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Deco Era Survivor: 1938 Plymouth

38 plymouth coupe 1

We love seeing cars that come up for sale that are neatly tucked away from the light of day. This 1938 Plymouth Coupe is a looker and appears to be in original condition making it a very nice survivor.  The styling on the Plymouth Coupe is sharp, and the color combo looks nice. This ’38 Plymouth couple is priced at $20,000. Find it here on craigslist out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

38 plymouth coupe 3

The interior of this Plymouth looks brand new. The fabric looks plush and un-faded. The dash looks like a dream come true, with a bright and smooth luster. The mileage is not listed to this survivor, but we would imagine that this Plymouth has seen little duty in its life span.

38 plymouth coupe 2

The exterior of this Plymouth shows a wonderful shine and what looks to be an original finish. There are some additional lights on the front and back that we assume informs other drivers of your intentions. The chrome looks nice and free of major blemishes, and the grills look straight and unbent. The Puddy Brown coloring may not be a favorite of many, but we think it looks suitable and certainly show the lines of the car.

38 plymouth coupe 4

Finding a 78 year old survivor isn’t an opportunity that comes up too often. This Plymouth is claimed to be a numbers matching car as well. We love this era in automobilia, and would love to bring this Plymouth home if we could. Would you buy this classic Plymouth? What would you do with it if you did?


  1. JW454

    Would have liked to see a shot of the motor and maybe one from below. It’s a very good looking car. If I had the loose change laying around…

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  2. Roselandpete

    It looks new which is hard to believe.

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  3. Howard A Member

    This is quite unbelievable. If it is original, I’d love to know the story on this car. Almost too nice to be true. Did older cars have this nice paint? Personally, I think it’s an older restoration, ( with turn signals added) and no engine or under side pic’s leaves matters wide open for us skeptic’s. Still, if so, someone started with a pretty nice car. Can’t find much on this car. Sometimes, punch in the car and get previous sales. Nice car, can’t believe it wasn’t turned into a hot-rod at some point.

    Like 1
  4. flmikey

    If this car is all they say it is, it is a bargain, bargain, bargain! Why spend this amount for that totaled out 396 Camaro when you could have this!

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  5. geomechs geomechs Member

    With proper care and maintenance, original paint jobs last quite well. I took a restoration course some years ago and they were cleaning up an original ’29 Essex. Interesting enough they were using livestock (Orvus) soap to wash it with. That original paint stood out real well although you could see the shadow of primer on the hood.

    Like 1
  6. Eric Dashman

    I love the look of this one, but I struggle to believe that the paint is original. I couldn’t see any overspray and the trunk drip edges do look untouched, but 78 years with that shine? That’s 10 years older than me and I don’t shine like that :-)

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    • David

      What a beautiful car this 1938 is! It was restored. The interior, paint and such are just too nice, but what does it matter? It will be a great car to enjoy just as it is. There is no way you could begin to restore it for $20K. Above is the California Auto Museum’s 36. It’s wonderful to drive. It was restored some time ago and is preserved in excellent circumstances but it’s still not as nice as this 1938 Brian found for us.

      Like 1
  7. Matt Tritt

    After-market turn signals were installed on countless cars back in the late 50’s – clear through the 60’s. It’s a good thing not to have to roll the window down to signal during a rainstorm, and especially at night. Just because it has them doesn’t mean it’s been restored.

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  8. Jay M

    So beautiful. I hope this time machine gets tucked away for another 78 years.
    I love the cars and trucks from the late 30’s….when Art Deco style was all the rage.
    Absolutely timeless design.

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    • Blake

      I would hope it gets driven and loved, not socked away for more time. No one but the owner gets to enjoy it then.

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  9. Steve B

    Awesome find!

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  10. Old geezer

    I hope that someone buys this soon and promises to never hot rod it. I see vehicles similar to these at auctions and they bring dissapointing money. Absolutely beautiful elegance for not a lot of money.

