1957 Plymouth Savoy, Reefer-Smuggling Family Legend!

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Every family has its Legendary Car tales, whether it be the Amby that your parents drove from Uttar Pradesh to Bangalore or the ol' reliable Model T in which Great-Grampaw fled the Dust Bowl.


The Martin family has the usual quota of car legends, including the '49 Cadillac named for John Dillinger, the '67 Ford Custom with three-on-the-floor and overdrive, and- of course- the '73 Chevy Beauville van that shrugged off a high-speed rollover wreck on its initial cross-country voyage and went on to serve another 15 years as an indestructible family road-trip machine. Fine machines, all, but it's Uncle Dirty Duck's outlaw '57 Plymouth Savoy that really gets my respect.

The Savoy met a rusty Minnesota fate before I was old enough to know what a car was, so I never met it in person. However, I grew up hearing so many tales of its adventures from my late uncle (whose Upper Midwest accent and old-time biker tales may be heard in all their glory in The Legend Of Hoot's Panhead) that I have no problem imagining the roar of that 301 as it hauls ass away from the San Ysidro border crossing with 800 pounds of Mexican mota stashed and maybe some Link Wray cranking on the AM.

You see, back in the early 1960s, Los Angeles THC aficionados- and we're talking pretty much just jazz musicians and surfers here, in the pre-hippie era- couldn't get any Humboldt County weed; you had to go south of the border to buy the stuff. One of the Duck's Minnesota bike club buddies had gone out in early '61 and was making good profits doing the Tijuana-San Fernando Valley run in the most unlikely dope-smuggling vehicle imaginable: an Austin-Healey 100. The whole deal seemed like a combined business opportunity and chance to get away from Minnesota's weather to my uncle, so in 1961 he put the Savoy up on the lift, welded up some moonshine-runner-style secret compartments, reinforced the springs, hopped up the engine, and headed out to the West Coast. Back then, the border guards weren't using sniffer dogs, so all you had to do was look semi-clean-cut and drive a wholesome-looking late-model Chrysler product and- most of the time- they'd just wave you right past. "That Plymouth was like a gold mine, ya know," Uncle D.D. would chuckle, savoring the thought of all those outlaw bucks he earned, "But then we started making runs all the way to Minnesota with it, the salt got to her, and that's all she wrote!" Later, he became a factory-trained Jaguar mechanic and permitted only British cars- which he believed were genuinely superior machines- to get close to his automotive heart, but he made an exception for the memory of the Outlaw Savoy.