To make room for the Hemi, you gotta pull the little stuff.
A few years ago at the Barrett-Jackson Auction, a '65 Dodge A-990 clone drove up on the auction block, and people took notice. One of those people was former football star and professional wrestler, Bill Goldberg. As good as the car looked, there were two things wrong with it in Goldberg's eye. One, it was red. And two, when the hammer dropped, it was expensive. Mr. Goldberg (yeah, he's big enough, we'll call him Mister) has always liked and wanted a '65 Super Stock car, so when he found a low mileage, one-owner Coronet on Craigslist.com he jumped on it. Sure, it's not an A-990 car . . . yet, but that's where having connections and the ability to build the car of your dreams comes in handy.
Although Goldberg does not profess to be an expert automotive restoration hand, he decided it was time to get more intimately involved with the restoration process of this car, and the relative simplicity of this project would make that easier.
Mechanic Ralph Straesser was a big help during teardown, and his roll is just beginning. W
As with any project, a plan must be laid out in advance. What is the end result going to look like, and what will it take to get there? Goldberg's car had to have the look and performance of a '65 Super Stock Dodge, but he must be able to drive it on the street. The look includes the Super Stock hoodscoop, single headlight grille, and a killer nose-high stance accented by five-spoke "Mag" wheels. The interior should conform to '65 standards with a pair of Dodge van bucket seats trimmed in the original-style light tan vinyl and no back seat. Under the hood will be-of course-a Hemi.
The Coronet that Goldberg found was equipped with a TorqueFlite from the factory, and he seriously considered changing to a manual shift. But after some thought, he decided to reduce the complexity of changing to a manual transmission and stick with the automatic. Another choice Mopar owners have to make is between an 8-3/4 or Dana rearend. The original A-990 cars came with an 8-3/4 rearend, but the Dana rearends are bulletproof. The 8-3/4 offers a drop-out center section and parts are available to beef them up, but Danas are bulletproof!
With the fuel tank removed, the extent of the trunk pan rust could be determined. Here Gol
No matter what kind of car you are building, it's always good to get advice from experts. One of Goldberg's first visits was to the shop of Joe McCaron. It was a McCaron-built '65 Dodge Coronet that sold for top dollar at Barrett-Jackson and graced the pages of Mopar Muscle a few years ago. McCaron has built three '65 A-990 clones and has done work on many others. The second stop was at Bob Mosher's shop. Mosher has built dozens of these cars and has restored originals. Both of these experts answered questions and helped Goldberg see what he was getting himself into.
One of the first things that Goldberg realized was that to do this kind of build meant a full frame-off restoration (as we all know, frame-off is a relative term when talking about a unitized body vehicle). There would be no shortcuts-the entire car would have to be disassembled right down to the bare body in white.
Taking a car apart can be fun if there's not too much grease or rust, and Goldberg's car is amazingly rust-free. Care had to be taken with the few emblems that would be put back on the car, but the original side moldings would be removed and the holes filled. With the help of his mechanic, Ralph Straesser, and a couple friends, the car was disassembled down to a bare rolling body in a mere five days. Everything was bagged and tagged for future use. The original bench seats were put on eBay and sold quickly. The sweet running original 273 engine and transmission quickly found a home with a member of the local Mopar club. with no seats, and no engine or transmission, there was no turning back.
With the car up on a lift, the underbody could be inspected. The good news was that although there were small dents in almost every exterior panel, the car had never been involved in a major accident. There were a few rust holes that needed to be repaired in the trunk floor. at first, it looked like the trunk weatherstripping was the culprit, but when the rear window was removed, rust holes could be seen along the lower edge.
At the suggestion of McCaron, Goldberg dropped the car off at chassis builder Bob Hansen's chassis shop. Hanson would do three modifications that would make the car stronger, accept larger rear tires, and make room for the Hemi engine. Hansen tied together the frame sections to make the car more rigid, and he moved the rear spring mounts inward to allow for the larger rear tires. He also modified the right side shock mount under the hood, which lowers the upper mounting point of the shock, providing additional room for the Hemi's righthand valve cover. This modification to the righthand shock tower was also done to the original '65 factory Hemi cars. Minitubs were also considered, but Goldberg opted not to install them because the inboard movement of the rear springs and the already large wheelhouses provide enough room for oversize rear tires.
