Curbside Classic Capsule: 1953 Plymouth Cambridge Club Sedan – Flaming Flathead Six

This ’53 Plymouth is a bit of an enigma, but I think I’ve unraveled its mysteries. Let’s just say ’53 Plymouths are not what one typically imagines in terms of a customized car from the ’50s with flames. Especially when they’ve still got the stock 97hp flathead six under the hood (I checked by looking underneath). But then this is in Portland, and Portland likes to keep it weird.

The ’53-’54 Plymouth was always seen as the dowdiest of the Big Three; well that goes for their even taller and boxier predecessors. And with their flathead sixes, which weren’t very conducive to easy hopping up, unlike the Ford V8 and the Chevy ohv six, these dullards were generally left stock. And in the hands of their original owners for longer than average, due to their better than average toughness.

Except for the fuzzy dice and the “Historic Tattoo – Portland, OR” sticker on the dash, it’s bone stock. And a bit dreary, given that this is a bare bones Cambridge and not a tony Cranbrook.

I so remember riding on base-level cars like this from the ’50s, with their painted steel and gray interiors. The Mennonite family I stayed in the summers in Iowa had a tired ’53 Cambridge just like this, but a four door. It had taken them on their trip of a lifetime to Oregon, in fact very close to Eugene, where they had relatives near Harrisburg. That was in the late ’50s. Now by 1964, it was more than just tired. But that summer Mr. Yoder, who always struggled financially, had taken a job delivering mail as a contractor, and I rode along with him one day.

I can see him there behind the wheel, shifting the gears and making that poor old six moan. A big box of mail sat between us, and I stuck the mail into the boxes. It made life a bit easier for him that day, not having to scoot over and reach out the passenger side window.

He knew the Plymouth was on its last legs, and when I went back in the summer of ’65, an almost new Bel Air sedan had replaced it. It too was a six and three-speed manual, but that’s just what Mennonites mainly drove back then.

But no flames on Mr. Yoder’s Plymouth. So back to this one. I’m guessing the owner found himself this nice old but somewhat patinated car, and decided to give it the ’50s vintage cruiser look.

The paint was popping fresh, including the flat black base coat. The bumper tells the tale of what it was like before.

Yes, dual exhausts, but looks can be deceiving.

It’s perfect…in more ways than one.


Here’s Jason Shafer’s full CC on the ’53 Plymouth