Thanks to a major restyling, better build quality, and the fact that Plymouth cars were now backed by a new 5-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty, they were able to shed a bad reputation that haunted them since 1957. Exner's stylists smoothed out the B-Body's "plucked chicken" lines, turning it into a stylish ride that saw its sales jump by over 140,000, putting it back into fifth place in the U.S. new-car sales race.
Speaking of races, 1963 also saw Plymouths crossing the finish line in first place on the ovals and on quarter-mile racetracks around the country. Richard Petty scored 13 of his 14 NASCAR Grand National wins that season in a '63 Plymouth-mostly on the short tracks that made up the bulk of the GN circuit at the time. Meanwhile, Max Wedge-powered '63s were lighting the win lights on dragstrips from coast to coast, in Stock and Super Stock class competition, as well as in match races that put fans in the stands on the weekends-and in the dealers' showrooms the following week.
The Sport Fury was the top of Plymouth's '63 line, with its standard bucket seats, V-8 power, and distinctive trim inside and out. For many a Plymouth lover then, it was the sweetest thing to come out of ChryCo's assembly plants since the first "Forward Look" '55s.
Then there's a '63 Sport Fury that sets a new standard for sweetness: This one-"Candie." That's the name that Michelle Browning gave her customized '63 Sport Fury. As with many Mopar projects, this one didn't happen overnight. Found in Denver, this Sport Fury was a "back burner" project for over a decade, while Michelle and her husband, Mike, showed and raced a '68 Charger. Mike also had a shop where he worked on customers' cars and motorcycles, but once this project got underway, he closed that to devote his time to his wife's '63.
Mike says the years weren't kind to the Sport Fury's body before they got a hold of it. "The quarter-panels were pretty much gone," he says from his home in Greeley, Colorado. "Someone had tried cutting an inner wheelwell out of it, and it sat for about 15 years, so rust started eating everything away."
Once they decided to build the '63, Mike had to do more than just a parts-catalog search for replacement steel. "I had to 'borrow' the wheelwells out of a '65 Coronet and make them fit," he recalls. "That's because they don't make many reproduction parts for '63s."
Mike Browning's customizing skills created the scoop and "bullnosed" the hood. Other than
Another challenge: Smoothing out the body once the new metal was on, as they decided to leave off the Sport Fury's side-body trim pieces and fill the holes where their attaching hardware had gone in. "I think there were about 170 holes that I had to weld up, and then grind smooth," he says of the work needed. "A little bit of filler/primer finished it up."
Smoothing was the order of the day(s) when it came to the rest of the body. "I [also] filled the cowl vents in front of the windshield, and I had to 'bullnose' the front end," Mike says. "That's because the '63 Plymouth has a peak in the front of the hood, where the hood trim went. I had to cut that out and smooth it over." Atop that hood went a hand-fabricated hoodscoop-the only addition made to the Sport Fury's body, while the stock grille, parking lights, window trim, and taillights (with their "gunsight" bezels) were retained. So were the bumpers, but the rear one is recessed two inches into the body.
Inside the engine bay, the firewall got smoothed out before the power went in. Mike describes what replaced the aged OEM engine: "It's a 440 that's bored .030-inch over with 12:1 TRW pistons and a Lunati VooDoo camshaft. Finishing it off are iron heads, an aluminum radiator, a Team G intake, and an 850 Holley."
The engine looks right at home, doesn't it? Mike smoothed out the firewall before the .030
A cut-down Sport Fury wheel, dash with custom gauge cluster and console (that sports a pod
Big Hoosier tires fit inside "borrowed" '65 Coronet rear wheelwells, while a two-tone Tang
The transmission is what you'd expect to find in a top-line '63 Plymouth-the 727 TorqueFlite. Mike moved its original pushbutton control panel off of the dash, for a very good reason. "It was just too dangerous on the left-hand side," he recalls. "Sometimes, Michelle had to put her hand through the steering wheel to try to manipulate it. She was like, 'I really want the push buttons, but we can't have it there!' I went, ok!" The buttons now reside in a pod in the center of a console that Mike made. He also made the center-dash housing, located where the original radio speaker was, that now holds a set of TPI gauges.
