If you want to take your “car” out in the dirt for wheeling or off-roading we are all for it. Want to add knobby tires, fabricate a “lift kit,” or shove a T-case between the framerails and/or a front axle under them? Yes, you had us at knobby tires! While you’re at it, add a custom bumper, a winch, locker(s), and lights. So long as the modification actually helps that “car” off-road, do it. Having said that, one area where almost everyone, even the most skilled fabricators, should proceed with caution is the oft misunderstood and frequently horribly constructed trar.
Trar, as defined by us here at Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, is an occasionally unholy union between a car body and a truck chassis, ideally exhibiting some of the qualities of a car melded with the ruggedness of a truck. What we are trying to say here is that a truck chassis with a car body grafted on top does not necessarily a good trar make. A good trar must be constructed well with a relatively low center of gravity (usually they are comically tall), plenty of clearance for tires (usually the tires rub), and a general concern for actual function over form (usually a trar is broken already). Booger welds are acceptable only if they hold.
As it turns out we bumped into one of the more appropriately constructed trars we’ve seen in a while in Moab during Easter Jeep Safari 2018. This 1946 Plymouth sedan melded with a K5 Blazer exemplifies almost everything that can go right with a trar and none of the things that usually goes wrong. The best part is that the owner and builder of this trar, the head fabricator at Gordon Custom Fabrication, Joshua Gordon of Camarillo, California, isn’t afraid to wheel the black beauty. His Plymouth is a rare combination of actual functionality combined with an owner/builder ready to get dirty—in Moab. Perfect.
Also, the old-school black paint on a 1940s Plymouth screams out panache that could well fit on a trail in Moab or in a 1950s mafia movie. So we jumped out of our rig, camera in hand, at Moab’s Area BFE to shoot these photos (and a videos) of the Plymouth and Joshua, along with his welding intern, Justin Molino of Camarillo High School. The rig made light work of the off-road park’s obstacles thanks to the guys’ hard work. Check it out!
Josh Gordon started this build with a pretty complete 1946 Plymouth he got for $500. The original plan was to build a quick and dirty leaf-sprung rig with the body, a 5.3L GM engine, A K5Blazer chassis, and a set of 1-ton GM axles for the Oregon Gambler 500 race a few years back. Together with his welding intern from Camarillo High School, Justin Molino, Josh got the rig nearly finished when the project fizzled. The Gambler 500 came and went without the car, and the project languished until Weapons Grade Fabrication asked Josh to restart the project for their display at SEMA 2017. With that in mind, a bit more care was put into the build, including the coilovers, link suspension, Warn winches, wheels, tires, and more.
The front axle is a Chevy kingpin Dana 60 axle from a CUCV pickup with a three-link and 2 1/2-inch, 14-inch-travel King shocks. The front axle houses 4.56 gears on a limited-slip front differential with factory axleshafts. The suspension, designed by Josh, yields about 1 1/2 inches of lift over the stock Blazer suspension with plenty of flex. Steering uses Ballistic Fab steering arms and Heims, and weld bungs from RuffStuff Specialties. The suspension links, built by Josh, use FK rod ends and uniballs.
Out back a matching full-floating CUCV 14-bolt runs factory 4.56 gears and a Detroit Locker. The links meet the axle thanks to a full-length Arctec truss. Speed Strap limit straps keep the flexy suspension under control front and rear.
A 5.3L engine out of a 2005 GMC truck powers the Plymouth. The late-model V-8 is cooled by a three-core ASI Pro Performance radiator with a 3,000-cfm pusher fan from Pro Cool. Brake action comes from a Jegs firewall-mounted master and booster with swinging pedal kit.
Behind the engine lives a 1972 GM TH350 bolted to a venerable GM NP205, all supported by Energy Suspension transmission mounts. Dual exhaust turns down just before the rear axle, and just out of view, the transmission is cooled by a Derale 13700 fluid cooler mounted high up between the framerails.
The interior of the Plymouth was kept simple and is easily entered thanks to the suicide rear. The rear seat was rebuilt and recovered and the carpet replaced. Two suspension seats from PRP keep driver and co-driver comfy when the trails get long. The driver communicates with the transmission via a TCI Fast-Gate Shifter.
The dash says pure 1946 Plymouth, and we like it that way. Although the Dolphin four-in-one speedo with gauges are digital, they look like they could be 72 years old. We would prefer the trar have a proper rollcage for safety. Any vehicle as capable should have one for everyone’s protection.
The trunk of the trar holds many goodies, including two Optima YellowTop batteries (only one is hooked up for now), Gordon Custom Fabrication shock towers for the rear 2 1/2-inch, 14-inch-travel King shocks, an RC car, and the control box for the rear Warn Zeon 12s.
The rear shock mounts are beefy, and Josh made sure the shocks piercing the trunk would be somewhat isolated with fabric boots held in place by Velcro. That reduces dust buildup and cleans up the look of the trunk in case the (fictional) 4x4 Mafioso need to stash a body.
Method 105 beadlock wheels firmly hold the 37x12.50R17 Federal Couragia M/T tires. The rocker panels and bottoms of those vintage doors are protected by Gordon Custom Fab rock sliders. Josh and Justin need to spend a bit more time fine-tuning the rear wheel openings and also should build some retro-chrome bumpers to keep the front and rear ends wrinkle-free.
The Plymouth sheetmetal and details add that perfect flare. Truck-Lite headlights by Rigid illuminate the road and path at night. This is one trar we love. Special thanks to Area BFE in Moab, Utah, for allowing us to shoot this and other features on its one-of-a-kind, unparalleled, private off-road park.
1946 Plymouth Sedan
Engine: 5.3l GMC V-8
Transmission: GM Th350 3-speed auto
Transfer Case: GM Np205
Front Axle: GM CUCV Dana 60 with 4.56 gears and limited slip
Rear Axle: GM CUCV 14-bolt full-floater with 4.56 gears and Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: Custom 3-link front, triangulated 4-link and Arctec truss rear, both with 2 1/2-inch, 14-inch-travel King coilover shocks
Tires & Wheels: 37X12.50R17 Federal Couragia M/Ts on 17x9 Method 105 beadlock wheels
Steering: Ballistic Fab steering arms and Heims, Ruffstuff Specialty weld bungs
Lighting: Trucklite LED headlights
Other Stuff: Dual Warn Zeon 12s winches, Optima YellowTop batteries, Dolphin digital gauges, Gordon Fab rock sliders, TCI fast-gate shifter, PRP suspension seats, Energy Suspension transmission and transfer case mounts, ASI Pro performance radiator, Jegs firewall mount booster and master with swing pedal assembly