Dwight & Alice Hunters 65 Sport Fury
It Went Through The Family Before Coming Back With A Gold
From the November, 2010 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Brad Ocock
Photography by Brad Ocock, Chuck James
Dwight Hunter is a bit of...
Dwight Hunter is a bit of a pack rat, and to say the car is completely documented is an understatement. This is the original canceled check Dwight wrote to Edwards Chrysler Plymouth in Knoxville, Iowa. The price of the car was $3,257.75. Read the written amount, then compare it to the numerical amount in the box. A little nervous, Dwight?
Careful documentation of your...
Careful documentation of your starting points, and flawless duplication, are what separates the OE class from the rest of the hobby. The paint runs on the radiator surround look like the factory put them there originally.
The trunk caused a bit of...
The trunk caused a bit of controversy before it even hit Columbus. Its commonly accepted that Chrysler didnt splatter-paint the trunk compartment, but instead, painted all trunk interiors the body color. But the splatter paint was thereDwight never added it in the 30-plus years hes owned the car, and the paint appeared to have been applied by the factory. So, Pioneer matched the splatter pattern and reapplied it, even though most people said, It shouldnt be there, so dont put it back. Did they make the right decision? Well, the donor car that supplied the new trunk floor and quarters had splatter paint, and weve since spotted two C-Bodies (one in Columbus, the other at Chryslers at Carlisle), that had splatter-painted trunks. That doesnt mean every C-Body had a splatter-painted trunk, but at least four did. The lessons here are to never say never, and if you can document iteven if it goes against what everybody says is correctput the car back together in the way you found it.
A lot of components rolled...
A lot of components rolled off the assembly line with bare finishes. To reproduce this, several companies have developed cast-finish or bare-finish paints that reproduce the look of bare metal. But its still paint, and the parts didnt come painted. Pioneer left all the original bare pieces au naturale. This posed a bit of a problem for the photo shoot, though. By the time we finally set up the shoot, the Florida humidity had caused bare parts such as the leaf springs and driveshaft to flash rust, and the trans case to oxidize. It was cleaned up for our photography, and will need to be every time its shown from here on out. Welcome to the wonderful world of concours maintenance, Randy! You can also see the natural exhaust system, and the ribbed muffler Randy scoured the country for.
Remember what we said about...
Remember what we said about Dwight being somewhat of a pack rat? If this doesnt prove it, nothing will. In our September 97 issue (Concours Undercarriage Detailing!), we showed how Rich Berlisk and John Grinwald had documented and reproduced the break-off Zerk fittings for greased suspension joints. Randy sent the article to his dad, and Dwight sent him the original broken Zerks! He had kept the parts in a medicine bottle in his basement for more than 30 years! Here, you can also see accurately reproduced paint drips on the torsion bar.
Concours restoration is also...
Concours restoration is also archeology. While disassembling the car, Randy noticed what was coated with undercoating, and what wasnt. The gas tank and fuel lines, installed up to the front subframe, had undercoating overspray on them. They were installed early in the cars production, before the undercoating was applied. The brake lines didnt have the overspray on them, nor did the leaf-spring hangers. So, the process originally went something like this: The gas tank and fuel lines were installed first, then everything was undercoated. The rear was left out of the car at this point, probably to ensure that the undercoating is applied completely and evenly. With the rear end out of the car, the ends of the brake lines would be open, possibly plugging them. They also would be hanging loose, allowing them to get bent or kinked. Everything was restored in the aforementioned order. Incidentally, the body plugs in the floorpans also were not painted or undercoated, indicating they may have been installed at the same time as the interior.
Never before have we understood so fully the phrase The whole is more than just the sum of its parts. The sum of the parts pictured on these pages is a really nice 65 Sport Fury convertible. In fact, its probably one of the nicest Mopars youll ever see, taking both a Gold Certificate in the OE-certified judging at the 98 Mopar Nationals, and the requisite Mopar Musclesponsored Best of Show honors. But this car is so much more than hundreds of perfectly restored parts reassembled with precision and care.
Back in November 1964, Dwight Hunter decided it was time to buy his girls a convertible. Sis was in her senior year in high school, and Mom really favored the looks and style of a drop-top. Dwight strolled down to Edwards Chrysler Plymouth in Knoxville, Iowa, and spoke with his brother-in-law, Bill Gonder, who was a salesman at the dealership. On November 26, 1964, Dwight wrote a check for $3,257.75, and Bill handed Alice Hunter (Dwights wife) the keys to a Copper convertible. Mrs. Hunter drove the car for a couple of years before passing the keys down to her daughter, Dwyta, who drove the car through her college years. After she completed her education, she returned the keys to her father.
