Saturday, October 7th 2023
The year was 1957. The Soviet Union had just launched Sputnik. The world's first artificial satellite. This event would not only trigger the beginning of the space race. But would also ignite the imagination of a young man in Coalwood, WV, Homer Hickam. According Homer's memoir, Rocket Boys later adapted into the movie classic October Sky. That he and his friends set out to build their own rockets and later enter and win the National Science Fair. All of Homer's crew went to college. Homer went on to become an engineer for NASA. But how did the boys get around? Well according to the movie, they traveled in a 1937 Plymouth DeLuxe owned by one of the boys, Roy Lee.
1937 Plymouth DeLuxe
1937 was a year of firsts and last for Plymouth. It was the first year they offered a pickup truck. But also the last year for vented windshields (that open for ventilation). Plymouth was the 3rd top automaker in the states at the time and was one of the few car companies that faired well during the Great Depression. New for the1937 Plymouth DeLuxe was a redesign of the instrument cluster. Gauges were now situated in front of the driver instead of the sticking out in middle of the dash like on previous models. Several versions of the car were produced. The P3 (2 door) and P4 (4 door) varieties being the most popular. All 1937 Plymouths DeLuxes came with a 201.3 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine making roughly 80 horsepower. Backed by a 3 speed floor shift manual transmission.
Roy Lee's Car
In the book it mentions that Roy Lee inherited the car after his father was killed in the mine. In the 1950s having your own car as a teenager was pretty rare. Even if said car was almost 20 years old in the time the movie takes place. A lot of these cars by then were either abandoned in junkyards are made into hot rods. But I have to note there was one feature of Roy Lee's car that made it unique. It's missing the front grill and bumper. Not sure if it was lost to time or something custom the boys did. Hard to say. But I think it looks kinda neat without the grill. The rear bumper is also not standard. Appears to be custom or make-shift. Some of my favorite dialog from the movie takes place in the car. Including this gem between Quentin and Roy Lee.
* Roy Lee is trying to start the car.
Quentin: You got a loose choke cable. You hear that? The butterfly valve isn't closin' all the way. Uh, last year I built an internal combustion engine... and entered it in the science fair.
Roy Lee: Yeah, well, you wouldn't happen to have it on you, would you?
So why did I choose to research and write about Roy Lee's car. Well several reasons. October Sky is one of my favorite movies. I watch it every fall. After this year's viewing I thought I would write about what may be the only hero car in the movie. It's for sure the most pictured car in the film. Roy Lee seemed to have a love/hate relationship with the car itself. In one scene he's seen shooting at it. But the last reason is I love the film is it reminds me some of my own childhood, growing up in coal country. That's all for now. Aim high!References: ply33.com, Concept Carz, No Reserve 1937 Plymouth P4 5/31/2020 - YouTube