Now, after restoring 140 customer cars, John has finally been able to set aside a portion of his shop's time to build the car that he wanted. "My trademark has been quality and craftsmanship remembered long after the price is forgotten," John notes. "I really have set my standards high and because of that, I have chosen not to play the pricing game, especially when it could reduce my own quality standards."

So with the success of a 10-year business and the 10-year drought of doing a car for himself, when it finally came to building this Belvedere, no effort was spared.

"I really wanted to build a car that I could enjoy," says John. Hence, this Race Hemi '64 Belvedere replica. "My drive for building this car was my love for the cars that Richard Petty raced. Certainly, the '64 Plymouth is a Petty silhouette even if he never raced a sedan," John points out.

"I have a personal love for that sedan body style. It takes me back to imagining the scene from one of my favorite old songs-The Little Old Lady From Pasadena. Especially the lyric 'Parked in her rickety old garage is a brand-new, shiny red, Super Stock Dodge.' The reality is that the '64 Belvedere does look like something your Aunt Esther might have driven-but not necessarily with a Race Hemi. Yep, it looks like a sleeper, but when you step on the gas, away it goes."

It really comes down to understated performance. That trips John's trigger. "I really like the sedan doors-that taxicab, low-line, cheapo appearance when fitted with the biggest engine available," says John. "In fact, it's not too far from what Chrysler did with the '6911/42 Six Pack Road Runner-the cheapest car with the biggest, most potent powerplant."

Of course, he could have held out for a gennie Max Wedge or Race Hemi car, but there is a reverence that rides along with having the original article. You simply cannot take it out and romp on it; you have way too much invested. John went the replica route in order to spare him the guilt when pursuing misguided performance antics.

John also says that while Super Stock racing was certainly the mark that made these cars, for him "it's the Hemi that struck a nerve. It's a timeless engine, plus when you mate it to the Cross Ram intake, you certainly have something special. Then, when you take a Race Hemi to a show, there is the unmatched 'wow' appeal. The Race Hemi ranks at the top of that standard."

Over the year-and-a-half process of transforming the 318-powered Plymouth into the fire-breathing Race Hemi replica shown here, John leaned heavily on the pros that he employs. John notes, "While I paid the guys for each labor hour they worked, as they restored this car during normal business hours, my deepest heartfelt thanks go to them for their efforts and attention to detail. As a result of their passion, the Belvedere is everything I had hoped it would be."

As for advice, this is what John considers his most important step as applied to the '64 Belvedere. "Never buy rust. When you choose a car to restore, pay whatever you need and buy a car that doesn't have rust. You'll save tens of thousands of dollars in effort and time. This car was a rust free car from California and buying the right car paid off in the time and effort saved."

Plus, when you push the button and load the converter, the effort pays off in performance. The best e.t. since the Belvedere's completion in the Fall of 1998 has been a 13.30 at 108 mph with a downright lousy 2.501-second 60-foot time. "Yes, the starting line was certainly greasy-the car spun the tires all the way through First and Second gears." Since then, John has picked up a set of sticky Mickeys and hopes to run 11.0s this Spring after the Wisconsin thaw.