You've seen 'em. Cars advertised for sale that not only look good from 20 feet, but from an even greater distance-from a picture in an ad (online or print) to your eyeballs. The ad copy lists the year, make, series, body style, and features the car has, at a price that seems nice.
Greg Bolton-built 426 Hemi sports Mopar aluminum heads topped by an Edelbrock intake and t
Maybe there's something missing . . . something you wouldn't know without an up-close look. So it was when Steve Sommers found a '66 Plymouth Satellite convertible via an online ad. He's wanted one of these since high school, one of the 2,759 drop-top Satellites made that year-the second-rarest mid-size Plymouth body style made in 1966, after the Belvedere II convertible. "This was a car that I'd been looking for forever, a car I really wanted," says Steve. "I had been looking for the right one for about ten or fifteen years, and I really thought I'd found the one that I wanted, that was optioned correctly. I wanted a big-block car."
And that's what it was, one with a 383/727 powertrain. Advertised for sale in Maryland, as a "restored" car, Steve had it shipped to his Riverside, California, home after he bought it. He drove it for about a year and then looked into turning his score into a "Hemi tribute."
Custom-fabbed four-link suspension with QA1 coilovers and a Speedway Engineering sway bar
As soon as Steve pulled the 383 out, he started to see what was really inside and under his B-Body. Or, more precisely, what wasn't there. "I'd finished the Hemi and dynoed it, took the existing engine out, and started finding rust," he says. "I just found more and more and more of it." At that point, Steve was referred to Pat McCarthy at PSM Performance in Riverside (by Bob Mazzolini, who was set to build a 727 for the Satellite). After finding even more rust under layers of undercoating and filler, Pat recommended a complete teardown and rebuild. "We put it on a frame machine and got the ride height to where I knew I wanted it," says Steve. "We completely gutted it, cut the entire floor out of the car, and then we built the frame underneath it on the frame machine." That square-tube frame added the structure the Satellite needed, and-thanks to channelling the floorpan over it-the Satellite sits lower than stock, with no trace of the frame visible without lifting the car.
After the rust was cut out, the Satellite needed structure to handle the Hemi's torque-in
Underneath, major changes were in store. At Pat's suggestion, Steve scrapped the OEM front torsion bar/rear leaf suspension system for No Limits' tubular A-arms in front and a four-link rear setup in back with a Strange Engineering-built Dana 60 rearend filled with a 3.73-geared True Track differential. Also included in the chassis hardware: Rack-and-pinion steering, Speedway Engineering sway bars front and rear, QA1 coilovers at each corner, plus a set of Wilwood discs and Toyo-shod Boyd Coddington Classic II wheels.
The underneath is just as clean as the top side, and you can see the Gear Vendors Under/Ov
After all that work by PSM-which included shaving off the stock body trim-the Satellite was just about ready for the Hemi, which patiently awaited its new home during the body-resto process. Instead of a crate engine, Steve had Greg Bolton in Jefferson City, Missouri, build one with an Eagle crankshaft, Manley rods and KB pistons, a Comp Cams solid-lifter camshaft, Mopar aluminum heads, and an Edelbrock dual four-barrel intake wearing a pair of 600-cfm Holleys. To make sure the Hemi has enough lube, the guys at PSM also fabricated a custom oil pan and modified the stock pickup to work with it. Behind it is that Bob Mazzolini-built 727 shifted by a B&M Quik Stick using the original Satellite console shifter stick, and a Gear Vendors Under/Overdrive. Knowing that a factory 22-inch radiator wouldn't cut it, Steve added a Be Cool system to ensure no steam-emitting cruises.
Period-correct looks at each corner are thanks to Boyd Coddington Wheels' Classic IIs, whi
Once all the hardware was fitted to the B-Body, off it all came for paint, but not just any paintjob or a re-do of the original acrylic enamel. Steve called on one of the top body and paint men in the West. "The paint was done by Freddy Valdez," says Steve of Freddy's work, which included smoothing the sheetmetal. Steve adds, "More than one person has told me that's the finest paintjob that they've ever seen. I was at a show with it one time, and a guy walked up and said, 'Who painted this? It had to be so-and-so or Freddy Valdez.' I said, 'Yeah, that was Freddy Valdez,' and he said, 'Nobody else paints like that!'"
Inside, the reproduction bucket-seat interior, featuring seat covers, door panels and other cabin items by Legendary Auto Interiors, was installed by Henry Toro at The Upholsterers in Riverside. Henry also stitched the interior side panels' custom vinyl trim, as well as the cloth convertible top and custom top boot.
The result, after a three-year build, is a '66 Plymouth that's worth taking a good look at-as well as a good look at yourself in that mirror-like sheetmetal. What's it like to drive? "The best way to describe it is it doesn't do anything ill," says Steve. "Everything it does is very predictable. It tracks incredibly well. You get on it around a corner, the rear end doesn't try to come around-it drifts out perfectly. It's very, very easy to drive." But that's not all. Steve says with a big laugh, "It's remarkable how well it corners and how well balanced it is."
If this inspires you to seek out a potential Mopar project via the classic-car ads, Steve has these words of caution: "If something has undercoating, be very, very careful. Go and look at the car-investigate it in person. Don't take somebody's word for it."
Steve adds, "Dare to be different. Anybody can build a Chevelle, Camaro, or Mustang. Use some imagination!"
Legendary's repro seat covers and door panels make the Satellite's interior look like a fr
No, this isn't from the '66 Plymouth showroom sales brochure-it's the business office of S
Restored OEM '66 Satellite console hides a B&M Quik Stick shifter for the 727.
'66 Plymouth Satellite convertible
Steve Sommers, Riverside, California
- Engine: Greg Bolton built the 426 Hemi with Mopar aluminum heads, Eagle crankshaft, Keith Black pistons, Manley rods, Comp Cams solid-lifter camshaft, Edelbrock intake with two 600-cfm Holley four-barrels and Dick Landy Industries rockers. PSM fabricated a custom oil pan and modified the stock pickup to work with it.
- Transmission: A Bob Mazzolini-built 727 with a Gear Vendors Under/Overdrive and a B&M QuikSilver shifter (using an OEM '66 Satellite console shifter handle).
- Rearend: Dana 60 by Strange Engineering, with 3.73 gears and a True Trac limited-slip differential.
- Suspension: (Front) No Limits' tubular A-arms, two-inch drop spindles, QA1 coilover shocks, and a Speedway Engineering anti-sway bar (Rear) Custom four-link suspension with QA1 coilovers and a Speedway Engineering anti-sway bar
- Brakes: Wilwood discs all around, with four-piston calipers and 10-inch rotors.
- Wheels and Tires: High-tech Toyo Proxes T-1S tires wear Boyd Coddington Wheels' Classic IIs, 17x8 inches in front, 18x10 inches in rear.
- Body: What was left of the original '66 B-Body convertible unibody was repaired, smoothed of all trim, and prepped for paint by Freddy Valdez in Santa Ana, California. De-trimmed '66 Belvedere I taillights replaced the stock Satellite ones, while stock-size halogen headlights replaced the OEM sealed beams Bumpers and door handles were re-chromed by Steve Jones in Murietta, California, who also plated the front control arms, hood hinges, and X-bone in black nickel.
- Paint: House of Kolor's BC25 Black basecoat, with a HOK clearcoat.
- Interior: Stock-look interior features door panels and seat covers by Legendary (installed by Henry Toro at The Upholsterers, Riverside, CA) and Painless Wiring behind the dash.