Maintain Or Hotrod? 1953 Dodge Meadowbrook

Here’s a great looking 1953 Dodge Meadowbrook. It’s hard to believe that many of these two-door cars still exist in original condition, but they’re out there. This one is on craigslist with a price of $3,200 or best offer! It’s located in Muscoda, Wisconsin, about sixty miles west of Madison.

The seller says that this car has “59895 original miles. 3rd owner. pretty solid for its age. has some rust on the rear quarters. good floors and trunk.” I’m wondering about the trunk part, it sure looks rusty to me. There aren’t any close-up photos of the rust in the quarterpanels that they mention, but they show the bottom of the passenger door and it looks great, rust-wise.

The Dodge Meadowbrook was made from 1949 to 1954 and the two-door body was new for 1953. The Meadowbrook made up of approximately 30% of Dodge’s sales for the first few years, but by 1953 things weren’t as rosy, even with revised bodywork. Dodge buyers were going for the Royal and Coronet lines and 1954 was the last year for the Meadowbrook.

This is the only interior photo but other than the wear on the driver’s area of the bench seat, it looks crisp and clean. This car needs brake work, and you can see the third pedal for the three-on-the-tree manual transmission.

The 103 hp, 230 Cubic-inch inline-six engine was the only engine available in 1953, but in the final year of 1954 Dodge offered the 241 cubic-inch Red Ram hemi with 140 hp. The seller says that this one runs decent and the fuel tank has been chemically dipped and sealed with tank sealant. It also has a new sending unit and a new battery. This sounds like a great project car. I’m guessing that most people would turn it into a resto-mod but boring ol’ me would just fix and maintain it and drive it as is. How would you do up this Dodge?


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  1. Howard A Member

    Another pretty basic car. I rarely say this, but I think this would be a great car with an original hemi, 2×4’s,( Super Red Ram, not sure you could get that originally), and leave the rest of it as is. That would be a cool ride.

    Like 1
  2. JW454

    This would be difficult if not a bit scary to drive with no outside rear view mirror. At least one on the left please. On the other hand… it speaks to how original the car is.
    I like this little cruiser otherwise.

    • Howard A Member

      The outside rear view mirror was extra. When my grandfather passed away( years ago) we found the bill of sale from his then new 1948 Packard, my grandma saved EVERYTHING and the outside mirror( that he got) was an $8 dollar option. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s $73 dollars in todays money. In 1953 there was nobody next to you, so why bother?

  3. Car Guy

    My conscious says “Maintain”, but my ego says “Hotrod”. With the the subtle styling, and lack of chrome it could make a cool restomod. Just swap in a late model injected Hemi, automatic overdrive powertrain.Besides, when it the last time anyone saw of these fixed up………

    Like 1
  4. Anthony Rodrigues

    Looks in really nice shape for a 63 year old car. Too bad the paint on the hood is pretty far gone, i would paint it the original color, fix the interior….

  5. DrinkinGasoline

    I liken this Meadowbrook to the Ford Mainline as it was intended. A bare bones, affordable, dependable automobile and it should be preserved as such. Ever heard the song:
    “Baby, I was Born This Way” ?
    Speaking of bones, it seems to have a good rack of ’em and in my opinion, it should be subjected to some TLC, as is. The automobile was presented to the masses based on the very concept of affordability and dependability to the working class in the U.S. and abroad with the Model T. These vehicles represent that same ideal, in a different era. It’s not a Red Ram, it’s a 230 I6, the way it was born.

    Like 1
  6. Luke Fitzgerald

    Conserve & preserve

    Like 1
    • Randall

      Right. Why do we have to “hot rod” everything ? We have enough old hot rods, new hot rods, and rat rods. Preserve some of these increasingly scarce originals.

      Like 1
    • Randall

      It’s the Grandpa in me. Sorry hot rodders. Keep it like it is. I want to drive around in it like it was 1953.

      Like 1
  7. Rustytech Member

    Modern Hemi and running gear. Update safety equipment, stock appearance, watch the mouths drop open in the mirror after leaving the stop light. My definition of fun!

  8. Mark S Member

    These engines are very solid and reliable I’d do some body work and repaint the car and I’d do the needed mechanical work. I’d repair the interior. I’d then just enjoy it. Read the allpar Artifcial on these engines very tough engine.

    Like 1
  9. jeff6599

    Sorry, wrong again. The little hemi was available in 1953. Always check your fact source.

    Like 1
    • Scotty Staff

      You are correct, sir. But, it wasn’t available in the Meadowbrook until 1954. My mistake for not mentioning that.
      Thanks for the correction.

  10. Jim Mc

    I really like this car! Nice grandpa cruiser. Much better with the manual, the automatics were terrible. At least w/the 3 on the tree you have a sporting chance of not having the SUV behind you not laying on their horn when the light turns green. That old six is more torque than horses but enough to move it along.
    My dad was a really good home mechanic and MoPar man who cut his teeth wrenching on old Dodges and Plymouth like this and taught me a LOT about these old beauties. It reminds me of him.
    Yeah, I like this one.