Dwight drove the car for a few years until it was son Randys turn to earn his tassels, and the faithful Fury was given to him as college transportation in Michigan. After Randy graduated in 1980, he returned the keys to Dwight, who drove the car regularly until March 1997, when the convertibles odometer had registered 172,000 miles, and Randyonce againwas given the keys.
Dwight has always been fond of his carsthis ragtop Mopar in particular. Dwights fondness wasnt lost on Randy, who not only still owns his first car (a 71 Challenger R/T), but also owns Pioneer Auto Restoration in Wauchula, Florida, where he helps other car owners preserve their vintage iron, as well as his own. Randy thought it would be nice to restore the convertible to showroom condition for his dad, so he had the shop guys start work on it.
But this is more than a restore the car for dear ol Dad story. Randy loves Mopars, and if the car was going to be restored, it would be restored the correct wayall the way. That meant nothing short of winning a Gold Certificate in the OE-certified class at the 98 Mopar Nationals. This is the best of the best, where entrants undergo a stringent judging process before they are even allowed in the OE tent. Most people are glad to make that first cut, and many use the first year as a pre-judging test, to see what needs to be fixed, so they can be real contenders in the following year. But Randy wanted it all, and he wanted it the first time out.
Pioneer has restored many vehicles for concours showing, so the crew was fairly confident of its abilities. They grabbed video and point-and-shoot cameras, and spent the first few days photographing every detail on the carpaint runs, inspection marks, metal finishes, the splatter paint in the trunk (which everyone said wasnt supposed to be there), and any other detail you can imagine. Then, a textbook disassembly began, and every part was removed, inspected, evaluated for restoration or replacement, tagged, bagged, and shelved. Once the vehicle was stripped down to nothing but a shell, everything was dropped into the chemical-stripping tanks at Revivation, Pioneers sister company (Strip Search, Feb. 98).
Once the car came out of the tank, the process of reskinning the rear began, as the quarters had more than just a little plastic filler in them, and there were some small rust holes at the outer edges of the trunk floor. Rather than repair the rear, Randy decided to replace it, and a donor was found in Arizona. Dale Loder made the two cars become one, and Jeff Thompson finished everything until the whole car was glass-smooth. Finally, the Copper Metallic paint was applied, and the reassembly process began.
Good restoration is about more than knowing what you are and are not capable of. The key is knowing who can do what you cannotperfectly. Pioneer isnt a machine shop, so the 383 block was sent out and rebuilt to factory specs, as was the 727 trans. The two-barrel went to Daytona Carbs, and the wiper motor assembly, starter, and fasteners went to Concours Creations in Orange City, Florida, for proper finishing and replating. Rich Berlisk and John Grinwald offered invaluable tech advice and a steady stream of calls went to Roger Gibson Restoration.
Then of course, there was the nationwide scrounging for parts. The engine-turned, Sport Fury-only decklid trim was found at Carlisle. An N.O.S. ribbed muffler was shipped from Brads N.O.S. in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The hood emblem came from Southern Michigan, at Great Lakes Mopar, and the 383 insert was from Mitchell Motors. Other pieces, too numerous to list, were found from coast to coast.
Companies such as Year One, The Paddock, and Legendary Auto Interiors proved to be invaluable, and they were called frequently. Randy thanks Legendary, in particular, for its help in painstakingly reproducing the Furys unique Copper and Black seat covers and door panels.
With July nearing, Chryslers at Carlisle was just a few weeks away. Randy wanted to take the car out for its maiden voyage, and a judged scrutiny to see what needed to be redone for the Nationals in August. By the end of the weekend, everybody was talking about that real pretty convertible Fury, and Randy returned to Wauchula with the Best of Show trophy and a small list of things that needed to be fixed. Another mad thrash was started which included replacing the alternator, radiator hoses, and even repainting a quarter-panel! When August rolled around, the car finally was ready for the long trip north.
Of course nothing ever goes perfectly smooththe day before they would leave for Columbus, the brakes werent working. The master cylinder was rebuilt that night, the car was loaded into the trailer, and they left for Ohio early in the morning. Randy flew his dad to Columbus and showed him the car. That was the first time Dwight had seen it in one piece since the restoration began 16 months earlier. By the end of the weekend, the Fury was the buzz of the judged show area, and Dwight was a bit overwhelmed. On Sunday, everyone knew the Fury was the nicest car in the OE tent. The awards presentation confirmed that factthe car took a Gold Certificate and Best of Show. Randy met his goal, and then some, in restoring the car for his dad.