Ralph Reschke turns junkyard Plymouths into classics

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Ralph Reschke of Lawrence loves the twins, which is what he calls his matching 1955 Plymouth Belvederes. He has created these red and black beauties from junkyard rejects, and they are particularly spectacular when seen together.

Reschkes love for the 55 Plymouth started when he was a kid in Sabetha, Kan. He bought a 1955 Belvedere when he was farming with his dad one year after graduating from high school. That car left such a memory that he has re-created it.

In 1993 he found a green and white Belvedere hardtop sitting in a Denver junkyard. Although it was in rough condition, he liked it because it had an unusual amount of original equipment. Reschke says that of the 730,000 or so 1955s built, only 852 had air conditioning. Air conditioning was a $600 option on a $2,300 car, so few chose it. His car also has power steering, power windows, power brakes, a radio with a rear speaker and variable-speed wipers. Because of the way his car is equipped, he figures it may have belonged to a factory executive.

Reschke brought the hardtop back to Lawrence and began its restoration. With the exception of the interior, he did most of the work himself, and it required a lot of patience. For example, one of the stainless steel trim strips was badly damaged and a replacement was very hard to find. Reschke made a pattern from a block of wood and reshaped the entire strip by hand. It took him three days to do one 6-foot-long piece.

When the hardtop was nearly done, Reschke located a convertible. By that time, he had a shop in which he could work, and he was ready to retire. In 2000, after heart surgery, he started work on the convertible. It was in bad shape, so he took the body off the frame and built new floorboards. He has added every factory accessory to the convertible.Although Reschke says he is really attached to his hardtop, he had a smile a mile wide when he got his convertible running.

The thing about twins is that you can like both equally and get double the reward.

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Tom Strongman

Automotive Expert

Tom Strongman began writing about automobiles for The Kansas City Star 20 years ago. He was the full-time Automotive Editor from 1991 to 2001. Now he is a Contributing Editor who works on contract for the paper. His syndicated column also appears in The St. Louis Suburban Journals and The Columbus Dispatch. He writes a bi-monthly column for AAA's Home and Away Magazine. Strongman's "Behind the Wheel" segment airs weekly on KSHB Channel 41 in Kansas City.

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