What is it that makes some auto buffs trudge that extra mile to give cars, which would consider salvation a final trip to the crusher, a second lease on life? For some folks, it's a car's rarity that saves it from doom. For others, it's an overwhelming desire to own a classic that has haunted their dreams for years. For others . . . well . . . it's anybody's guess as to why someone would spend an inordinate amount of time and money to retrieve an old car from a much needed demise.
Bill Carlos' '66 Satellite convertible is one of those cars that makes you wonder how it managed to earn a reprieve in the first place. The drop-top was almost shot when Bill purchased it, and he wasn't all that hot and heavy to buy it in the first place. Whatever the case, car and driver were destined for a long and enjoyable life together.
Bill came into the Satellite by accident. Actually, it was when he was helping a friend in need that the old ragtop landed in his driveway.
About 14 years ago, a friend of Bill's was looking to buy a car from a gentleman who drove this funky Satellite as his daily transportation. The other car Bill's friend was looking at was available for sale, but the man insisted the other car could not be purchased unless he also took this convertible off his hands. Go figure that logic.
"Since my friend was into Chevys, he did not want the Plymouth," Bill says, "So he asked me if I would take it. I offered a low price of $600 so he could put the deal together, and [the man] took it.
"The car was in poor shape. It had been repainted white with red stripes on it. There was some rust in the quarter-panels. The top was shot, the back window was torn, and snow was coming in the back seat. The original 318 had been replaced with a newer 318, which was pretty well trashed. My wife first saw the car sitting in a parking lot just after I bought it, and she thought I had lost it."
A few others might have thought the same thing, but as a 30-year fan of the Mopar breed, Bill was bound and determined to make something good out of this proverbial sow's ear. The first step was to strip the car to its base elements and start over, Bill tells us. A friend at Jack Crow Autobody was handed the task of fixing up the quarters, smoothing out the remaining sheetmetal, and applying a new coat of the original color, Light Metallic Blue. Gradually, the body returned to its earlier state. "Almost everything was replaced with new, N.O.S., or good used items from parts cars and swap meets," says Bill. In fact, it was in locating quality chrome, trim, and bright ware that Bill and his wife, Darlene, had the most difficult time. "There seems to be more now to find," he says, "but 10 years ago [that wasn't the case]."
When it came time to build up the drivetrain and suspension, Bill chose to work the Satellite with a twist. The suspension would remain relatively stock, with heavy-duty rear shocks, two extra leafs in the spring packs, and PST rear antisway bars added for more positive handling. Magnum 500 wheels wrapped in Goodyear STs rounded out the ride-quality enhancements.
The big veer, however, came under the hood.
Since the 318 was essentially beat, and Bill and Darlene intended to drive the convertible for all it was worth, Bill decided the engine compartment needed a little something extra. The extra would be a '70 440 set up for some serious street duty.
The engine was bored .030 over, and the short-block assembly then began with the installation of Six Pack rods topped with TRW forged pistons connected to a freshened crank. The 906 heads were mildly ported before being fitted with a larger intake and exhaust valves. These are actuated via stock rockers by way of Mopar lifters and a cam featuring a .484-inch lift and .284-degree duration. A Six Pack intake was settled in between the heads and fitted with triple Holley carbs.
Now, stock high-performance headers lead Hemi mufflers and 2.5-inch tailpipes. Behind the 440 sits an 833 four-speed beefed up with a Hayes clutch and pressure plate and topped with a Hurst shifter. The four-speed transfers engine torque to an 8 3⁄4 rearend hosting a 3.55 limited-slip differential.
Bill considers the convertible an ongoing, gradual restoration. "We have driven the car for the last six or seven years, and every year it seems to get a little better," he says.
Just this past winter, Bill dove into what turned out to be the toughest project of them all-replacing the dash. The original owner had cut the dash in order to install a stereo system. Bill eventually found a suitable replacement from a parts car, so after treating it to a thorough sandblasting and paint job, he performed the difficult task of removing the old and installing the new.
Today, Bill and Darlene's Satellite enjoys the open road at least two or three times a week around the couple's Stow, Ohio, home. That includes plenty of regional shows and cruises.
"We get a lot of attention," says Bill, "since there are not many '66 Satellite convertibles around. We will pretty much drive it to any show or cruise-in, regardless of the distance."
It may have been reluctant to get back in the fast lane, but thanks to the unmovable spirit and determination of Bill and Darlene, this is one ragtop that won't be slowing down for some time to come.