Because this was a Southern California car that was stored in a garage all its life, disas
The only rust on the floors was in the area around the gas pedal. Luckily, it was only sur
The worst damage to the body is the dent in the decklid. Because of the location of the de
For the body and paintwork on his Dodge, Goldberg wanted a shop that had solid references and was close to home. He also wanted one-stop shopping where the bodywork and paint could be done in one location. His research led him to Orange County Rod-N-Customs (OCRC) in Anaheim, California. The owner's name is Steve Austin-not the former wrestler-but a young man with a vision and an intense passion for cars. Austin is a land speed record holder and third-generation car builder, who, along with Kyle Fitzpatrick, opened OCRC in 2001.
Unlike many Mopars of this era, Goldberg's Dodge didn't have a lot of rust. Austin's band of bodymen attacked the worst area: the rust below the rear window. This particular panel required fabrication of a flanged piece with curves in two directions. If not done properly, the rear window will not fit, and there will be an obvious mismatch in this highly visible area. OCRC's Leo Carbajal did an excellent job of fabricating a replacement panel for the rusted section. He also smoothed out the dents in the side of the car, as well as a pesky dent in the decklid. OCRC's staff also replaced the trunk floor, which had rusted because of water seeping in through the rust holes in the rear window panel.
Originally, Dodge trimmed its base Coronet with a thin body side molding, but the A-990 race cars did not have this side trim. Each of the mounting holes, along with the antenna hole and side mirror attaching holes, were welded shut and metal-finished. Austin's team chemically stripped the original paint off the entire car. He's not a fan of media blasting because careless work can warp panels. It also leaves fine particles that have a tendency to become airborne when the final coats of paint are applied. Chrysler used exceptionally tough primer that resisted the chemical paint stripper, so it had to be sanded off.
The culprit for the rusty trunk pan ended up being the area at the base of the rear window
Fully stripped and ready for its trip to Bob Hansen's chassis shop, where the subframes wi
Jeff Utterback, one of the fabricators at Hansen's shop, explains how the right-side sprin
Gage Goldberg, Bill's young son, found an excellent location to watch his dad bead-blast s
Steve Austin, owner of Orange County Rod-N-Customs, points out to Goldberg where his bodym
Austin and Goldberg discuss the repair of the surface dents in the side of his Dodge. Pain
These holes were for attachment of the side molding on the standard production '65 Coronet
Every great paint job is finalized with a cut-and-buff. OCRC owner, Steve Austin, watches
Thomas Barnett, one of the OCRC painters, looks with a critical eye down the quarter-panel
The Dodge is fresh out of the shop and into the sunlight for the first time as the crew lo
Goldberg knew that he didn't want red, and white was out of the question. He favored black, but a '65 Coronet is a big car with a lot of surface area and very little trim to accent a dark color. He settled on a shade of silver called Lunar Mist-a Dupont ChromaBase color. Although the shade of silver selected is brighter than the original silver, it will allow the quality of the bodywork to be seen and will highlight the A-990's-style Champagne tan interior. Austin, Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Barnett painted the car at the OCRC facility. Austin's attention to detail came to light when he made sure the entire underside was painted and clearcoated. Barnett took charge of the color sanding and polishing. When Goldberg picked up the car, he was exceptionally satisfied with OCRC's work and the color he selected.
While the body was at OCRC being worked on, a few small components were restored at home-items such as the headlight buckets and horns. Goldberg's bead-blast cabinet came in handy for preparing the surfaces on these and other small parts for paint. He spent time searching eBay for special parts, such as N.O.S. taillight lenses, a vintage Sun Tach, and a radio-delete plate. He also found eBay a handy resource to recycle a few other unneeded parts.
In the next installment, we'll start to put pieces back on the body and show you what Goldberg chose when selecting a Hemi engine.