Plymouth BA/GT updated project pictures as of December 20, 2014
We are in the process of building Merianne this 1955 Plymouth Plaza 2-door Wagon A.K.A. the Plymouth BA-GT (Bad Ass-Girl Toy). Like my "Big Poppa" Buick, the Wagon is being built by my friend Dennis Sastini between his back yard, my garage and Skip's hobby Shop. The final colors of the wagon will be Amethyst (dark purple) and Metallic Gold, both are OEM colors., The two colors will be separated by an orange pearl stripe. The wagon went to the paint shop on 2/24/15 and the new targeted completion date is end of April 2015. This was supposed to be a secret that went haywire, just keep reading to get the details.
1955 Plymouth BA-GT Project
About 4 years ago at the Oroville, CA car show I saw this Bad Ass 1949 Plymouth wagon and met the owner, Bill Lehman, who came down from Oregon and a very nice guy. Bill and I exchanged contact information and stayed in touch. I was so impressed with Bill's wagon I started looking for a 49-52 Plymouth wagon as a potential project car for my wife. After a little research, it became clear to me that although this was to be my wife's car, it might be a little bit tight for a big guy like me.
Then one day one of my neighbors and I were talking and I mentioned I was looking for a wagon and his eyes lit up because he had a friend that had this 1955 Plymouth Plaza Wagon that was for sale with a unused MOPAR Magnum Crate motor and 4 speed overdrive transmission. What really caught my attention was the unused motor and transmission. You see this was a stalled project that was started by Dave Hill a hot rod designer previously with Custom Rodder Magazine. The reason the projected was stalled was Dave Hill worked for Custom Rodder Magazine and the wagon was a featured article in a couple Custom Rodder magazines until the time when they stopped hard copy publications of the Magazine. Dave moved on from Custom Rodder Magazine and carried the wagon from California, to the south and finally ended up in Pueblo CO.
Using his Photoshop skills, Dave Hill had created a couple concept photos of what he wanted the wagon to look like.
Original Concept Drawng Below
When I showed Kristina’s concepts illustrations to Merianne, (remember she still does not know this wagon is being built for her) her response was “it’s going to be a nice car but I would not want a wagon.” Now I'm thinking "what am I going to do now? "
At this point I decided I needed to let her know the plan, because the last thing I wanted was to build this hot rod and then give it to her as a surprise and her response is "I don't want this wagon". One of my hot rod buddies actually bought a Hot Rod for his wife, and when he presented it to her, she said "I don't want that thing" all he could do was take a deep breath.
So, I decided to let Merianne know about the secret and when I broke the news to her, I got a very interesting response, she said "I’m glad you told me because otherwise, this would be another hot rod for Big Poppa that she gets to drive sometimes" and she still was not excited about a wagon. So now I'm frustrated because it appears I'm building something she does not want so I had to pause and take a deep breath myself. The good news was that I wasn't too far into the project to stop so I decided to hold off and regroup.
About 3 days later, to my surprise, Merianne approached me and said the wagon idea was starting to grow on her and if the car was really going to be for her she wanted to have some input on the color scheme, interior design and other aspects of the wagon. This was Good News and Bad News; The good news was that Merianne was warming to the wagon idea, the bad news was she might want to change all my ideas and vision for the wagon; you see I had already created this vision of the wagon e.g. exterior design and color combination, interior color combination, and I had ideas of what the interior would look like etc. However, I was now more comfortable moving forward with the project.
My biggest fear came a couple weeks later when she said she did not like one of the colors I had already picked out for the wagon. So I had to get paint chip samples from my painter to see if she could find a color that better suited her taste and complimented the other color I had picked. This process went on for a couple weeks and we finally reached agreement on two colors that were close to the original set of colors I had in my vision. Having done this once before, I knew that the paint work would be at least a year away and things could always change.
Moving on to the project, the wagon was initially delivered to the home of my friend and Builder Dennis Sastini where we started to take the wagon apart, I ordered the M-II front clip configured with air bags from Fatman. By the time we cut off the original front clip and welded on the new Fatman M-II clip it occurred to me that the Mopar Magnum Crate motor did not take up a lot of space under the hood. So I got a bug up my butt to have a bigger engine and went on a search for a late model Hemi Engine.
Little did I know, the late model Chrysler Hemi would be a very complicated swap. I could have taken the easy road and just purchased a GM crate motor but that would not work in a Plymouth, at least not for me. My friend up in Oregon, Bill Lehmann, who had been down this path before cautioned me that I would have to get a motor and transmission out of a Dodge RAM truck or I could get the motor from any late model Chrysler or Dodge but the transmission would have to come from a RAM truck.
