If you could only order one factory option on a '60s-vintage Mopar, what would it be?
For many of you, that option would be the 426 Hemi, not just for that engine's massive power, but also for the upgrades made on the assembly line to its powertrain, chassis and unibody.
Others might lean toward the "Basic Group" or other popular-option packages, which added features like whitewall tires, more brightwork, a dressed-up interior, and an AM radio-and a TorqueFlite would go in at no extra charge.
But whoever ordered this '64 Plymouth Savoy two-door hardtop picked the push-button Torqueflite as its only option. That meant no V-8, but a 225 Slant Six. No radio, heater or defroster-just block-off plates.
But this car's lack of options turned out to be a blessing for Russell Gaisbacher. The lack of factory-installed features meant there was that much less stuff to remove.
'64 Savoy's engine bay now...
'64 Savoy's engine bay now holds a 472-ci Mopar Performance crate Hemi in place of the long-removed stock 225 Slant Six.
Russell says that this project was delayed for more than a few years-about 20, to be exact. "What happened was, we started a project for a friend of mine," he says from his Charleroi, Pennsylvania, shop, Russell's Body and Frame Service. "It was partially done, the shell and stuff, and he lost interest in it. A couple of years ago, I ended up purchasing it from of him."
One big reason that Russell bought the '64 was his son, Matt. "The car was laying around here forever, and he kept saying, 'Dad-we're moving this car around the shop a lot, why don't you try to buy it?'"
(In case the name sounds familiar, we featured Matt Gaisbacher's black '73 'Cuda on the cover of May '08 Mopar Muscle.)
The front cabin on Russell's...
The front cabin on Russell's Savoy is just as it came out of Ma Mopar's L.A. Assembly Plant back then: plain dash, plain seats, and no radio, heater or defroster.
Russell says that, despite the Savoy's work-in-progress state, there was a lot of work yet to be done. Once they got going, the Gaisbachers found that this Savoy had one feature that more than a few other surviving '64 Plymouths don't have: a rust-free body. Russell adds, "It was a New Mexico car with all its original sheetmetal, but we did do a complete rotisserie restoration on it."
That body restoration went faster than some other B-Body projects, as they didn't need to track down reproduction pieces or usable used sheetmetal, cut off rusted body panels, and fit replacements. One original steel piece was needed-an original early B-Body Hemi K-member-and it went in before the 472-ci Mopar Performance Hemi crate engine did. That Hemi is backed by a 727 that utilizes the original dash-mounted pushbuttons, and a 3.91-geared 8 3/4-inch rear end.
Period-correctness is the key when it comes to the Savoy's chassis. "It's all back to the way it was in 1964," says Russell. It's got drum brakes, and the only update was putting the dual master cylinder on it."
Russell also made other choices during the build to keep the Savoy looking period correct. Indy Drag Mag wheels went on in front, and wide stock wheels in back, to give this street driver a Super Stock look. That also meant that the all-steel body didn't get any non-'64 hoodscoops, hood tie-down pins, multi-color paint schemes or anything else that wasn't available in the mid-'60s.
The same goes for the Savoy's interior. That meant keeping and restoring the original bench seats, minimally-instrumented dash, and the two-spoke steering wheel.
Once they got it done, they had a B-Body that was as much a driver as it is a looker. "It's a lot of fun," says Russell. "It's fast, and it's dependable."
Russell-who's been letting Matt take over the restoration end of his business-has this to add about early B-Bodies. "They're a lot of fun to do. They're neat cars, and what I like about 'em is there's not a whole lot of 'em out there."