After mapping out the project and its sponsors, John hauled the Super Bird, in its unrestored form, to Year One's Atlanta facility. From Atlanta, the Year One folks piloted the car on the '01 Mopar Muscle Return to Brice Road caravan to Columbus, Ohio. The plan was to let Mopar Nationals attendees see the car in its "before" condition, then see it at the 2002 Nationals after the restoration was completed-a perfect way to showcase the many varied parts available for these cars through the participating sponsors.
Once the Mopar enthusiast world had taken a good look at the unrestored Plymouth, John took the car back to Chippewa Falls, where he and the Muscle Car Restorations crew set to work.
"[This Super Bird] didn't have the big [restoration] challenges," says John. "What it has is a lot of rare parts. All the parts were there, so we had to seek out special people to help us restore certain [Super Bird-specific] parts. We had to keep real close track of those when we would send them out...like stainless polished [steel]. A lot of the stainless on a Super Bird is Super Bird-specific. [And] it's always a challenge to restore the nose cones on these things. It's always a challenge to get the vacuum system to work well when you're done. Other than that, it's just a Road Runner.
"The one thing that does separate this car from all the rest is that it's one of three known to exist with factory power windows. Aside from that, yellow is one of the most popular colors, [and] the 440 four-barrel engine is the most common engine. It does have bucket seats with a console, which is somewhat rare, and a six-way, manual-adjustable driver's seat, which is very rare. It's the most ingenious thing you've ever seen, and it's an extremely rare option."
Aside from dealing with the quirky anomalies of this particular car, the Super Bird's restoration proved to be fairly straightforward. And with a large crew working towards its completion, the project moved along at a healthy clip, with Year One components providing the bulk of the replacement pieces. As for the engine....
"Everything is stock," John tells us, "with the exception that when we did the valve job and rebuilt the heads, we [installed] hardened seats and stainless steel valves. We just prepared the heads for unleaded premium gas, and we rebuilt the motor at about 9.7:1 compression so it would run good and not overheat on pump premium. We used the stock Mopar Performance cam, lifters and pistons, and all the parts Mopar Performance sells to rebuild a factory engine. We [also] upgraded it to the Mopar Performance electronic ignition."
True to the mission plan, John and the folks at Muscle Car Restorations finished up the Super Bird in a quick 10 months-just 30 days before the Mopar Nationals. Folks who saw the unrestored car at the '01 event got to see first-hand in '02 what a lot of hard work, quality reproduction parts, and restoration skills can do in short order. But if you think this is going to be a perpetual show field queen, you'd better think again. When we asked John what his plans were for the car, he was quick to respond.
"Drive it. Enjoy it. And take it to car shows. Since the Mopar Nationals my wife and I have already put almost 1,000 miles on it. Just the week before last she and I took off on a Sunday and put 300 miles on it in one day. I mean, it's a rare and quite valuable car, but my mission is to enjoy the car and drive it. If we get a nick, we'll fix it. My enjoyment comes from driving the car and showing it...letting people see it and not just let it sit in the garage and polish it.
"I've sort of coined the phrase to describe the mentality, or to explain the mentality, and that's guilt-free driving.'"
Part of the goal behind this...
Part of the goal behind this Super Bird project was to showcase the multitude of parts available through sponsors such as Year One. Ready access to quality parts makes any project buildup a more pleasing experience. Of course, getting a vacuum headlamp assembly to work is never a fun job. Here the Muscle Car Restorations crew puts the final (and dreaded) touch to the Super Bird rebuild.
Driving duties also demanded...
Driving duties also demanded that the Super Bird be upgraded in the ride and handling categories. PST urethane front-suspension goodies deliver a substantial improvement over the OE rubber components.
Building a driver doesn't...
Building a driver doesn't mean you want to scrimp on the details. John believes that quality and workmanship can result in a non-concours car that maintains its value just as well as an OE Certified-style restoration. Here the Super Bird spins on a rotisserie while the folks at Muscle Car Restorations apply a striking coat of PPG's Lemon Twist.