When asked to describe the Chrysler Corporation in the '50s we've always characterized it as the company that produced cars engineered by experts, designed by lunatics, and assembled by amateurs. Our hunch is that while the guys with the slide rules were coming up with the Hemi, Torqflite, and torsion bars, the stylists were involved with the government's psychedelic drug research and the quality control staff was working their way through a school for the blind.

Our very own RamRodder is a case in point. To be charitable its look can only be described as unique and the way it all fits together is lousy, even by 1950s standards, but thanks to a tank-like quality our Plymouth has held up reasonably well. It suffers from the same malady as many Mopars of the era-the driver's doors won't stay closed without a bungee cord. With more moving parts than a Swiss pocket watch, Chrysler latches are prone to wear and it's not unusual to find that doors pop open, won't latch at all, or in some cases won't open once closed.

Finding good latches, or repair parts, is pretty much impossible, so we decided to install contemporary bear claw latches. Thumbing through the pages of the Speedway Motors catalog we found the standard bear claw latch (PN 91052860), which measures 4 1/2 x 1 7/8 x 3/4 inches; the striker bolt (PN 91052861), which has a 7/16-inch/14 threads, plus the cage nut assembly to secure it (PN 91052869), which is approximately 1/2 inch thick, 1 1/8 wide, 3 5/8 tall. The Slim-Line latch (PN 91052862) measures 3 7/8 x 1 1/4 x 3/4 inches. The cage nut assembly is approximately 1/2 inch thick, 1 1/8 wide, and 3 5/8 tall. This latch uses a smaller 3/8-inch/-16 thread striker bolt that is 1 7/8 inches long.

Armed with the measurements of the new latches we made a depressing discovery: there wasn't room to mount them inside the doors. The window channels take all the available space at the rear of the doors. If we were going to use electrically operated latches we could have mounted the latches in the body and the pins in the doors, but we wanted to retain the original outside door handles, so that was out. Our solution was to mount the bear claws to the outside surface of the doors-while we don't love the look with the doors open we're more concerned with keeping them closed. Attaching the latches to the doors was simple, but making the original handles work was challenging. Mounting the striker bolts to the body with the cage's nut assemblies was easy and since the original latches also protruded from the doors, the B-pillars have recesses to accommodate them. The good news is those recesses are deep enough to accept the bear claws; the bad news is they're not quite long enough, but that's not hard to fix.

Although the installation procedure is unconventional, with the bear claw latches installed the doors close securely with a thunk, the stock outside handles are operational, and best of all the bungee cords are no longer required.