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'53 Town & Country // '05 Durango

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  • bredlo
    started a topic '53 Town & Country // '05 Durango

    '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.


  • Unfettered
    replied
    Nice start so far.....

    Leave a comment:


  • bredlo
    replied
    New starting date for the big build is June - so I should have some big updates in the next few weeks. Body came off the Durango without much struggle... just several hours, a Sawzall, and a few blades. Some of the wiring harness was cut during the process (they really weave into all types of places you can't get it out from) but I kept it and all the computers, etc.

    Now hoping to have a custom harness built that will let us maintain some of the safety and long-distance conveniences - AWD transfer case, variable speed wipers, and cruise control. We'll see.

    Here's the Durango all stripped down:
    http://bradcornelius.com/durango.stripped/

    Leave a comment:


  • bredlo
    replied
    Quick update: June is now the official start date for the "big operation". The Durango has been stripped down to the frame, minus wiring harness - which was incredibly complicated and impossible to remove from the body panels without damaging them anyhow.

    I still have all the computers and 95% of the wiring on hand, in case it's needed. But it looks like we'll need a whole new custom harness, hopefully one that can still give us some long-distance comforts like AWD transfer case settings, multi-speed windshield wipers and cruise control. I'll be researching this as the Durango's frame is lengthened and the wagon is prepped for the body swap.

    More updates as things happen!

    Nude '05 Durango photos:
    http://bradcornelius.com/durango.stripped/

    Leave a comment:


  • bredlo
    replied


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  • bredlo
    replied
    I updated, but it wasn't posted.

    All's well, and the Durango should be finished being stripped to the frame today or tomorrow. Looking at early May to do the work, which is now likely to include a new floor for the wagon, and a custom wiring harness.

    Beyond those new items: the 6" frame stretch, new body mounts, conversion of the original gauges and lights for 12v, lower profile wheels, and of course modifying the suspension (possibly via airbags) ...is all still on the main list.

    http://bradcornelius.com/chrysler/durango.demo1.JPG
    http://bradcornelius.com/chrysler/durango.demo2.JPG
    http://bradcornelius.com/chrysler/durango.demo3.JPG
    http://bradcornelius.com/chrysler/durango.demo4.JPG
    Last edited by bredlo; 04-18-2013, 02:04 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • bredlo
    replied
    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.







    Leave a comment:


  • nonstick
    replied
    *bump*

    any updates?

    Leave a comment:


  • bredlo
    replied
    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...

    Leave a comment:


  • Bblock
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • hemi67s
    replied
    Welcome and wow what a cool build!

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  • Unfettered
    replied
    Neat project! Keep us up with photos as you can.

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  • Cranky
    replied
    Oh yeah, and welcome to the site!

    Leave a comment:


  • bredlo
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • 270SE
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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