To Chevy Suburban fans, the idea of a Plymouth Suburban might seem sacrilegious, maybe even downright blasphemous. Nonetheless, Chrysler did build such a beast from 1949 all the way through 1978. Your humble author even learned to drive in a Nixon-era, 1969 Plymouth Custom Suburban.
Back in the day, “Suburban” was known as a generic term for station wagon, and was as common as rag-top, coupe or sedan in describing a body style. Although commonly known as a windowed, station wagon-type body on a commercial frame, some models like the Plymouth were based on a passenger car chassis.
Along with Chevrolet, and Plymouth, Pierce Arrow, Studebaker, Nash, DeSoto, Dodge and GMC utilized the Suburban name as well. Truth be told, the Suburban name belonged to U.S. Body and Forging Company of Tell City, Indiana, which built Woodie station wagon bodies for most of the aforementioned automobile and light truck marques back in the day. Chevrolet added Suburban as prefix to their CarryAll wagon in 1933 and is now one of the longest running nameplates in automotive history. Chrysler discontinued its proprietary Suburban model in 1978 and GM was finally able to trademark the name in 1988. From there, the rest is history.
With that potential barroom fight out of the way, dig this deep-sea blue 1950 Plymouth Suburban Pro-Mod built by Bud Wentz of Wentz’s Hot Rods out of Alliance, Ohio. With decades of experience, Bud is an expert craftsman and car designer. He was helped by an upholsterer and engine builder, but other than that, he handled all aspects of the build including the body work and paint. Bud had just sold a ’32 Roadster and decided to do a family hauler as his next project, “Because wagons are big right now.” Sounds like as good a reason as any to us.
We love two-door wagons and this little long-roof Mopar is a fetching combination of big-block power, smoothed bodywork, huge meats and wheelie bars. We bring you the backstory on the build and painstaking craftsmanship that brought this wagon form vision to reality.
Bud found the wagon online in South Carolina and dragged the thing back to Ohio and got to work. What you see here is the result of over two years of hard work, a combination of two cars, and a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
The first thing Bud did was chop the top three inches. Then he laid the windshield back two inches and added a Lexan windscreen. Next, he fabbed up a lift-off, fiberglass front-end capped off with a custom grille. From there, he bought another wagon sitting in an orchard and scavenged the roof and doors from the parts car carcass. The doors needed some massaging to fit the chopped roof, so he simply cut off four inches at the bottoms and tweaked ‘em till they lined up. The rear wheel wells were tubbed to accept the gigantic rear tires.
With all the body panels aggregated and rust-free, the guys at Wentz’s Hot Rods smoothed and long-boarded the sheet metal until it was laser straight, and then dipped it in a sparkling, PPG “Liberty Blue” paint mixed by Charlie Hutton. Believe it or not, all the chrome was sprayed on by Liquid 3-D Design based in Millersburg, Ohio, including the front and back fiberglass bumpers. Be sure and check the cool exterior jewelry consisting of 1941 Willys door handles, GE halogen front peepers, and Speedway custom LED taillights.
This Highland Park beauty rides on top of a custom 1-5/8” moly-tube chassis from Jerry Bickel trussed up with a 16-point roll cage. Bud utilizes an old drag racing tweak by offsetting the wheelbase 112” on the left side and 113.5” on the right.
Up front, Bud used Strange Engineering spindles struts and shocks as well as a state-of-the-art, rack and pinion steering system. More Strange-ness out back with a 4-link system with Strange coil-overs. A Dana 4:11 rear end with Moser 40-spline axels, and a pair of 1-1/4 wheelie bars are the finishing touches to the chassis. Strange, four-piston 11-inch brakes all the way around, and a Strange master-cylinder provide ample stopping power when it’s time to throw down the anchor on this big, blue canoe. Last but not least, the car rolls on 15 inch Weld Racing Wheels all the way around with 22.5 x 33s in back and 175-70s up front.
Underneath that custom fiberglass hood is a rip-snorting, big-block 565 cubic-inch Chevy stroker with two Holley 1250cfm carbs. A Blower Shop 14-71 supercharger overdriven 18% helps this randy Rat pump out a stump-pulling 1,500hp and 1,245 ft-lb of torque at around 6,000rpm. Built by Box Performance from Grafton, Ohio, this ornery V8 roars with a 10.5 compression ratio fed by big gulps of E85 fuel, and exhales through a custom set of headers and exhaust system that exits through the sheet metal, ahead of the rear wheels. A Griffin aluminum radiator helps everything running cool. Everywhere you look, the mill sports oodles of polished metal, shiny components, and meticulous build quality.
All that mega-horsepower is channeled through a Dion Vickers-built, two-speed Powerglide transmission controlled by a B&M Shifter. The wagon can easily lift its front end off the ground almost two feet. The first time Bud stood on it, he bent the wheelie bars, so he had to go back to the drawing board and beef them up.
Inside is all business with sheet aluminum flooring, Kirkey racing seats, RJS five-point harness, RacePak gauges, and a Grant steering wheel. All the upholstery was handled by Lee Culip from Randolph, Ohio. The roll bar adds a solid structure and safety to the wagon.
Bud has yet to take his wagon down a dragstrip, but that hasn’t prevented him from popping wheelies when he’s running around town in the Plymouth. For all you folks around Columbus, Ohio, look for Bud’s wagon at the Goodguys show there in a few months. Until then, remember not all Suburban’s are Chevys, and this Mopar wagon is the “real thing.”