See The USA Part Two: 1940 Plymouth Coupe

If you read my previous story, See The USA Part One: 1935 Plymouth, then you are aware of my goofy idea to purchase a prewar coupe, complete some period modifications, and head off across America.  Given that my bank account is a little low, sort of like the Mariana Trench, every penny counts.  For the money, Plymouth coupes of this era are a great bargain.  Evidently, I am not the only one who thinks so either.  The owner of the 1935 coupe that I wrote up today is also selling this 1940 Plymouth coupe on craigslist out of White House, Tennessee.  Thanks again go to the unstoppable Ikey H. for finding both of these pretty Plymouths.

In comparing Ford and Plymouth coupes for 1940, obviously Ford wins when it comes to styling.  Few American cars have ever looked as good as a 1940 Ford coupe.  They also come hand in hand with the moonshiner mystique.  However, when you look under the skin, it is obvious that the 1940 Plymouth is a better car.  To start with, the Plymouth was entirely new for the year.  The body was much more modern and spacious, and the ride was better due to the car’s independent front suspension.  Ford had been soldiering on with a solid front axle and had only reluctantly switched to hydraulic brakes in 1939.  Plymouths had always come standard with hydraulic brakes, as the Chrysler Corporation was known for their advanced engineering.

Under the hood, the famous Ford Flathead put out 85 horsepower, with Plymouth not far behind at 84 horsepower.  Weight wise, the Ford coupe was lighter by a bit.  While the Plymouth tipped the scales at 2,866 lbs., the Ford weighed in at just 2,681 lbs.  Likely the Plymouth was a more solid car, the Ford’s weight helped make it a much more responsive ride.  Inside, both cars offered seating for two, but you could also order a coupe with jump seats in the rear to make hauling four people possible.

The car seen here appears to be a Deluxe Two Passenger Coupe.  As you can see from the picture above, these models came with a package tray behind the seats and an area to grab items such as a doctor’s bag, tools, or anything else you could imagine.  In a way, this is kind of like the spring loaded covers you see in the rear compartments of SUVs nowadays.

The other side consisted of a rigid door, likely made of plywood.  While it looks like a lock is bolted to the top of the door, it would do little good with the other side being canvas.  Thievery was alive and well back then, and I guess having a lock might make you feel better about the burglar having to work a little harder to heist your valuables.

As for the trunk, it looks like Santa came early.  Instead of the standard spare tire, which sat flat against the floor on these models, the new owner has been gifted some late model Mopar wheels.  I have been told that the bolt pattern is the same, and this is an easy way to put a set of radials on your car for easier driving when you are not chasing trophies.  While some may enjoy them, they scream Dodge Dart to me and would likely be discarded if I purchased the car.  Perhaps some standard steel wheels from a seventies Dodge van paired with a fat set of radials would be in order.

Under the hood is the venerable Mopar inline six cylinder engine.  With 201 cubic inches and four main bearings, this engine was known for its low end grunt and smoothness.  That year the generator was tweaked to put out a little more juice.  Also, the transmission was redesigned to help quiet operation and allow the floor to be lowered for passenger comfort.

When comparing this car to the 1935 coupe, I believe the six years of progress added up to a more comfortable car that would be better suited to a road trip.  While I have never driven across the country, I have taken a number of long trips.  Each car had its plusses and minuses, but comfort was the deciding factor between putting in a full day or limping into the hotel room around 4:00 PM.  As attractive as the 1935 model is, I think I’d rather be cruising the backroads in the 1940 coupe.  It is the right color from the start anyway!

Which Plymouth would you choose and why?  Or, is a Ford more to your liking?

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  1. canadainmarkseh Member

    It might be difficult to find that missing chrome out of the grille. I agree it would be the better car for the road trip and as long as you carry a fuel pump, water pump and some tuneup parts you should be good to go on that trip. This another car that could come to my house any time.

  2. Howard A Member

    Hope the seller wasn’t watching the B-J auction. A beautiful restored 1940 Plymouth sedan, in better than new condition, bidding fell flat at $15g’s, and struggled to get get $18. Poor seller lost their shirt on that one. Just no interest for these cars, and Scottsdale had a lot of millionaires walking around.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Scottsdale isn’t a very good place to sell a prewar Mom ‘n’ Pop type of car, The people who hang around there are either muscle car enthusiasts or the super premium classics. Of course if it happens to be a ’34 Ford roadster, or a mid-30s Ford of Chevy pickup the sky is the limit. I’ve been to Scottsdale more than once and that’s the way it has gone. Saturday night is the time to be at BJ’s; that’s the time when the blue chip cars sell and people get downright stupid…

  3. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Nice one, Jeff! We had one of these (a sedan) when I was in high school. I took it to Prom! Three on the Tree and the seats were like two sofas. It would go highway speed no problem, and up just about any hill in third (top gear). And on the sedan, anyway, you could stand a half-keg up in the trunk, or so I’ve heard.

  4. Gaspumpchas

    Pulled one just like this out of a junkyard in 71, was stuck, freed up and drove! 60 wound out in second, top speed 70!! Someone bought and started installing olds engine, don’t know what happened to it. Mint body and paint…ahh to be young and foolish. This one looks sweet, as nice as it is, think a tad overpriced. Plenty of room for a transplant. Good luck to new owner.
    Cheers and freezing

  5. Joe Syslo

    I’d offer this…! II bought a 1946 Ford Super Deluxe Business Coupe to drive Route 66 when both the car and I were 66. Had I been 56 instead of 66, I probably could have pulled it off! However, mobility issues and stuff caught up and I was unable to fulfill that bucket list item.

    I ended up resto-moding the car and have driven part of Route 66 and will complete it this year without having to worry about breakdowns! Certainly will make the trip much more enjoyable, not having to worry about that. It would be almost impossible to do it any other way! Custom Chassis, new drive train all new systems…basically a 2018 car with a (beautiful) 1946 body on it.

  6. Nsuracer

    Jeff, My experiences with a pre-war car on trips. A 46 Studebaker Skyway Champion. I drove it from Kansas City to Estes Park, to Oklahoma City, Wichita, Springfield, Mo. I also went to South Bend pulling a small trailer. I never had a breakdown. Fun trips all done between 1985 and 1990.

  7. LAB3

    This would look pretty nice when complete. I’m not a big fan of pre-war cars but this one has some potential.

  8. bog

    One of childhood neighbors the lovely ’40 Ford coupe, another a ’39 Ford 4 door sedan, and a third this model Plymouth. At the time my Dad had a ’47 Packard, because he liked big and powerful, something I inherited. Our next-door neighbor had a he kept on a slew of older Fords…various T’s, A’s, and B’s which he kept on his “gentleman’s” farm, and rotated in to town on the weekends. I had a great childhood ! ! We drove the entire Route 66..there and back, in a ’57 Merc when I was in 8th grade, and I drove it in 2000. Quite different experience. p.s. I’d choose the 40 Ford, btw…

  9. John S

    To me the ’40 Plymouth has a classy yet understated look. They ride a bit smoother than the Ford, (I’ve owned both over the years), but as stated, the Ford is a little quicker in handling. If on a budget and torn between the two, the Plymouth can be had for less $$$… but parts aren’t as easily found. If I were to fantasize about this Plymouth, I envision a warmed over slant 6, Tremec 5-speed and a nice set of tall radials… and hit the road, Jack!

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