Starting off with 60,000 miles...
Starting off with 60,000 miles on the factory drivetrain, 2,767 miles and 256 gallons of gas later, the Plymouth only required fresh fluids to keep going. Brennan never once had to break out the tool kit.
Not all wing car owners are affluent entrepreneurs or heavily backed investors interested in keeping a collection of rare American musclecars to diversify their portfolios. Thankfully, some of them are like 41-year-old Brennan Cook. The North Dakota native isn't a property developer, an investment banker, or a marketing coordinator, he's just a Mopar guy. Brennan has gone through a handful of different musclecars and trucks, but his heart always belonged to the Tor-Red winged Plymouth that would fall into his 16-year-old lap for $2,000 in 1981.
Teenage Brennan struggled to iron out the Superbird's nearly endless list of bugs and ticks to little avail. In 1984, frustrated with the car, he stowed the Bird for the next 22 years.
In February 2006, he finally extracted the dusty Plymouth from its holding cell for one last attempt at bringing it back to life. The near-quarter century of stagnancy had rendered most of the car defunct. Nearly everything would need to be either replaced or repaired.
While the Superbird underwent a whirlwind resto-resurrection, plans for a road trip with Brennan's girlfriend, Cheryl Soscia, retracing portions of the historical Lewis & Clark exploration began to gain momentum. With a near-3,000-mile trip in mind, he took the car to the only mechanic trustworthy enough to ensure its longevity-Todd Kramer of Fargo, North Dakota.
But even with Todd's help, the Superbird was in less than ideal condition. Despite a new camshaft, lifters, and adjustable pushrods, cleaned and inspected heads, and a second set of new lifters, the standard-bore 440-once replaced by Chrysler under factory warranty years earlier-still rattled with an audibly distinct valvetrain noise. Making matters worse were the gauges. Brennan says, "[The] instrument cluster is possessed. The needles [must be] moved by narcoleptic, mischievous leprechauns [because] sometimes a gauge will register a reading then suddenly it won't." But the cabin, for the most part, was sound. Only the bucket seats, carpet, and rear package tray had been replaced or recovered.
Externally, the Superbird retains all its original sheetmetal. Years ago, it was repainted an incorrect shade of Tor-Red, but the original vinyl top was preserved. Other factory components include the differential with only 60,000 miles on it . . . well, 63,000 now.
During the road trip, a mysterious leak would sap vital brake fluid from the master cylinder but with no clear indication of where it was going, thus forcing Brennan to continually check the reservoir every morning and at most pit stops. And a troublesome harmonic vibration would appear every time the Plymouth would creep past 65 mph.
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
While preparing everything for the next day's start, Brennan and Cheryl discovered an obnoxious exhaust leak coming from the Bird's professionally-installed, high-dollar, reproduction exhaust system. With one more gremlin trying Brennan's patience, he took out only the required liability insurance needed to drive on the street. Why get specialty insurance since the nature of the trip would have voided the limited collector car coverage most would expect to be carried on a car of this caliber?
Realizing the Superbird's tendency to vibrate its occupants silly at anything over 60 mph, the duo opted to take mostly scenic back roads and highways.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming, was...
Devil's Tower, Wyoming, was the backdrop for Steven Spielberg's film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Pretty cool.
Cheryl would occasionally...
Cheryl would occasionally slip behind the wheel for some "clutch time." Brennan assured her the Bird's indestructible drivetrain could handle anything she could dish out.
Brennan and Cheryl at the...
Brennan and Cheryl at the home of Shawn Lince, the original owner's son, who recounted how he used to sit in his father's lap as a child and steer the Superbird. Brennan was also able to talk to Shawn's father, Bill, on the phone.
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
With Cheryl's truck in storage, the couple pulled out of Mandan, North Dakota, and turned onto I-94 towards Elgin, where the Superbird was purchased new in 1970. Brennan hoped that in the small town somebody would recognize the car and possibly offer some information regarding its original owner. Amazingly, at their first stop for gas (done nearly every 100 miles), a friendly attendant put him on the phone with the original owner's son, Shawn Lince. Within minutes, Shawn pulled into the gas station and invited them to his house. Brennan insisted that Shawn drive the Superbird to his house, where Shawn called his father, Bill, to talk with Brennan.
Bill had bought the car new in 1970. He said they were under the impression the car had been totaled in an accident years ago, and so never inquired further about the Superbird.
Brennan and Cheryl then drove on to Brennan's birthplace, Bowman, North Dakota, where then-9-year-old Brennan would watch the orange Plymouth occasionally pass by. Seven years later, he would own that very same car.
Making one more stop before crossing the border to South Dakota, Brennan tracked down old friend and engine builder Steve Mutschelknaus, who brought his kids out to see the Superbird since it might be the only time they would ever get to see one.
Traveling on, the two stopped for the night in Spearfish, South Dakota, where Brennan's mother lives. "Without her help," Brennan says, "I never would have been able to buy the Superbird in the first place."