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Rube Goldberg and Me and my '56 Plymouth

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  • Rube Goldberg and Me and my '56 Plymouth

    You might have seen and smiled over one of his creations, but younger readers may not have heard of the man, or what made him famous, so here’s a quick introduction.
    Rube Goldberg was an engineer and cartoonist who lived during the last century. As a cartoonist, he became famous for his ability to create the most complicated and inefficient machines possible from things never intended to be used in the way his drawings envisioned.

    This picture of his light switch on-off indicator is typical of his warped imagination, and though not nearly as bizarre as most of his creations, you can get an idea how his mind worked.
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    Click image for larger version  Name:	4-rube-goldbergian-light-switch-cover.jpg Views:	0 Size:	95.6 KB ID:	1242

    So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, if you ever tried to restore a Mopar from the 1950s, you will find total frustration when looking for new and used parts. There are no catalogs to be found containing thousands of high-quality reproduction parts like those for a ’55-57 Chevy. No, as a Mopar enthusiast you quickly learn that except for a handful of items like rubber seals and driveline parts, nobody reproduces high quality sheet metal or trim pieces.

    You can conduct endless searches for even use parts, or you can take out a second mortgage on your house to buy the few NOS parts that pop up now and then. Or, like me, you can adapt parts from newer or more popular vehicles, or in a real pinch you can make something functional to replace the part needed. The result is almost guaranteed to be ugly, but usually does the job in a car that will not be driven much or face scrutiny from purists .

    Rube Goldberg and I compete for the most complicated machines that actually function, but we do it in a totally different way than intended by the factory engineers.
    My latest example of mechanical desperation is finding a replacement for the door latches used on a ’56 Plymouth. The OEM version is based on a star-wheel design commonly used by American manufacturers during that era. They worked fine when new, but with time the wheels and other moving parts wear badly and no one rebuilds them commercially, and NOS parts rarely show up on e-bay. When they do, the price is sky-high. A recent web search found NOS latches for Studebaker trucks for $80, and a glut of parts for even pre-war Chevys for half that price. There were even a couple for ’60 and up Mopars for $125, but nothing for any ‘50s models…not even the badly worn junk you can sometimes find.

    When I first contemplated creating my own parts, I decided to see if generic bear claw latches used by the hotrod market could be adapted for my application. Using aftermarket handles or buttons to actuate solenoids would have been fairly easy, but I wanted to retain the OEM door handles for a stock look and I didn’t want electrically operated latches. Leave it to me to seek the difficult option, so I forged ahead.

    If possible, when using pieces from other vehicles, I always try to select parts from common Chrysler products. In this instance I chose door cables from late model Ram trucks to tie the actuating system together. Since the interior of the Plymouth was going to be heavily customized, I decided to integrate the inside handle with a custom armrest since OEM style armrests are also not reproduced. The design for that end of the cable was simple and the homemade handle style was similar to the ones I always liked on high-end Chryslers and Imperials.

    Figuring out how to make the outside handle operate required converting the stock “push” movement against the OEM latch to a “pull” movement so I could use both handles to independently operate the single bear claw trip lever.

    It would require volumes to explain how I did it, but thanks to the Goldberg theory to always think weird, I let my imagine run wild and lo and behold. here it is!
    It took lots of trial and error, and many scrapped parts to come up with something that actually worked, but to my surprise, it actually does what was intended, and ugly be damned!


    Click image for larger version  Name:	Driver side latch controls.jpg Views:	0 Size:	173.8 KB ID:	1243
    Last edited by GaryS; 12-01-2019, 04:10 PM.

  • #2
    very kool light switch

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