"I got smart and went to Mopars about 30 years ago," Roger Schafer says proudly. And we might add that he's never looked back since his conversion.
Roger's enthusiasm for Chrysler products shows, too. His '53 Dodge B4B project has undergone a refined metamorphosis to get it into its current show condition.
Unlike many Mopar lovers that start out with a vehicle and then stand on the performance of the existing engine, or simply replace the powerplant altogether with a bigger one, Roger did things just the contrary. While wandering about a local boneyard back in 1971, he strolled upon this beast of an engine and trans. "I couldn't believe how huge that early Hemi was!" Roger claims with wide-eyed fanaticism.
It was love at first sight, and the engine went home with its new owner. The 392 "Whale" laid beached for a few years while Roger plotted a course of action and contacted sources. The big questions were, what would the monstrous 392 Hemi fit outside of an Imperial, and what area should the project be aimed at-street rods, hot rods, or customs?
Those questions were solved when, in 1982, Roger ran across an ad posted in a local supermarket. It read, "For Sale-'53 Dodge B4B farm truck." The truck didn't look too shabby in the ad's photo, so Roger was off to secure the Hemi's next home.
He began his project by pulling the body, bed, fenders, and bumpers off the frame and building the mountings for the engine and trans. During that time, he ran across a '71 Road Runner third member, complete with a Sure Grip and 3.91 gears. The axle was left at its stock length and mounted on the stock truck springs.
Gene Price undertook the three-year detailing of the sheetmetal and applied the Chrysler Commercial Blue paint to the body and fenders of the B4B. Once painted, everything was assembled with "tons of stainless fasteners" from bumper to bumper, and rich-looking solid oak was installed for the flooring, to set the bed off.
When the 392's rebuild began, Roger opted for the K.I.S.S. plan-Keep It Simple Stupid. No trouble that way. Stock '57, 9.25:1 compression pistons stuff the cylinder bores and are fed a steady diet of premium pump gas. For a valve timer, Roger contacted Schneider Cams and procured a nice street grind that specs out at 284 degrees of valve timing on the insucks and extakes at .470-inch lift on both sides. Even though the cam is a mile bigger than the stock job, its power delivery is smooth and solid-not to mention it can idle down to an amazing 600 rpm. Two Carter 625-cfm AVS fuel mixers sit astride a Weiand aluminum intake manifold. The carb and manifold setup looks so stock on the early Hemi, it could fool the untrained eye. Roger reinstalled the OE iron exhaust manifolds and fabricated a custom dual system that flows spent gasses out the south end of the truck.
The trans build was an even simpler proposal than the engine. Fresh OE replacement parts fill the internal compartments of the trans case, pure and simple. A little more line pressure adjustment was dialed into the tranny to provide a performance snap between the shift changes, and that's it. Of course, being an old Chrysler trans, it came with the push button dash-mounted gear selection unit, which Roger mounted left of the steering wheel-where it belongs. For ergonomic reasons, a New Yorker's tilt and telescoping steering column was added to the otherwise stock-looking bench seat interior.
With the flash and dash accomplished, the only remaining phase of the plan was to upgrade the truck's handling ability. The suspension was completely rebuilt, front and rear, and kept relatively stock. A short foray back to the used parts palace yielded four '76 Charger 15x6 Rallye Wheels, which were cleaned, painted, and shod with a set of super-handling BFG 235/70SR T/A radials.
Upon completion of the B4B, Roger decided to aim the project at his favorite pastimes-cruising the streets and attending shows. When we're put out to pasture, we hope our remaining days are as well spent as this former farm truck's!