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  11. Allen Member

    The obvious sign this car is not original is the dash. It is lacking the iconic faux wood-grain found on all Chrysler-built cars up through at least 1952. That was a beautiful feature on my otherwise rather ordinary ’37 Plymouth. My dad’s ’36 and ’37 DeSotos, and his ’39 Dodge had it. It wasn’t just the dash, it was all the window trims too. There are shops that do this, and there have been for many years. No excuse for not doing it right. To me, it means this car has been restored, but to a compromised standard, and it would lead me to question the quality of the remaining work. Maybe I’m overreacting – and I hope I am. But I see the original wood-grain showing up on fewer and fewer cars as the years go on. It’s a sad loss, and it is a sign that a lot of “restorers” are taking the cheap, easy way out.

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    • Roselandpete

      Besides the listings themselves, having people like you who know their stuff is what makes this site so good. I learn something new every day.

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    • Pete

      100% certain? Afaik monocolour was standard on 38 dashes. Part woodgraining was an option. Happy be corrected if authoritative sources can be found.

      Like 1
      • Doug Towsley

        I would agree Pete, while neither of my prewar dodges or plymouths are benchmarks, I have looked at a number of Prewar Plymouths and Dodges including a number of them at shows such as some hoity toity events where a high degree of originality is required. Also we have a few in members collections at our local museum as well as several other museums in Oregon, California and Washington.
        (look up the LeMay collection) I cannot ever recall seeing ANY with wood grain dashes, I am not going to say it never happens but in all my years have never seen it. LOTS of British cars with amazing woodwork sure. And I do appreciate a really well done wood dash or accents, but I just have not seen it in Any American cars except some really unfortunate examples in the early 1980s with faux wood grain in interiors and on the sides of cars.

        As to the comment about this car being questionable quality or substandard, I am annoyed by that. Sounds judgmental to me. Heck if someone lovingly redid this car years back and clearly they maintained it exceptionally well, who are we to judge? Most likely someone restored it to their tastes and not with any concern about some judgmental prat commenting on the internet.

        Its a nice car, unfortunate marketing, but at the end of the day its a nice car and should be appreciated as such.

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      • Rick R

        My understanding is that all (both P1 Business Coupe and P2 Deluxe models) closed ’36 Plymouths had wood grained dashes, and all open cars had painted dashes. This is borne out by referencing the Plymouth Owner’s Club Judging Guide, which begins by explaining why a member’s car might have scored higher in AACA judging that at a POC meet, which stresses authentic restorations, (then lists pages of criteria, including two areas for wood graining). That being said, this
        Is a very nice car, much nicer than my ’41 Plymouth Special Deluxe 2 door sedan, (a well worn ’90’s “amateur restoration” purchased for $4500 three years ago) which also has a painted dash and window trim.

        Like 1
  12. Doug Towsley

    I had a 37 Plymouth coupe project i sold 2 years ago, But I still have my 1939 Plymouth coupe, plus the 39 Dodge Coupe and the 37 Pontiac, None of mine look anywhere near as nice as this. Mine are rusty crusty suitable for hot rods or rat rods. Some have a few bullet holes.
    This one is in really nice condition, seems odd no picture or mention of engine/trans. I wonder if people are just clueless or hiding something

    Like 1
    • Tom S.

      Maybe they just ran out of film in the old Instamatic.

      Like 1
  13. Charles Scerri

    A look under the bonett will determine the truth

    Like 0

    Looks like a real good buy! Everybody wants this saved and I agree! Just don’t see these vehicles either stock or street rod.

