Sometimes all a Mopar needs is a little "freshening." That not only means changes made during a particular vehicle's production history, but also what can happen long after it rolls off the assembly line.
The freshening that Elwood Engel's styling crew gave the '68 Mopar B-Bodies upgraded the look of all mid-sized Dodge and Plymouth lines, especially Plymouth's. Gone was the creased-edge design of '66-'67, replaced with rounded lines and "Coke bottle" contours on the rear quarters.
Plymouth's mid-sized model range got an update for '68, too-not just the Road Runner coupe. The Sport Satellite hardtop, convertible, and woodgrain-sided wagon also debuted at the start of the model year, and the Road Runner hardtop came out at mid-year. Meanwhile, Belvedere was made the base B-Body series, without the previous Roman numeral designations.
That meant the Satellite series, once the top of the mid-sized line in 1966, was now smack-dab in the middle of it-but still a contender in the sales race against Chevy's Chevelle Malibu and Ford's Torino.
383 was the biggest engine choice offered in Satellites in 1968, and Joel's has a rebuilt
Joel Bourdeau's '68 Satellite convertible has some correct-for-'68 additions inside and out. "I had the hood put on because it looks good with that hood," he says of the styling change he made up front by adding the GTX/Road Runner hood. "But the bucket seats were extra (factory options) in 1968."
Those buckets-with-center-armrest front seats, and the Sport Satellite/GTX taillight/rear deck trim panel give Joel's Satellite a look like the "Silver Special" Plymouths that Ma Mopar used to bring out in the mid and late '60s. Those included metallic paint (silver or other colors taken from the big Chrysler color selection), fancier trim inside and out, plus the TorqueFlite automatic was no extra charge.
Are the scoops on the hood functional? Even if they aren't, they look good and provide the
But there's more to this B-Body than just trim. It's powered by a 383, the same size engine the car was built with at St. Louis, Missouri. It also makes Joel's car another one of the less-than-100-ever-built Mopar rarities.Out of 1,771 Satellite convertibles made in 1968, it's one of only 71 built with the optional 383 big-block. (The other 1,700 drop-top '68 Satellites had either the 225-inch Slant Six or the 318-inch LA-series small-block V-8.). The 383 now wears a four-barrel in place of the original two-barrel carburetor, under a correct-for-'68 "un-silenced" air cleaner with a "383 four-barrel" pie tin completing the look. There's plenty of other '68-correct stuff under the hood-hoses, belts, emission sticker-and that 383, says Joel, drives perfectly.
Joel found his Satellite at Auto Trader (a classic-car dealer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada,) and he made room for it by trading a Shelby-clone Mustang convertible that he had. "I was not a Ford guy from the beginning, and I was looking to trade it," says Joel.
When looking further into this car's history, Joel found that it had been auctioned at Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale, Arizona, collector-car auction back in 2006, then brought into Canada before he acquired it in June of that year.
Unfortunately, after Joel had owned this B-Body for a while, it took an unscheduled trip-with no one driving. "There was an incident with the steering column bushing. It fell off, and the car ran right into the middle of the Castor River." Fortunately, the Satellite was recovered with less effort than it took to retrieve space-travelling satellites from the oceans, and the car was sent away to A.S.E. Motorsports in Osgood, Ontario, to dry out and have its mechanical and electrical systems restored and/or replaced as needed.
Optional Satellite front buckets with center armrest/rear benches wear reproduction maroon
That work was finished in the summer of 2008, and we caught up with Joel at Carlisle, where his Satellite was one of the Celebrity Picks at Chryslers at Carlisle. You could not tell that it had an adventure in the river or that it was not originally built at St. Louis with the GTX hood and rear trim.
The in-dash tach was a factory option in '68, often replaced by more accurate aftermarket
Plymouth had a huge sales year in 1968-its biggest year of the '60s-but its convertible models didn't share in that success. The Satellite series was the biggest seller of all the mid-sized '68 Plymouths, with sedan and hardtop versions each selling more than 42,000 units. But the three convertible Plymouth B-Bodies-Satellite (1,771 built), Sport Satellite (1,523), and GTX (1,026) convertibles added up to fewer than 5,000 built and sold between them. That probably helped seal that body style's fate, as drop-top sales continued to slide in 1969 and 1970, despite the new-for-'69 Road Runner convertible. After fewer than 2,000 (total) '70 Road Runner and Satellite convertibles were built and sold, the mid-size Plymouth convertible was history.
Should you find one of these rare beauties, it's worth giving it a freshening of your own, even if it's been stored under ideal conditions. Not just the rubber parts in the fuel system and the gas tank, but also the steering column bushing (if it has a column-shift TorqueFlite). Make sure that the one in it will keep the car in Park-otherwise, replace it right away, because if you don't, your ride might need more than just the post-"swim" freshening that Joel had to give his Satellite!
'68 Plymouth Satellite Convertible
Owned by: Joel Bourdeau, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Modern-construction BFG Silvertown radials look like the "Red Streak" bias-ply tires that
- Engine: Joel's Satellite had a two-barrel-equipped 383 installed at St. Louis when it was built. There's still a 383 under the hood, only this time it wears a four-barrel carburetor under its "unsilenced" air cleaner, which in turn wears a "383 four-barrel" pie tin.
- Transmission: Column-shifted 727 TorqueFlite, with its steering-column bushing replaced (the part that caused it to roll into the river)
- Rearend: 8 3/4 Mopar rear with Sure-Grip and 2.76:1 rear gears
- Suspension: (Front) Longitudinal torsion bars, anti-sway bar, and tubular shocks (rear) leaf springs with tubular shocks
- Brakes: Drum-and-shoe at each corner with 11-inch drums, power assisted
- Wheels and Tires: Ma Mopar's optional Chrome five-spoke road wheels shod with BFGoodrich Silvertown radials (P225/70R15 redline)
Unfortunately, a worn steering column bushing led to an unscheduled trip into the Castor R
- Body: Original '68 Plymouth B-Body convertible unibody with a GTX/Road Runner hood and the die-cast GTX/Sport Satellite trim above the rear bumper
- Paint: AA1 Silver Metallic (in basecoat/clearcoat form) sprayed on by A.S.E. Motorsports, Osgood, Ontario, Canada
- Interior: Joel had the stock Satellite front bench seat replaced with a '68-factory-option front buckets/center armrest combo, and he added a six-way adjust for the driver seat. The stock rear bench was kept, the front and rear seats now wear new vinyl, and A.S.E. Motorsports did their restoration work inside, too. Other interior features: air conditioning, a dash-mounted tach, and a "thumbwheel" AM radio/eight-track tape player.