I found a late model low mileage HEMI engine and transmission in SoCal and had it shipped to the bay area and Dennis went to work building motor mounts and a transmission cross member to support the Hemi. Once I purchased the engine and transmission. Next I had to go to Street and Performance down in Mena AR., they are experts in custom wiring harnesses and custom ECM’s for HEMI’s and LS engines
At this point we had already started the process to build the chassis and Drive train. First, Dennis cut off the front clip to make room for the new Fatman MII front clip. Next we had to fabricate the motor and transmission mounts to accommodate the 5.7 HEMI and the 5 speed overdrive transmission. After Dennis got the motor mounted he had to build a bigger new transmission tunnel, and this was the next surprise, we found a lot of rust on the driver side floor.
Next, we put in a new floor on the driver side and completed the fabrication of the new transmission tunnel and braced the car for transportation to Myers Sandblasting for Media blasting. We removed the body from the chassis and needed a way to transport the body to Myers. To accomplish this we decided to make a dolly out of wood instead of metal so Big Poppa made a run to Lowes and purchased some 2X6's and some nuts, bolts and washers; the next stop was Harbor Freight to get a set of wheels, a week later we had the wagon body mounted on this home made dolly and ready to be shipped off to Myers Sandblasting in Oakland. From Myers the next stop was Pepe's Auto Body in Hayward where most of the body work was done and finished with a coat of primer.
These concept photos got me to thinking, but the concepts were 10 years old, and did not reflect any of the modern technologies and ideas you see on current hot rod projects. Never the less the price was right and I decided this would be a nice car for my wife. Concepts are great and based on the history of the wagon I assumed the project car was in good condition so I took a chance and bought the car sight unseen, Yikes! The following are a few pictures of what was actually delivered.
The pictures above were taken after the Good-Guys West Coast National show August 21-23, 2015 where the wagon won the Homebuilt Heaven Award sponsored by Speedway Motors.
The hardest part about these concept drawings was getting the true colors e.g. Amethyst (dark purple) and Metallic Gold.
The car arrived with no front seat, no door panels, no headliner, no windshield, all the original stainless steel was in a carton and there was a Mopar Magnum 360CI/380 HP crate motor and a 4speed automatic transmission that had never been cranked, which was a part of my motivation to purchase the project car. Whilst the crate motor would be a great drive train for the wagon, after about 3 months I made the decision to go with a 5.7 Chrysler HEMI with a 5 speed transmission.
Back to my wife Merianne, she wanted a Hot Rod but a "wagon" was not even close to what she wanted. But all I knew was she always complained about not ever having enough cargo room in the Big Poppa Buick for things like a Pop-up, chairs, cooler and other creature comforts. So a selling point would be, look at all the cargo storage space we will have. BTW this was supposed to be a surprise for her 60th birthday, which, by the time the wagon is actually finished it will be 3 years late.
So this surprise was a secret for about 6 months. I then created several "crude" concept sketches to promote my vision for the wagon. Below are a few of my crude sketches of the wagon as I imagined early on.
The company Logo's below represent those companies that have provided full or partial sponsorships of their products and or services to our Plymouth BA-GT Project.
July 26, 2015 after paint photo update
Below you will find 4 short video of the maiden voyage of the Plymouth BA/GT Wagon. We drove the wagon out of the garage for the first time on Thursday February 12th and the plan is to have the wagon in the paint shop by the end of February. We actually delivered the wagon to the paint shop on Tuesday February 24th ahead of schedule for once.
Video 1 & 2 the wagon is driven by Dennis Sastini, my Builder and partner in crime.
Video 3 & 4 the wagon is driven by yours truly Big Poppa
Now it's time to finish up on the chassis, which included the following, just to name a few:
Once we got the body back to the garage, Dennis and I agreed to modify the door post to have the same slant in the front of the side window as in the back of the side window. .
Rear seats are at the upholstery shop and the front bucket seats will be the last to get done
Custom ‘57 Packard tail lights have been modified and installed
.PEPE's Auto Body, Hayward, CA.
From Myers the next stop was Pepe's Auto Body in Hayward where most of the body war was done and finished with a coat of primer.
The pictures below were taken on 2/24/15 the day the wagon went to the paint shop.
Scroll down to see earlier pictures of the wagon build process.
Below are a few new pictures of the wagon project and some details of what has been done and what still needs to be done as of July 1.
We even toyed with the idea of chopping and modifying the door to give the wagon that Nomad look, but we quickly decided against that idea. I wanted to stay close to the original design of the Plaza wagon..
Pepe has completed the body work and doing a final inspection before we load the wagon on the trailer for the next phase of the build process