When you've proven yourself, it can sometimes be difficult to set new goals. Take John Balow, the owner of Muscle Car Restorations of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. In 1988, John took his '63 Max Wedge Plymouth Sport Fury to the Mopar Nationals and won first place in class. Armed with the success of that moment and an interested buyer, John sold the car and ventured out on his own, using the proceeds of the sale to establish his restoration business that has been chronicled in countless magazine articles and awards.
Have you ever wished you had all the information that went into building a stellar street Mopar, but never had the opportunity to ask? We have. As a result, every month we will query the owner/restorer/builder of our cover car as to the specifics that went into the car's building.
This month, John Balow was more than willing to share the spotlight with the following vendors, suppliers and sources that assisted in building his Belvedere. John notes, "Who does the professional choose to build an award winning show car? He cannot do it all himself. That is why I choose certain people to do business with-people who never let me down." As a professional shop, John's customers rely on him to come through. Equally, he relies on the following companies to come through for him.
• "I solely use PPG Delstar Acrylic Enamel with the Acrylic Urethane Clearcoat (DAU 82). The Delstar product is the only refinishing line today that you can buy the correctly formu-lated color for late-'50s and '60s cars. Any of the other manufacturers paints are a close proximity-a computer match. PPG has the exact formulation for the paint codes. Plus, the results speak for themselves."
19699 Progress Drive
Strongsville, OH 44136
(216) 572-2800; fax: (216) 572-6979.
• "Year One is one of those companies that goes the extra mile to authenticate the fitment and appearance of a particular part. They tell you the reality of the part. By working so closely with professional shops, they get invaluable feedback on their products and services, which in turn, helps everyone working on their restoration projects at home. Their tech department has a vast resource at their fingertips and they know the specifics of the products they sell."
Year One Inc.
P.O. Box 129
Tucker, GA 30085
Fax: (800) 680-6806
Atlanta and Overseas: (770) 493-6568
• "At Paul's, they understand the difference between high-quality and average chrome plating. They pay special attention to the edge of the part, the fine detail, like the Belvedere script on the rear valence panel and on both front fenders. Paul's does not round off edges in the polishing process-they make sure the part is right. When they send you a quote for the chrome plating, their price is the price. In addition, they tell you the day it is going to ship, even if it is 10-to-12 weeks out. The reality is that I know it is coming when they tell me it will come. No, they are not the cheapest, but they are the best in quality and reliability."
Paul's Chrome Plating
341 Mars-Valencia Road
Mars, PA 16046
• "Basically, Hooker is the industry standard. The pipes fit, and with my car, they provided all the bends to make the H-pipe system. The street-legal mufflers are quiet yet have low backpressure. They are the standard by what everything else is measured."
1024 W. Brooks St.
Ontario, CA 91762
Fax: (909) 986-9860
• "Again, Auto Meter is the standard. The best looking gauges and the fact that they are competitively priced and easy to install makes them all the better."
Auto Meter Products, Inc.
Dept. MPRM, 413 Elm St.
Sycamore, IL 60178
(815) 895-8141; fax: (815) 895-6786
• "George Iverson Automotive is a good friend of mine out of Minneapolis. He did all the stainless steel moulding restoration and polishing. George can work the entire price range of the stainless steel restoration, from budget-oriented to no-holds-barred. Best of all, he matches the look of the moulding consistently across the whole car. He can do general polishing or perfect polishing depending on your budget. From a novice who needs help to the professional restoring a Rolls Royce, George comes through for me."
14704 Karyl Dr.
Minnetonka, MN 55345
• "Owner Gary Schmidt bought the business many years ago from Jack Wheeler. Gary's experience dates back to the late '60s and his spe-cialty is building Chrysler engines. His attention to detail is phenomenal and he has an on-site dyno. The price of an engine build includes dyno evaluation-a turnkey package. You get an engine that is ready to install from Gary, you don't have to worry about break-in and that's why we use him."
Wheeler Race Engines
10500 Nassau St.
Blaine, MN 55449
• "What separates Frank Lupo and his company, Dynamic Converters from the others is that they work with the end user. They get the complete information on an engine and the customer's expectations. He then builds a converter that works and meets the customer's expectations. He builds exactly what the customer wants and needs."
