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volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse Dork
7/17/14 9:31 p.m.

Those who know me know that I'm a self-acknowledged automotive hoarder. At one time I owned upwards of 40 vehicles at one time, and as one might imagine, most of them served the sole purpose of elevating my property values and preventing foliage from growing beneath them. Around a year ago my wife and I purchased a new home several hundred miles from the old one, and roughly 1/3 of the hoard was sold or scrapped, rather than moved with us. Since then I've bought and sold a few cars, but we only have a handful - perhaps 5 or 6 - running at any one time. Most of the flock are realistically just parts cars, and over 1/2 are Volvo Amazons.

In June of this year our first child was born, the most beautiful baby girl I have ever laid eyes on. And I realized that we somehow had no vehicle practical for a family. Her SUV combines the attractive attributes of poor fuel economy with the easy accessibility of a 2 door body style. My F350 4x4, while a crew cab, is a monster to drive and park, guzzles diesel, and is precarious to load and unload with a squirmy child. Everything else we own is either small, old, dangerous, or impractical- many of them all of the above.

We're both somewhat different people. And not different from each other, but rather, different from most other people. Thankfully, we're very much alike each other, which helps us get along psychologically. But we have trouble, in some ways, working within the confines of the Standard World. When I suggested to my lovely wife that we should look for a new car, something practical for the 3 of us, our dog, and our roadtrip- prone lifestyle, she balked. I suggested a 4 door version of her SUV, but the reaction was lukewarm. Similarly, numerous newer wagons were mentioned, all met with numerous shades of nonchalance. A minivan was also assumed verboten, and the subject never even broached. So, what, then?

I've been pretty good at culling further the dross of my Automotive ADD affliction, and decided to direct some of the freed up capital towards a family cruiser more befitting our kind. The Chrysler Town and Country has been a staple of Americana for decades now, and I managed to find an early example that spoke to me:

IMG-20140716-02005

This T&C spent the first 48 years of its life in Arizona, so it's almost completely rust-free. And it's fairly basic- the entry-level 383 cubic inch V8 lives under the hood, sucking fumes through a 2 barrel Stromberg WWC, and backed by a 727 automatic transmission. The windows all wind up with cranks - except the tailgate glass, which is power (and works). There's an AM radio to supply the nostalgic tunes, and ashtrays for every passenger.

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The main downside of this desert gem is just what you'd expect- a baked interior. Add in the fact that this cruiser hasn't plied actual roads in a dozen years or more and it's obvious we have some work ahead of us.

Unlike so many of my previous projects, though, I am determined, this time, to see it through. I'm hoping that chronicling the journey here will help in that regard. The immediate goal is to get the T&C roadworthy, and I mean bulletproof roadworthy. I want to be able to strap all of us in and take off for, say, Ohio (we live in Maryland) without any more thought than if we were hopping in my F350. After that, we'll focus on making it livable- freshen the interior, renew, customize, make it how we want it. The clean, straight, solid sheet metal means we won't be touching the paint gun for a while, at least- a fact I'm hoping will let me focus more on the fixes at hand. And so, the journey begins...

IMG-20140716-02003

sethmeister4
sethmeister4 Dork
7/17/14 9:57 p.m.

Oh man this is super cool! Congrats on the baby, I love your new motivation for a practical project! I'll definitely be watching this!

jde
jde Reader
7/17/14 10:06 p.m.

Awesome! Eager to see how it develops.

ryanty22
ryanty22 Dork
7/17/14 10:17 p.m.

Thats a beast. Congratulations on it

jmc14
jmc14 Reader
7/17/14 10:22 p.m.

I like it.

JFX001
JFX001 UltraDork
7/17/14 11:05 p.m.

Good choice, the only add I would suggest is A/C for the child.

Ian F
Ian F UltimaDork
7/18/14 5:35 a.m.

Sweet!

Should move to the Builds forum?

stan
stan UltraDork
7/18/14 6:32 a.m.

Cool.

Which model is that based on? Fury? Parts might be costly (body or interior), but it looks to be complete. I go to the Mopar Nationals near Columbus, O. most years, so if there's some piece of trim or other doo-dad you might be looking for let me know and I can look for it.

Stan

KyAllroad
KyAllroad Reader
7/18/14 7:50 a.m.

And the concern was mileage? Safety? Hmmmmmm

Cool car but as an honest family truckster it'll want a LOT of work. Good luck.

Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon SuperDork
7/18/14 8:22 a.m.
stan wrote: Cool. Which model is that based on? Fury? Parts might be costly (body or interior), but it looks to be complete. I go to the Mopar Nationals near Columbus, O. most years, so if there's some piece of trim or other doo-dad you might be looking for let me know and I can look for it. Stan

Newport/New Yorker.

Awesome wagon!

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 Dork
7/18/14 8:29 a.m.

I think this is cool. Gm tbi and an overdrive auto will help immensly. Also a magnum truck motor amkes more power and mpg than the big block. Look for a 5.9 auto ram that's been wanked by a big rig and transplant the whole works.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse Dork
7/19/14 12:57 p.m.

"Runs and Drives"

These words, simple and straightforward though they may be, apparently can mean different things to different people. I tend towards a fairly pessimistic interpretation, so if (as was the case for this car) I see these words in an advertisement, my inclination is to believe the car will start, keep running, and move about under its own power enough to get onto and off of a trailer.

Going through the whole process to get this car transported from where it was (Arizona) to where I am (Maryland), however, I learned that there can be an even looser definition to the phrase. Apparently when the truck arrived to load the Town and Country, the driver relayed to the dispatcher that the vehicle was non-op, which required a hauler equipped with a winch (which he did not have). When this news got to me, I was understandably upset.

As it turns out, the car did start, with a gas can next to the radiator, and the seller said that he had "driven it around the block", but that the "brakes weren't great". He apologized for the confusion, said he'd bleed the brakes, and I called the dispatcher to reschedule the pickup.

And then I waited.

Weeks went by. Independence Day weekend arrived, and the seller said he was going out of town for a week. Now I felt bad that I hadn't gotten the car picked up yet, but the seller wasn't rushed to have it gone. After he got back, the shipper finally manged to get another truck out there to retrieve my car. This was on a Thursday. I asked the dispatcher to arrange the car to be delivered to me after noon Tuesday the following week- as in, any day, any time, as long as it was after 12PM on Tuesday.

66newport2

So, naturally, Mr Truck Driver, and my car, arrived Tuesday morning.

Luckily, they gave me a whopping 30 minutes notice, so I was able to call a friend of mine and have it delivered to his shop nearby. He called me to tell me that the battery was dead, and they had to push it off the car hauler. When I got there that afternoon, jumper cables and gas can in hand, it was all we could do to get the car to start at all; any attempts to engage a gear other than "P" resulted in stalling. With the help of gravity and a tow strap we got the car onto my trailer so that I could, finally, get it home.

66tandc_trailer

oldopelguy
oldopelguy SuperDork
7/19/14 2:30 p.m.

The electronic ignition distributors mopar used in the 70's use the same type of pickup as the gm tbi era trucks. You should be able to make a 454 tbi system work on that motor with not much more than an adapter plate for the tbi onto your manifold. Bonus for using that ecu is that it would also control a gm od automatic transmission, which is the easiest option for a big block.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse Dork
7/20/14 10:11 a.m.

The analysis of the current state of affairs of the 1966 Town and Country is ongoing, and I appreciate the offers of advice and parts-obtaining. Like most Mopars of this vintage, the mechanical bits are fairly straightforward (the 383 engine was used in everything from A bodies to trucks, and the 727 transmission was equally ubiquitous) but the rest of the parts occupy a hierarchy all their own. In order of difficulty:

1) Doo-dads specific to the Chrysler Newport. Search eBay for awhile and you'll usually run across a couple.

2) Wagon-specific widgets. Shared across the Fury/Newport/Monaco line, there's some specialty websites that carry them, but at a cost.

3) Thingamawhatchits specific ONLY to the Chrysler Town and Country. Scour desert junkyards, parts meets, etc. Have cash on hand.

A buddy of mine and I developed a color-coding system for parts, depending on how hard they were to come by and how expensive they are. Parts falling into category #3 above were known as "purple parts", i.e, scarce and dear. For now, I'm still trying to figure out what I need for the beast, what's going to get swapped out now, and what the future plans will be. I DO know that it's missing most of the Town and Country badging (Cat. #3 pieces), the "CHRYSLER" across the hood (Cat. #1), and the little vertical chrome strip on the leading edge of the front left fender (you can see it, or rather, note its conspicuousness by its absence, in the frontal headlight photo above). I've found NOS trim, but "good used, driver quality" is more the price-point I'm after. Luckily, this is a Category #1 part, so there's some out there. I'd like to replace the tail light lenses at some point (they have hairline cracks) but this is more Cat. #3 stuff, and not an immediate need.

The_Jed
The_Jed UltraDork
7/20/14 11:52 a.m.