  11. Woodie Man

    The only thing homelier would be a Rambler of the same vintage. That said this one’s dash board is calling to me. But I can’t figure out why.

    • Anthony

      I like the dash too. A very clean design

  12. Tirefriar

    Resto mod it, for shizzle

    • tirefriar

      Just 2 thumbs down…aww, guys you are being too kind.

  13. KeithK

    Making a classic like this custom doesn’t mean you have to ruin it. 12 v conversion first with perTronix. Tastefully lower the suspension , keep the rims and caps add trim rings and low profile tires as wide as possible. Strap on a period correct windshield visor. And enjoy. The hood must remain closed while driving so no one has to know the secrets hiding beneath. All easily undone.

  14. jeff6599

    One of my best information sources is the Standard Catalog of American Cars (1946-1975) published by Krause Publications (home of Old Cars Weekly), edited by John Gunnell.

    One item to remember is that Chrysler had its hemi in 1951; Desoto had its hemi in 1952; Dodge had its hemi in 1953; and Plymouth had no hemi until it shared one with Dodge in 1964. ALL of the above hemis were different from each other with virtually no interchangeability of hard parts. Another way to identify years of production is to look at parts suppliers catalogs such as Kanter or Egge. They do not want to miss a single year of coverage as if they do, they miss a sale.

  15. charlie martin

    my dad, a dodge dealer in the fifties, got one of these coupes(1954) in 1956 with the hemi, and sold it to one of my classmates.
    Bob worked the engine over, lowered it way down, leaded it in, and repainted it maroon. fast and a real screamer .

  16. williamcleary

    Look at that hood ornament/handle! Get 2 mirrors!

  17. ROTAG999
  18. Donald T

    I was 14 yrs old & interested in cars. So, my dad paid $20.00 & had a 53 Dodge towed to our driveway for me to practice working on had a 392 hemi in it & a 3 on the tree fluid drive never thought i’d get it running, but I did..whenever he went to work, I’d be driving that thing up & down our block & around the times!

  19. David Conwill

    I must be getting old. A couple years ago I’d have said “Red Ram” for sure, but now I’m thinking I’d be very happy with a mildly hopped up 230: Edgy cam and high-compression head, two carbs and maybe a header or split exhaust manifold. Overdrive would be a nice addition too.

  20. Jeff6599

    Consider this , David. That little 6 was rated at 103 HP and had 7:1 compression ratio. Since it takes about 50 HP to push a car down the road considering tire rolling resistance, wind resistance and internal friction (wheel bearings, etc.) there is not enough (53) HP left for jobs like climbing a grade, pulling a small trailer, putting 2 kayaks on top, let alone accelerating to pass. Typically, increasing compression yields about 3% per ratio jump. If you raise it to 9:1, you’ve gained 6 HP. Dual carbs, dual exhaust; how much, 20HP? a cam? They don’t grind race cams for a flathead 6, so another 10/12 Hp maybe, for a mild one. Where are we: 140 maxed? I doubt any more than 125/130. Then the bottom end won’t allow any more than a steady cruise of 60/65 over the long term. So now you cannot drive Interstates to attend a show or gathering.

    Begin with the 2bbl 140HP Red Ram and go up from there. Enough torque to pull an overdrive gear, enough HP to pass an occasional truck and a happy wife alongside.

    • Dave Wright

      Somebody that understands power………how nice is that!!!!

  21. David Conwill

    The 1959 version of this engine was producing 135 hp from the factory and the Mopar sixes have a much stouter bottom end than, say, a ’53 Chevrolet 235. I don’t think you’re giving quite enough credit to this design.

    And I think you’ll find Edgy does, in fact, offer a full-race camshaft for this engine, though I’m not sure I’d want to risk the torque like that.

  22. GaryC Gary charlton

    This has got me thinking of what to do with this old Medowbrook. I have a 392 hemi ready to go but am leaning towards just getting the old six running and throwing seat covers in it.

    Like 1
  23. charlie martin

    hemi for sure, I can remember Bob’s 54 coupe with its red ram hemi punched out and it was a screamer! something about those hemi’s winding up and we beat all the fords and chevys without seatbelts.
    love your wagon, just slip in the hemi,running gear and wash it!!

  24. Cliff

    Love those old dodges. My dad still has his 54 v8 meadowbrook w/ OD and 3:54 gear. Purchased new is 53. Offenhauser made a 4 bbl for a wcfb. 53 was the first year of the red ram. Peppy and good on gas. I liked it so much , I bought a royal hardtop.

  25. Nate Member

    This one is still up for sale in my area! Down to $2800 now, not a Dodge guy buuuut, seriously considering it…

  26. larry blackman

    Love those cars

  27. Travis K

    Just to inform everyone . That’s not a 3 on the tree setup . It’s a fluid drive system . 1st and second up , 3rd and 4th down . Reverse is towards you and up . I’ve got an all original 53 and it’s a great car to drive

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