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1964 Drive West in a 1932 Plymouth

The First Time


View Twice across the U.S. in 1964 in a 1932 Plymouth and 1964 Ford & Transcontinental Drive Across the US in 1966 & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

After I got back from Europe in August 1964, the children and I returned to Norfolk to wait for the aircraft carrier to return to port. Then in October 1964, my husband Bob got orders to California, so we drove a 1932 Plymouth from the east coast to Monterey California. I wrote up the trip for the Plymouth magazine. We found a house to rent, and flew back home. In December, we did the trip again, this time in a modern car (a 1964 Ford Station Wagon) with our two children.

This first section is the first trip west in the 1932 Plymouth as I wrote it at the time.

"Go West", Said the Admiral

My husband's orders read "Report for duty, Post Graduate School, Monterey California, 28 December 1964. Detachment date on or about 1 December 1964".

But there remained one large four-door problem. How to transport Bob's 1932 Plymouth PB to California from his present duty station in Norfolk Virginia. We considered shipping the car (too expensive), having someone else drive it (more reasonably priced - $125.00 - but risky), driving tandem or towing (which we had done on previous change of stations, but it would be impractical now that we had two children -one age 3 and one age one) and (Bob refused to even consider this) storing it. Our solution - Bob requested leave, and when (surprise) it was granted, I made plans to leave the children with my mother and drive out to the coast with him. Not only did we want to get the "old car" to the West Coast but we also wanted to find ourselves living quarters. This was the first large January class and many more people would be arriving than leaving.

"You won't make it", I was told but of course I had confidence in Bob, and the car had always been reliable too. Before Bob bought it it had been driven from Florida to Maryland and traded in on a new car.
Before it was restored, it was painted Baby Blue

Before it was restored, it was painted Baby Blue


Before it was restored Bob drove it to Cape Cod and back and I drove it to the Naval Academy when we were dating.

Here are some excerpts from the trip diary.

Saturday 10 October 1964 - Norfolk Virginia to Hershey Pennsylvania

Bob didn't look at the calendar when he requested his leave, and it starts today. So extreme measures are necessary if we are to get to the Hershey meet which starts today. Yesterday, I drove the station wagon, myself and the two girls to my mother's in Baltimore. Last night, Bob greased the car, attempted to reseal the top (which started to leak during the last hurricane), and loaded the car. At midnight he started for Baltimore. He has so many spare parts in the back seat that there is hardly room for a suitcase apiece. We are taking

  • 1 transmission
  • 2 rear axles
  • 3 spare tires
  • 4 inner tubes
  • timing gear
  • fan belt
  • windshield wiper motor, three windshield wiper blades and windshield wiper hose
  • generator
  • ignition points
  • distributor coil
  • gas and oil flex lines
  • ignition lock
  • complete set of engine gaskets and extra gasket material
  • fuel pump kit
  • wire
  • tire chains
  • gasoline can, oil can and spare oil
  • grease and grease gun
  • touch-up paint, and brushes
  • engine paint
  • striping kit and paint
  • wax
  • bailing wire
  • tool box
  • wheel puller
  • rear brake drum
  • 1 set rear brake shoes
  • 1 wheel cylinder
  • brake fluid
  • 2 complete sets of front wheel bearings
  • door handles and window cranks
  • light bulbs
  • top sealer and top cover
  • cleaner, bucket, chamois and washing cloths
  • 1 copy of all the antique auto magazines he subscribes to (about 7) and
  • the owners manual.

Bob did not bring a tow rope, the crank or any work clothes
I brought maps, cameras and a thermos jug. The back is loaded up to the rear window.

It took Bob 6 hours and 10 minutes to do the 250 miles to Baltimore, and after he took a short nap, we went the rest of the way to Hershey in slightly over two hours. We were quite comfortable with the manifold heater which Bob had just installed. [This bolts onto the exhaust manifold and the hot air goes through a hole in the firewall.] Heat can be deflected to the driver's side by using our clipboard as a baffle. This prevents me from being carbonized while Bob freezes. Primitive it may be, but at least it doesn't blow cold air on you for the first 15 minutes. The only disadvantage is the added engine noise you get with the heat.
Swap Meet

Swap Meet


We spent all afternoon walking through the flea market and freezing but there was nothing we could use. {Editor's note: No wonder!} Any parts that were usable were expensive. Bob refused to put his car on the field Saturday because it was so dirty from the trip. After dinner, he washed it.

