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of Wheels show in Calgary in Feb 2002 (yes that's me).
Our club, the Northern Mopars won the best club display for the 5th time in 6 years
|"George, come look at this! It a "-------" slant six!"|
|Filling up at the Mopar fuel pump!||First day home|
|Summer of '93. Dugald Manitoba. As found in a flooded field.||In Brent's shop . . . empty shell|
|Rust in the usual places. Rebuilt fender light cap.||Brent's amazing metal sculpture!|
|Rear quarters being rebuilt||Ready for painting . . . yellow primer to give the finishing coat a brighter shine!|
This is the 4 door that got me going in 1976.There's a reward for anyone who can identify the nut job bent over the fender!
|Brent Burch has a fine collection of 1960 Plymouths||Here's his 2dr hardtop. Notice that the different roofline?|
|The wagon used to be the family hauler!||His most recent addition, the convertible accented with his signature Fury stripe.|
a man like myself get into the illogical situation of being
emotionally attached to a collection of steel, aluminum, plastic,
etc.? We all have a story. Here's mine.
In 1976, I was a 15 year old living out in the country of southwest Manitoba. As a teenager living on a farm, you MUST get into town to get into the action and therefore, you NEED a set of wheels. Knowing that the "liberating" age of 16 was not far away, I knew I had to take action now. I approached my father with my concern. His answer was rather short and to the point. "You can have the old Dodge behind the shed. Why don't you fix it up?"
Well that hadnt been my first thought! The maroon 60 Dodge Pioneer had been the family car up until about 4 years previous. Now the fenders front and back were all rusted out as were the rockers. Weeds shrouded the engine compartment and even terrorized the interior via holes in the floor boards. And worst of all, it had 4 doors and a slant six! It wasnt exactly the attraction I had in mind.
The other guys were
driving the Camaros, Challengers, Novas and Mustangs. Some drove
Dusters and a few drove newer Darts but nobody was driving a 60
Dodge. This had been my families second Dart. The first had been
a spruce green 2 door Phoenix hardtop but back then, with 6 kids
under the age of 14, a 4 door was a must and Dad had traded it in
for the "wheels" now hardly visible under the ragweed.
My father continued, "Yea, you could drop in a rebuilt
engine and you could do all the mechanicals. You could probably
even redo the interior. Once you finish the body work, I'll help
you out by painting it for you!" Although the idea didn't
"take" right away, it grew on me. Having always been a
creative kid who loved challenges and opportunities, I made the
decision. Maybe this was a diamond in the rough but I'd have to
do it my way. I'd create a different look. It would be unique,
like no other car on the road. (You've got to remember that this
was the 70's. Loud polyester shirts with wide lapels, disco on
the 8 track and stove pipe pants. This wouldn't be subtle!) I
spent a couple of months planning and sketching and when spring
came, I was ready for action. I had been an enterprising kid but
I'd have to liquefy a portion of my assets in order to finance
this project. I'd have to sell a couple of cows.
Looking back, the summer and fall were an amazing time of learning. First, my father was generous enough to donate the family car garage for this effort. The 60 was pulled from the weeds and pushed in. I tore into the chassis and rebuilt the front brakes. Then I discovered the brute force required to pull seized rear hubs off tapered axles (homemade puller and small sledge hammer). In went new ball joints, tie rods and shocks. The rebuilt engine arrived and using the front end loader on the tractor, in it went. Now came the challenge of the body. I was lucky that all the glass was good despite the years of sitting in a vulnerable position on the yard. Sheet metal was a different story. Out came big chunks of rust. On went fiberglass cloth and bondo. After days of alternatively putting on material and sanding it off, I was ready for the paint. The faded old maroon would be covered with a creamy white for the roof, baby blue for most of the body with dark blue accent flares behind the fenders. These were to be separated by a l" thick yellow stripe. Dad kept his mouth shut about the design as he sprayed the different colors. Different it was. I upgraded to 15" wheels with smooth wheel covers and the outside was done.