Any interior pics?

ebonyandivory
ebonyandivory Dork
7/20/14 1:09 p.m.

I searched Craigslist one day ago and saw one for sale locally. I figured it was a misprint: for sure it was a minivan!

That is one hot body style!

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
7/20/14 3:17 p.m.

Dayum. When it spoke to you, what did it say?

They never talk to me, sometimes they wake me up in the night, but never whisper.....

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse Dork
7/21/14 2:01 p.m.
914Driver wrote: Dayum. When it spoke to you, what did it say?

It said, "Help me, I've been sitting in this damn carport for 2 decades. I want to get back on the ROAD!"

Here's what it looks like from behind the wheel...

IMG-20140716-02002

An ashtray built for two:

IMG-20140716-02001

And bucket seats. Some work required.

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JohnRW1621
JohnRW1621 UltimaDork
7/21/14 2:11 p.m.

In the first post, you mention the T&C is for new kid transport.
Does a '66 T&C even have rear seat belts so that you can be compliant with possible state law that requires car-seats for children?

stuart in mn
stuart in mn PowerDork
7/21/14 2:22 p.m.

Bucket seats in a wagon - cool!

I believe that by 1966 all US cars had rear seat belts (not shoulder harnesses, of course - they came later) but if not, they were at least built to accept them. New period correct seat belts are available from a couple sources, including http://www.ssnake-oyl.com/ and http://www.julianos.com/seat_belts.html; even if belts are already installed it may be a good idea to replace them because of their age.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 Dork
7/21/14 4:49 p.m.

Your color code setup is oddly similar to the color code setup in the borderlands video game.

Julianos is good people. So is wescott.

I love old mopars...

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair UltimaDork
7/21/14 5:28 p.m.
  1. upholstery: junkyard seat swap.
  2. air conditioning: vintage air is probably the easiest.
  3. overdrive: not sure the lingo on chrysler automatics, but it shoudn't be difficult.
  4. win!
Lof8
Lof8 Reader
7/21/14 6:26 p.m.

I like this one!

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse Dork
7/22/14 7:06 a.m.
stuart in mn wrote: Bucket seats in a wagon - cool! I believe that by 1966 all US cars had rear seat belts (not shoulder harnesses, of course - they came later) but if not, they were at least built to accept them. New period correct seat belts are available from a couple sources, including http://www.ssnake-oyl.com/ and http://www.julianos.com/seat_belts.html; even if belts are already installed it may be a good idea to replace them because of their age.

Mrs. Volvoclearinghouse and I talked about the plan for seats and seat belts over dinner last night...

I must add here that Monday nights are usually "Mexican" night, which typically entails cooking up some beans with various spices, and serving over greens with rice or pasta and frequently tortilla chips, with avocado and sour cream and tomatoes. For whatever reason I was REALLY looking forward to having some nice crunchy tortilla chips last night. I opened THE LAST bag and found, to my disgust, that the bag had already been opened- a little chew hole right in the side. Ugh. The bag went in the trash, and now I apparently have to find the critter that forced me to eat pita chips with my dinner last night. And kill him.

Back to the Town & Country...

We discussed three options last night:

1) Remove the front seats, bring them to a local trim shop (recommended by a friend who has had them do work on older car seats for him), pay $$$$, wait probably a month, have freshly covered seats. Buy new seat belts from one of the above vendors- probably 3 points in the front to replace the lap belts (the T/C has a good, sturdy 'B' pillar to attach the upper belt to) and lap belts in the back. There aren't any now, but there are attach points for them as Stuart pointed out above.

2) Redo the front seats ourselves, save $$$, take more time, possibly (probably) frustration.

3) Find seats from something modern, recover so they don't look hideously out of place.

After some discussion we decided to go with Option 3 for now. It will be the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to get us back on the road comfortably and safely. I found that seats from late-model Chrysler Sebring convertibles have integrated 3 point belts, so they should be ideal. Get a set of seat covers (the wife hates leather) and we're sitting pretty for less than $200. We'll save the original seats, of course, and when we have some money saved up those will get redone.

4

As for the back seat, it's torn, but not in as bad a shape as the fronts. Being a wagon, it has a tilt and latch mechanism, so replacing it with a seat from another car would require a bit more fabrication and engineering. For now we'll simply slip-cover it, and install new belts from one of the above vendors. Even the modern child car seats we have are designed to work just fine with lap belts.

Thanks again for the tips on seat belt vendors!

The_Jed
The_Jed UltraDork
7/22/14 7:16 a.m.

What's the diameter of the steering wheel? That thing is huge!!!

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