The whole idea started easily enough. Surfing the Web, we came across guys showing where they were at on their project cars. Amid a sea of healthy big-block E-Body clones and garage-filling B-Bodies was this unbelievable yellow Coronet 500 up on the rotisserie in a fresh sheen of paint. The owner said it was his first such project and was looking forward to finishing it up before the Nationals. With that introduction, the e-mails started flying back and forth.
Bryan Crenshaw, who resides in Kirklin, Indiana, is 34 years old, and his only previous Mopar was a '69 Super Bee that was pretty much finished when he got it. Employed in the asphalt and construction business, he had really wanted a '65 Coronet 500, and finally got one in a unique way.
"Actually, I found the car on Moparts.com," Bryan remembers with a grin. "Of course, like a lot of projects, it wasn't quite what I had planned for. The previous owner had totally disassembled it! I would not recommend that to anyone who is not a professional; I'm not, and it was very hard to figure out how it all went back together."
"Overall, the condition was fantastic," he continues. "Other than one hole on the driver's side, it was completely rust free. I did end up replacing the hood and driver's-side fender as they were both a little too wavy for me to deal with."
After buying the car in 1999, the project began in January 2000. A rotisserie was constructed from mild steel tubing; Bryan designed it himself and then welded it together; Readi-strip took the car down to bare metal and up on the rack it went. This would not be a restoration or race car replica, but a street machine statement from Bryan's fertile mind. Show points would be won for attention to detail, not originality. Kramer Automotive supplied a perfect replica A990 scoop, which is the only major external body change. Nonetheless, some of the factory pieces to make the 500 the statement it needed to be were not so easy to come by.
"Stuff like trim for the '65 500 is tough!" says Bryan. "The car was missing the gold-colored script Dodge emblem on the decklid; I didn't even know what it looked like. Going through swap meet stuff, I found a perfect one for $400; I made the dealer an offer, and he told me to just keep walking. I ended up getting it from him for something like $380 at the end of the day. It wasn't worth leaving and then not finding another good example someplace down the road."
Once on the rack and ready for paint, the process began with epoxy primer DP90 followed by urethane primer K36 and then three coats of retina-scarring PPG Viper Dandelion Yellow. This concluded with three coats of clear. Bryan sprayed it himself using some well-heeded pointers from buddies in the body and paint business. The parts were done separate from the unibody, covering every inch with the fresh pigment. Still on the rotisserie, the assembly began. Bryan's one big benefit over many first-timers was a new shop area he had built that made this process a lot less stressful than trying to get around in a small garage. The ability to spin the car over and sit in a chair rather than laying on one's back to do detail work made things go a lot smoother.
Next, suspension components were prepped, the K-frame was detailed, and KYB shocks were put on all four corners. A set of five-spoke Stockton 15x7 rims were shod in Firestone Firehawk rubber to roll off the miles. To slow it all down, there are Stainless Steel Brake Systems discs behind those rims in all four corners.
Motivation would be wedge power, 451 inches of iron Mopar B-engine set up in the 500-horse range. After Dennis at Woody's Machine did the prep work and punched it out .030, the short-block received a 440 crank, KB pistons, 440 rods, and ARP bolts. A Comp Cams .509/292-duration stick went into the center, actuating 2.14 intake and 1.74 exhaust valves in the factory -452 heads. It's finished off by an Edelbrock Performer intake and an AED-type Holley 850 carb; a set of tti headers take care of the exhaust duties.
Behind this is a Dave Klutz-built 727 'flite with a Turbo Action manual valve body; an SCS shifter by the same company is in the cockpit. Under the rear, Bryan did make a swap over to a Detroit Locker, which now houses 3.91 gears; Randy's Ring and Pinion supplied those peripherals.
The project took eight months and Bryan made a grand debut at the Mopar Nationals; we were impressed enough with his first-time handiwork that we put the car in our booth on the midway. The guys down the way were selling a lot of sunglasses that afternoon!
Bryan Crenshaw Says
On Building And Using A Rotisserie:
The rotisserie enables you to prep and paint areas of the car that are almost impossible to work on without it. I was able to paint the underside of the car with the same finish as the top. It also allowed me to paint the interior of the cockpit and trunk, wheel wells, and other hard-to-get-at areas with relative ease.
The rotisserie was fairly easy to build. With about $300 in steel and $150 in jacks, I was able to build mine in about a day. Jacks are an option on many rotisseries, but in my opinion they are a must-have as they facilitate the raising and lowering of the car. I used two hydraulic long ram bottle jacks, one at each end which requires you to raise each end a little at a time. If I would have used air-actuated jacks, I could have tied them together into one valve and raised and lowered the car with one hand while standing in one place (but that costs a little more). I built my rotisserie so that it can be disassembled and stored standing flat against the wall and only take up about two feet of floor space.
Hardest lessons learned in the project:
1. Start with a complete car, not one partially disassembled. That way you know how it goes together and if anything is missing.
2. In the painting process, I neglected to apply a guide coat in the primer and block-sanding process; therefore, I didn't find all of the little dings in the car. Lucky for me the car was pretty straight.
3. I forgot to check emblem placement on a replacement front fender until after the fender was completely painted and cleared. Turns out the fender for a Coronet 440 and a 500 have different emblem locations. I had to pay to have it stripped again, weld up the 440 holes, drill the appropriate 500 holes, and start over with the whole paint process on this part.
Most satisfaction In The Project:
Accomplishing exactly what I set out to do, start to finish (and then some).
The things I would change if I did this again:
1. Build a makeshift paint booth inside the shop to better control dust and overspray.
2. Not allow my wife to have a baby in the middle of my project (Dane Weaver Crenshaw, March 26, 2001...just kidding, honey!).
Build as big a shop as you can possibly afford (mine is 48x64x16) as it will always wind up being too small. If possible, keep a designated area for your project so that you can walk away from it without having to pack everything up and store it every time you work on it. If it takes a half hour to get your project out and a half hour to put it back up every time you want to work on it, that makes it very hard to get motivated after work to do anything on it.
I believe that projects of this magnitude require what I consider a support group or advisory council. Even though I did almost 99 percent of this project by myself in the garage, it would not have been possible without my support group. This group of people will help keep you focused and working towards your goal. They can offer suggestions and insight into their own specialties such as welding, interior, electrical, engine, perfectionism, optimism, etc. Your advisory council should keep you thinking and offer fresh ideas. These people will help you stay on track when you sometimes feel like it's good enough but you know it isn't. They will not experience the burnout that you may be feeling and therefore will keep you doing everything to the very best of your ability. These people may see something that you overlooked, and in doing so, help you avoid a costly mistake. At times, you will need some type of hands-on assistance for a few of those two-man jobs. Be sure that your council knows exactly what your intended goal and vision of the finished project is; you don't need tips on building a pro street car if a true restoration is what you want. At this time, I would like to mention and thank my advisory council: Roger Woodruff, Tim Criswell, Chris Ricker, Dennis Jones, and of course my understanding wife Gina and son Dane.