PATIENCE PAYS OFF
AFTER WAITING A FEW YEARS TO BUY HIS ’63 DODGE 440, YVON BEAUDRY CREATED THE MAX WEDGE–FLAVORED CAR OF HIS DREAMS.
After waiting a few years to buy his ’63 Dodge 440, Yvon Beaudry created the Max Wedge–flavored car of his dreams.
One of the most frustrating phrases you can hear when you have your sights set on a car is, “I’m gonna fix it up some day.” This is often the dreaded reply given to those who find that diamond in the rough rotting in the ground somewhere and in need of a rescue. Those who have succeeded in prying these cars away from unresponsive owners usually manage that feat with either stupid amounts of cash, unrelenting persistence, or a combination of both. Sometimes it may only take a few months, but as is often the case, it usually takes years. For Québécois Yvon Beaudry that challenge lasted for three years. Then, in 2002, he was able to secure ownership of a ’63 Dodge 440 two-door sedan. “I found the car about 20 miles from my home,” he recalls. “A guy named Mario Leclerc, who has subsequently become a good friend, stopped at my garage to look at a car that I had for sale, and he told me he had three Dodges at his place.”
Yvon was interested in putting together a Dodge after having spent many years playing with Studebaker Avantis, so he went to see what this guy actually had. The 440 immediately stood out for all its potential. His desire was to build a Max Wedge–inspired
car, and this Dodge was the right starting point. It had been sitting for years without being fired up, but it was unmolested and still wearing its original 225ci slant-six, push-button three-speed automatic, and two-tone beige paint. Most importantly, all the trim was in place and in excellent condition — and it wasn’t for sale. The owner was adamant on fixing it up at some point. But persistence eventually paid off, and he reluctantly parted ways with the car.
A few months after parking the Dodge in his garage, the slow process of taking it apart commenced. It was placed on a rotisserie in preparation for a complete makeover. As expected, once it shed most of its hardware, rust damage
was the primary concern. As that task was completed, the bare body was sent to Custom Garage in Saint-pauld’abbotsford, Québec, for media blasting and the needed metalwork. Stéphane Lussier was tasked with dealing with all the metal and bodywork. Surprisingly, for a car that had spent most of its life in Canada, it wasn’t in that bad of shape.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t have any rust issues — it did. The recurring culprits on any vintage Mopar from that era are usually the rear lower quarters, trunk floor, front floor, lower front fenders, and firewall. The Dodge had rust damage in all of these areas, and at that time replacement pieces weren’t available, so Stéphane had to fabricate all the patch panels. The goal was to lay down black paint, so the body had to be razor sharp — that feat took a few months to complete. Once the Dodge was ready for its new coat of paint, it was moved to Carrosserie Réal Bouthillier in Saintcésaire, Québec, for the finish work. That work was handled by the guy’s name hanging out front, Réal Bouthiller. He laid down the smooth black urethane Yvon was looking for. Once that was completed, the body was taken back to shop.
While the body was away being sorted, Yvon stayed busy getting the needed hardware together to replace the slant-six. The foundation for that would come from one of Chrysler’s finest land yachts, a ’76 New Yorker. He pulled a complete low-compression 440 and Torqueflite out of a donor to massage into a suitable replacement. Since the goal was to build something close to a Max Wedge, he sent the engine to Claude Gauthier in Saint-hubert, Québec, for all the machine work. The RB block was completely gone over and a stock forged crank installed, along with stock rods, a set of 10.5:1 SRP forged pistons, and a COMP Cams hydraulic camshaft. The heads were also retained and given a complete refresh with new Ferrea 2.08inch intake and 1.74-inch exhaust valves installed, COMP Cams dual valvesprings, and adjustable Mopar rocker arms. Some of the parts he needed for the transformation were very specific and needed to come from the states, so he made trips beyond the border.
