THAT LAST TEN PERCENT

wo months ago I started to write this column about finishing off the last ten percent of our '66 Belvedere project. I honestly thought we were a couple of weeks away from completion. Boy, was I wrong. We're still working on it even as we speak and we have not been slacking. This is why when someone comes up to me and says "let's make a race car, it will be easy!" I roll my eyes and change the subject. My partner and I have built at least four complete race cars together and one thing we have learned is that the only "easy" way to build a race car is to save up your money and buy one that's already complete. Unfortunately, we don't have that kind of money and we have some kind of sickness that requires us to build these things from scratch. Mom smoked when she was pregnant, we ate paint chips at snack time and I rode my trike down the stairs too many times without a helmet. What other excuses can I offer?

I've written about our '66 Plymouth Belvedere II project before. I got it a few years ago for $1200. It was light metallic blue. The color is famous for falling off in sheets and this paint job was no exception. One of the fenders and the front bumper were beat. It had a later rebuilt 360  4 bbl motor of unknown quality under the hood that had never been completely installed or fired. It was ugly, therefore it was affordable for someone like me. Since I used to race a '66 Belvedere II wagon I still had tons of parts so I wasn't worried. I wanted to make it into a race car to sell--a speculation project. I have had fun and learned a lot but it has been harder and more expensive than I could have imagined. My first decision was to paint it black. I have no idea what the heck I was thinking! Painting a car black is truly more work than any other basic color (I will never know about metallic or candy paint). I made things even harder on myself by starting with a wrinkly car. I removed all the trim, which was remarkably straight and sold for decent money on eBay. Then we welded up all the holes, plus the gas filler. Then it was my turn to play with body filler for a month. I thought my arms were going to fall off by the time we finally got around to spraying on the first coats of sealer and buildable primer.

Of course, a huge piece of the puzzle is the motor. This one is a budget 383 bracket motor installed for fitment and testing purposes. We are having a Stock legal 383 4 barrel mill built by our guru Dan Dvorak. That will make this a natural I/SA stocker with the options of adding or subtracting weight to run in H or J. We are sparing no expense on the motor. We want to make this big black brick one of the fastest stockers in the country. It's fascinating to compare and contrast a "stock" motor with a bracket motor like the one that is currently residing under the hood. They will probably run within a half second of each other but the way they get the job done is radically different.