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Stories from Steve: 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook (167 miles) / 1957 Plymouth Savoy (34 miles)

Updated: Mar 11



The history of these two automobiles parallels one another. I was at the 2012 Summer Raleigh Classics Auction looking at one or two low-mileage cars that James Pierson had called me about. I had researched most of the low-mileage cars on the schedule and was in the storage portion of the auction. Raleigh uses two large buildings for their show. The first building has the actual auction and about 75 automobiles to be auctioned, while the second building houses the remainder of the auction cars.


I was in the second building listening to the auctioneer when I heard the auctioneer say, "What is wrong with you people – you're not bidding – this car has only 146 miles on it from new!"


I took off like a bullet because, over the years, I had seen very few cars with mileage that low. I ran into the first building just in time to hear the auctioneer say, "You folks are not even close to the reserve – this auto will be in the cars still for sale area out back." I ran to the back of the room to see what this car could possibly be and why it had so few miles. It was a very average-looking 1953 Plymouth. As I approached the car, I recognized the owner and asked him if there was any paperwork with the vehicle. It's got piles of provenance, but the main selling point is that it's a "Hooper" car. 


"What the hell is a Hooper car?" I responded. 


He said he'd keep the car out of the for-sale area for half an hour while I read about its provenance and Hooper.


So, who was Hooper, and how come I'd never heard of him? Well, let the story begin: two articles sum up Bob Hooper and his company, which operated in Plainview, Texas, between 1932 and 1958. The first article was in the Walter P. Chrysler Newsletter (July 1978), and the second was in Old Cars Weekly (January 5, 1995).


The basic similarity of the '53 and '57 Plymouths is that both cars were shipped directly from Chrysler Corporation's assembly plants to Bob Hooper Motor Corporation in Plainview, Texas, and neither vehicle was ever sold. Hooper stored them for over 15 years with 12 additional automobiles – all still on MSO and all having between 2 and 40 original miles.


Bob Hooper was an interesting businessman who, like Ray Lambrecht (original owner of the 1958 Chevrolet Cameo Pick-Up, 1.3 miles), refused to sell several of their new cars to the general public. Hooper simply drove his to a local storage building and just left them inside. People have tried to understand the business theories of both Lambrecht and Hooper over the years with little success.

The next question is what happened to the cars through the next 50-60 years.

 

The 1953 Cranbrook (167 miles)

 

For the first 24 or so years, the Cranbrook was stored with Hooper's other low-mileage cars in a metal building in Plainview, Texas. After Hooper died in 1975, his estate was settled when his heirs found the 14 new cars. Local resident Walter Larson either bought the 14 cars and resold them to Tom Barrett of Scottsdale, Arizona, or brokered the vehicles from the estate to Barrett (Barrett became famous in the car community by partnering with Russ Jackson to form the Barrett Jackson Classic Car Auction in Scottsdale. An interesting theory was brought forth by several people who said Barrett partnered with Don Williams from the Blackhawk Collection in these purchases. I am unsure of this idea).


Barrett then sold the 14 cars to many of the country's most prominent collectors over several years. In early 1978, this Cranbrook was sold to Bill Harrah in Reno, Nevada. Bill's collection was considered the finest classic car collection in the world at that time and consisted of about 1,400 cars. Bill passed away on June 30, 1978. All his corporate interests were purchased by the Holiday Inn Corporation. Their purchase included many vehicles in which they had no interest.



Many of his cars were sold in 1985 and 1986. The Cranbrook, with 20 miles on the odometer, was bought by Ralph Engelstad of the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, and put in their collection. Engelstad decided to sell several cars and officially titled the Cranbrook in late '91. The Palace sold the Cranbrook with 24 miles to Glen Weeks from Illinois. Weeks altered the car's appearance by adding a set of original wire wheel hubcaps.


In the spring of 1993, Glen transported the car to the Spring Carlisle event to sell it. At this point, a major influence in this car's future entered the scene. A young man named Clark Goodwin saw the car at the Carlisle swap meet and talked with Glen Weeks. (It turns out that as a youngster in high school, he became enamored with cars. He and his father had restored one of the family's earlier cars, a '53 Cranbrook 4-door). Therefore, while at Carlisle, Clark and his wife were immediately attracted to the '53 Cranbrook that was for sale by Glen Weeks. Several pictures in our files show the car on display with Clark and his wife standing next to it.


