When this Plymouth was first purchased more than 15 years ago, the whole intent was to have a musclecar that was fun to cruise in, was great on the freeway for longer drives, and maintained the old school look and feel. We wanted it to look more like a survivor than a high-dollar custom build and that look was achieved with lots of patina in the exterior paint and not-so-perfect trim all around the car.
Track Attack Tech Article Archive
Silver Sport Transmissions: Shifting Classic Mopars Into Overdrive
Mini Tubs: Making Lots Of Room For Some Fatties Under The Car
Project Track Attack Gets A Flaming River Steering System Upgrade
Thinking Outside The Box With A Custom Four-Link Rear Suspension
Garage Series: A Much Needed 4L60E Transmission Controller Upgrade
From the factory, the car was void of sway bars, and it came with an engine that many people still have never heard of: the Polyspherical 318, known as the wide block in some circles, or the A block. The engine was efficient, if anything, and on long drives the car would get close to 20 mpg with tall rear tires and 3.23 freeway gears in the one-legger differential. In other words, it did was it was intended to do, and we weren’t out to impress anyone with it.
The intake on the car was swapped to a (now obsolete) four-barrel with a Carter AFB, and eventually through a trade of intake manifolds, a rare, Weiand dual quad intake (made of unobtainium) found its way onto the engine with a second Carter AFB added to it.
Mileage wasn’t as good anymore, and with the new engine being .060 over and running a set of TTi Exhaust headers and mildly ported heads, we were down in the 11-12 mpg range. But driving the car was still lots of fun, and though we opted out of some of the longer trips, we were down for the many cruise nights in San Diego during the warmer months.
We had some plans for the car, we wanted more power and it needed some interior work. The car was purchased from the original owner in La Mesa, California, and it still wears the dealer license plate frame from 1965. The went to Tijuana for a repaint and upholstery, and came back looking okay, but there were many flaws covered up with bondo, paint, and fabric.
We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s what project cars are all about: you fix what you can and drive the car in between upgrades. We did a lot of that, and laid out a plan for the car that would allow us to enjoy it regularly, rather than a complete, multi-month long restoration.
The Belvedere came to the Street Muscle Magazine stable of project cars towards the end of 2012 and it began to take on some refinements, all listed out below. It wasn’t until a fluke weekend that we decided to create Project Track Attack, and to make some more changes to how the old Plymouth handles.
Next Goal: Willow Springs To Test Out New Suspension, Wheels, And Tires
One of the main goals for Project Track Attack is to constantly improve our lap times. We happy to report that as we have progressed along with upgrades, our lap times at Big Willow have been dropping consistently with each upgrade.
Our goal is not to make this a full-race machine that becomes too much for the street, our goal is to show that while we can still enjoy a cruise night or a long drive to an event, we can also take the same car to the track and keep up with modern musclecars and sports cars.
When we first visited Willow Springs, it was just a rash decision: track fees were paid, regular track car was not ready, and open track day with West Coast Racing was within days. The Belvedere was fitted with a set of sway bars from Hellwig, and it had an OE-style front disc brake conversion. The rest was as it came from the factory in 1965, with the exception of a set of 15-inch cop car rally wheels and 60-series Mickey Thompson Sportsman ST street tires.
As you can see through this build thread, we’ve made a lot of changes and have taken a full eight seconds off our lap times, but we have not sacrificed our street manners. We still make long drives in the car to different events, and it’s a nice, comfortable ride. We never really cared for the Cadillac feel, so we do have a firm ride, but it’s not bone jarring in the least.
Part of our plan to get back to Willow Springs also included wheels and tires, and since we made room for some fatties in the back, we wanted to take full advantage of that. Although we were very happy with our Weld Racing wheels from a previous install, we wanted to add another inch to the width, and did so with Weld’s S76B –9.5-inches up front and a 10.5-inch wheel in the rear.
That also meant that we needed some new tires, and we contacted Falken for a set of Azenis RT615 Performance Summer tires. We put our old rear tire size up front with a 275/35R18, and stuffed some 315/30R18 steamrollers in the back to give us a bigger contact patch on the pavement. We can’t wait to get out to Willow to give you a full assessment of this new tire and wheel setup, but after a couple of runs over a mountain road we can tell you this: the Belvedere rides on rails now, and we are confident that the trip to Rosamond will be a blast.
