An all-steel '53 Suburban...
An all-steel '53 Suburban two-door wagon that Burl Cohen cruises around Southern California with.
That's an .060-inch overbored...
That's an .060-inch overbored Dodge Red Ram Hemi in the '53's engine bay, replacing the original flathead six. Note the chrome air cleaner from a mid-'60s 273 HiPo.
Even after getting a substantial...
Even after getting a substantial top chop, there's room enough inside for custom-upholstered Ford EXP front buckets and a custom center console.
Skillful metalwork transformed...
Skillful metalwork transformed this '53 Plymouth Suburban from a breadbox-like steel box to a sleek(ish) cruiser. Modern headlights contrast and complement the stock grille bar.
Is it bigger than a breadbox?
Young Guns and Mopar lovers born before 1960 might not remember that phrase, but ask some of the more senior ChryCo devotees and they certainly will. They also might have a memory or two of the '53-'54 Plymouth Suburban wagons--but not ones done up like Burl Cohen's.
Burl's two-door, all-steel-body, '53 wagon was built by Chrysler at a time when it had an assembly plant in San Leandro, California, so there's a chance it was put together there instead of at Lynch Road. Burl lives in Pasadena, California, and his Plymouth received a lot of customizing touches usually seen on West Coast brand-X shoebox cars of the '50s. That includes a tasteful reslicing of its loaf-like body profile, including a sizeable chop to the top, while keeping the wagon's remaining body panels intact. Then it needed some serious metal finishing before the first drop of primer went on, which preceded the spraying on of its Red Pearl paint.
Underneath all that is where the big work was done. A '79 Camaro Z/28 gave up its front subframe and front suspension, which were clipped onto the Plymouth's frame with a same-vintage Mopar F-Body steering box added on. In back, a '72 Valiant provided the 8 3/4-inch rearend and rear leaf springs. KYB Gas-A-Just shocks are on each corner. Inside the wheelwells, there's a set of smoothies from Wheel Smith wearing 60-series Firestone rubber.
Into that updated chassis went a period-correct engine and a 315-inch Dodge Red Ram Hemi--a cool choice for an early '50s Mopar. It was treated to an .060-inch overbore and a rebuild--thanks to a good supply of original and repro early Hemi internal parts found in SoCal---and plenty of underhood chrome. Rounding out the powertrain is a built 727.
The Suburban's interior got grey velour-upholstered Ford EXP front seats that replaced the original "chair-high" front bench, plus a Grant steering wheel on the Mopar F-body steering column. There's also a custom console with the 727's shifter in it, a set of modern gauges, and a sound system that benefits from the updated 12-volt electrical system.
Burl first saw this car at the Long Beach High-Performance swap meet, and then he saw it again the following week at the Pomona swap meet. As he puts it, "It must have been destiny."
Custom '53 Plymouth Suburban wagon
Does that mean the Red Ram,...
Does that mean the Red Ram, Firedome, and FirePower Hemis were all created on the same day?
Too many '50s-vintage rides...
Too many '50s-vintage rides had their underhood paint singed off by fires caused by leaky carburetors and/or backfires. If Burl's Plymouth ever had such a fire, you'd never know it now.
The original two-piece tailgate...
The original two-piece tailgate got its share of attention during the customizing process and still functions as before. "Plymouth" script on the tailgate is a replated original trim piece.
Mopar Power Engine: Out: The original flathead six. In: A 315-inch Dodge Red Ram Hemi, bored .060-inch over, with plenty of reproduction speed/appearance goodies. That includes a .472-inch lift/276-degree duration camshaft and lots of underhood chrome. There's also a custom four-muffler exhaust system downstream of the Red Ram. Transmission: Three-on-the-tree? No. GyroMatic Drive? Are you kidding? A built 727? Yes! with an adapter that fits the modern aluminum-case 727 to the vintage Hemi engine Rearend: a 3.21-geared 8 3/4-inch.
Sure Grip Suspension: In front, a brand-X ('79 Camaro Z28) coil-sprung subframe with a Mopar F-Body steering box. In back, rear leaf springs from a '72 Valiant. All around, KYB Gas-A-Just shocks. Brakes: Front disc/rear drum system provides plenty of stopping power. Rims & Rubber: Wheel Smith Smoothies (14x6 inch in front, 15x7 inch in back) wear Firestone blackwall radial-ply tires (P195/60R14 front, P225/60R15 rear).
High Impact Body: The original two-door Plymouth Suburban wagon's top was chopped, and all other body panels were shaved, smoothed, and expertly metal-finished by Jerry Burton and Gary McDonald. Paint: Burton and McDonald sprayed on a shade of Red Pearl that would have caused a scandal if it was a stock Plymouth color in 1953. Interior: Ford EXP front buckets (upholstered in grey velour) and a custom center console replaced the original chair-high front bench seat. Mopar F-Body steering column with a Grant steering wheel replaced the OEM column and pizza pan-size stock wheel.