and many were run hard back in the day. An ad in a hobby publication from October 1990 listed a ’63 Plymouth for sale in New Jersey that sounded pretty good, so we towed an empty trailer to Fall Carlisle where we hoped to find something. If not, we would call on the car in New Jersey. We met Cutcher for lunch at the food court on Thursday and he told us he saw a Plymouth at a swap space. After lunch we checked it out and, lo and behold, it was a ’63 convertible, red with off-white interior. The car was a Fury, not a Sport Fury, but it was close enough, and it sported a 361-cid big block and it had New Jersey plates. It was pouring rain and after we checked back several times and found no one around, we decided to check back first thing Friday morning.
In the past, I had suffered severe kidney stone attacks, and that evening back at our motel after dinner, I was hit with another one. We went to the Carlisle hospital for a check-up and some VERY STRONG pain pills. The doctor in the emergency room gave me the pills and told me to take one every four hours and head for home the first thing Friday morning to see my family physician. Fat chance! I had a car to see about in the morning – we had to keep our priorities straight.
Back at our motel a couple hours later, the pain returned so I took another pain pill, even though it had not been four hours since the last one. After another hour or two, the pain had not subsided and I decided if one pill was good, two were better, right? By about midnight, the pain still hadn’t let up, so we went back to the hospital. The emergency staff decided to keep me overnight for observation, so Donna went back to the motel with plans to return to the hospital at 7 a.m. for some tests. Shortly after she left, I developed severe chest pains and was wheeled back to the emergency room. I was 45 years old at the time and asked, “Am I having a heart attack?” The answer was an un-assuring, “We’re not sure.” They soon learned I had overdosed on the pain pills. They finally stabilized me and I was resting in a room where a variation of an old joke was going through my fuzzy mind: “My friend and my wife ran off with my car — I hope I get the car back.”
Donna returned to the hospital Friday morning at 7 a.m. knowing nothing of the goings on after she left, and the first thing I told her was, “You have the money, go back to the fairgrounds, have Bill look at the Plymouth and if he thinks it’s OK, buy it!”
The story did have a happy ending. Donna and Bill bought the Plymouth. I was released about noon, then went to the fairgrounds to help Bill load the car on the trailer. Before we loaded the Plymouth on the trailer, a guy came up and asked Bill if it was for sale. Bill, always the horse trader, joked that it was for sale. The stranger offered more than I had just paid, and I almost had a heart attack.
We still have the car and learned that it was built in late 1962, then sold new by a dealer in Middletown, Ohio, to a family in Trenton, Ohio. That family kept the Plymouth until the late 1980s when it was traded in to the same dealer, then sold to a Cincinnati, Ohio-area radio station to be used as a contest prize. The car was won by a lady who kept it only a short time, then took it to the 1990 Kruse Labor Day Auction, where it was purchased by a classic MoPar dealer in New Jersey. The dealer sold it to Donna and Bill at the 1990 Fall Carlisle Swap Meet.
When my wife and I retired to Florida, we brought the car with us. In 2007, we disassembled it and had it repainted and with help from friends Bill Miller and Red Appleby under Donna’s leadership. Much of the interior and outside trim is original, as are the 108,000 miles. We met the original owners in the early ’90s and they provided us with pictures and paperwork from when they owned the car.
I still have the car, my wife and my friend. How lucky can one guy get?
Lost & Found is filled with feel good true stories of old cars that been discovered after lengthy slumbers in everything from barns to semi trailers. This collection is not just the "dream car" stories of Duesenbergs and Hemi muscle cars, but the common man’s Chevy’s, Fords and Chryslers that so many hobbyists own and love. You never know where a great old car might be hiding!
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