It’s often said, the cars which make an impression on you as a kid, end up being the ones you love and covet the most as an adult. I know it’s true for me, as the E-body Barracudas and Challengers, first gen Mustangs, and C3 Corvettes of my youth are still the rides I dream about today.
The same can be said for James B. Kinsey.
James first laid eyes on what became his automotive obsession when he was a 15-year-old boy.
“It was a 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury that belonged to a friend of mine,” James says. “It sat in an old barn full of rats, rusted, with the front clip missing. My buddy asked his father for the car and his dad agreed to give it to him with the understanding that we wouldn’t ask him for anything. And, if he got a ticket, the car would go back to him.”
James fondly recalls, “We proceeded to do all the body-work and paint, and replaced the 383 with a 426 stage-two wedge we found in the corner of the shop. We also stole the posi out of his father’s ‘69 Hemi Roadrunner – he was out of town a lot. By the time we finished, it was one of the baddest street cars on the Gulf Coast for its time.”
Flash forward nearly three whole decades, and the model of car that so captured his fancy back then came back to him in a moment of serendipity.
“Just over ten years ago, I was driving in a storm from Austin to Alvin, Texas, with my son so he could visit some of his relatives. I spotted the car sitting in a field with a for-sale sign on the windshield. We pulled over, and got out in some pretty heavy rain to look at the car,” remembers James. “My son asked me what it was, and I told him. ‘It’s the same car I built with a friend when I was 15… It’s a ‘64 Sport Fury.’”
“I drove back to Austin the same day, dropped my son off, drove to my father’s house in Lampasas, Texas, to get the car hauler. He and I drove the next day to purchase the car, which I did for $5,400.00. It sat in his shop for a couple of years until I decided to drag it home and get it running. We replaced the carb, plug wires, and plugs. It fired up and was running pretty well. I never drove the car other than a couple of test drives after the maintenance was done. I didn’t want anyone to see it until it was finished.”
Thus began an on-and-off, seven-year odyssey to restore the car to prime condition. James was a bit overwhelmed when he first started to work on it. “It was in really bad condition. I started thinking I had gotten too excited about the car and let that cloud my judgment. But I made a plan and stuck with it. At times life got in the way, and I had to take breaks from it.”
James’ plan included rebuilding the 440 with a 4.350-inch bore and a stroke of 4.250 to bring the displacement to 505ci with a compression ratio of 10.4 to 1. He also fitted a steel crank, h-beam rods, forged pistons, Edelbrock Victor heads and intake, a two piece valley plate, Hughes hydraulic roller cam (598/598 w/ 252 duration @.50.), Morrell roller lifters, Hughes 1.6 roller rockers, a Holley HP carb, MSD 6AL Ignition, MSD Pro billet distributor, and a PRC Radiator. Wanting to make the engine look like a vintage street wedge, James opted for a pair of valve covers with 426 Street Wedge graphics on them.
A 727 TorqueFlite built by Long Transmissions was added, as was a custom driveshaft by Driveline Specialist of Austin. The stock 8¾ posi was kept and updated with 3.70 gears.
As for suspension, James dropped in Calvert Racing shocks and CalTracs traction bars, along with custom framerail connectors. To stop this monster reliably, James ditched the front stock drums for stainless steel disc brakes. Black Billet Specialties Street Liteswheels were added, wrapped in 275/65R15 Mickey Thompson ET drag radials.
Having performed all of this work himself, James turned to Travis Davis at Overspray Customs for fabricated replacement panels, body prep and paint. “Finding some of the correct emblems and a couple of the body panels was a challenge,” James remembers, “but eventually we tracked everything down. I found out that building a Mopar cost three times as much as a Ford or Chevy. Parts are a lot harder to find, if they are made at all.”
Another area of work James decided to farm out was the interior. After an exhaustive search for a replacement center console, the car was given to Brent Davison at Sculpt Garage, a premier custom interior shop in San Marcos, Texas. Brent created a custom, one-piece aluminum dash cut by water jet, and crafted a custom headliner with an aluminum insert to match the dash. The door panels are custom cut and covered too, and the seats appointed in luxurious custom leather.
With the project “finished,” for now, James’ plans are simple. “I just want to enjoy it with my wife and friends. I’m always tinkering with it, so it will remain a work in progress, I guess. I drive it every chance I get, which these days is unfortunately limited to weekends.
“The process of restoring it was amazing, as it has been with all the cars I have redone since that original Sport Fury. Where the build takes you, the search for all the parts, the knowledge you acquire from others. All priceless,” says James.
The people who supported and helped him through the process are the most important thing to him, though. “I couldn’t have done it without my wife Sam, who was so supportive of me and what I’m passionate about.”
Three friends also stand out, “Trey for being a great friend and mentor. He really taught me the difference between being an assembler and a builder. And Mr. Luis was invaluable for lending an ear, and offering his input. And finally, Brent at Sculpt Garage, who is truly a gifted artist, I can’t thank him enough for what he has done. My car is more than I thought it could ever be because of him. I’m so thankful for his friendship. Special thanks also go out to B&G Automotive Machine in Alvin, Texas, for all the block work and balancing, and Elliot’s Heads in Austin, Texas, for the custom head work.”
And what about his friend from all those years ago, who James helped to build the first Sport Fury in this story? “I think he’d be excited. I would love for him to see the car someday.”