Bill Maurer told us about driving a PA (1931 Plymouth) back from Canada without a fan belt. He said they had no trouble, which is encouraging. Bob said the engine was probably cooled by convection currents or something.

Sunday 11 October 1964 - Hershey to Somerset, Pennsylvania - 165 miles

The car growled a few times before starting this morning. It was cold and had heavy oil in it. On the way into Hershey from the motel, after breakfast at Fink's Grove Bob finally got the spare gas can filled. When we got to the stadium, it was still early so we wiped the car down washed under the fenders cleaned off the grease and fingermarks and even waxed it a little. He also straightened one headlight which had turned itself 90 deg. It was good to meet the other club members and see some of their beautiful restorations.
9888bda0-fa99-11ea-9e3b-b159e7aab540.JPGPlymouth

Plymouth

Bob looking at a 1931 Plymouth

Bob looking at a 1931 Plymouth


We realized how rough out car still was.
Prize winner

Prize winner


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Among other things Bob discovered that he had put his back bumper on upside down. I took pictures of all the cars even though they were placed so I had to face directly into the sun to do so.

2552-00510016.jpgMr and Mrs McKibben with a Hershey cup - Friends of my dad's

Mr and Mrs McKibben with a Hershey cup - Friends of my dad's


Late in the afternoon when the meet broke up, we headed for the turnpike.
Harrisburg from a bridge

Harrisburg from a bridge


Before we had gone far, a cop stopped us to ask WHY we had a regular Pennsylvania license (It is our official residence and Bob drives the car to work so it is not eligible for an antique license) and NO INSPECTION STICKER?? It was because we had never had the car in Pennsylvania before. It didn't help that Bob had a Virginia driver's license. He let us go because it was Sunday and no inspection stations were open. This incident made us very uneasy and anxious to get out of the state.

About this time when we were starting to go through tunnels that we began to smell gas. Bob stopped and checked under the hood, but couldn't find any leaks. It was the gas in the gas can which expanded as it got warmer.

We have timed our speed with the aid of the mileage points on the turnpike and found that our speedometer reads about 2 mph fast. Construction work doesn't bother us; it just slows everyone else down to our speed. Bob met a Lt. Commander with a PB on the base just before we left who drove is car up from Florida. He said he did 60-65 mph all the way, but we try to stay between 40-45 mph. The car does ride more quietly now. One of the club members suggested that Bob grease the distributor cam, and that has eliminated one of our squeaks.

The lens of the right headlight has slipped around cockeyed again. We continued to have this trouble until about Nevada, when Bob finally got them tightened down (both were rotating by this time) so that they didn't move any more. It was a little disconcerting to turn on your lights and find that you could see the billboards better than the road because the one light was beamed straight up, and the other out in the boonies.

It got dark and we stopped without getting across the Pennsylvania border.

Monday 12 October 1964 - Somerset Pennsylvania to Angola Indiana - 391 miles

We made it to the border without being stopped. It is cold this morning and I held Bob's gloves down where the heater blew hot air into them. To save time, we eat breakfast and lunch while driving, and dinner after we stop for the night. We stop every 100 miles for gas
Getting gas on the Ohio turnpike

Getting gas on the Ohio turnpike


and to change drivers, and every 1000 miles for a grease job. We get about 18 miles per gallon, but our oil mileage isn't so good for some reason. Bob washed our car when we stopped this evening, and I did the washbowl laundry.

