UN­FOR­GET­TABLE

BUILD­ING THE ’71 PLY­MOUTH SHE WISHED SHE OWNED IN HIGH SCHOOL.

Mopar Muscle - - Contents - BY RICHARD TRUESDELL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY THE AU­THOR

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 [2017] 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.”

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