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Missoula, Montana, April 1978. Jerry’s Sinclair performs an oil and filter change and a lube job on a customer’s 1970 Plymouth Fury III. The eight-year-old four-door hardtop could already be considered a low-mileage creampuff, with only 38,574 miles on its odometer. Its Sunfire Yellow paint still gleams, its black vinyl top remains tight, shiny and free of rust-induced lumps, and its black bench seats and dash are perfect. It’s nicely equipped with Chrysler’s LA-series 318, a 904 Torqueflight automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning. It even has front and rear bumper guards. The years have been kind to the Fury. The mechanic fills out a little card with the services provided and the mileage, and slips it into a little plastic holder mounted on the dash to the left of the speedometer. The owner picks up the car and goes on his or her way.
The details of the accident are no longer known. Whatever the circumstances, the Fury was left heavily damaged, its front stub frame pushed 12 to 18 inches to the left. The fan chewed up the shroud, bending a couple of its blades, but the radiator remained intact. With all the front sheet metal destroyed, as well as the bumper and grille, plus the frame damage, the Fury was a total loss.
Except that the owner thought differently. Instead of going to the insurance company, and then most likely to the crusher, the Fury sat in a heated warehouse, waiting to be fixed up. Eventually, the storage charges amounted to more than the owner was willing to pay, and ownership of the C-body transferred to the tow truck driver. He continued to store the car, never fixing it and refusing to sell it, until he died at the age of 88.
After the death of the tow truck driver, the Fury was auctioned off by his estate. The buyer intended to part the Fury out, and started by listing the perfect high-backed front bench seat (with fold-down armrest) on eBay.
Enter 1970-71 Fury enthusiast and collector Bill Hanzlik. Bill, known as billyfury on Moparts.com and cbodydrydock.com, runs the website at SportFuryGT.com and owns a large number of the big Plymouths in various body styles and trim levels, including a couple of Sport Fury GT’s. Bill spotted the auction for the mint-condition front bench and contacted the seller, asking about the back seat as well. “It’s just as nice as the front,” the seller said.
“Where is it?” Bill asked.
“Still in the car,” replied the seller.
Bill asked for pictures of the car and decided to buy it whole. After having it shipped to him, he replaced the damaged fan and the upper radiator hose, since the original one was now too short to reach the radiator. He also installed a new battery, and got the car started.
The car runs and drives, although Bill says 30 mph is about as fast as you’d want to go. Understandable, since it’s in a perpetual left turn thanks to the bent frame and the buckled hood blocks most of your field of vision. It still wears its original paint, the top and interior are still as nice as they were in 1978 and it still wears the recapped snow tires it had on it when it was crashed. The condition of the top and paint suggest it was stored inside for most of its post-crash life. There are signs that things were rested on the car while it was parked, but it’s free of the gouges and rust rings that often appear on cars used as junk shelves for years. The floors and trunk are rust-free. And then there are little details like this: The black paint on the trunk-lock is unfaded and relatively free of scratches.
Bill says he hasn’t seen one this nice in many years. Pretty much all the trim on the car from the A-pillars back is similarly well-preserved, and many of the original inspection and assembly markings are still in place.
Bill has only shown the car twice. In 2009, at Mopars in the Park, he parked it against a tree and left the flashers going all weekend. Writing at Moparts, Bill said, “I took it for a few laps around the show grounds occasionally stopping to ask a random person if they knew anyone that worked on brakes.” At the 2012 Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals, where these photos were taken, the Fury was displayed in the shop area of the retro dealership, where it drew a crowd all day Friday and Saturday--arguably getting more attention than some of the pristine 1972 Mopars on display there.
Some people have suggested that Bill should restore the Fury. After all, the stub frame can be removed and the rest of the body, except for the minor dent in one rear door, is fine. But then it’d just be a nice, low-mileage four-door Fury. Left in its current condition, it’s a terrific conversation piece…and a very different sort of survivor.