Tuesday 13 October 1964 - Angola Indiana to Peru Illinois - 307 miles

Motel where we stayed in Indiana

Motel where we stayed in Indiana


This morning we hit the 1000 mile mark and stopped for a grease job on the turnpike. We have been taking turns trying to decipher the owner's manual. It was in the side pocket when the roof started to leak (before we bought the car), and the pages got wet and stuck together. One needs a mirror and a lot of patience to read some of it. Bob tells me that to adjust the oil pressure downward (which he did as it was reading high, and he thought he might get lower oil consumption on a lower reading), one turns "anti-clockwise". Our gauges are now all reading in the proper ranges.
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Fall colors

Fall colors


The Indiana toll road was the first one with a posted minimum speed. The minimum never went higher than 40 mph across the country and no one ever called us on it. With out speedometer reading high however we speed up whenever we see a cop. That's a switch.
Stockyards

Stockyards


We tootled into Chicago on the expressway on a windless, hot, smoky day. A black man offered us $200 for the car while we were driving 40 mph side by side down the Eisenhower Expressway. We stopped in Oak Park to get a new route to Denver from the AAA. They give you a personal "Triptik" or strip map which is easier to handle in our small "cockpit". The scale is not too accurate. however.

We didn't get away from Chicago until late. When we stopped for gas on the way out the car refused to even gurgle, let alone start. Bob pulled the front seat out and cleaned the battery terminals. He says he'll have to remember to check the battery water every night. We had this trouble (dirty terminals) about twice more.
Getting gas from where we mailed the film and letter

Getting gas from where we mailed the film and letter


We made a wrong turn on the throughway and had to pay a double toll to get back on the right road. We started looking for a motel in Morris, but either they wanted $12.00 for a double, or they were full. Even the new 200-plus room Holiday Inn had nothing. It wasn't until we got to Peru, over 50 miles farther and well after dark that we found a vacancy $7.00 double. Not many motels near new Interstate 80.
Reflections

Reflections


We still hadn't had dinner. While we were looking for motels we had seen plenty of hamburger joints, but couldn't find even ONE in Peru. Finally ended up across the river in LaSalle, where we got good roast beef sandwiches and something to drink for 99 cents. We also bought donuts for the morning. We couldn't use their window tray because our window mouldings slanted out at too great an angle.

It was after 9:30 when we got back to the motel, and we were so tired we went right to bed, after I did my usual laundry. Bob even forgot to check the battery.

Wednesday 14 October 1964 - Peru Illinois to Council Bluffs, Iowa - 415 miles.

We listen to the weather on every motel TV. It has been sunny and hot.
Highway on the flat land

Highway on the flat land

Wheat fields

Wheat fields


I did a rough calculation of the distance still to go, and Bob was shocked. He has never been this far west and I have only been as far as Colorado.
Bank of the Mississippi

Bank of the Mississippi


Crossing the Mississippi

Crossing the Mississippi


Bob has been trying to get SAE 40 oil to see if it would help quench the car's oil appetite. It takes about a quart every 200 miles. But sometimes he has trouble finding even SAE 30 non-detergent oil. When we got to Council Bluffs, we got gas and followed the filling station man's directions through town. Bob forgot them after about 3 blocks. We bounced around in the dark over about a mile of railroad tracks. Finally we did get back to the highway and found a motel and place to eat. Bob washed the car and I washed underwear.

Thursday 15 October 1964 - Council Bluffs to Sterling Colorado - 463 miles

Bob says the engine sounds lousy. We have acquired a few extra rattles. Just before North Platte outside Brady Nebraska a state trooper stopped us. Bob was driving with his shoes off. He tried to think what he might have done wrong, but all the trooper wanted was to "look at a good car again". Actually I think he would have liked a little drive, except he didn't know what to do with his patrol car. We got out, opened the hood and exchanged small talk.
North Platte River

North Platte River


I wanted to get to my uncle's house in Brighton (near Denver) tonight but we didn't get to Sterling until after 7:00. Of course 100 miles is nothing out there, but it means another three hours for us and we were too exhausted to try it. We went into an actual restaurant for a sit down dinner and got locked out of our car. The door on the driver's side has no lock (lock spring is broken), and the blanket we protect the upholstery with got jammed in it. After a little banging it finally loosened up.
be4dd900-fa97-11ea-9e3b-b159e7aab540.jpgPlymouth parked

Plymouth parked

Friday 16 October 1964 - Sterling to Brighton Colorado - 115 miles

We got to my uncle's house in good time. Bob had the car greased and I did a machine wash. Uncle Harry took us up to Boulder to see the fall color
Canyon up behind Boulder

Canyon up behind Boulder

2575-00580022.jpgGold trees on a hillside

Gold trees on a hillside

Golden Aspens

Golden Aspens

Hillside

Hillside

Uncle Harry and his car

Uncle Harry and his car

Sun on mountains

Sun on mountains


and helped us plan a route through the best scenery with the mildest uphill grades.

