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.
Joe had Bob Hanson relocate...
Joe had Bob Hanson relocate the rear springs inboard and install subframe connectors. Joe also added mini-tubs to accommodate almost any size rear tire. The rear end is a Strange S60 with 3.54:1 gears.
McCaron sent his original six-cylinder K-member to Mega Parts, where it was rebuilt to '66 Hemi specs, including a skid plate. TTI headers were added along with their 3-inch exhaust pipes leading into DynoMax mufflers. Backing the Hemi engine is a Turbo Action 2,500-rpm stall torque converter connected to a 727 trans built by Remac Transmission of San Dimas, California, with A&A internals.
Originally, the '66 Plymouth Belvedere I was fitted with full-length body side molding. Joe decided to keep the car as simple as possible and deleted that molding. He also did not add Hemi emblems to the front fenders. All of Joe's earlier Hemi cars were red and this Plymouth was no exception. Oscar Sandoval at J.V. Enterprises in Azusa, California, shot the PPG single stage Laser Red paint. The interior was trimmed with NOS tan material at Quality Upholstery in Irwindale, California, and since the radio delete plate was already in place, and it's sunny all the time where he lives, he also added a heater delete plate. The tach on top of the instrument panel is the only dead giveaway that this Belvedere I is no longer grandma's grocery getter.
Although there were some Belvederes...
Although there were some Belvederes built with a Hemi, none of them came with 526 cubes. Dale Reed built the 526. It features Stage V aluminum heads and intake along with an Isky roller cam. The air cleaner is an aftermarket item with a custom base and unique K&N filter. Tandem Holley 1850s look out of place on a Hemi, but the Stage V intake is designed to mount them. Joe had to machine the air horns off of the carburetors to increase airflow in the low profile air cleaner. He also made the fuel lines.
'66 Plymouth Belvedere I
Owner: Joe McCaronMopar Power
Engine: Dale Reed built 526-inches of Hemi starting with a Mopar Performance cast-iron block, filling the 4.375-inch bores with Ross Pistons rotated by a Keith Black steel billet crankshaft with a 4.375 stroke. Stage V aluminum heads and dual four-barrel intake with twin Holley four-barrel carbs tops it off.
Transmission: Sure, a four-speed would be cool, but to make driving a little easier, a 727 TorqueFlite with A&A components was chosen.
Rearend: An indestructible Strange S60 with 3.54:1 gears and Trac Loc helps make the BFG tires turn into asphalt crayons.
Suspension: Power is no good without traction, so the rear springs were moved inboard to allow for larger rear tires, and the subframes were connected. The stock six-cylinder K-member was rebuilt to accommodate the '66 Hemi including a skid plate.
Brakes: Stainless Steel Corporation disc brakes in front with factory 11-inch drums in the rear
Wheels: American Torq Thrust 6-inch in front and 81/2 in rear. The rear wheels were rebuilt to add backspacing to accommodate the enlarged wheelhouse and factory width rear end.
Tires: BFG Radial TA's 215/70R15 in front and 275/60R15 in the rear
Body: Simple but cool. What else can we say about a Belvedere I two-door sedan sans side molding?
Paint: PPG single stage Audi Laser Red. If he keeps up the tire burning in public, it really could be called Arrest-Me Red.
Interior: The car originally came as a radio delete car, and Joe added a heater delete plate. NOS tan cloth material on the bench seats and an instrument panel mounted tach.