4/3/2017 – We Needed Better Control Of Our Transmission
We loved our Silver Sport Transmission A41 overdrive transmission, but we weren’t happy with the way it shifted, so we got the good news from Silver Sport that they upgraded to the TCI Auto EZ-TCU transmission controller, and we were all over it. It was pretty simple to install, and the options it gave us allowed us to take better control of the shifting and how the torque converter works with the speed and line pressures.
During normal driving through the neighborhood, we noticed that almost as soon as we got into third gear, the transmission instantly shifted to overdrive – even at a very low speed. After installing the EZ-TCU, the transmissions started working like it’s supposed to, and shifting into overdrive doesn’t come on so quickly. Furthermore, we had a downshift problem prior to this upgrade that was resolved with the TCI Auto controller. Bottom line: our transmission works the way it’s supposed to work now, and we couldn’t be happier with it.
We haven’t updated in a bit, but we do have some great surprises for you with our latest series of installs coming up. The Belvedere has been in the shop for the better part of a couple of months getting a huge makeover, and this is going to put the car into full Pro-Touring territory with regards to our new suspension, wheels, and tires. And make for one badass-looking cruiser on the streets.
The first thing we needed to do, however, is to call on our friends at Classic Industries and pick up a much needed trunk floor pan to replace our Swiss-cheese pan. One of the main reasons for the pan replacement was because we decided to do some cosmetic surgery on the Plymouth, and make room for a couple of fatties in the back: 315/30R18 tires that we picked up from Falken Tire. That meant a cool mini-tub kit from US Car Tool for the Belvedere, and to clean up the inner wheelhouses, we called on Auto Metal Direct (AMD) for some fresh panels to tie into the upgrade.
Of course, fitting those huge meats in the rear meant we had to reach out to our friends at Weld Racing and extend the lips a little bit, both front and rear, to accommodate the new tires. But even before that, we had to do a little planning and talk to Jeff Anderson with Moser Engineering and sketch out a new plan of attack.
The Mopar 8-3/4-inch replacement rearend we installed last year is not going to cut it for our new plans. Control Freak Suspension provided us with a complete front and rear suspension kit, including a four-link setup in the rear and double A-arms in the front, all of which will accommodate our new double-adjustable QA1 coilovers all around.
The planning stages went full tilt for this phase, and the parts started rolling in for this huge upgrade. While it’s been a bit of work, Project Track Attack is going to come out of it on the other end ready for hitting the road – and the track – with renewed confidence and a wicked attitude that is going to get noticed.
12/23/2015 – Strapped In For The Race Track
We surprised a lot of people out at the race track with our 1965 Plymouth, and surprised them even more when they came to check out the Belvedere and saw a bench seat and lap belts. While our setup wasn’t exactly the safest, it was legal for open track day events and autocross, but wasn’t acceptable for sanctioned racing events. We agreed with many, that a pair of buckets seats and harnesses would be far better than the family seat that we were using.
March 2016 – Kicking Things Into Overdrive
We love racing the Belvedere, but we also put some miles on it, too. So we needed to add overdrive to our long distance driving, and reached out to Silver Sport Transmissions for a modern 4L60E swap into our old Mopar. We got a kit for a later model and only had a few very minor modifications to do, and we were on the road again with an overdrive transmission.
The 4L60E is controlled electronically, giving us the ability to set shift parameters for the street, and for the track. A few turns of each knob gives us shift points, shift firmness, and torque converter lockup. After a few trips out on the road, we were able to make adjustments and determine where we were more comfortable with the settings. Out on the track, we set things a little higher so that we can be a little more competitive.
10/8/2015 – Adding Modern Technology To An Old Girl
After a week with a modern car like the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, we fell in love with the modern technology. So we hit up Ron Francis again for its new iStart keyless start system. The iStart wires into your existing harness –with or without a Ron Francis wiring kit – and gives you keyless starts through key fob recognition. Adding power locks to the Plymouth meant that we can keep our keys in our pockets and the doors will unlock as soon as we show up next to it.
7/23/2015 – Ron Francis Wiring Helps Us Clean Up Our Mess
We’ve added a lot of electrical components to the Belvedere, including an EFI system, in-tank fuel pump, electric cooling fans, and digital gauges. As you can imagine, the original wiring harness wasn’t built to handle all of our add-ons, and we were starting to add more and more. It was time for an upgrade, and Ron Francis Wiring made it so simple with its easy-to-follow instructions, that we were able to completely rewire the car in just three weekends.
