Take one '65 Belvedere, stuff the engine compartment with dual-quad Hemi power, aim it down the dragstrip, and hang on as you're propelled to 135 mph in 10 seconds. During the early Super Stock era, that's just what Plymouth did while the quarter-mile competition ran for cover.
But with the dragstrip wars at full-throttle, Chrysler needed to keep its edge. So with a handful of standard Super Stock race cars in hand, Chrysler engineers set out to raise the bar even further by building not only a much lighter car, but also one that would provide vastly improved traction with the front and rear wheel positions moved ahead several inches. These single-purpose cars became known as altered wheelbase A/Factory Experimentals (A/FX) and were a hit for their power and performance, while also gaining notoriety for their unique appearance. Almost immediately, these funny-looking, altered-wheelbase cars became the first "Funny Cars," and, thus, the term began.
Bob Munoa has always loved early Mopars and their well-earned contributions to drag racing. Amongst his long list of previously-owned Mopars are Hemi 'Cudas and scores of cool and fast '62-'65 B-Bodies. Now Bob is not your ordinary Mopar guy, who just happens to have a few choice examples parked in his family's garage. Instead, Bob has a shop big enough to stable more than a dozen Mopars, with almost 30 early B-Body donor cars parked just outside. So when this veteran Los Angeles City Fire Captain recently got the impulse to build his own Hemi-powered '65 altered-wheelbase A/FX car, he definitely had the means.
With the help of his dad John (a longtime metal craftsman), his son, bodyman RJ, and brother Phil, the team set out to construct one very awesome Belvedere. The guys began their automotive assault with an untouched six-cylinder Belvedere and made quick work out of completely disassembling the body and bolting it to a rotisserie. Next, the body, floorpan, and framerails had to be measured and surgically cut to alter the wheelbase. Up front, the K-member and shock towers took up a new residence 10 inches forward of their original positions. At the rear, they shortened the Dana 60 four inches to provide more tire clearance. Next, Bob and the team moved the rear axle housing and leaf-spring mounting points forward 13 inches. With all the horses they planned to stuff in this Belvedere, they knew it needed plenty of whoa power. so before finishing the suspension tasks they installed a set of 11-inch rear drum brakes and Stainless Steel Brakes disc brake setup at the front.
On the outside, Bob and the guys relocated the front and rear fenderwell openings forward to match the original altered-wheelbase positions. Unlike the original cars that used ill-matching, fiberglass body panels, Bob insisted on installing better fitting sheetmetal pieces. Then he carefully worked and adjusted the panels so the door and body seams align. The entire B-Body revamping required X-braces to be temporarily welded inside the car to maintain an integral structure that would not move during the work.
After months of labor, the guys successfully created an altered-wheelbase Belvedere with a shorter 111-inch wheelbase, instead of the original 116-inch distance.
With the body fabrication and fitting largely completed, RJ and Bob next turned their attention to the paint and bodywork. First, they block-sanded the body until they had mirror-straight panels, and then they applied several coats of Porsche Guards Red acrylic enamel for a glistening finish.
To power this red-hot Belvedere Bob knew it would definitely need a Hemi, but he wanted something that surpassed a vintage 426's hp level. As Bob puts it, "It had to make lots of horsepower, lots of torque, run on pump gas, and, most of all, be worthy of an altered wheelbase A/FX car." So he assembled a 528 Hemi and fitted it with a set of Mopar Performance aluminum cylinder heads, .550-inch-lift Comp Cam, Wiseco 10.5:1 pistons, and a Pete Jackson geardrive. For adequate lubrication, Bob reworked a Milodon 10-quart oil pan to fit within the confines of the repositioned front K-member. To feed this thirsty powerplant plenty of precious fuel and air, Bob selected two vintage-correct Holley carburetors attached to a factory cross-ram intake manifold. Then he gave his red-hot ride a cool sound with a set of tti headers connected to a 3-inch exhaust system and Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers. For appearance, John Stangl of Precision Powder Coating in Temecula, California, applied a high-heat finish to the exhaust system.
For wheel selection, Bob insisted on a set of 15x4.5 American Torq-Thrust II rims up front and a pair of 15-inch rear steelies out back, reworked to measure 10-inches across. Since this car would need plenty of traction, Bob selected a set of Hoosier tires on all four corners, with Quick Time Drag radials mounted on the rear.
With a huge herd of horses harnessed under the hood, the Belvedere required a strong drivetrain, so in went a stout 727 TorqueFlite trans and 3,500-stall converter that spins the 4.10 Dana 60 rear axle assembly.
After more than two years of labor, the guys had the Belvedere completed, fired the 528-inch motor to life, and hit the streets. Bob tells us, "The car was absolutely worth the effort, and it drives and handles very well. With more than 700 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, this Hemi-powered B-Body will plant you hard in your seat."
But what is really commanding is the careful attention to detail throughout this Plymouth. We caught up with Bob at the Mopar Spring Fling last year in Van Nuys, California, and couldn't help but notice the car's crowd appeal. Whether it's the awesome sound of the elephant-sized Hemi or the glistening color-this is one red-hot Belvedere.