BUILDING THE ’71 PLYMOUTH SHE WISHED SHE OWNED IN HIGH SCHOOL.
Building the ’71 Plymouth she wished she owned in high school.
Automotive enthusiasts build cars for a variety of reasons. A dream motivates many to build a classic hot rod, while for others it’s the opportunity to own a car they lusted after earlier in life but couldn’t afford at the time. But, for many, it’s an attempt to recapture a fleeting moment of one’s youth, that special car, most often one’s very first car. And when it’s built it’s not the second-hand car first purchased decades earlier, it’s the car they wished they purchased, with perfect paint, a pristine interior, and not with the entry-level slant six or small-displacement V-8, but with the biggest engine offered. This is the story of one couple’s vision.
In 1972 Anna Brook was a teenager living in Northwest Indiana. She saved up to buy her first car and, with the help of her parents, was able buy one better than most, a oneyear-old ’71 Plymouth Satellite Sebring twodoor hardtop with just 2,800 miles on the clock, color code C7, In-violet, with blue-cloth bench seat interior, pretty typical of the time. And it wasn’t a big-block 383 or 440 wedge or a 426 Hemi, rather a much more pedestrian 318 V-8 resided under the hood, backed up with a three-speed Torqueflite automatic, again pretty typical of the era.
Anna drove her Satellite for the better part of a decade, over which time it survived the first gas crisis in 1973. It was her daily driver and as such, it had developed a reputation for being somewhat undependable, to the degree that she gave it a nickname, “Unpredictable.” And over those eight years, she learned how to deal with whatever it threw at her. Over time the 318 developed an appetite for oil as she found herself adding a quart of oil with every fill-up (no, it wasn’t a two-stroke 318).
Besides the niggling mechanical issues, the gas gauge stopped working, stranding her with an empty tank on more than one occasion. Finally, in 1979, about the time of the second gas crunch, she had enough and sold it.
Almost three decades later, in 2007, after having built several award-winning show cars with her husband, Howard — an industrial engineer, now retired from UPS, with incredible mechanical and restoration skills, and whose spheres of enthusiasm ran from restoring a Jaguar E-type to a ’59 Chevrolet sedan delivery — the couple faced the dilemma of what to do next. It was Anna who suggested a ’71 Plymouth Satellite Sebring, like the very first car she owned in high school.
Like when formulating a plan, the search turned to the buff books, online classifieds, and ebay. Their search took them to Arizona, where sight unseen they purchased a ’71 Plymouth Satellite Sebring. The seller presented it as a solid, running, virtually rust-free western car. After it was shipped to their home in Western New York, Howard concluded that the 35-year-old car had been honestly presented by the sell but they decided to do a full restoration with a twist. The plan was to restore it to GTX trim (1971 was the final year for the GTX as a separate model) with a bored and stroked 440, punched out to 457 ci, backed up with a five-speed Tremec manual transmission. Most of the heavy lifting on the engine was completed by Van Gordon Racing in Upland, California.
With a solid restoration plan in place, the couple showed the car to Ken Pezdek, the owner of Aero Collision and Fabrication in Lancaster, New York, where it was treated to a full rotisserie restoration. Ken’s team meticulously addressed the bumps and bruises that the car had accumulated over the previous 35 years with Howard and Anna doing much of the car’s disassembly before Pezdek’s team took over.
One sheetmetal issue that needed to be addressed was work to the tunnel section of the floorpan to accommodate the six-speed Tremec transmission whose dimensions were different than the outgoing Chrysler four-speed.
As the paint was applied, a modern update of the classic B5 Blue, the car began to really take shape. For rechroming, Howard shipped the bumpers to Advance Plating in Nashville, Tennessee. The companion stainless steel trim went off to Stainless Trim Restoration in Depew, New York. The bright work on the car is substantially better than when it rolled down the Los Angeles assembly line.
B-body Mopars from this era weren’t known for perfect fit and finish coming down the assembly line. Ill-fitting panels and orange-peel paint was the norm, not the exception. This didn’t stop Ken and his team from reassembling the car to exacting standards, with the alignment of the front fenders, doors, hood, and decklid being closer to a modern-day Lexus than a massproduced Plymouth from more than four decades ago. Again, as the photos illustrate, the car displays outstanding panel fit.
Because the car, when finished, would have something close to three times the power of the well-worn and anemic 318, local supplier SSBC was called upon for an updated front- and rear-disc brake setup with powdercoated calipers along with a billet proportioning valve, and a master
cylinder and booster. Getting the power to the ground would come courtesy of a heavyduty 8¾-inch rear end that Howard carefully rebuilt.
As Anna’s long-lost first car was a bench-seat model, Howard sourced a set of Gtx-style high-back buckets along with a set of factory gauges and sporty center console. The interior trim was restored to better-than-new quality using white vinyl seat upholstery and door panels from Legendary Auto Interiors. The results, with the white vinyl contrasting with the bold exterior, as the photos show, is a dynamic combination. This is such a contrast to the muted colors of today’s cars — even when the exterior is a bold color such as this. There’s just so many things that you can do with black, charcoal, and taupe.
Other upgrades to the interior included a Quiet Ride Solutions Acoustishield Thermal Acoustic Interior Insulation Kit in place of Oem-grade sound deadening panels. Howard notes that the kit is vehicle-specific, arriving pre-cut and ready to install. The results? A ’70s-era B-body that’s as quiet as a new Chrysler 300.
While the body and interior work was underway, Van Gordon Racing completed the engine work. Next, Howard installed the clutch, pressure plate, and flywheel, along with the throwout bearing, bellhousing, and transmission. The final touch? A set of Pirelli P-zero Rosso tires mounted on Boyd’s Crown Jewel alloy wheels. Not long after the car was completed, the car debuted at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California. After that Anna and Howard enjoyed the car for many years together.
“Anna was a car girl’s car girl,” says Howard. “We were a team, on almost every car we built. It was a partnership. She had her opinions; I had mine, and we always seemed to make it work. But this car, when we built it, was much more her car than mine, and the way it turned out really reflects that. That’s what made what happened last year at times so hard to accept. She learned last February  that she had cancer and just 40 days later, she was gone. But the thing about this car is that it is a reminder of our more than 38 years together, 36 married. Yes, it’s bittersweet at times, but every time I go out to the garage I feel her spirit. It’s with me always, especially when I get behind the wheel. The car certainly was a collaboration, but when you look at in retrospect, this was truly her car.”