Story by John Lee, Photos courtesy of David Seagren
How many stories of old car revival have started with, “I wasn’t really looking for another car,
My wife, Martha, and I were returning from a road trip when, an hour and a half from home, I decided to stray a couple miles off our route to drive through Marysville, Kan., just to see how the town had changed since I’d last been there. No, we weren’t looking for another car, but … there on a used car lot was a very nice-looking 2001 Chrysler Sebring convertible.
“Oh, let’s stop and look at it,” Martha gushed. We had a 1997 Sebring convertible at home which she loved driving top down anytime it was warmer than 63 degrees. It had been off the street for a while and we had recently made an assessment of the work that would be required to get it back into top shape. The Sebring on the lot was beautiful in burgundy with tan leather upholstery.
It was 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and the business hours posted on the door showed the business closed on Saturday at 3 p.m. Ah! Saved! But there was a phone number, so Martha said, “Let’s call.” And we did. David Seagren said he would be there in 10 minutes.
We drove the Sebring, liked it, told Dave we’d think it over and then, two weeks later, while sitting in Dave’s office signing papers, I noticed a photo on the wall of a beautiful 1972 Plymouth Fury Gran Coupe. Dave said yes, it was his. I told him I’d like to do an article on it. Did he have any more pictures? He e-mailed them a couple weeks later.
When I asked Dave to tell me the story of acquiring and restoring the Fury, he began by saying that he and his wife were visiting in North Platte, Neb., in 2006 and, “we weren’t looking for another car, but … there it was sitting on a used car lot.”
Dave explained that he and his wife, Linda, had bought a new Plymouth Fury Gran Coupe when they married in 1972 and, since Dave was in the business of buying and selling cars, of course it had gone down the road many years ago. The one they were looking at now was cream-colored with a gold vinyl top and a matching interior, and it showed 70,000 miles on the odometer.
“We decided to buy it,” said Dave, and he appointed himself “chairman of the board” of the restoration crew that involved all four of their sons plus friends and associates in the car business.
Pony Express Auto, Inc., Dave’s business in partnership with Gregg Hecke, had been the Chrysler Corp. dealership in Marysville until they dropped the franchise to operate as an independent used car sales and service business. In the back of the shop, the Fury was completely disassembled, including removing the front subframe, which is attached with only six bolts. The bare unit-body, doors, front fenders, hood and all other painted parts were trailered to Steve Frisell’s Central Nebraska Dry Stripping in Holdrege, Neb., where they were completely stripped.
“We were going to change the color,” said Dave, “so the body had to be cleaned down to bare metal, inside and out.” He noted that minor rust had taken hold in only a few spots, which were cut out and fresh metal welded in.
Back in Marysville, all of the body parts were painted Flame Red, a correct 1972 Plymouth factory color.
“We built a wooden frame to hold the front clip, including the hood,” Dave explained. “At the factory they painted the front clip as a unit, and we wanted to do the same. We did the body the same way, still separated from the subframe.”
Piece by piece and section by section, once they’d been painted in the shop at the dealership, the components were moved to Dave’s home garage to be assembled.
Dave described how he made a “paint booth” at home out of a cardboard appliance shipping box with furnace filters mounted inside to use spray-can paint to refinish small parts before they were installed. After all the paint had dried, a friend was called in to install the new black vinyl top.
In the meantime, the mechanical aspects of the vehicle were also being attended to. The Gran Coupe had been driven off the used car lot under its original power, a 360-cid V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor making 175 hp. That, or a 100-horse Slant Six, was standard issue for Plymouth’s “Fury Group” in 1972 following the de-tuning that took place after the early-1970s gas crisis. But a 440-cid big-block had still been available as an option.
By chance, about the same time he bought the Fury, Dave had come into possession of a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker from which he would extract everything from the radiator to the rear end, rebuild it and put it into the Plymouth. That included a 440 V-8 rated at 325 hp with a four-barrel carburetor, the Torqueflite automatic and rear end with a 2.76:1 gear ratio. Upon being quizzed, Dave admits that the 440 engine color for 1972 should have been Chrysler Blue, but he preferred to make it Hemi Orange. In more than 50 shows, “I’ve only been called on it twice.”
SMS Upholstery in Oregon was the source for the NOS vinyl-and-cloth upholstery material. New black carpet was also installed. From a friend, Dave bought a set of optional Rallye road wheels, which add more style than the original steel wheels and full wheel covers that the factory installed on his car.
The restoration was finished in May 2010. In the 10 years since, the Fury has collected some 50 trophies at shows, an accomplishment Dave credits to, “One, the great job everyone did on the restoration, and two, there’s never another one like it!
“At one show, after they gave out the trophies for Best Chevy, Best Ford and a few other “Bests,” they apologized that they didn’t have a Best MoPar trophy.”
Oh, by the way, when Martha and I got our “new” Sebring home, we set the old one out on the driveway with a “for sale” sign. A neighbor, out walking his dogs, saw it, liked it and bought it. He “hadn’t been looking for another car, either, but …!”
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