What's the formula to go fast? The easy and most effective way is to pick the lightest chassis possible, and fill it with the most horsepower you can afford. Then why is it that some folks pick the most ungainly platforms to base their projects on? Our reply-why not? Anybody can take a Dodge Dart, drop in a 400-horse small-block, and then go fast, but it takes a real hardheaded individual to make a '65 Plymouth Belvedere II station wagon haul the mail. Lynn Ronzello is just that kind of gal. Not only does her '65 land barge scoot, it does so in style.
Purchased from an estate sale in 1983, Lynn is the second owner. The wagon was in really good shape when she took delivery, exhibiting only a few dents in its vast sheetmetal from the daily grind on the mean streets of Yermo, California. Lynn bought the wagon to tow her and husband Ralph's '64 convertible to shows, but after deliberating with opposing council (Ralph), they decided the behemoth would make a much better race car than tow vehicle. That was the beginning.
Aside from rechroming the bumpers, the remainder of the chrome and stainless trim was nearly perfect and therefore left alone. Oddly enough, this original big-block car was ordered with A/C, but no radio. The first race motor installed in the Belvedere was a stout 440 Six Pack that was able to push the rotund wagon into the mid-12s. That motor might still be under the wagon's hood if Lynn hadn't agreed to let Ralph make a pass (the 19th on the new engine to be exact).
Since a new power plant was the order of the day, Lynn and Ralph decided to perform some modifications during the down time. The body was given to Chuck Miller of Styline Customs in River Rouge, Michigan, where it was covered in blue and white glace. A '67 Hemi scoop was added for fresh air, the A/C was dumped, a "J" converter was located and slipped into the bellhousing of the 727, and the rear seat was 86'd to make room for a six-point roll bar. A set of Super Stock leaf springs were bolted in the back, while Arrow Racing was commissioned to machine the new 440, and Lou Mancini assembled the RB. In this configuration, the wagon's e.t.'s dropped well into the 11.50 range. But that just wasn't enough for Lynn.
So the leaf springs were moved inboard, more weight was jettisoned by swapping the front bench seat with a pair of A-990 buckets, and the rear fenderwells were stretched for larger tires. The fuel system was also upgraded with a fuel cell and Barry Grant components. This solidly put the war wagon in the 11.30s. But as usual (Do you see a pattern here?), bottom 11s still weren't enough for Lynn.
Out came the wedge and in went an original '65 race Hemi, complete with a cross-ram built by Hale Performance. For those that think this Hemi only looks good, listen up. After being tweaked and dyno'd by Steve Atwell of Aaron Enterprises in Milford, Michigan, it screamed to a stout 705 hp. The rollbar was uprated into a ten-point cage, a narrowed Dana 60 with a 4.88 gear set was bolted in, and an original '65 Hemi hoodscoop was chosen to appropriately cover the '65 Hemi.
What's it good for? On its second pass at Bristol Dragway with the Hemi underhood, the wagon ran a 10.76 at a buck-twenty-five. But Lynn feels with good air and a fresh set of slicks, the nearly 4,000-pound heavyweight will easily turn a 10.50. And we know how Lynn is-it's only a matter of time before a 10.50 just isn't quite fast enough. Where will it end? That's entirely up to Lynn.