Joe McCaron has been building Hemi cars for himself for the past ten years. All of the cars have been two-door post cars, and all extremely detailed. His first was a '65 Belvedere A-990 clone, followed closely by a Viper Red '65 Dodge A-990 Coronet clone. He then built a '64 Plymouth Savoy Super Stock clone. For his latest Hemi project, Joe wanted to build a Mopar that looked different but performed as well as all the others.
For this project, Joe selected a '66 Plymouth Belvedere I two-door sedan-the same body style that Jere Stahl raced in 1966. He wanted to build a '66 Plymouth sedan because he liked the looks of the car. It had a bench seat, which he prefers, and it was the first year of the street Hemi. The Belvedere I sedan he found had 16,000 miles on the odometer and came out of Black Foot, Idaho. It was the proverbial little old lady's Slant Six car that was originally radio delete, but had a heater and an engine block-heater. The car was in such great shape that Joe drove it for two years as his daily driver before he started this project.
Joe's stately Belvedere I...
Joe's stately Belvedere I sedan stands out in a world filled with sportier Mopar models. While Plymouth made thousands of these sedans in 1966, most have been passed by (or crushed) in favor of the more popular convertibles and hardtops.
Once the car was disassembled, Joe took the body to Bob Hanson's chassis shop to have the subframes tied together and the rear springs moved inboard. He also had Hanson reverse the right hand shock mount for a little extra cylinder head clearance. Although not necessary on a '66 B-Body, this change makes the removal of the right hand valve cover much easier. He also added mini-tubs by moving the rear wheelwells inboard to the outer edge of the framerail. This gave him a full 13 inches of available wheelwell width, should he ever decide to run a very large rear tire. When Joe reassembled the chassis, he added Tri-City Super Stock springs to the rear and heavy-duty torsion bars to the front. He also added a heavy-duty front sway bar to the front suspension along with a set of Stainless Steel Brakes Corp. disc brakes. In the rear he added a complete Strange S60 rear axle with 3.54:1 gears. This rear end assembly also features Strange's S/T Series 35-spline axles and a Trac-Loc Sure Grip unit. Because the rear axle is stock width, the 15x81/2-inch American Torq Thrust II wheels did not fit inside the quarter-panels. Joe ordered special wheels with more offset so he could maintain the rear width while centering the tires within the wheelwell. The front wheels are 15x6-inch American Torq Thrust IIs. The tires (front and rear) are BFG Radial TAs.
The interior on Joe's Belvedere...
The interior on Joe's Belvedere I looks factory fresh with NOS seat material. The additions are the tach and gauges while the deletions include the heater and radio.
Dale Reed has built the engines for all of Joe's previous Hemi cars and for this engine, Joe gave Reed a Keith Black billet steel crankshaft with a 4.375 stroke. This, combined with 4.375-inch diameter bore on the Mopar block, totaled 526 cubic inches. Dale ordered a set of 10.0:1 forged pistons from Ross and connected them to Eagle rods. Isky provided the roller camshaft, and Stage V aluminum heads and a dual four-barrel intake were added. This intake looks similar to the street Hemi intake but is designed to mount a pair of Holley carburetors in tandem. Joe did not want a hoodscoop on this car so he bought an aftermarket air cleaner designed for twin four-barrel carburetors that had a 2-inch element. He made a custom base to fit the carburetor spacing, but because of the low hood profile the 2-inch element would not fit. Joe contacted K&N and had them make a unique 1¾-inch-high air filter element. The air cleaner's new low profile, combined with the carburetor's tall air horns, created an air restriction problem. Joe solved the problem by milling the air horns off the top of both carburetors. Joe got out his tube bender and flaring tool and created his own fuel lines.