From A&A Transmissions, he acquired a new aluminum Max Wedge intake manifold that he topped off with a pair of Edelbrock 500-cfm carburetors, while a set of reproduction Max Wedge exhaust manifolds were a swap meet purchase. Those would eventually mate to a pair of 3-inch pipes running back to a pair of Dynomax mufflers. The Torque-flite that he pulled was also treated to a full rebuild at Choiniere Transmission in Saint-paul-d’abbotsford, Québec. It received a Hughes 10-inch 3,000-stall speed converter and a shift kit. The spring and fall Carlisle Collector car swap meets also became vital in the acquisition of the needed pieces as the car came together. Yvon made numerous trips to the Pennsylvania fairground while putting the Dodge back together in search of parts. Other valuable sources he relied upon for parts and advice were
Kramer Automotive Specialties in Herman, Pennsylvania, and Joe Suchy Mopar Car & Parts in Fairburn, Georgia. Both of these shops specialize in early ’60s Mopar parts, including Max Wedge items.
As the car came back together, after the drivetrain was installed, he tackled the reinstallation of the suspension. It was also given a full rebuild with the addition of Super Stock leaf springs at the rear and a swap of the front drum brakes with a set of discs from a ’70 ’Cuda. KYB shocks at all four corners were also installed and a 3.55:1 set of gears installed in the stock 8.75 rear housing. Rolling stock was upgraded as well with the addition of American Racing Torq-thrust D wheels wrapped in a mix of tires. The front wheels measure 15x4.5 and wear P215/75R15 Kelly Explorer Plus Radial rubber. At the rear, 15x7 wheels run on P275/60R15 Bfgoodrich Radial T/A tires.
The last part tackled was the interior. Since the car was given a color change, the interior was also going to mimic that transition. Reflecting on the original two-tone exterior paint scheme, the interior was also factory equipped with two-tone beige, which Yvon decided to switch to black. That was accomplished with a complete respray of all the trim and the dash in black, and the installation of a new white headliner. The door panels equally needed a color change, so they were also sent to SMS Auto Fabrics in Canby, Oregon, for their makeover in black. In an effort to keep textural consistency, SMS also supplied the material to re-stitch the seats, which Yvon had done locally. The end result is an interior that is factory stock in appearance with only the addition of a set of aftermarket oil and temperature gauges, and a Sunpro Retro Tach.
On the exterior, it was a huge plus to have most of the trim in excellent condition, however, all the chrome pieces were refinished and the stainless trim sent to PRP Metal and Paint in Saint-côme, Québec. Robby Poulin was the guy who performed the polishing magic on all the Dodge’s stainless trim.
After four years of lost weekends putting the Dodge together, Yvon was able to finally take the car to its first outing, at the 2012 edition of the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals — only fitting, since so many of the parts used in its creation came from there. The fruit of his labor paid off with a class win and a return invite the following year for the Max Wedge reunion. His goal was to show the Dodge the first year and then start driving it, which involved doing a match race against his brother and his ’69 Camaro. We’ll keep you posted on that one.
The simple, elegant lines of ’63-and-later Chryslers are seen in the shape of this beautifully restored taillight assembly.
Yvon’s Dodge received a few reproduction parts, of which the Dodge trunk emblem was one. It blends in well with the other trim that was either polished or re-chromed.
The interior on the Dodge was given a color change from a two-tone beige finish to a combination of black and white. The entire dash was repainted in black and the chrome and stainless pieces refinished.
The hoodscoop on Yvon’s Dodge is a fiberglass reproduction of the ones that came on 1963 models equipped with the lightweight aluminum front end and 13.5:1 high-compression engines. They were originally mounted on hoods that were cut to take advantage...
To give the Dodge that period-correct day-two look, 15x4.5 American Racing Torq-thrust D wheels were wrapped in 215/75R15 Kelly Explorer Plus Radial tires.
Yvon mounted the battery in the trunk to mimic the original Max Wedge cars. Mounting the battery at the rear helped with weight balance and transfer. Also worth noting is the tubing that helps vent electrolyte fumes to the outside of the vehicle so...