It was not a good time for Clark to purchase the car since he and his wife were just starting their careers as a dentist (Clark) and mechanical engineer (wife). However, Clark could not forget about the car.


Clark missed the first public sale of the car after 1993 when it showed up for sale in 1997 and consigned to the summer '97 Kruse Auburn Auction in Indiana. Now, with 49 miles, it was sold to Carleton Motors of Youngstown, Ohio – a company owned by Cindy and Carl Woodruff. They immediately placed an ad in the Old Car Trader magazine that appeared in print late that summer. Clark spotted the ad and called them. They said if the car did not sell by October 1, they would take it to Fall Hershey for a possible sale.


Clark bought his dream car at the 1997 Fall Hershey Show – took several pictures of the vehicle arriving home – and showed the car at various AACA events. He rebuilt the brakes so he and his wife could safely take short rides with the car. Clark kept the car garaged and added very few miles until 2008. Time for a new owner. He took the vehicle back to Fall Carlisle 2008 to be sold. It was purchased by Bill Miller's Carlisle Auction Company, who immediately put it in their auction at the end of the week.



With only 120 miles, it was sold to Glen Boyd, who owned Crossroads Ford Inc., from Cary, N.C. The actual sale and transfer date was October 8, 2008.

Glen now transferred the car to his collection in North Carolina. In the spring of 2012, after four years and an additional 45 miles, he would enter the vehicle in the June 2012 Raleigh Classic Auction.

(Written 2013, Steve Ames)

 

The 1957 Savoy (34 miles)



This '57 Savoy, also a Hooper car, was exceptional and was sold to a collector in Ohio in 1976. The new owner didn't drive the vehicle, nor did he title the car. We could not find this second owner's name, but we know he probably sold the car in the late 70's to Russell Nairn from Pittsburgh, PA. (again, Russell was a collector and did not drive the vehicle).


In 1981, it appeared Richard Pomeroy of Youngstown, Ohio, bought the car and became its fourth owner. Life for this '57 Plymouth changed drastically. Pomeroy loved the vehicle. He entered the car in many shows and had a feature article written about the car in the June 1996 issue of Classic Auto Restorer. After showing the car for three years, Pomeroy decided to preserve it in its original untouched condition until early 1994. As Pomeroy explains, "I didn't have it out of my garage from 1983 to 1994".



In the early 90s, Richard Pomeroy's grandson, Shawn Barris, took an interest in caring for the Plymouth. Richard and Shawn cleaned the car from stem to stern, including the gas tank and fuel lines, and detailed the engine. They also touched up the blue paint where it had worn because of the ever-present car cover (this is evident on the left front fender, which has paint that is about 4.5 mils thick versus about 1.5 mils on the right front fender). After this attention to detail was completed, Shawn displayed the car throughout the late 1990s, accumulating many trophies, mainly in the "best original" classes.


The car stayed in Richard's garage until he passed away in 2008. After grieving for many months, Shawn helped his grandmother sell the vehicle in 2009. Another collector of low-mileage cars, Dave Perry, purchased the car even though he couldn't drive it (it was still on MSO). I had my first chance to buy this car, but I needed to find out who Bob Hooper was and the car's low mileage. In any event, Dave and a friend took the car to the Barrett Jackson Auction in 2010 and got involved in a huge storm that occurred at the auction but still managed to sell the vehicle.


Again, a low-mileage collector (a very well-known collector, Don Miller, one-time president of Roger Penske Racing) bought the car. He said he had purchased the car because he needed a low-mileage flagship Chrysler product for his collection and loved the idea that it was untitled and still on MSO.


During the next four years, the Miller Collection became too large for his facility, so in 2013, he loaned the car to the auto museum in Mooresville, NC. In 2014, he decided to sell it. He contacted D.C. Classic Cars LLC in Mooresville, NC, and asked if they would sell the car for him.



I was in Key West, Florida at the time and spotted the '57 as a new edition to the D.C. list of cars for sale. I quickly called the shop to be sure the '57 was a Hooper car – it was – I called our travel agent and arrived in Charlotte the following day – bought the car and flew back to Key West that night.


We have now come full circle to my opening statement in the first part of Cranbrook's history. The mileage now stands at 147, and with the wonderful provenance and climate-controlled conditions here at the Foundation, I believe the originality of these cars will last at least another lifetime.


Written 2015 by Steve Ames

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