Cochise County Classic Cars: 1954 Plymouth Belvedere 2 Door Station Wagon

Oddly enough, despite me being 71 years of age and a 1950’s car buff, the 1954 Belvedere 2 door station wagon was a complete surprise. Cochise County had done it again.

The red and white machine was sitting right there in the Country House Restaurant parking lot when I pulled in. Not feeling particularly intrusive, I didn’t barge into my favorite breakfast spot yelling, “Who owns the Belvedere?” It could have been any of nearly two dozen old men chowing down, minding their own business; the least I could do was mind my own.

Well…sort of. I did grab the Canon PowerShot and take a few photos, some of which are shared here.

When the household settled down this evening (around 1:00 a.m., the wife having stayed up with me a bit longer than usual), it was time to figure out (a) what exact year model the car was (obviously early fifties, but it took a bit of Googling to pin it down) and (b) whether or not I’d ever gotten around to setting up a Classic Cars Index on this website–which I had not. Dang. Should have done that a year ago.

Anyway, the Chrysler Corporation cars of that era have long held my interest, at least a little bit. Owned a clunker 1953 Dodge two door (and two tone) hardtop once, though the engine seized up fatally and forever after I managed to add roughly 5,000 miles to the odometer. Chased girls in it till it quit on me, though. Didn’t catch any. Borrowed one uncle’s 1950 Plymouth in Spokane, Washington, one evening, intending to drop in on a girl I’d met earlier in the day during Senior Skip (activities with the rest of my classmates held no interest), but got lost in the big city and had to backtrack in some disgust to return the vehicle.

An aunt and her husband drove a 1952 Plymouth for more than 20 years, including a spinout on black ice on a two lane highway that got them T-boned by an oncoming vehicle. That aunt used to stop by our ranch home on rare summer days when I was too young to work in the hayfields, taking me and my sisters to the Bearmouth swimming hole which was full of leeches then and was filled in with dirt and rock later when I-90 construction sacrificed the warm spring (it never froze over) to the God of Progress. I’ve hated those highway designers ever since and keep hoping against hope that Mother Nature will wash that section of freeway right off the map someday, but so far it never has.

The Hagerty.com Classic Car Price Guide describes the 1954 Plymouth Belvedere’s history:

The hi-line Plymouth Belvedere tiptoed into showrooms in 1953, as a subset of the Cranbrook line, and it returned in 1954 as a Plymouth’s stand-alone luxury car. The range included a four-door sedan, a two-door hardtop, a convertible, and oddly, a two-door Suburban station wagon. The standard engine was the venerable 217-cid, 100-hp L-head six-cylinder, and the base transmission was a three-speed stick. The semi-automatic Hy-Drive was offered for the last time this year, and the PowerFlite automatic was also optional. Prices hovered around $2,000….

Hagerty goes on to estimate the station wagon’s value today at $8,878.

The Cochise County vehicle’s owner isn’t likely concerned about its current retail value but about its value in his life, most likely priceless.

I had to smile at the combination of sheer practicality and bravado evidenced in the first photo. The silvery exterior hinges are not likely stock, but they’re obviously functional. The dual exhaust pipes are not likely needed for what is almost certainly a small “straight six” engine…though it could have been upgraded to a V-8. You never know what one of us sneaky senior citizens might have lurking under such an innocent looking hood. (I’ve always loved a “sleeper” vehicle that encouraged folks to underestimate what it could do with the hammer down…and this old wagon would make one heck of a sleeper.)

Heh. It was almost more fun studying the Belvedere without the owner present; I got to use my imagination any way I liked.

Cochise County, Arizona:  1954 Plymouth Belvedere 2 door station wagon with "custom" rear hatch hinges and dual exhaust pipes.

Cochise County, Arizona: 1954 Plymouth Belvedere 2 door station wagon with “custom” rear hatch hinges and dual exhaust pipes.

That looks to be the original paint job, too–and if this station wagon hasn’t been garaged for most of its life, that’s quite a testimonial to a batch of sixty year old paint.

Now, the full length profile view (right side) is pretty cool…

Profile view, right side, 1954 Plymouth Belvedere 2 door station wagon.

Profile view, right side, 1954 Plymouth Belvedere 2 door station wagon.

FEE PATENT and PLYMOUTH BELVEDERE 007 (2)

…but an up-close look at a tire and wheel assembly provides fuel for my “sleeper” conspiracy theory. Does that wheel (let alone the rubber) look 1950’s stock to you?

Not exactly a stock wheel (or tire) for a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon.

Not exactly a stock wheel (or tire) for a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon.

No, this is clearly not the killer 1959 Plymouth in the Christine movie, but it just might not be quite as meek and mild as it wants you to think, either. There was a local cop in Philipsburg who drove a super-hot 1959 Plymouth, come to think of it. He jumped that big Plymouth out of an alley and stopped me one morning around 3:00 a.m. as I was tooling through his town, headed home, drunker’n a skunk. In fact, I was driving that ol’ 1953 clunker Dodge hardtop, and was so drunk I couldn’t be sure if I was handing him my driver’s license or my punch card for lunches at Drummond High School. The only think that saved me from getting a ticket was the simple fact that he was at least as drunk as I was and had no idea what I’d handed over, either.

Fell asleep on the 34 mile drive home that night, collected a batch of weeds in the grille. Missed the dropoff into the river, though, so it was all good.

Come to think of it, that poor ol’ Dodge’s engine probably seized up a few months later out of pure terror. Never thought of it that way. Poor thing.

Back to the fifty-four Belvedere. Gotta have a front view, right?

1954 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon, left front.

1954 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon, left front.

Naturally, any vehicle worth its salt back then had to have a stylish hood ornament, the better to spear you with.

1954 Plymouth Belvedere hood ornament.

1954 Plymouth Belvedere hood ornament.

With all this, the owner of the ’54 Plymouth Belvedere 2 door station wagon may turn out to be simply a gentleman who enjoys the car and takes it easy going down the road to meet his friends for breakfast every now and then. Could be. But I like the idea of an eighty year old fire breathing silver wolf who waits for the kid in the black Honda CRX to sneer at the ancient red and white wagon at a stoplight. The youngster revs his engine a couple of times, then drops the hammer as the light changes, laying rubber–and the sixty year old Plymouth blows his doors off.

Hey, it’s my fairy tale, and I’m sticking to it.