4/15/2015 – We Put Be Cool Radiators To The Ultimate Test
Depending on who you talk to, a copper radiator will do just fine for many people. The factory radiators were sufficient back in the 1960s, but with all of our upgrades and the performance driving that we do, we needed something more than what we had. We installed an aluminum radiator a couple years ago, but it wasn’t keeping the temperatures consistent, and at the track we were starting to see those temperatures rising.
1/5/2015 – Rick’s Tanks Baffles Us With A Custom Fuel Tank
Going faster, stopping quicker, turning sharper: this all led to a problem that we were having with fuel delivery. Fuel sloshing around in the stock fuel tank was causing us to lose momentum, or shut down completely with our EFI system. Carburetors store fuel in the fuel bowls, but our tank was the only place to get fuel. We reached out the Rick’s Tanks for a custom tank that could handle the corners as well as the Plymouth could.
7/8/2014 – Moser Engineering’s New Mopar 8-3/4-Inch Rearend
Though we had previously upgraded our differential and axles, Moser Engineering took us one step further with a new housing that is fabricated in house, completed from flange to flange. The center section is designed after the housing they built for the Mopar Drag Pack Challengers, with a Ford 9-inch center section utilizing the 8-3/4-inch flange. Moser also offers a brand new nodular 489 housing, for a complete new rearend.
2/18/2014 – Keeping Our Power Steering Cool With Derale
Being out on the track, one can expect temperatures to rise a little, especially when you’re spending 15-20 minutes at speed and working the big round wheel in front of you. The factory power steering system was running a little warm, so we opted to add an inline cooler from Derale to keep the temperatures down a little. Not only did we cool the fluid, but we were able to keep it from bubbling up while out on the track.
1/13/2014 – Dakota Digital’s New VHX Six-Gauge Set
We’ve installed quite a few clusters in project cars, and with the high tech look of the VHX line from Dakota Digital we decided to upgrade our instrumentation. Hot off the presses from SEMA 2013 was the new five- and six-gauge VHX kits, and we fell in love with the looks, function, and adjustability. With all the changes we had planned for the Belvedere, the programmable speedometer was a blessing.
11/20/2013 – Borgeson Universal Power Steering Box Install
Once we started increasing our speed on the track, we noticed that the factory steering box was getting a little sloppy. Maybe the one-finger steering is great for a Cadillac, but not for a performance car. Even though the box had been rebuilt, it wasn’t as steady as we would have wanted. Fortunately, Borgeson Universal provided us with a smaller steering box with a firm feel and a quicker ratio.
10/31/2013 – QA1 Suspension Upgrade For Classic Mopars
We’ll admit it: the suspension in our Mopar wasn’t exactly solid. The 50-year-old bushings were cracked, the ball joints were new, but the stamped steel control arms were a weak spot. Short of replacing the entire front end of the car, we reached out to QA1 for its new Mopar tubular control arms, dynamic strut rod, and single adjustable shock absorbers. This gave us a little bit more camber and caster, and allowed us to dial in our suspension – something that was rather limited with the factory eccentric bolts and stock arms.
10/24/2013 – Master Power Disc Brake Upgrade
Our first trip to Willow Springs was just a trial run, we weren’t even sure if we’d be back with the Plymouth. Not only did the car surprise us but it surprised a lot of others as well. Since we had so much fun and the car did so well, we knew we would have to upgrade the brakes. We had already done an OE-style front disk upgrade, but the drums in the rear didn’t do much for slowing us down. We reached out to Master Power Brakes for a four-wheel disc brake upgrade.
1/30/2013 – Hellwig Sway Bar Installation
We spent most of our time cruising to and from events and car shows, but one day we had a decision to make: lose out on the money we deposited for and open track day, or take the Belvedere. Since we had installed these Hellwig sway bars, front and rear, it triggered the need to make the Plymouth an official project car. One weekend at Willow Springs was enough to convince us that we were on to something, and Project Track Attack was born.
12/20/2012 – Moser Axle And Eaton Truetrac Upgrade
It was time to ditch the one-tire fryer and put something in our 8-3/4 Mopar differential that would allow us to lay down some 11s, and to get better traction in the corners. We reached out to Moser Engineering for a pair of alloy replacement axles and green bearings, as well as Eaton’s Truetrac differential.
9/26/2012 – FAST EZ-EFI Conversion
Our first upgrade to the Plymouth was a FAST dual quad EZ-EFI system. We were already running a pair of Carter AFB carburetors, and the EFI system was installed to give us better starts, smoother idling, and better fuel economy. We achieved all of that, but were also able to gain about 20 rwhp after the installation. That just goes to show you that being properly tuned can unlock additional power that you didn’t know was there.