Memories of Bancroft Chrysler-Plymouth

The first thing to say this month is that I’d planned to deliver a front suspension rebuild story using a ’66 Barracuda as the test dummy. The idea is not just to walk through the steps required to transform a clapped out front end into as-new condition using a PST rebuild kit, but also to share some tricks I’ve learned to make the job easier on any torsion bar equipped A, B, E or C-body Mopar.

But I got married on July 23 and the story got sidetracked by the many tasks that go into the whole knot-tying project. Rest assured, in next month’s MoparMax I’ll deliver the front suspension rebuild story in its full glory.

So for this month, let’s take a walk down memory lane – or more specifically, Salem Street in Worcester, Massachusetts - for a last look at what remains of the now-defunct Bancroft Chrysler-Plymouth. New England residents of a certain age are sure to recall the Bancroft outlet from its beginning in the fifties to its closure in the nineties.

My earliest exposure to Bancroft Chrysler-Plymouth was seeing it on the other side of Salem Street as I entered the Worcester public library in the mid 1970s. My Dad used to take my brother and me to the huge library on Saturday afternoons and turn us loose for a few hours. My older brother David spent his time poring over commercial aviation periodicals and studying up on dinosaurs (today he’s an eye surgeon in Lafayette, Indiana).

My late Dad (an optical physicist) spent his time in the science section researching lenses and lasers while I made a quick dash to the service desk where I’d ask the librarian to retrieve ancient back issues of Hot Rod magazine. Like most city libraries, Worcester archived its monthly periodicals for many years but didn’t keep them on the shelf due to space limitations. For access, you had to request them. Then they’d be brought up from the basement on a small cargo elevator. The process could take up to 30 minutes on a busy day so I learned to wait patiently.

But once the librarian unloaded each hard bound binder and handed it over the counter to me, I was in my bliss! Though the library’s oldest issues dated from the early sixties (Hot Rod started up in ’48) it was OK by me since my main interest was factory produced high performance machinery (Factory Experimentals, Super Stockers and muscle cars).

Until my Dad rounded me and Dave up to go home a few hours later, my 13 year old mind soaked up the thousands of images and words on those faded pages. I distinctly recall reading a tech article written by Jim McFarland where a stone stock ’68 383 Road Runner was taken to Evans Speed Equipment in El Monte, CA. There, Al Teague made some tweaks to perk it up a bit.

At the time, I had no idea whatsoever that later in life I’d live in El Monte, CA, have plenty of machine work performed by Evans Speed (using the exact same machinery depicted in the 1968 magazine story!), and get to know Al Teague on a first name basis through the three years I spent working as a machinist at Stage V Engineering (Al used a Stage V equipped Hemi race car to wrest the wheel-driven land speed record away from the Summers Brothers). As for the story author Jim McFarland, he’s been a ready source of career advice to me – and a member of the MaxChevyeditorial staff – things I’d never have dreamed on those carefree Saturday afternoons so many years ago.