143 Adeline St.
New Haven, CT 06519
• "HPC does a fine job with everything we send 'em. H-pipes, crossovers, tailpipes. Great pricing and great turnaround. They have several colors, they will take our factory-appearing bent pipes and they HPC coat the entire system including the mufflers. They are extremely easy to work with on custom assemblies."
High Performance Coatings (HPC)
Dept. MPRM, 550 W. 3615 S.
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
fax: (801) 262-6307
• "Jim does a nice job with reproduction parts. He provided us with the rear battery kit and the like. He and I have done a lot of business throughout the years and he is great to work with."
Kramer Automotive Specialties
Dept. MPRM, P.O. Box 5
Herman, PA 16039
fax: (724) 285-8898
• "Precision chemically strips metal parts and I use them as a source for metal stripping. Anything metal, body parts, bolts-you name it. They do all sorts of industrial metal cleaning."
Precision Paint and Rust Removers
2415 W. Industrial Blvd.
Long Lake, MN 55356
• "They offer ultra-high-quality brake lines and fuel lines. Over the years I have worked with Scott and Bob at Fine Lines and what they have an ability to do is to make original appearing lines using the old lines as a template. I have sent roughly 30 complete brake line systems from my restorations. I use them exclusively. The bends always fit and if there is a problem, they are on it right now."
650 West Smith Rd.
#8, Medina, OH 44256
fax (330) 722-8994
orders (800) 778-8237
• "Lee Marsh of Mac's Seat Covers has been helping me out for years. His father, Mac, started the business more than 40 years ago. Just look at how great the covers look, and I think you'll agree that the company's work speaks for itself."
Mac's Seat Covers
Eau Claire, WI 54703
Previously, the passenger...
Previously, the passenger side quarter-panel skin had been repaired incorrectly. As a result, John instructed the crew at MCR to remove the panel and butt-weld the joints rather than lap weld the panels together. The top photo shows the result of the butt-welding. Body leading would follow prior to any plastic filler being applied.
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.
Here, John leads over some...
Here, John leads over some dealer tag holes that he welded closed on the trunk lid. John says, "I always lead over all welded seams-if you only use body filler, pinholes in the plastic body filler could trap moisture, and later lead to a bubble in the paint.
"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.
The standard bore 426 Race...
The standard bore 426 Race Hemi fitted with a cross-ram made 512 hp at 5,200 rpm, and 500 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, at Gary Schmidt's Wheeler Racing Engines. This testing was conducted with 92-octane, pump premium fuel. The 9.5:1 Hemi is fitted with a .525-lift hydraulic cam, and intent from the get-go was to build a potent street car, not a race car.
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."
One of John's MCR staff members...
One of John's MCR staff members custom-built the H-pipe using U-Bends and J-Bends provided by Hooker. These parts facilitated the process and when complete, the entire exhaust system was sent to HPC for coating.
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.
John says, "Part of what I...
John says, "Part of what I do as a restorer is find contacts who seek out cars for me and my customers to meet our specifications. I asked one of my contacts to keep an eye out for a rust-free Belvedere, and a couple of months later he contacted me regarding this car, which was in California (shown here, parked outside my shop)."
John removed the original...
John removed the original 318 Polyspherical K-member and drivetrain by lowering the car to the ground and removing the four K-member bolts and lifting the car over the assembly.
A bit of surface rust beneath...
A bit of surface rust beneath the carpet in the driver-side foot well area was the extent of the floorpan rust. Here we see the car prior to metal stripping, and after.
Final paint of the body, door...
Final paint of the body, door jambs, trunk, undercarriage, and engine compartment was accomplished on the rotisserie. John says, "I use three painters simultaneously to guarantee a shiny appearance to the underbody. By doing this, the entire painted area remains wet and prevents dry and overspray spots." PPG Delstar Acrylic Enamel is John's paint of choice.
This detail shot shows the...
This detail shot shows the effort that John went to in order to gain a concours-restored appearance with his truly modified car. This level of detailing focuses also on function and is found in every MCR restoration, whether seen or unseen.