Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
November 2003

Columnist — Allen Wright

Old Cars In Pasadena and a New Project: The Golden Commando

Early in October 2003 in Southern California I was looking at the Gubernatorial candidates. We were having our election to possibly recall our California Governor and possibly elect an action hero. I thought it would be nice to see someone become Governor who likes old cars.

I tried to find out the candidates' feelings on classic cars and emission laws. But all I managed to learn is that one candidate gets a ton of dough from Indian gaming, one candidate gets his money from Hustler, one candidate has been harassing women, and one candidate has a pink Corvette and a pink poodle.

Add to all this: the retailers are putting out their Christmas stuff. Did I miss Halloween and Thanksgiving?

With everything going on the restoration garage has seen little action.

I went to the Mopars in Fullerton a few weeks ago. That was nice. About 100 Chrysler cars showed up. Because there were a few of us Mopar guys, it was a good time. Mopar guys are a rare breed and kind of outlaws by nature. The hemis and Max Wedge cars are truly awesome machines.

I drove the '63 Plymouth on a long-distance journey: from Anaheim to Pasadena. I took my wife on the drive as she wanted to play golf. While she was on the course, I went to the Saturday cruise at Fuddruckers in Pasadena.

I learned on the drive to Pasadena that the 3" exhaust and the Flowmasters on the Plymouth cause a little interior noise that hinders meaningful conversation. The stock AM radio didn't do much, either. It is hard to believe that I have become accustomed to power steering, power brakes, all-climate air and a CD player. Driving the Plymouth is fun and I smile a lot but thank goodness it's not my daily driver.

The Pasadena group of gearheads really was nice and friendly. I met a bunch of nice people and got to say hello to Jay Leno. Leno pulled up in an aircraft-style machine and parked right next to my '63 Plymouth. The crowd was all over him for autographs and checking out his unique vehicle.

That's when I noticed that some of the spectators were touching his car, leaving fingerprints all over it. Then I turned around and there she was: Ms. Dumb Ass, leaning on my Plymouth. Ms. Dumb Ass' friend, Ms. Tattoo Idiot, had both hands on the top of the Plymouth and in one hand she had a cigarette. Politely, I asked them to not lean on the car and I am sure they thought I was a total asshole.

The next day, I checked it out and noticed more fingerprints on the car than the Pasadena Police Station had booking on Saturday night. I guess Pasadena people just don't know about old car courtesy. I imagine Jay Leno just had his detailer clean the car after going to the show but it still had to kind of piss him off, don't you think?

The reader of the dribble in this column might remember I started to get excited about my next restoration: a 1965 Pontiac GTO 4-speed. I started to get into negotiations but the seller thought he had a bar of gold and all I could see was an original car that needed a lot of time and money. Can you say, "Have more money in the car than it's worth?" This is a pretty normal condition for me but not to the magnitude this GTO would require.

Then the phone rang. "Allen, are you still interested in the '62 Plymouth?" I was off like a rocket, bought the car and now have another vehicle in the fleet: a 1962 Plymouth Golden Commando.

As many of you know, in 1961 Chevrolet came out with the 409 Turbo Fire 360 horsepower engine. Chevrolet put 142 of the engines in service, mostly in the Biscayne utility sedan or the Impala. At $2,300 plus $484 for the 409, the two-door post Biscayne could take on almost anything on the street or the strip.

In 1962, Chevrolet brought out the legendary 409: the 409 horsepower model 1611 Biscayne race-ready from the dealer.

Lighter in weight than the Chevrolet cars were the Plymouths and Dodges. The quick Plymouth of the day had a 361 cubic inch Golden Commando package. Chrysler had, however, a dragon-slayer engine that they put in by special order in 300 total Plymouths and Dodges in 1962.

The dragon-slayer 413 cubic inch engine produced either 410 horsepower (11:1 compression) or 420 horsepower (13.5:1 compression) and kept the Chevy 409 guys at home. For $374, the 413 was yours and in a lightweight Fury. This was $100 for the engine alone, cheaper than the 409 Chevy engine.

The bonus was you could take the Plymouth off the dealer's lot and do 14.4 seconds at 100 miles per hour in the quarter mile. In "Showdown," the Beach Boys sing about a race between an injected Corvette and a 413 Dodge. Stories have been told for years about the head-to-head races of the 409s and the 413s in 1962.

Anyway, my newest restoration is a 1962 Plymouth Golden Commando with a 413. This should keep me busy for years and, hopefully, provide the reader with some entertainment along the way.

I will be selling the Monte Carlo as both storage and my wife's patience may get short — with four old cars around as well as an old man.

And, as you all know, the Governor's race is over. And Arnold Schwarzenegger is the new Governor. Trick or treat, California.

Originally published in the November 2003 Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2003 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.