Mike adds that Michelle also wanted power steering, which he accommodated-along with cutting the OEM Sport Fury steering wheel down and fabricating a custom horn button that centers the original horn ring. Also on the inside is the factory rear seat that has been narrowed. Plus, the stock front buckets received custom headrests before he turned the rest of the interior refinishing chores over to local custom-stitcher Steven Markley.
Outside, Mike used the front-to-rear character line that Exner's crew styled in to separate the two colors of paint-Tangerine Orange over Cool Vanilla, with both colors sprayed over a silver underbase coat.
In all, Candie was over a year in the making. But the awards were soon to come when Michelle started showing it. She really enjoys the camaraderie at the shows, and meeting people there." He adds that showing Candie has been a form of therapy for Michelle, who's been battling some serious illnesses in recent years. "So, this is kind of an escape for her to get out and about" he adds, while stating they may do more driving and cruising in it than showing it in the coming year.
What's it like driving such a sweet custom? "It's great!" exclaims Mike. "It's got good throttle response. She's driven it all over, and to surrounding towns, and it does real good. It's got an aluminum radiator in it, so it doesn't get hot in stop-and-go traffic. But if she wants to get on it, she can definitely do that as well."
Do the Brownings have any advice for those considering a Mopar project, whether or not it's an early B-Body? "Don't listen to anybody else-go with exactly what you want to do," says Mike. "I had so many nay-sayers when I started on this project, telling me not to put in the space-age-looking console in it, don't put the gauges in the center of the dash. You've got to stick to your guns and build it how you envision it."
'63 Plymouth Sport Fury two-door hardtop
Owned by: Michelle Browning, Greeley, Colorado
Built by: Michael Browning, owner of Nocturnal Hot Rods, Greeley, Colorado
- Engine: A .030-inch-over 440 that wears ported-and-polished, iron, closed-chambered heads, and an 850-cfm Holley atop a Team G intake. Details consist of custom-made valve covers and a Six Pack-style air cleaner. Inside, there's a Lunati VooDoo cam and 12:1 TRW pistons. All electronics are mounted under the air cleaner
- Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite, with controls moved to custom pod on console. (Controls still include original "PARK" lever and "typewriter" buttons, good for 100 words/minute in top gear.)
- Rear end: 8 ¾ rear end narrowed to 28 inches, with 29-spline axles and a 4.56 rear gear.
- Suspension: Restored original B-Body longitudinal Torsion bars in front; 140-pound Alden coilover springs and Chris Alston ladder bars in back.
- Brakes: '73 Duster front discs are teamed with 11-inch drums in back.
- Wheels/Tires: 15-inch-diameter ConvoPros wear streetable Hoosier tires all around, including 33x22.5 slabs in back.
- Body: Original '63 Plymouth two-door hardtop unibody restored/modified by Michael Browning. Quarters and other rust-eaten sheetmetal replaced with parts-car stock (including '65 Coronet rear wheelwells). Mike's modifications include: Shaved side trim and door handles, filled cowl vents, firewall and stock battery location, custom fiberglass hoodscoop on "bull-nosed" stock hood, and the rear bumper was recessed two inches. Stock grille, parking lights, window trim and taillights (with "gunsight" bezels) retained.
- Paint: Mike sprayed on two of Ma Mopar's modern colors: Tangerine Orange over Cool Vanilla, over a silver underbase.
- Interior: Sport Fury interior customized by Mike Browning with: Custom console with 727 push-button pod, custom dash with center-mounted TPI gauges, cut-down OEM steering wheel with handmade horn button, narrowed rear seat and custom head rests/door panels. White leather upholstery by Steven Markley, Greeley, Colorado.