It was in January 2004 when Gene Lukow's friend Bobby Celani, from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, told him about a 426 Hemi engine that might be for sale. Gene called and asked the Hemi's owner about it--and other Mopar parts he had, and if he was truly willing to sell. Arrangements were made for a visit, and there on an engine stand was indeed a Hemi, almost complete from carburetors to oil pan. Gene started checking the engine, and all numbers confirmed this was a '65 factory Race Hemi. The only pieces missing were the oval air cleaner and exhaust manifolds. Gene tells us, "The owner asked me one question: ‘Did you find what you were looking for'"? He said one price takes everything, but Gene wasn't prepared to take the entire deal. Three weeks later the owner called and said that he needed cash, and that Gene could buy just the Hemi.

Once back home, the plan was to have the Hemi disassembled by Ray Barton Racing Engines to assess what could be used and what needed replacing. One Saturday night, Gene thought he would attend a cruise in his '65 Belvedere II. Just for kicks, he took the intake from the Hemi with him. While at the cruise, there was one person who looked in the trunk and made a comment. "An intake like that belongs only on a '65 two-door sedan car, not a hardtop." Gene explained that the intake was from the Hemi he was having built for his next project, and not for this car. Much to Gene's surprise, the gentleman said he had a '65 Belvedere I two-door sedan. He had started it as a project but couldn't finish it. Gene was able to purchase the sedan, and the Hemi now had a destination.

During the next two years, Bobby Celani worked on getting the body prepped and ready for paint. Fabrication of the passenger-side shock tower was completed by Greg Harrison, to allow room for the Hemi's valve cover removal. After the first painter didn't do as good a job as Gene wanted, the car was delivered to Bob Zelko, who applied the new Ruby Red paint. While the body was getting slathered in a red hue, Ray Barton's guys were also working on the Hemi. Over the next two years, the search was on for all the correct pieces needed to re-create a perfect A990 tribute. A steel hoodscoop was located, along with a correct engine wiring harness, and Gene and some friends also refinished all of the trim pieces. Gene also acquired new lightweight glass, correct door panels and seats, new brake and fuel lines, a correct radiator, and even rebuilt a set of '65 Super Stock leaf springs. On March 2, 2010, the Hemi was set in place for the very first time.

Gene tells us, "With four red steel wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich tires, the car was ready for its first trial run under its own power. A quick turn of the key brought the Elephant to life, and as it left the garage, with just a gentle touch of the throttle, it was obvious these tires wouldn't handle any of this."

Gene informed us that there were 101 Plymouth Belvedere Super Stock A990 cars built, and only 14 of those were four-speed cars. Records also confirm that there was only one car shipped as a four-speed car in PP1 Bright Ruby Red. Gene prefers to call this a re-creation, as the word clone has just too broad an interpretation of a car with a genuine '65 factory Race Hemi in a PP1 Bright Ruby Belvedere I two-door sedan.

Gene would like to thank the many people and good friends who contributed their expertise with this project and shared in re-creating a unique piece of Mopar Racing History, including Ray and David Barton, Ken Montgomery, Greg Lane, Jim Kramer, Wayne Brewer, Rick Gorski, Kim Rhodes, Jerry Dempsey, Gordon Garland, Bobby Celani, Gary Ball, Bill Petrow, Walt Redmond, Bob Zelko, and last but not least Greg Harrison.

Check out moparmuscle.com for extra, unseen images of this great feature car.

Fast Facts

'65 Plymouth A990 recreation
Gene and Lori Lukow Allentown, Pennsylvania

Mopar Power

  • Engine: A 1964 Hemi block is the foundation for the 472-inch Hemi that was built by Ray Barton Racing Engines. The guys at Barton's filled the block with Steel H-beam rods, a Callies crankshaft, custom JE pistons, and a Comp Cams flat tappet cam with a lift of .650-inch, and an advertised duration of 284 degrees. A pair of factory aluminum-heads were placed over the bores, and a Magnesium cross ram intake supports a pair of Holley 770 carburetors.
  • Transmission: It's a row-your-own four speed that was built by Brewer's Performance of Ludlow falls, Ohio.
  • Rear: An 8-3/4 rear is filled with a Sure Grip and 4.30 gears. It might not be a highway cruiser, but it doesn't lose too many red light showdowns.

Sure Grip

  • Suspension: The front is carried by a rebuilt stock suspension, but the rear has a launch aid, in the form of Super Stock springs.
  • Brakes: Since high-speed Autobon driving isn't the intention, stock, manual drum brakes are still employed.
  • Wheels/Tires: Nothing screams vintage racer like a set of steelies, and Gene's are 15 x 6, and 15 x 8. The tires are BF Goodrich 215/65-15 and 275/60-15.

High Impact

  • Paint/Body: When this body was purchased, the car was being prepared to be a Pro-Street project, and the floor had been cut out from the firewall to the backseat. Bobby Celani had a friend stop by the shop one day, and he offered the floor out a '64 Plymouth donor car that he no longer needed. Bobby installed the floor and added sub frame connectors to tie everything together. He completed all the body panel prep work & then applied a primer coat. Bob Zelko applied the new PPG Concept Single Stage Bright Ruby Red that he custom mixed. Over the next four months, each surface was carefully prepped, sanded, cleaned, sanded, cleaned and sanded again until everything was straight.
  • Interior: The comfort portion of this area is handled by the pair of A100 van seats that were upholstered by Garry Ball. Gary also got the nod to restore the rest of the black interior.