7/23/2012 2:04 PM
It makes sense not to restore survivor cars but this one, I dunno. I think the damage should be repaired so the land yacht can once again float down the highway. Neat putting on display at the period dealership though.
7/23/2012 3:18 PM
7/23/2012 8:56 PM
I would love to see it restored. Yeah, it gathers more people this way than if it were restored, but doesn't any accident aftermath? It deserves better than to be gawked at. It should be restored and allowed to go beautifully, smoothly, and with dignity down the road to be stared at for its beauty.
7/24/2012 5:50 AM
Yeah, but it's still a 4 DOOR....
7/24/2012 6:14 AM
It would be nice to restore her, all classic if they make it past the 20yr mark deserve to be restored and brought back to there former glory. I am tired of the old stereotype of the 4 door, I have seen some beautiful restore projects, and with rarity of the 2door getting larger, there should be a family car class, with the memories of the family truckster and going on those cross-country family vacation some may want to relive those days with thier kids,even with these rising gas prices.
7/24/2012 7:55 AM
Apparently, the crash knocked the A/C compressor completely off the engine...
7/24/2012 9:37 AM
I think this old Fury III should be restored and enjoyed.All those pictures could be enlarged and framed for display at car shows,as to tell this old Mopar's story of once being in critical condition. Just like the name on my Yahoo auto webgroup says, "Old Mopars Never Die".
7/24/2012 9:51 AM
After looking at the photos, I'd almost bet that the upper fender trim could be saved? The left side would be easy to save,and if the right side isn't cracked where it's bent in,it can probably be gently straightened, saved, and re used as well? Any parts for that car are a challenge to find. I'd like to have seen photos of whatever it hit.
7/24/2012 2:57 PM
I love it. What a great story! When I was 16 (back in 1983,) my grandparents gave me their molly-coddled, "Sunday-only" Fury 3 (pristine with only 32,000 miles on it.) For the two months I had it, it turned heads everywhere as in the salt/rust-belt, you just didn't see early 70's daily drivers in that condition! The poor baby threw a rod on me and that was it - my parents donated it to the local vo-tech where the teacher rebuilt the engine as a class-project, then purchased it for himself from the school. This story makes me wonder if she's still out there ...I hope so.
7/24/2012 3:48 PM
Might as well have some fun with it until parts to repair it are located. I would eventually restore it. I'm surprised it is damaged this bad, these cars were tanks with wheels. Must have been a participant in a T-bone crash, but not with a Toyota.
7/24/2012 6:16 PM
This is heart braking to me as I own a '72 Fury III that I love. I have taken it off the road for the moment as the oil pressure has dropped to dangerous level and I don't want to blow the engine. Could be a clogged oil pick up at the bottom of the pan. A compression test will confirm that. I do hope the owner of this Fury will save it. I can't see it heading to the crusher just yet. There are parts out there, I know it.
7/24/2012 10:21 PM
Really pretty freaky, i think it should be fixed to the least amount and driven. Glad it didn't go to the crusher.
7/25/2012 6:20 PM
1stbird, "It's still a four door?" Have you noticed lately that's all the new sedans are these days. Not very many two door. Especially American models. And don't call the Dodge Challenger a sedan. It's a five window coupe pony car. Besides, Mother MoPar made four door look good. Look how many bad ass cop cars we MoPar of that time period.
7/25/2012 11:40 PM
did they just not exspect this car to reach 100,000 miles
7/26/2012 2:02 PM
I have mixed feelings on this. I just purchased fenders for one of my cars recently and they were straight and rust free. I know that these came off a car that was likely in better condition than mine, but I don't lament its fate. Those fenders that I am using will be loved again, attached to a car where they will truly be appreciated and seen on the road once more. They could have stayed on the car until it was crushed, and who would have known? Some must die so that others may live. That said, what is not irrevocably bent is still in really nice shape - it would be a fairly easy car to do. I would probably fix it.