Darrell Bacon enlisted the help of both his father and son in bringing the family’s rare 1937 Plymouth PT50 pickup back to life. The truck now rides on a modern Dodge Dakota chassis, but still looks the way it did when first purchased as a work truck by Elvin Bacon back in 1951. Mike Berry The Wichita Eagle
Darrell Bacon enlisted the help of both his father and son in bringing the family’s rare 1937 Plymouth PT50 pickup back to life. The truck now rides on a modern Dodge Dakota chassis, but still looks the way it did when first purchased as a work truck by Elvin Bacon back in 1951. Mike Berry The Wichita Eagle

Cars

Keeping it all in the family with a ’37 Plymouth pickup

November 08, 2017 08:10 PM

UPDATED November 11, 2017 08:19 AM

McPHERSON

If ever there was a “family pickup,” the black beauty that now belongs to Darrell Bacon has to be it. And it’s a rare machine, to boot: a 1937 Plymouth PT50 light duty truck.

“Most people who see it say, `I didn’t know Plymouth made a truck,’ ” he says. Best estimates are that Plymouth built somewhere around 11,000 pickups that first year, with pickup production continuing until 1941.

“My grandfather, Glenn Bacon, sold it brand new to a farmer as a work truck for $610,” Bacon said, explaining that his grandfather was part of the family-owned Sid Bacon auto dealership back in the 1930s.

“In 1951, Dad (Elvin Bacon) bought it as an old work truck. He drove it back and forth to the refinery, where he worked. I drove it some in high school … I took my wife, Stephanie, out on dates in it,” Bacon said. The attachment to the old black Plymouth pickup grew stronger as the years went by.

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“We weren’t wealthy, it was just transportation,” Bacon said. “I told my dad, ‘Of all your junk, this is what I want.’ About 15 years ago, he handed the title to me and it was mine.”

He used the truck much like his dad did, as a go-to-work truck, with the idea that someday he would do a complete restoration on it.

But a workshop accident changed all that, as Darrell Bacon lost his right arm. He was no longer able to operate the 3-speed manual transmission in the pickup. But encouraged by his father, who told him that “ ‘Can’t’ can’t do anything,” he decided to change the mission to accommodate his new reality.

With the help of his dad and his son, Adam, they set out three years ago to put a modern chassis and drivetrain, including an automatic transmission, under the ’37 Plymouth bodywork. They chose a 1994 Dodge Dakota pickup powered by a 3.7 liter V-6 engine, meaning the truck would still have all MoPar parts.

“I kind of felt like I was violating it when we pulled the flathead engine out of it. We started with the radiator and took all the dimensions and worked our way back. We had to cut the front of the frame down a little bit and we took 11 inches out of the middle of the frame,” he said. Surprisingly, from the firewall back, the Dodge frame was a near perfect fit.

The objective was to keep the exterior of the truck as near to original as possible, right down to the cracked rear window glass, damaged when Darrell’s older sister, Jean, slammed into the window during a panic stop when she was a youngster.

“That’s when kids rode standing up on the seat and nobody thought anything about it,” Bacon said. The rest of the glass in the cab was replaced with modern materials.

Finding parts for a rare 80-year-old truck wouldn’t be easy. When the original steering column wouldn’t line up with the newer rack-and-pinion steering unit, Bacon fabricated his own chain-and-sprocket offset link and solved that issue.

He was able to find reproduction patch panels to repair some rusty spots. And he located new cardboard headliner and door cards online. But he insisted on keeping the leather seat cover that his grandmother had sewn for his dad’s birthday gift many years before. A set of vintage-looking Omega Kustom instruments were slipped into the original dash openings.

When after-market shifters looked too flashy, he created his own to replicate a ’30s-style shift lever topped by a caramel-swirled oval knob.

When all the body work was completed, the truck was painted, naturally enough, in single-stage Chrysler black. He sneaked a pair flaming Snoopy decals onto the headlight buckets to surprise his father, Elvin, who is a big fan of the comic strip dog.

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The whole project took almost exactly a year to complete. Now Darrell Bacon can enjoy driving the family Plymouth pickup again.

“I can cruise down the highway and somebody can get passed by an old pickup that will make you look twice,” he grinned.

And if you look quick enough, you’ll notice an original Sid Bacon Motors dealership tag that Adam Bacon found at the ReUse It Center in McPherson proudly displayed on the rear of that old truck.

For more information on the project, go to: https://facebook.com/37Plymouthbuild/