illustrated close-up of Kenny Watson with fire in the background behind him

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis

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In "The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963," what car do the Watsons own?

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The Watsons have a 1948 Plymouth that is described as very big and dull brown. They received it when it was 13 years old and have had it for two years, and it sometimes doesn't start up in the winter. The family has nicknamed the car the "Brown Bomber," and it has several antiquated features, such as a metal bar running down the middle of the windshield (which cars did not have in 1963).

Before the family heads south to Alabama, Mr. Watson buys a special record player for the car, which he refers to as a TT AB-700. This type of record player features a system by which the needle will not scratch the record when the family is driving. This special arm glides over the 45s that the family plays so that the records remain unscratched. Mr. Watson refers to the record player as the "Ultra-Glide."

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The Watson family in Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 drive a 1948 Plymouth. Kenny, the book's narrator, describes this vehicle as, "dull brown," while Byron more colorfully states that it is "turd brown." This car was given to Kenny and Byron's father by Uncle Bud two years prior to the start of the novel, when it was already thirteen years old. It's a car that has been well taken care of, but is not always the most reliable in the harsh winter climate of Michigan.

This car is central to the plot of the book because it enables the Watsons to get out of Flint, Michigan after Byron begins to act out and make poor decisions. These behaviors motivate the family to move Byron to Birmingham, Alabama for the summer, where he will live with his Grandma Sands. The Watsons travel in the Plymouth down to Birmingham, but eventually choose not to stay there after the 16th Street Baptist Church is bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in a truly horrific episode of racially-motivated terrorism.

I have attached below an image of this make and model of car.

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About six pages into the book the car is described as "a 1948 Plymouth that was dull brown and real big" (Chapter 1).

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