If you ordered something to take control of a little late-night street action in 1966, Chryslers new 426 street Hemi would probably have been the powerplant of choice. But which of the 66-model body styles would best suit the stealth fighter mode? The Charger was sporty enough, but a little too visible. Plymouths redesigned Satellite hardtop was also bit too upscale; it needed to be a sleeper. What about the Belvedere I pillar coupe: boxy, conservative and complete with the little dog-dish hubcaps? By the following year, Hemi installation would be restricted to a handful of cars (the R/T, GTX, and Charger were the primary recipients), but the new engine could be ordered in virtually any B-Body in 1966.
Whether this machine was ordered as a street fighter or not isnt known. It was not highly optioned; the coupe got the Hemi/four-speed, EE1 Dark Blue Poly paint and a standard low-line interior (this was the era before all muscelcars were sleek and fat). Moreover, except for its telltale lope, there were no billboard letters or plates denoting the 426 iron lung, only a set of badges lettered HP2, which stood for Hemi-Powered Plymouth (based on decals released during 1965). If your Hemi Plymouth was built before January 1, 1966, the HP2 emblems were on the front fenders; if your car was built after January 1, you got the new 426 Hemi badges that went on both Dodge and Plymouth machines.
The car was first owned by young Gary Rufener, who received a card from Uncle Sam informing him to report for basic training and travel to exotic lands soon after. Not knowing what might happen while he was gone, he sold the car and it changed hands a couple times and ended up being raced. Gary did come back, and years later, with a family and career, he began looking for the HP2. After finding it, he began a restoration, but had to sell the car again. Through contact with Mopar enthusiast Jim Drain, Gary met Merit Pennington, a fellow Mopar owner who lives in the Tampa Bay region. Merit is confined to a wheelchair but has managed to amass a small collection of classic machinery. Though driving the four-speed car himself was out of the question, Gary knew he had found the right buyer for the rare Plymouth.
Since the car was still in pieces at this point, Merit turned the task of putting the freshly painted body through reassembly over to Tony George of Palm Harbor, Florida. Jim was able to help with many of the needed parts as well as offer additional information for restoring the Hemi to original condition. In the end, the car came out looking as it did from the factory and is now part of Merits treasures.
Does it sit all the time? No. Merit has friends who drive his cars for him occasionally, and with Merit riding shotgun, they take the car out and let the Hemi breathe again through the dual AFBs under the chrome air cleaner. Hey, after all, what are good friends for?