based on early '60's Mopar Logo

January 2002 Mopar of the Month

1963 Plymouth Savoy

J.D. Kurzmann writes:


During the summers in college I worked at York U.S. 30 Drag-o-way, in York PA, as a tech inspector.
I had always admired the lines of the '63-65 Plymouth and Dodge Super Stock cars that would come through at NHRA events. I knew at that time in my life college had to be the priority, but some day I would own one of these cars for the street. It did not matter if it was a clone or an original.
1963 Plymouth Savoy - front view


After a number of years and at the age of 41, I could finally start looking for a finished car. Eventually, in the summer of 1999 I found a car in Bristol, Tennessee. The ad for the car stated that it was a Super Stock clone and it had taken four years to build. The car started as a 318 automatic with only 12,000 original miles. The owner had repainted the car and added the 535 cubic inch Hemi along with the Dana rear. I flew down to see the car immediately. The car looked great, except for a few blemishes in the paint, which could be repaired.

Little did I know that this car would turn into a nightmare, a very expensive nightmare!

How the nightmare started

When I drove the car in Tennessee, the engine detonated like crazy and had no power. It was no wonder that the owner quickly lowered the price when I started to point out these flaws as well as oil and fuel leaks.

Once I had the car delivered to my home in Maryland my older brother Kip, who is a mechanic by trade and also has a fondness for Mopars, agreed to help me get the car into good mechanical shape and maybe change the cam if necessary. How little did we know the man who spent four years building the car new nothing about mechanics or electronics!

I drove the car over to Kip's house to start the project. While sitting at a traffic light I tested the horn and all of a sudden the lights flashed and the car sputtered almost shutting off! Evidently there was a short, but where? Believe it or not the entire car had to be re-wired.

1963 Plymouth Savoy - pass side view


To give you an idea of the magnitude of problems we faced "restoring" this car, the only parts we used in the engine were the block, heads, and intake. Everything else had to be replaced or repaired, because the parts were either wrong or used. The one example which proved to be the most costly single item was the crankshaft. It was a billet item and when the machine shop magnifluxed it, each journal looked like a road map because of all the cracks. This is just one example of the thousands of problems I faced with what was touted as a meticulously restored vehicle.

Awakening from the nightmare

So not to belabor the point, everything had to be replaced that was either electrical or mechanical.

The engine was sent to Paul Hoage at Racing Parts and Machine Co. in Baltimore for a complete inspection. The block was originally a 1972 , 440 cu.in. engine which was bored .030 over. It has been align honed, magnifluxed, and decked. The crankshaft is a Keith Black 4.50 inch billet stroker. The rods are Nascar and the 9.8:1 pistons are by Ross. The block also has been fitted with cross bolt mains by Pro Gram. Every part is new, balanced, and blueprinted.

The oiling system is an external Milodon item blueprinted for high volume with an outside adjustable pressure regulator. The oil pan is also a Milodon unit, holding 7 quarts. The lifters are big block Chevy alcohol funny car items. The reason for the special lifters, are to be sure enough oil gets up to the push rods that are also special units, made by Smith Brothers, which are hollow, thus allowing oil to get to the roller rocker tips. Finally, to complete the oiling system, return lines run from the front and back of each head to the block. This assures oil is getting back down to the pan, pumped and filtered. Cold, the Hemi puts out over 100 psi but settles down to about 1 pound per 100 rpm when warmed up.

1963 Plymouth Savoy - engine 1963 Plymouth Savoy - interior
See a larger view of the motor. See a larger view of the interior.


The heads are Stage V hi riser, from Eric Hansen. Which have been port matched to the M1 intake. The springs and stainless steel valves are Manley, with 2.30 inch intake and 1.90 inch exhaust. The cam is a special Crower flat tappet roller, using Stage V roller rockers. The specs on the Crower cam are: @ 50 259 degrees intake and 268 degrees exhaust, and a gross lift of .623 intake/.632 exhaust. The car THUNDERS!

