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'53 Town & Country // '05 Durango

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  • '53 Town & Country // '05 Durango

    Hey, Mopar pals.

    First post here. Starting our first classic car project, and I'd love to gather advice, tips and cautions from you more seasoned folks.

    Found a 1953 Town & Country station wagon on Craigslist a few months ago. 70K on the odometer, flathead 6 and everything stock. Without insulting fans of original equipment... the motor is a bit tepid for today's highway speeds, the brakes aren't very impressive, and the frame is in extremely rough shape from nearly 60 winters in upstate NY.

    Because we intend to use it as a daily driver and tow vehicle for our 50's Airstream trailer (Imagine everything from picking up lumper at Home Depot... to long road trips camping in Yellowstone) we'd like the convenience of disc brakes, ABS, EFI, rack/pinion steering, and 12v electrics.

    Thus, a full restomod that hides all the new stuff is really in our best interest.

    The wish list proceeds to include some balance of fuel economy, plenty of horsepower and torque for towing, all on a new, heavy-duty frame.

    AC, tire pressure monitor, backup cameras and some semblance of a modern stereo are further down the list, but would be nice in the long term for epic, multi-month road trips.

    Finally, I wanted to keep its Mopar soul intact. So in the interest of efficiency (and maybe to save a little cash) we've decided use an entire donor vehicle, vs. building it piecemeal. We bought a 2005 Durango Limited which had been in a "low speed rollover". RAM-based boxed frame, factory tow package ready to haul 7K lbs. or more, a 5.7 Hemi / 5 spd. auto trans with 70K on it, and all the wiring, computers and everything else we hope to incorporate into the wagon. From cruise control to the wiper motors.

    I believe the wagon's wheelbase is longer by about 9", so the Durango frame will almost certainly need to be lengthened. Wheels and suspension will be swapped or modified to stay as close to stock height as possible, while keeping big, safe brakes on it.

    Hoping to build a modern SUV in a classy, old suit.

    ---------- Post added at 11:10 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:57 AM ----------









    ---------- Post added at 11:22 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:10 AM ----------

    And a few interior shots.





    The spectacular interior is thanks to the fact this wagon belonged to a funeral home for 40 years. It delivered floral bouquets to to the cemetery, and thus didn't lead a very hard life.





    We intend to keep it just this nice, adding features to an additional dash below the original, and using period knobs and levers where possible.


  • #2
    Nice car!! But think I would keep it stock. Anyways, it's yours to do what you want with. hemibee68 would be the guy to talk to about the swap. He built a pickup using a Durango chassis etc. He calls it a Duramago
    http://www.moparstyle.com/forums/dod...-duramago.html

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    • #3
      Welcome to the site! Sounds like a cool project, I like the idea of updating it but leaving it mostly stock looking. Keep us up to date on it!
      The retard cannot comprehend that everyone else isn't.

      "Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians - except for the occasional mountain lion steak".
      ~Ted Nugent

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      • #4
        I love the old look new tech stuff.
        2006 Town@Country loaded

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Cranky View Post
          Nice car!! But think I would keep it stock. Anyways, it's yours to do what you want with....
          Thanks. It's certainly not a decision I'm taking lightly... not only because it'll lose its originality, but also because we're talking about investing $15K+ into it, vs. not spending a dime if we keep it as is.

          But we'd really like to use it hard and every day. I feel it's important to keep it accelerating, handling and stopping commensurate to everyone else in highway traffic, and while safely pulling a 3500 lb. trailer.

          Still, I definitely see your point. Thanks for the link - I'll check it out!

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          • #6
            It would be nice to keep all those original gages etc. Really looks nice in there I did a 87 Ram pickup on the durango chassis by the way a 2005 roll over but not such an easy roll over. It is a lot of work and one main thing is that the durango runs at 205* and the older radiators do not stand up to the cooling requirements. Need to go with aftermarker aluminum or such.

            Thanks Cranky!

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            • #7
              Dakotas had nice suspensions, old motors, a few options on bolt pattern, and various wheelbases. Should be easier to mate the Dakota and T&C wiring. Not to mention the lower cost of raising/lowering the Dak suspension.

              Two 2.5 4 cylinders, the truck-only 3.9 V6, the Jeep/Truck 3.7 V6, the 4.7 V8, 5.2/5.9 V8 all had mounts in various Dakota frames. Big blocks, older small blocks, and 5.7s don't require a ton of work to use in a Dakota frame either.
              '67 Dart 270 4 door '72 340(9.5:1), 727, 8-3/4", A/C, original interior, big bolt discs

              '77 Aspen SE 2 door '77 318, 998,8-1/4",A/C, Cruise control car,power discs,power steering

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              • #8
                Originally posted by hemibee68 View Post
                It would be nice to keep all those original gages etc. ...one main thing is that the durango runs at 205* and the older radiators do not stand up to the cooling requirements...
                Hemibee, love your Duramago. Thanks for weighing in, and yes yours definitely was a harder roll.

                Original gauges will definitely stay put. There's a place in Tennessee called Redline that swaps gauges and clocks from 6 to 12v. On the radiator, hoping to use the Durango one. My only concern up to now is that there's less surface area to the wagon's grill than the Durango. Hoping that won't be an issue.

                Originally posted by 270SE View Post
                Dakotas had nice suspensions, old motors, a few options on bolt pattern, and various wheelbases. Should be easier to mate the Dakota and T&C wiring. Not to mention the lower cost of raising/lowering the Dak suspension...
                270SE, we already have the Durango so we'll take a stab at it first... but I'll keep the Dakota in mind if we can't make this frame work without major headaches. Definitely sounds like wheelbase may not be the only stumbling block with the Durango. I do love that being our tow vehicle it would be heavy duty, fully boxed, etc.

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                • #9
                  Oh yeah, and welcome to the site!

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                  • #10
                    Neat project! Keep us up with photos as you can.
                    "You're only as old as the women you feel."
                    -Groucho Marx
                    Moparless for now

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                    • #11
                      Welcome and wow what a cool build!
                      "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" Ben Franklin

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                      • #12
                        That's a beautiful wagon. Good luck on the build. Hope you take lots of photos of the progress and keep us posted on the build.

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                        • #13
                          Thanks Cranky, Unfettered, Hemi67s and Bblock.

                          I'll keep you all updated; hope to head out for a long camping trip with the wagon and Airstream by this time next year. We'll see...

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                          • #14
                            *bump*

                            any updates?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nonstick View Post
                              any updates?
                              Hey guys,

                              Not much new to report, though things should pick up speed soon. I'm looking at early May to begin the big swap at Fox Valley Hot Rods, and this past weekend I began the final push to strip and chop the body off the Durango chassis. One Sawzall and several hours later, I'm down to the floor, a rear quarter post, and the firewall is still largely intact. Not sure how much further I should go, but ultimately it will probably need to be free of all steel except the frame.

                              The complexity of the stock wiring harness, and the difficulty of staying away from it with the saw - was too much to hope to reuse. I'll need a new one, however I'm still hoping there's a way to reuse the engine's computers. We'll see.







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