In 1963, when I was only 2 years old my Aunt Donna bought a brand new 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury, and she even paid the extra for the A/C package. I heard the stories of her driving up in this new white car and it was a big deal in the family because she was the first on to actually buy a New Car! My grandparents were not well off at all, and cars were always looked at more as a tool, and nothing to really enjoy. So it was my Aunt Donna that broke that mold in 1963.
I have vague memories of being in that car as I did not see my Aunt Donna that much. She was single most of her life, so I do remember her as that Cool Aunt that always had a cool present for me on Birthdays and Christmas. Sadly this memory I have will never escape me:
We received a phone call in 1972, I was 11. I just remember my Dad’s sunken head and his voice of disbelief and hearing him say “Donna’s dead”. My Mom Screamed in horror and the heart of the family had been ripped away. What would now unfold would be a mystery, unanswered questions, court battles, and a 63 Plymouth Sport Fury would be caught in the middle of it. You see, my Aunt had just got married and from what I’m told it was kind of an odd deal. They were not married long, and the story of how she died never made any sense. Her ex-husband was more concerned with gaining possession of her land, holding, and everything she owned. It was a messy court battle and in the end my Grand Parents were awarded most of her belongings, and, including as stated in the Court Papers, "A White 63 Plymouth"
Our family would gather in a small logging town in Northern California, and that’s where I spent my summers as a kid. Year after year, holiday after holiday, summer after summer, Donas63 sat covered under blue tarps. We’d sometimes lift the tarps and look in and she would sit still, quiet, and we would stare quietly and wonder,why? Then we’d hear the loud voice of my Grand father telling us to leave the car alone. The pain of my aunt’s death ran so deep that Donas63 was not to be touched or bothered with–just left alone.
By the year 2000 both of my Grandparents had pasted away and by this time the car had eventually been moved into the old Barn Garage, this is after someone thought it had been abandoned and took it. After that episode my Dad made the announcement, “I’m going to restore Donna’s car”. We were shocked, and surprised, and happy. My Dad did not money to throw around and do a full on restoration, but he’d still move ahead with the project and do the best he could. I remember going with him to prep the car for it’s move to his place. It had become a home to Mice and it was a mess.
A couple years later I went to visit my Dad and he had just recovered from Collen Cancer. He opened up the shop door and there she was, Donas63. She was still a mess and had sanding marks, bondo patches… but, it had the rebuilt 361 v8. We started her up and and there I sat in the driver’s seat. A chill ran down my spine, hair stood up–Dona was talking to us. I asked my dad how it felt to have Aunt Donna’s car as his, and he said “It will never be my car, it will always be my sister’s car”. With that, he told me to put it in drive and to drive it around the industrial park parking lot.
By 2004 Donas63 was ready for paint and my Dad was so very close to having it done. So close to the finish line. He said that he could not wait to take it to car shows, cruise in’s, and just to go out to a drive in for a burger. We got the news that my Dad was having some bad reactions to Chemo therapy. He went if for test and through a series of events they found out that my Dad now had Pancreatic Cancer- A new battle would start. This was ugly. He could not even eat, and slowly he started to deteriorate. We would talk on the phone and one of his biggest concerns was not being able to get back to work on the Plymouth. It now had a fresh coat of white paint and it was just sitting, and waiting.
Summer’s are very busy for me, but I knew I had to go. I scheduled 2 weeks and I was off. My Dad was either at home or in the hospital. I made my way to the shop, opened the door and there she sat. Clean white paint and an organized pattern of chrome trim and parts all laid out ready to go back on the car. My Dad did make it to the shop one day to see how it was going. He pointed out a few things, took care of some business, then with a very tired look he said “I’m done, I’m tired, I’d better go home”. That would be the last time he’d see Donas63, and Cancer would take his life a month later. After the funeral, and things calming down a little my Uncle told me, “Your Dad told me the car is yours, he wanted you to have the Plymouth as you are the one that will take care of it and never sell it”. My wife and I would make two big trips to work on Donas63 and get her ready to bring home. I ordered her new Plates, they came in the mail, and we let my Uncle Bill open up the envelope to look at them, with the pain of my Aunt’s death still with him, he looked at the plates, his hands shacking, tears down his face, and he said the words as he read the plates-- "Donas63"
She is home now, with me. And I live here in Ensenada, Baja Ca. I’m a missionary. We take her to car shows, to the wine country, long drives, Saturday night cruises… And we enjoy Donas63 just the way my wanted to. She has a rebuilt 363 v8, and I’m the crazy nephew that has always wanted a muscle car and now she rumbles with those sweet MagnaFlows. But, one thing we always take with us,and it drapes over the driver’s seat—My Dad’s Flannel shirt that we found in the car.