Saturday 17 October 1964 - Brighton Colorado to Vernal Utah - 374 miles

Aunt Alice and Uncle Harry seeing us off

Aunt Alice and Uncle Harry seeing us off


We passed a nice old car junkyard west of Denver (where routes 6 and 40 intersect).
Highway toward mountains

Highway toward mountains

Plains and mountains

Plains and mountains


We made it over Berthoud Pass (11,307 feet) without going lower than second gear or slower than 25 mph. There were a few "little old ladies" on the lower slopes that we had to pass. We got gasoline partway up and also used the outhouses.
Conaco Station

Conaco Station


Filling station on the way up Berthoud Pass

Filling station on the way up Berthoud Pass

Berthoud Pass

Berthoud Pass

Bob's photo of me

Bob's photo of me


Our uphill gas mileage isn't too good. We have our first cold weather since Hershey and the only precipitation - scattered rain mixed with snow. The car didn't overheat at all although Bob says we might have had more trouble if it was warmer.
Out back side window

Out back side window

Winding road

Winding road

Mountains

Mountains

Looking down the highway

Looking down the highway

Going around a corner

Going around a corner


After Berthoud, we crossed the Continental Divide twice more at lower altitudes - Muddy Pass and
Rabbit Ears filling station

Rabbit Ears filling station


Rabbit Ears pass. Bob does all the mountain driving.
Reflection in lake at sunset

Reflection in lake at sunset

Ponies by lake

Ponies by lake


The deer season opened today and there are hunters behind every rock. We even saw three live deer at dusk. They came peering very imprudently over a hill to see what we were. They are not alone in looking at us. So many drivers turn all the way around as they pass that I'm surprised they haven't had an accident.
Bluff

Bluff

Rock striations

Rock striations

Hood ornament pointing the way

Hood ornament pointing the way


Sunset ahead of us

Sunset ahead of us

Road at dusk

Road at dusk

Sunday 17 October 1964 Vernal Utah to Elko Nevada - 434 miles

Clouds over the mountains

Clouds over the mountains

Speeding along

Speeding along

Sheepherder

Sheepherder


Bob had to put 10 lb. of air in one of the tires this morning but he says he isn't worried because he let some out yesterday when they were hot. He carries a tire pressure gauge in his shirt pocket along with his pen (for signing gasoline charges)
2609-00570026.jpgComing in to Salt Lake

Coming in to Salt Lake


We came down into Salt Lake City using free wheeling as usual. {Free wheeling was an option to disconnect the engine from the transmission so the engine is at idle and there was no engine braking and also it was unnecessary to use the clutch to shift from second to third.} The grades were long and steep and our downhill gas mileage is terrific. We had to use the brakes a few times approaching curves as we were up to 60 mph which was the speed limit. The car seems a little giddy to me at that speed, maybe because we are so far off the ground. The heater does not work well during this maneuver, because the engine doesn't get warm enough to heat the air. On the other hand, there is a leak in the vacuum system, and the windshield wiper doesn't work well going up hill (and it only rains when we go uphill). Bob's replacement hose isn't long enough.

Outside the city, the concrete paving slabs gave the car a peculiar irritating rocking motion. Worse was yet to come however, as we ran into a patch of construction which broke the braze Bob had made where the fender was torn. Our fan belt has started to squeak again too.
Temple

Temple

2612-00570028.jpgGull gateway arch

Gull gateway arch

Gull arch with capitol in the background

Gull arch with capitol in the background

Lion House

Lion House


Church

Church

Capitol from Main Street

Capitol from Main Street


Brigham Young Statue

Brigham Young Statue

Where Bob was waiting

Where Bob was waiting


We keep passing old cars in junked and rusted condition principally Ford Ts and As of course but a few Chevys and others. People don't seem to trade cars in but just run them until they die and leave them. Nearly every back yard out here has one of more rusting hulks of varying age. It might be a good area to prospect for parts.
Salt flats

Salt flats


Water on flats with reflection

Water on flats with reflection

Great Salt Lake 1964

Great Salt Lake 1964


We made it across the Great Salt Desert and past the Bonneville Salt Flats to Nevada.
Mining (copper?)