My focus now shifted to the interior. It had to match the outside. I settled on a theme of plush royal blue with gold accents, anchored with black details. I'd never really sewn but don't believe that Mom missed her machine while I stitched a new headliner in the plush blue. To the seats, I added 2" of foam before covering with the blue in a diamond, gold button tuffed pattern. Using the old carpet as a pattern, I cut a new carpet and crudely stitched it together. The door panels were redone with new backboards in same diamond pattern as the seats but now the colors were reversed - gold with blue buttons. Need tunes! In went an 8 track with rear deck speakers and fmally, I installed a small stylized light fixture on the rear deck which was shaded by a green lens. When it was activated by a small switch beneath the dash, the whole interior glowed with a soothing soft green light. (Within three years, the song on the 8 track? You guessed it! Meatloaf with his original version of "Paradise by the dashboard lights!". Atmosphere! You gotta have it.) Although not everything turned out perfect, I was proud of the end result because it was mine and I had done so much of the work. I was now ready for my 16th birthday just weeks away. I drove this car for 4 years and had many memorable experiences in it or it took me to exciting places. There was the time 5 of my hockey teammates filled the interior while all our equipment fit nicely in the trunk. There was the time I drove home 120 miles in a blizzard with hardly another soul on the road quietly arriving home at 4 am. I watched "Grease" at the drive-in and there were many times that the car was just loaded up with people heading who knows where. In many ways, I grew up with the car. Unfortunately, while I was in university, I experienced tranny failure and since I was slugging through an engineering degree and had no spare time, I "sold" the car to the bank of DAD and bought a beater. The car was again parked in the back yard. Seven years later, having graduated from university and paid off a few student loans, I found myself again with a bit more time on my hands and a few more dollars, I again turned my attention back to the '60 and bought it back. I found a functioning tranny and dropped it in. I joined the Slant 6 Club of America and gained many valuable tips and contacts. I drove it for another two years but I knew the inevitable time had come. Sitting so long again had not been kind to the car and my inexperience at body work was becoming very evident. The sun had faded the interior arid in places it was torn. The end was near.
About this time, I was driving through the country near Winnipeg when I spotted a familiar shaped car sitting on the driveway. Here was a top of the line '60 Dodge Phoenix 2 door hardtop looking for a new home. This was the car I'd been hoping to find but never held up much hope. This is what I wanted to sink some cash into. There are a number of things which attract me to this car. Firstly there's the teenage history thing and the fact that I had put some much of my creative energy into it. Secondly, there's the uniqueness factor which had grown on me. While there were still 1000's of the Mustangs, Novas, Dodge arid Plymouth muscle cars around, very few 60's had been kept. Finally, arid most importantly, I liked the car itself - the last year to flaunt the wings, the jet fighter speedo pod, the huge rear window, the "square" steering wheel, the push button automatic, the bubble windshield Needless to say, I bought the car.
Planning began in earnest. I wanted a car that kept the special features of the year but was a little more modern in other ways. 1960 was the first year of the slant 6 (12.5 million slant 6's were produced) and the matching 904 Torque-flite tranny so they were going to stay but not in stock condition. My connections with the Slant 6 club helped me out tremendously. It was bored 0.030". Compression was upped from 8.4 to around 9.1 by shaving 0.090" off the head. Using post '76 head allows the safe use of unleaded fuel. The cam lift is higher and longer than stock. Electronic ignition from an early 70's Dodge was added. A Holly 350 2 barrel with custom intake to allow barrels to run parallel to cylinders was created and Doug Dutra's dual exhaust manifold carries away exhaust. A few vanes were removed from the converter to increase stall speed. Mechanically, the front spindles and disks were donated by a 79 Diplomat and basically bolted in place. The master brake cylinder and booster came from a 76 Dart and also bolted into place. The 8 3/4" rear axle comes from 69 Polara along with the front stabilizer bar. A customized 67 Dart drive shaft connects everything. The whole car has been lowered a couple of inches and Monroe shocks with overloads help keep the back end up. New wheels from American Eagle finish off the drive train. I asked Brent Burch in Manitoba to do the body and paint. He had redone his 60 Fury, Christine III a few years before and I liked what I saw. I have not been disappointed with his workmanship.
The interior has a custom red fabric/foam headliner instead of the factory hardboard. Seats have been redone with some original fabrics but the door panels have been replaced with my custom design as has the rear deck. Seatbelts add to safety. A new sound system again provides the tunes but remains hidden from site.
This is now my summer driver. In my mind, a car must be driven to be enjoyed. I enjoy driving my Acura Legend - its well engineered, responsive comfortable, etc - a great blend of practicality and performance. But when it comes to style, in my books, nothing beats "Big Red"!