When she was a young girl Katherine Darges enjoyed going to car shows with her father. How was she to know that years later she would have her own classic car to display? After she married Larry Grisham, Darges told her husband about wonderful childhood memories of attending car shows.
What better gift for his wife, Grisham thought, than to give her an antique model? He began shopping for a restored vehicle that was in turnkey condition. He rejected several very nice cars simply because they were too popular. He didn’t want a common car for his wife. He wanted something out of the ordinary, something with a smidgen of rarity.
In the spring of 2010, Grisham’s perseverance and patience were rewarded. In the Pacific Northwest, he discovered a 1929 Plymouth coupe Model U for sale. He learned that the car had been restored in 1986 in northern California and had received excellent care since then.
Many photographs were provided and much information divulged as the prospective buyer and the seller engaged in a three-month-long dialog. The sale was made in the first week of June 2010, and the 1929 Plymouth was loaded onto a truck for what turned out to be a journey of five weeks.
The Plymouth arrived near the Grisham’s Nokesville, Va., home on July 8, 2010, and had to be pushed off the truck because the 175.4-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine would not start. Five weeks of shaking in the back of the truck had loosened some electrical connections, as well as a few mechanical parts.
After undergoing a thorough examination where all loose fittings were tightened, the Plymouth was presented to Katherine Darges Grisham. “It is so pretty,” she says with an appreciative smile.
The Chrysler Corporation introduced the first Plymouth models in 1928 in order to compete with Ford and Chevrolet. The new cars featured four-wheel hydraulic brakes, full pressure engine lubrication, aluminum alloy pistons and an independent hand brake, all for the bargain price of only $655.
Model U Plymouths for 1929 came in three styles: roadster, sedan and coupe. A total of 108,345 Model U Plymouths were manufactured in 1929. The L-head engine is virtually free of vibration thanks to the rubber motor mounts, a first in 1929. The engine delivers 45 horsepower and the heat it generates is vented through the 19 louvers on each side of the engine hood.
There is no cowl ventilator but occupants in the cabin can get a face full of fresh air by raising the windshield a couple of inches with the use of a hand crank. The driver has a windshield wiper that is suspended from above the windshield and is vacuum powered.
The sparse dashboard has no glove compartment, however there is a storage pocket on the right door. Extra lateral room is gained by not having armrests on the doors.
Both the gearshift lever and handbrake sprout from the floor. At the center of the four-spoke steering wheel is the horn button. To the left of the hub is a lever to activate the two 8.5-inch headlights and the single tail/brake light on the left rear fender. A lever on the right side of the hub is the hand throttle.
As was common 82 years ago, the battery is positioned beneath the floor under the driver’s feet. At the rear of the Plymouth is the fuel tank. The gasoline gauge is not inside on the dashboard but near the right end of the tank. A side-draft, single barrel carburetor drinks from the 11-gallon tank. Each wheel, wrapped with a 4.75x19-inch tire, has a dozen wooden spokes.
An attempt at providing privacy was made by mounting a window shade above the rear window. The trunk is huge. Despite its size, the spare tire is on the outside, which necessitates a two-piece rear bumper. In 1929 the Plymouth could have been ordered with or without bumpers. With no bumpers the car is a hair less than 13 feet long. Bumpers add a foot and an inch to the length of the car.
Whenever Mrs. Grisham steps up on the running board of her Plymouth she is wearing a smile as she enters the green car with black fenders trimmed with white pin striping.
“It runs strong,” Grisham says proudly.