Mining (copper?)


Bob wants to have the car greased tonight. He might as well do the grease job himself.
Moon rise

Moon rise

Monday 19 October 1964 Elko Nevada to Auburn California

This morning, Bob discovered that his brown trousers had completely worn through in the seat. The fabric is so thin that I can't possibly mend them. Our first casualty.

The speedometer is chattering again, but worse. Bob says one of the new vibrations is due to a loose choke cable. He wishes the throttle worked, especially over this straight flat desert. Set it and tie the wheel and we could both take a nap. Bob likes me to drive as far to the right as i can, even to driving on the shoulder, which out here is just as good as the road.

The speedometer was making so much racket that we stopped once to oil it. It kept right on acting up, no matter what we did. The speed indicator would jump from 20 to 50 and it made a terrific noise. Bob was sure that the cable would break. It didn't and eventually seemed to cure itself.

We went through Reno today without my being able to persuade Bob to stop and see Harrah's collection of antique cars. A sign we passed called the road "Dangerous but Passable"
Moon over Donner Lake

Moon over Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Donner Lake


We are crossing Donner Pass. I saw a 32 PB sedan in fair shape along Donner Lake, but by the time I told Bob we were far past it. We coasted almost all the way down the other side from 7000 to 1000 feet using free wheeling and going up to 65 mph.

Tuesday 20 October 1964 Auburn California to Monterey California - 231 miles

We have had some people pass us two or three days in a row. I wonder what they do between times.
Route through Sacramento

Route through Sacramento

Sacramento capitol building

Sacramento capitol building


We stopped to get gas outside San Francisco, and Bob tightened the generator belt which he said was loose, but he is still unhappy about what he says is a sticky exhaust valve. He is also angry because while he was working on the generator the gas station attendant didn't fill the gas tank all the way up and now he can't compute his gas mileage. The tank is shallow and doesn't have a long filler neck, so the automatic device on the house cuts off too soon.

We are now on freeways. I hope we get off alive

When we stopped for gas in San Jose, Bob put some lubricant in the engine for the valves I guess. Also he discovered that one of the tires was low. He put air in it, but when we stopped for lunch it was low again so he changed it.
Flat tire in Gilroy

Flat tire in Gilroy

Bob changing the tire

Bob changing the tire


The spare wheel has bent spokes and has never been balanced. But we seem to be able to travel up to 40 mph on it without too much trouble.

We have continued to smell gas from the gas can every day when the weather warms up, but we have also discovered that the carburetor accelerator pump leaks when we go up a steep hill.
Getting gas - Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey

Getting gas - Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey

Marina in Monterey

Marina in Monterey

Summary

We arrived. We traveled 3715 miles from Norfolk in 11 days, counting stopovers, and averaged over 300 miles a day, without going over 45 mph except downhill. Usually we drove less than 12 hours a day, and very little after dark. We climbed four major passes. It cost us about as much to drive out (gas, oil, food and lodging as it did to fly back.

We found ourselves a house,
Front of the house

Front of the house

Garage and side of the driveway

Garage and side of the driveway

Fence on the north side

Fence on the north side

Side yard fence

Side yard fence

Street dead ends into Fort Ord

Street dead ends into Fort Ord

Back yard is one big sandbox

Back yard is one big sandbox

Kitchen - built in dishwasher and stove top

Kitchen - built in dishwasher and stove top

Bathroom selfie

Bathroom selfie

Plymouth out front on the street

Plymouth out front on the street


and stored the car so it was a successful trip in all respects.
Charles Street at 6 am

Charles Street at 6 am

Charles Street at 6 am

Charles Street at 6 am


Now I can start worrying about the trip out with the kids and how we will get back to the East Coast in two or three years.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 19:50 Archived in USA Tagged california colorado chicago utah ohio nevada hershey cross_country antique_cars Comments (0)

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