LITCHFIELD, CT – Its exterior is pink and gray. Or, more precisely, Chinese rose and charcoal. It has fewer than 57,000 miles on the odometer despite being 67 years old. What’s equally amazing about the rare two-door 1956 Dodge Suburban station wagon owned by Joe D’Amico is that it’s so unmolested.
“Everything’s original. Everything. There’s not a thing that’s been changed with the exception of the front seat. That absolutely is the original paint. That’s why you see the dents, the chips. You see it all. The good, bad and ugly,” D’Amico recalled when RIDE-CT visited his home in Litchfield.
The only reason the front seat has been reupholstered is because the previous owner stored the Dodge for many years against the outer wall inside a garage. It was next to a window and in just the right spot to enable the sun to gradually bake the seat covering.
D’Amico bought the two-door model in 1993 and has only driven it about 5,000 miles, mostly to classic car and vintage boat shows. As well as other antique cars, he also owns a mahogany 1956 Wagemaker Wolverine boat that he sometimes tows behind the Dodge. Together, they make a striking sight.
“It’s pretty hazardous on the road because most people, both passengers and drivers who would pass or see the car, they immediately turn around and start snapping pictures on the highway,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see that but you’ve got to wonder about these people. They’re not looking where they’re driving.”
D’Amico restores old cars and boats as a hobby – he’s currently working on a 1921 Ford Model T roadster – and has an affinity for old Chrysler products. The company produced the Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and DeSoto brands for decades, although DeSoto fell by the wayside in 1961 and Plymouth went away in 2001. His father owned a four-door 1956 Dodge Sierra station wagon when he was a kid.
D’Amico’s grandparents owned a full-size 1955 DeSoto Firedome that he acquired in 1971. It required a “moderate restoration” and he’s now owned it for 52 years. His ownership of the DeSoto provided him with an advantage when he spotted the Suburban and pursued it.
At the time, the Dodge was owned by the daughter of its original owners. “She was quite elderly and could not drive the car. Had been in storage for many, many years,” he said.
“When I explained to her that I was looking for a stablemate for a 1955 DeSoto and showed her pictures of the DeSoto, she thought that would absolutely be the future for the Dodge. So I was able to purchase it.”
It was happenstance that brought the Dodge to D’Amico’s attention. He spotted it at a repair shop. “Drove past it probably a half-dozen times before I realized ‘Wait, that’s a two-door!’ I had never seen a two-door. I have never seen one since,” he said, reporting his research revealed that only 1,800 two-door models were built for the 1956 model year.
Bad brakes was the reason the Dodge was at the repair shop. “The woman was well aware that there were no brakes. She actually had the car flat-bedded to a garage where they gave her an incredibly high price to replace the entire brake system. She, being elderly, couldn’t afford to do that so she decided she would probably sell the car,” said D’Amico.
After buying it, and despite its faulty brakes, D’Amico drove the station wagon home. “Changed the fluids. Put a fresh battery in it. Put enough brake fluid and just got enough pedal to basically get it home between the emergency brake and the little bit of brake that I had,” he said.
Given its appearance, the Dodge has certainly never been abused. “When the original owner purchased the car in 1955, he purchased it for his wife. His wife only drove the car very little … before she got sick, and she couldn’t drive the car anymore,” D’Amico said.
“She died shortly thereafter and the old man didn’t have the heart to sell the car. The daughter and her husband would use the car occasionally just to keep it running.”
The Suburban is powered by a 218-horsepower, 315-cubic-inch Super Red Ram V8 engine. It has a two-speed, push button PowerFlite automatic transmission. The buttons are located in a panel on the dashboard to the left of the cream and black steering wheel.
Even all these years later, D’Amico marvels at the condition of the Suburban when he found it and how it’s still holding up today. “It was dead stock original; had never been touched, and there’s not one speck of rust on that car – underneath, anywhere,” he said.
See the 1956 Dodge Suburban station wagon in action in this YouTube video…