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November is here and my project has barely inched forward… well, it actually has moved about a foot forward, physically, thanks to the fact that it is now on wheels, has brakes, a steering wheel and me to push it. To give you a proper idea of what is going on, the car is a prominent feature in the underwater-themed haunted garage my friend Patricia is creating this Halloween. Trick or treat? Honestly, the thought that my car is still unfinished is about to give me the bends. Pass the beer and candy please.
Up here in the northern hemisphere, November is winter’s first nudge, and for the auto enthusiast that means mothballing the classic driver––or show car––and getting down and dirty on the project. I’d like to say that this is true for me but my “classic driver” is an all-weather fighter and I don’t have a show car. That leaves me with: PROJECT.
My project ’65 Belvidere is a long-playing affair filled with song titles like; “I ain’t got no money”, or “leavin’ town today” and “fell in love with somebody/somethin’ else”. Not that winter is any kind of excuse out here in California to get busy on a project; it’s just that I need some sort of motivator. Like, if the shame of being unfinished for 10 years is not going to cut it then maybe pretending it is freezing outside will help in some weird and fantastical way. Uh-huh.
Meanwhile, a couple of my friends have beaten back all the naysayers and worked their projects into some of the finest cars I have seen anywhere, bar none. Both Russel Wright and “Dirty Donny” Gilles have ’69 B-bodies that they have turned into brand new personal statements. I say brand new because both cars are literally brand new, inside and out.
Technically these cars are not restored, despite the wealth of new parts, and nearly perfect interiors and exteriors. Donny and Russ both created their vision of how a truly streetable Mopar B-body ought to look and perform. It’s as if Russ picked up his Bee and drove it right off the showroom floor at Grand Spaulding and then straight into the
garage for an HP injection and at the same time Donny bought his Satellite off the floor at Van Ness Chrysler/Plymouth, drove it down to Van Nuys, hit the body shop, the upholstery shop, and then raided the engine bay of a wrecked R/T. These two cars move under their own power and that has me in fits… I mean inspired.
Jokes aside, I am honored to have twisted a few nuts and bolts on both of these cars on their journey to completion. I recently visited Russel at his home in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains to photograph the Bee and take a ride. This car is totally a giggle machine with tree snapping torque and a will to move. Watch for a feature on this car in the next issue as well as one on Donny’s car soon after that.
Speaking of features, there is a new car club here in the Bay Area called “The Chislers” and it is an all Mopar affair fired up by artist Frank Kozik. Turns out Kozik has re-entered the Mopar fold with a dirty ’69 Charger R/T equipped for late night bracket racing. Kozik, famous for his role in the poster art explosion in the early ’90s, is no stranger to the woes and joys of Mopar ownership and maybe, just maybe, we can get a few words out of him on the subject and his decision to jump back in and start up a club as well.
For me, it is nose to the grindstone––grab some paychecks, sock some in the car account and finally get moving on the Belvidere. Torque converter, shifter, driveshaft, tires, front seat, carpet, aluminum trunk divider, gas tank, fuel lines, pump, carb, and she’ll be ready to fire. I’m looking forward to seeing what a ported, iron headed, street cammed 383 with 3.23’s on 28-inch tires is going to do in the quarter… and I’d like to have a Chislers plaque too.