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  15. Doug Towsley

    One other point: On the turn signals, that turn signal lever assy is a typical aftermarket type fitted on a LOT of vehicles. I have seen those same ones on a lot of old farm vehicles. I saw them on old school busses as well. Found one once in the packaging at a Farm/estate sale once. Many catalogs and auto parts stores carried them. The added on signal housings front and rear look later, perhaps 1970s.
    Each State is different for laws so I cannot comment on what other states require but here in Oregon we have some pretty specific laws on things such as Bumpers (Required) their heights. Tires that protrude or dont have fenders covering, Headlights and heights, as well as type,License plate lights, Seatbelts, Mirrors and horns. All of this is covered in Oregon Revised Statutes (O.R.S.) And I know because over the years Police have selectively enforced ALL of the above on me and friends.
    Now, Early cars are not required to HAVE seatbelts in Oregon but you cannot operate them on public roads without them. That INCLUDES shoulder restraints. (Been there-Done that-lost that argument) As far as turn signals I never researched it for Cars. Always fitted them. But on Motorcycles They were required by DOT in 1971 and you can operate a earlier Motorcycle on the road in daylight hours without turnsignals but not after dark. (use arm signals). I would not degrade this cars value with a period accy like these. In fact in most circles period accys ADD value. Especially if period correct and you have documentation or old catalogs and advertising showing them.

    Hey,,, Many of you old farts will remember “Frantz oil filters”. I have seen some really hotly debated arguments about those filters with vintage vehicle guys.

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Doug, you’re right. The turn signal is a “Signal-Stat 900”, and it was the standard of the trucking industry for many years. They were extremely durable ( claimed a million flashes) I DO remember “Frantz Oil CLEANER” they were called. They used an element that resembled a roll of toilet paper. Some folks substituted the filter for a roll of tp, with not the same effectiveness. I don’t think using the Frantz filter as tp worked either, maybe in a pinch :)

      Like 1
  16. Jim Marshall

    This car reminds me of the 1941 cult classic movie, High Sierra that Bogie drove in the film. It’s here on display at the Lone Pines California History museum. Much of the film was shot there. It’s a 37, but according to movie buffs he did switch cars from this 37 to a 38 on and off in the film.

    Like 0
  17. Danny

    In the very first picture there are two wipers. On the image David displayed the car only has drivers side wiper arm?
    Also the car in the image Jim posted in his message shows 2 wiper arms.
    I am getting on in age so I might be having a brain fart, anyone else notice that?

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    • Bill W

      The passenger side wiper was an option for many years. As was the inside passenger side sun visor, the right rear tail lamp, turn signals, and on base Plymouth models, ventipanes on the front doors.

      The car David displayed was a 1936 Plymouth (pointed bottom corners of the windshield that opens for ventilation), Jim’s car is a 1937 (rounded bottom corners for the windshield), and the one for sale is a 1938 (rounded bottom windshield corners on a stationary windshield – does not open).

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  18. WD

    Hey, I am called WD. I now own the Plymouth in question , it has the original engine and trans 3 speed in the floor , it does have a few chips out of the paint , everything works good on the little car , have had some issues with the carb . This little car came from Boulder Colo. have all the paper work , I had seen somewhere on the internet , that it was a possibility, that it could have been the second car driven in High Sierra , I doubt it , but I could not locate the 38 Plymouth that was driven in the movie , I am sure someone out there knows where the 38 that was driven in the movie is. Anyhow I have given it to my 18 year old granddaughter , when she first seen it she fell in love with it , so it is hers ,I do enjoy the comments , thank all of you guys and ladies.

    Like 2
  19. sluggo

    Thats awesome~~~!!!! I hope you get it out and show it off, and take young people for a ride especially, its something they will never forget.
    Lucky man.

    Like 0
  20. Terry Weathers

    Terry Weathers
    I owned a ’38 Plymouth coupe from 1952 to 1955. It was black and had a rumble seat and wood grained panel. Paid $50 for it in Farmingdale, Long Island and sold it to a junk yard in Chicago for $15, with many adventures in between. Great first car.

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  21. Patrick

    I recently bought a original 1938 Plymouth Business coupe.. six flathead, everything but really everything is original.. never restored, bought it from the daughter of the first owner.. after their father past away, they kept the car for memorium to their dad.
    The car will be shipped to the Netherlands where I live, and will be flushed with TLC..

    Like 0

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