“Yo cabbie! (whistle). Step on it...there’s $100 in it if you can get me to the airport in 10 minutes!”
We’ve all seen this sort of cliché in some TV or Hollywood drama, some desperate soul hoping the driver he just met can get him someplace as fast as possible. For somebody like Kevin Wesley, the humor of this scenario was enough for him to build his latest project, completing it in just 75 days.
“I wanted a fun street car, something I could just pile all the kids in and not worry about dings, parking issues, whatever,” he says. “So it kind of got out of hand with the motor, but the rest of this car is just how I wanted it, a well-handling, five-speed overdrive cruiser that I can take everywhere.”
Interior: Not your basic sedan interior, but when cornering at a high rate of g’s, the P
Well-handling is important to Kevin, who has been involved in road racing on a competitive level. The idea of building a four-door that is tweaked for cornering was a good one; the idea of creating a bogus taxi around a ’70 Satellite that Kevin could then give people "the ride of their lives" in was sheer genius.
The car was found in the same shape you see here. Kevin bought the well-preserved 318-powered sedan in 2010 for $3,500 at the Mopar Nationals. The lettering on it is actually printed-vinyl wrap, like what is used on most race cars these days. The car is street-tagged, but Kevin did not get a cabbie license.
Next came the stuff to make it stick. The 116-inch wheel-based Plymouth benefited from Hotchkis rear leaf springs, subframe connectors, and their TVS torsion-bar based front suspension. Optioned into this mix went Bilstein RCD shocks on all four corners, Firm Feel Stage II steering, AR Engineering Viper front caliper conversion, and Scarebird rear disc conversion. The big issue now that body roll had been "handled," were the right wheels and tires for the taxi. Without modifying the wheel openings, MB Motoring 18-inch wheels and Falken tires help Kevin and his riders get a grip.
Before we go under the hood, a peek inside the passenger compartment begins to clue you in that this is no ordinary pay-as-you-go outfit. In place of the old bench seats are four racing buckets. A smaller Grant Tuff wheel is used for steering, with a five-speed-shift knob jutting from the floor. Sort of saying, “Go ahead, make my day...”
Kevin mentioned going overboard with the engine, and a big-block replaced the factory LA-series mill. This is a 451 stroker, built by Greg Bigford, for the purpose of autocrossing, though Kevin admits it was assembled more on the basis of available parts and time realities than any super-science. The old 904 followed the 318 into the corner, and this car got the RS5600 from Keisler. The 3.23 ratio in the rear is perfect with the five-speed’s low first gear.
Kevin admits that the fast-paced project was a thrash, and the credit card got swiped in the need for speed in more ways than one. He brought it out fresh and untested from the garage to Carlisle in 2012, where he gave cab rides to hundreds of attendees, wearing his trademark ball cap and laughing a lot. While at the event, Greg was still doing minor tweaks to the engine, and also helping were Pat Herman and Bill Wesley, his dad.
We’d guess you probably won’t find this taxi taking fares in Lansing, Michigan, anytime soon, but should you see this car cornering on one of the hobby’s autocross events in 2013, go ahead and whistle. It’s worth the time, and Kevin won’t even expect a tip!
|FAST FACTS |
’70 Plymouth Satellite "TAXI"
Kevin Wesley, Lansing, Michigan
|Engine: The base 400 block was built by friend Greg Bigford, who runs a shop called Auto Design in Grand Ledge, Michigan. Greg used a Mopar stroker crankshaft to bring the engine up to 451 inches. A set of 10.75:1 compression pistons does mean that Kevin needs to find some high-test, but the package is made to live in the hard on-off throttle environment of auto-crossing. Bulldog aluminum heads use stainless valves, and a Comp Cams hydraulic bumpstick to get the fuel into the engine. Metering of that fuel is thanks to a 750-cfm Quick Fuel Technology carburetor, and a Holley single-plane intake. An electronic distributor coupled to an MSD box lights it, and Hedman headers and Flowmaster 3-inch pipe with good mufflers finish it off.
|Transmission: A Keisler Engineering five-speed replaced the automatic. This uses the company’s hydraulic clutch package, with a Ram clutch disc and aluminum flywheel.
|Differential: Into the mix went a 1967-era factory 83⁄4 differential with a Sure Grip, and the 3.23 gear is perfect with the transmission selected.
|Horsepower and Performance: Greg and Kevin guess about 525 off the crankshaft.
|Suspension: Hotchkis—front and rear packages plus frame connectors. Firm Feel added the steering box.
|Brakes: To convert the car to four-wheel disc brakes, AR Engineering Viper caliper front bracket conversion and Scarebird rear disc brakes were installed.
|Wheels: MB Motoring 18x9.5 with sticky Falken Azenis RT 615K 275/35/18 tires went onto all four corners.
|Body: Well-kept all these years, the original ’70 Plymouth sedan needed literally nothing.
|Paint: Original. Without the stickers on it, you’d guess this car was created for no other reason than making the best of a four-door situation.
|Interior: Four Scat Procar buckets with RJS race harnesses. A set of Allstar gauges for engine vitals are added under the dash. Kevin doesn’t need a tach when the corners are close and right ahead.