WHAT’S YOUR RIDE: A 1952 Plymouth
Michael Barone is ready to move on from his 1952 Plymouth.
“You can tell yourself it’s just a car,” Barone said. “But a car is never just a car in this country, at least in my generation.”
A little over a decade ago, Barone went searching for a project. He was nearing retirement and was looking for something to fill the hours of free time he would soon have.
After poking around online, he settled on a ’52 Plymouth, the same make and model of his first car.
Back in 1962, Barone’s father bought a “heavily oxidized” blue-colored ’52 Plymouth for Michael and his sister Toni. Barone remembers the siblings frequently fighting over who would get to drive it, with the elder Toni usually winning.
“She kind of told me she was going to take it,” Barone said.
But Michael’s dad sold the Plymouth when his son was off at college. When it came to scratching that itch of buying and restoring a car, a second ’52 Plymouth fit the parameters.
After searching online, he found one and purchased it on eBay in 2006.
Considering Barone was the third owner, his new Plymouth was in not that bad of shape. The body was solid and the paint job (mint green) was in good shape. Under the hood needed some maintenance, but nothing too crazy. The cooling system needed replaced, as well as the interior, which was gutted and redone.
When it comes to a car that is over a half-century old, the engine condition is the big question. That’s where it gets weird…
“The engine is actually from a 1950 Dodge Power Wagon, it’s not a Plymouth,” Barone said.
While the powerplant may be different, much of the rest of Barone’s Plymouth is as original as possible. The “three on the tree” manual transmission affixed to the steering column scares off Barone’s wife from driving it, but only adds to the charm of the car that was advertised as the practical alternative to the majority of auto makers of the time marketing coupes and sedans with sleek lines and not much in the way of headroom.
When he purchased the Plymouth, Barone was considering big plans on how much restoration to do. But the reactions to the car, both inside and outside of his immediate family, reminded him of those days in the 60s, fighting with his sister over who got dibs on the wheels for the day.
In a fit of nostalgia, during a visit to Illinois he picked up his sister for a drive, took her to the old grade school parking lot where Toni taught him how to drive a stick and let her drive it.
“That was worth all the work I put into it,” Barone said. “She was so excited.”
It took Barone about three years to restore the ’52 Plymouth to safe driving condition. When he moved back to Fort Wayne in 2012, the car came with. In the last five years Barone has put plenty of miles on the car, adding 25,000 miles to the odometer during that span.
But while Barone does have a soft spot for his Plymouth, he is also a realist. With the addition of a new car recently, the classic car has been relegated to the driveway, a victim of sun’s summer rays. In the winter, the car is packed away at a friend’s, with Barone too far away to be able to consistently tinker with his four-wheeled toy.
For a 55-year-old car, it’s a life not being lived. And Barone understands that.
“I’m not taking care of it well,” Barone admits. “For me, it was fun spending hours on the internet finding parts for it. I’ve enjoyed driving it, but that learning something new experience is pretty well gone.”
So recently, Barone placed a “For Sale” sign on his ’52 Plymouth. People will inquire. Folks will stop him and ask some questions. But the same emotion comes out when potential buyers start probing.
“I find a part of me getting (upset) that people want to buy my car,” said Barone with a laugh.
Occasionally, the “For Sale” sign will droop and be largely invisible in the window. Barone finds himself not repositioning it. He’s not ready.
Or is he?
“The attachment is strong, but the thrill is gone,” Barone said.
Recently, he has been leaning toward donating the car to PBS. The process usually involves PBS selling the car to an interested party for funds that will be used to assist Public Broadcasting Service.
“I could find somewhere to store it, but I’d rather it have a better rest of its life,” Barone said. “I want it to do something good, instead of just letting it slowly return to what I started with.”
Barone accomplished what he set out to do. Needing a retirement project, he found one that took him back to his childhood.
He repaired it.
He drove it.
Soon, he will sell it…probably.