The year was 1941 and America had not yet officially entered the War, President Franklin Roosevelt entered his 3rd term in office and Dumbo primers in theaters the top song was “Chattanooga Choo Choo ” by Glenn Miller. The average cost of living in 41 for a new house was $4,075.00, Average wages per year $1,750.00, Cost of a gallon of Gas 12 cents and the average Price for a new car $850.00. This was the year when my recently acquired 1941 Plymouth Deluxe was built. Below is the story of this beautiful car and its amazing story.
The story is written by Patricia Rennison who is the wife of the former owner of the car.
It all starts with Hugh Frederick Rennison (Fred). Fred grew up loving motors and automobiles. He would even motorize his bicycle. Fred supported his family in the late 1930s and early 1940s by working at a car dealership in Long Beach, California. The dealership like many other business weathered the Great Depression of the 1930s but was having difficulties meeting the payroll and other obligations. One day the owner gathered the employees together and explained the financial circumstances taking place. He asked them to forgo their paychecks for a period of time until the business was solvent again. He told them he would provide food, utilities, and rent for each family so all could remain employed.
The plan worked and as a bonus the owner offered each employee a new car at the factory price. Fred’s wife, Iva and sister, Blanche, boarded a bus and traveled to Detroit, Michigan, to pick up two new 1941 Plymouth’s from the factory. The two sisters started out for home traveling along the Lincoln Highway back to Long Beach. When they reached the Nevada border, they were arrested for trafficking new cars. At the time Nevada had a law prohibiting the trafficking of new cars from the factory to California. The hope was to discourage Southern California auto dealers from hiring women to drive cars out west as it was cheaper than sending them by rail. Iva and Blanche were jailed overnight until telegraph could confirm that the cars were legally owned by them and not the dealer.
Fred and Iva drove the Plymouth until about 1944, when they moved to Lehi, Utah. Fred opened his own shop with friend, Bob Livingston (R. & L. Automotive). The Plymouth was then parked in George and Ida Rennison‘s (Freds parents) garage in Long Beach, California. When George passed from a heart attack Ida did not drive but used the bus so the car continued to sit.
By 1952, Fred and Ida moved to Chico, California, so their sons could live at home while attending Chico State College. Both sons graduated as civil engineers. Grandma Ida gave the Plymouth to Elwood Eugene Rennison in about 1956. The Plymouth was taken from Long Beach to Chico for renewal. Fred and Elwood updated the car with a new paint job from its original maroon to a deep blue. Other minor repairs were made after being stored for so long. Elwood drove the Plymouth in college and during his time in the army reserve. Starting in 1962 the Plymouth was stored again in the garage.
In 1974 or 1975, Fred and Iva moved Iva’s mother Ethel from Southern California up to Chico. They had 2 acres so where in the process of building an apartment for her. Ethel‘s furniture and belongings were stored in the double car detached garage. Her chest freezer was plugged in and one day as the freezer clicked on it sparked causing a fire. Players at the local tennis club next-door noticed the smoke and ran to help. They pushed the Plymouth out of the burning garage into the driveway, saving the car. The firemen arrived but were only able to save a few things most was lost, melted or smoke damaged. Repairs were made to the house and the apartment finished, and the Plymouth was returned to the garage.
In November 1979, the Plymouth was towed from Chico, California, to Meridian, Idaho. It wasn’t until about 2010 that Jason Bailey began restoration by taking the paint to the bare metal to discover no rust on the body. When he was priming the paint he noticed that there was a run in the finish coat, so he took it back to bare metal again, re-primed, and repainted it. The engine was taken to a fellow in Nampa who totally rebuilt the
engine. The radiator was taken to a family owned radiator shop in Caldwell which rebuilt it by hand. A custom wiring harness was ordered from Southern California and installed by a professional electrical engineer, Garee Biladeau. The original AM tube radio was still in the car but was not working so it was removed and each tube was tested. Garee and Elwood found that some of the tubes needed replacing and spent weeks finding and installing the right parts. An electric company in Caldwell had old/new tubes in stock. One tube was ordered and when it came in the original box, it was found out that it had been made in Canada for the U.S. Army in 1940. The army then sold it to China. It came from China back to Caldwell store at a cost $3.54. The radio worked great with the new tube and the radio was reinstalled into the vehicle.
Other things were done on the car were the running boards which were re-done with more modern “rhino bed” covering as the rubber line in bedded was no longer available. The chrome bumpers were re-done as well. All original chrome accessories were returned to the vehicle. An extra new mayflower logo for the trunk, the original fog lights, and several boxes of old and new parts went with the Plymouth when it was sold.
Elwood passed away in 2015 from Cancer and never finished the restoration of his car. In October of 2018, Eriks Garsvo who was in Pat Rennison‘s third-grade class at Indian Creek Elementary in Kuna, Idaho stepped up to purchase the Plymouth and finish what Elwood had started. The Rennison family is proud that Eriks will be caring for one of the family heirlooms.
I am proud to own such a car with such a history. I look forward to getting it out on the open road next summer as currently I am working on the brakes and getting a set of new white wall tires along with seat belts.
Some additional information:
1941 was the last year the Plymouth was produced because all the factories were retooled for the WWII effort. It was not until 1946 that the Plymouth was again produced after the war.