by John Quilter June 2015
A Brooklin 1954 Dodge convertible was the starting point of this “chop” into a same year four door station wagon known as a Coronet Sierra. The real car was produced in the mid-1950s when every company was watching the formation of the ‘Baby Boom’ generation and the increasing popularity of family station wagons just as the minivan was created by auto manufacturers a quarter century later. Some companies had produced wood bodied wagons from the 1930s onwards but most had converted to all steel wagons as popularity increased and customers wanted a stronger and more durable station wagon. Dodge had produced a four door all steel wagon from 1950 to 1952 but this shared a body with the Chrysler and Desoto. There was a gap in 1953 when an entirely new Dodge body was launched that shared much with the lower level Plymouth. Dodge did well with this two door wagon in 1953 which shared its body with the Plymouth Suburban.
By 1954 they needed a four door wagon, but volumes were still thought to be too small to tool up for this specific model and for a car that was to see a complete redesign for 1955. The solution was to outsource the wagon production to Ionia Manufacturing in Owosso, Michigan who had been in the wood wagon business for well over a decade but had just converted to steel wagons with the 1954 model year. Buick Special and Century wagons for 1954-1956 were one of their wagon products.
Their starting point was a four door sedan for Dodge as well as Buick. The Dodge sedans were on a longer 119 inch wheel base than the 114 inch hardtops, convertibles, and two door wagons, so creating a four door wagon with sufficient space and carrying capacity and potential for a third row seat for 3 extra passengers necessitated using the longer four door sedan chassis and part of the body. Ionia created these wagons using the four door sedan shell and various parts of the Dodge produced two door wagon. Roof, upper and lower tail gate, rear quarter panels, rear bumper, etc., Only 1,300 of the real car were made, 312 with six cylinder engines and 988 with V8 engines. Could I create this unusual car using a Brooklin Dodge convertible?
This chop required cutting the convertible body in two places and stretching it, once just ahead of the rear wheel well and again in the area that would become the back edge of the rear door. Methods perfected over the years in this sort of work are to cut the bare body with a jeweler’s saw and reattach the parts with an aluminum metal strip on the inside and the outside suitably filled with my favorite modeling compound, an epoxy metal known as J B Weld. Of course the tailgate and roof had to be created from scratch. The tail gate from J B Weld and the roof from a small section of aluminium yacht moulding. This material lends itself well to slight bending and filing it being relatively soft.
The roof was created from a 2.5 inch section of aluminium yacht moulding suitably shaped on the edges and slightly arched. The Brooklin convertible has a windscreen that was too shallow for the wagon so the top of the screen had to be modified to increase its height and properly join the newly created roof. The drip rail was added to the roof with sections of aluminium sheet and the upper window frames were squared-off pieces of solder which is easily shaped and flattened. The B and C pillars were made from large copper packing box staples slightly narrowed. A chrome moulding at the belt line was a piece of silver coloured wire which also serves as the dividing line for the two tone color scheme.
The Brooklin Dodge had factory accessory wire wheels but these would have been very, very rare on a less flashy station wagon so I was able to use some generic wheels and white wall tires available from Diecast Direct. Polishing off the FORD badging on them and replacing with a V and five small dots of red paint to approximate DODGE. Because the body was stretched the chassis/base plate had to be similarly lengthened and the undercarriage details replicate for the lengthening gap. Door handles were fitted to newly drilled holes in the body sides using bent solder suitably polished to a chrome finish. Final paint was a ”Krylon” spray can of their colour “light sage gloss” and the roof a dark metallic green automotive touch up aerosol paint. These replicated Dodge’s Willow Green and Cumberland Green Metallic. Bare metal foil brought out the side moldings, the windscreen frame and wipers. As luck would have it, the bumper on a convertible with a continental kit rear spare tire is the same as used on the station wagons.
One thing I find about doing these chops, they are always unusual, but sometimes launched by model makers at a later date, but they never turn out quite as well as you would like when compared to production models. Photographs, after all is completed, always seem to highlight the flaws and imperfections. But there is still a lot of fun in creating something unique and not currently produced by any commercial model maker. But still, I think I need to use photography as my quality control method.
Note: the first photo shows a snap shot of the real car that inspired this model. The real car is currently in the hands of Mopar collector, Jim Gabl, of Joliet, Illinois.
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