Musclecars with scant mileage on their odometers are an oddity in this hobby. More than that, they exude an almost museum-like quality-especially if they've remained essentially untouched since rolling off the assembly line. The wealth of information they contain in their stampings and assembly procedures alone deliver tangible value. When lucky buyers manage to get their hands on one of these gems, the last thing they tend to think about is treating the car to a ground-up restoration.
Not John Balow of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. When John snagged the title to this '70 Plymouth Super Bird (an oddity in its own right), his mind was already formulating the restoration sequence even though the car had only 4,700 miles on the clock.
Now, before you preservation buffs start looking for a rope and tree to hang John by, hear his story out.
John fully understands and appreciates the historical and financial value of survivor cars as well as OE Certified iron. As the owner of Muscle Car Restorations, John and his crew have built a lot of OE Certified cars, won the Mopar Nationals twice, and developed seven Gold Certified restorations in the last 10 years as part of his business. So don't tie the hangman's noose just yet.
You might be wondering how a car like this came into John's possession with so few miles on it to begin with.
For the first 11 years of its life, the 440-4V Super Bird hung out at a dealership near Jay, Maine. John's not sure exactly of the car's use during all those years, but his best guess is that it was driven minimally around town and was used as a promotional car for the dealership, participating in parades and such. In all that time, the dealership never sold or even titled the car.
That happened in 1981, when the "original owner" pulled it out of the dealership's hands. Some years later, a friend of John's bought the car from the first owner through His intentions were to restore the car, but after further review, he decided that it wasn't exactly the right piece of Mopar iron for him. The friend offered John the car, and John didn't hesitate to buy it sight-unseen.
Now you would think that a car with only a few thousand miles on the odometer would be in tip-top condition. You'd also be wrong in this case.
"It wasn't really stored in a good location," says John, "and it was just rough around the edges. They weren't really nice brand new anyway. I mean, those cars weren't really well put together. They were slapped together by [the subcontractor].
"[This car] wasn't really in the survivor category. Belts and hoses and all had been changed. It didn't have the original carburetor on it; it was with the car, but someone very early in its life just changed the carburetor for whatever reason. I think that it sat around so long that it just...the gaskets dried out, seals dried out...cars really do deteriorate with lack of use."
With all of that, plus the fact that the original Lemon Twist paint was far from presentable, John figured a full-on rebuild would be the best alternative for bringing the Super Bird back into the light of day. Another reason is that John loves to drive his cars.
Being in the upper echelons of the car restoration business has its advantages-not the least of which is networking. When John's acquaintances at Year One heard of his acquisition, the company figured this would be a great project to get involved with and illustrate the breadth of Year One's parts offerings for the ever-popular Road Runner. Pretty soon the Mopar Performance Parts folks also fell into the loop, as well as a number of other companies (see sidebar), and an image-building project based on John's Super Bird was under way. But before the wrenches would start to turn, the group wanted folks to see how to take a restoration from "here" to "there" in high style.
John Balow's '70 Super Bird...
John Balow's '70 Super Bird
Restoration Resource Listing/Project Contributors
A ground-up restoration starts with a not-so-simple decision: Will this car be a driver or a museum piece? John Balow decided there were enough primping Super Birds in the Mopar world, and he wanted his 'Bird to spread its wings on the highway. That meant forgetting about NOS components and looking to repop and OE replacement parts for the buildup.
To get the Super Bird ready...
To get the Super Bird ready for the 21st Century highway, John and crew rebuilt the 440-4V engine with Mopar Performance Parts components. Hardened seats and stainless steel valves were also included in the mix to deliver a 9.7:1 compression that would safely handle 92-octane pump fuel.