The intake manifold has also been modified by the removal of the separator below the carb. Basically, I created my own hi rise and single plan manifold.

To top it off, I went to Mr. Chuck Nuytten in Rockwall, Texas for the Carburetor. It is an 850 Holley, but it flows over 1010 cfm. I must say this man knows how to fit a carburetor to a specific engine. The car runs great. The 535 Hemi idles at 950 rpm with fantastic throttle response.

The transmission is a '64 Torqueflite unit with a '65 tail shaft to eliminate the use of a trunnion. It has been blueprinted by Doug Miller and is running a Dynamics 9.5 inch converter, with a stall speed of about 3200 RPM. Helping to keep it cool is a B and M transmission cooler and deep oil pan. I retained the push button shift on the dash to look original.

All of the Autometer gauges were custom mounted by my brother, including the oil pressure gauge which is in place of the amp meter in the dash. The ignition and distributor are MSD Billet with a 6AL spark unit and blaster coil. The interior otherwise is stock. A special thanks goes to Joe Hostetler of ECO upholstery in Bel Air, for the carpet both in the trunk and passenger compartment.

The rear suspension has a Dana 60 mounted on Super Stock springs with a pinion snubber and an LPW stud girdle. The gears are 4.10 with Strange axles.

The Plymouth rides on Goodyear 215/75x15's up front and 255/70x15's on the rear, mounted to Polished American torque thrusts.

To keep the Hemi cool I am using a Griffith aluminum radiator and two thermostatically controlled electric fans. Believe me, they work great. I can sit in traffic or just in my garage in the middle of summer and you can watch the temperature cycle from 198 degrees down to 180 degrees. The car runs cool.

Up front for stopping power are 1970 Plymouth disc brakes with a Mopar Performance dual master cylinder. A Wilwood proportioning valve handles the brake pressure.

The battery has been relocated to the trunk along with a 15 gallon fuel cell. On a trip to Carlisle PA the car got an amazing 10 MPG.

All of the chrome and polish work was done by Frankford Plating in Philadelphia. Just for your information, everything on the engine was painted silver when I bought the car.

The exhaust system is 3 inch diameter from TTI industries. The headers are by Moser in California. I had the entire system Jet hot coated to keep a clean appearance.

The paint on the car had numerous blemishes and had to be touched up by Rob Beard of Hot Rods East in Washington, D.C. I cannot give him credit for painting the entire car because, the prior owner initially did the work. If I had to guess, approximately 50% of the car has been re-painted.

Sweet Dreams

I know that as long as I own the car it will never be raced. Both my brother and I have put too much time and money in to it. I will say that I have stepped into it a few times and the car flies. The horsepower at the flywheel was Dynoed at 650 horses @ 6000 RPM and 625 ft. lbs. of torque at 4500 RPM. This is on pump gas too.

What I find interesting when I take the car out for a drive, is, usually people do ask "how much horsepower?" and "how fast does it go in the quarter mile?"

But they also ask me to start it up, "what does it sound like?"

My response is always the same. "Like a Hemi, what else?"   smile!
1963 Plymouth Savoy - driver's side view


In the way of shows, I have not had much time to attend many this past Summer (2001). The one big show I did attend was the Chryslers at Carlisle. I took the car for only one day and received an award which truly made all of the effort on the car worth it. Mr. Tom Hoover, of the original Ramchargers and the "father of the Hemi", chose my Plymouth to represent his celebrity pick out of over 2000 cars. That was a great complement to my brother Kip and me.

1963 Plymouth Savoy - rear trunk view 1963 Plymouth Savoy - rear view


Finally, special thanks to two people who made my dream a reality: first and foremost, my brother, Kip, who without his help and knowledge, this car would never be; and also Paul Hoage and Company of Racing Parts and Machine Co., they know how to make horsepower with low compression!


Editor's Note: See this Plymouth featured in Mopar Action magazine in the Summer of 2002.


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