'65 Belvedere more than meets the eye

by Larry D'Argis . Jul 21 2017
Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

With the high style of the 1950s fading into the more modern and forward-thinking ’60s, vehicles took on a new style. Some went the way of economy, some still plush and powerful. And, yet, it would take until the middle of the decade to find the performance of the intermediate muscle car.

Big engines in lightweight bodies were all the rage with just about every manufacturer having one or more. The racetracks and dragstrips in North America showed fans that manufacturers had the winning combination and all one had to do was order it from their neighbourhood dealer. At Plymouth, they had been successfully campaigning their lightweight Max Wedge-powered cars, but in ’64, the new 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 found its way between the front fenders of several models.

For 1965, the Satellite Belvedere line was just what everyone wanted: lightweight, roomy and available with several engine options, from the economical six-cylinder up to the fire-breathing Max Wedge V-8s.

A further foray into finding a street-legal super stock meant you could opt for one of the 101 A990 cars that were built. Finding one of these lightweight, acid-dipped, Hemi-powered wonders today requires a pretty fat wallet, and for most, just dreaming of driving one can raise your blood pressure.

For Andrew Eason of Winnipeg, Mopar performance cars are not a stranger to his garage. Having performed a rotisserie restoration on his 1971 ’Cuda in 2002, he always kept an open mind about doing another car.

Several years back, he came across a vintage Stewart-Warner mechanical tachometer and said, “One day I’m going to build a car around this.” He later stumbled upon a 426 Hemi tach-drive distributor that further fuelled his quest.

In early 2011, he found a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere I two-door sedan project car for sale in Akron, Ohio that he felt was a good candidate to convert into an A990 tribute car.

The owner had purchased the Belvedere with the intent to make it into a nice mild street cruiser to take his grandkids for ice cream, but failing health dealt the “For Sale” card.

The car was a rotisserie restoration painted bright white and came with many boxes of parts, but no powertrain. After several telephone conversations and exchanging many photos, Eason and his friend Daryl Klassen loaded up the trailer, made the journey to Akron and purchased the car and parts.

For the engine, Eason turned to Tim Banning at For Hemis Only in Ontario to supply a 500-cubic-inch Hemi stroker engine topped with Stage V heads, hydraulic performance camshaft from COMP Cams, cross-ram intake manifold and twin Holley 750 CFM four-barrel carburetors.

Cooling the beast is accomplished with a 22-inch Glen-ray radiator with high-efficiency core, and oiling is handled by a Moroso pan and windage tray. That vintage tach-drive distributor lights off the fuel mixture and it runs through a set of ceramic-coated TTI headers, leading to a full three-inch diameter TTI dual exhaust system.

Behind the huge Hemi is a 727 TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission with CRT 3,500 r.p.m. torque convertor, shift kit and reverse pattern, manual valve body.

Getting the power to the ground is through a Dana 60 rear axle with 4.30:1 ratio Strange gear set in a Detroit Locker positraction unit.

Rolling stock is a set of 15-inch American Racing Torq Thrust wheels with 215 x 75 series radials up front and, thanks to inboard-mounted, super-stock leaf springs, there are some healthy 315 x 60 series Mickey Thompson ET Drag Radials in back.

With the body and paint already complete, including the handmade steel reproduction hood scoop, Eason installed the re-chromed bumpers and newly anodized headlamp surrounds. For the stainless steel trim, Eason had The Chrome Pit straighten and polish it to like-new condition.

Moving inside, the red vinyl interior upholstery features lightweight carpeting, A100 Dodge van bucket seats, rear-seat delete and a period-correct, trunk-mounted battery. Other than a new tinted windshield, the rest is factory glass from 1965.

Eason, a member of the Manitoba Mopar Association since 2002, credits much of the success of the Belvedere’s build through networking with club members and help from the oddly named “Out to Lunch Bunch” Saturday breakfast crew.

Making its debut with the club, at the 2017 Piston Ring’s World of Wheels show last March in Winnipeg, it won its Street Machine class and received a further award for Outstanding Detail.

“There are a few changes, but I tried to keep it as close as I could to representing a real A990 car,” Eason said.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history behind these cars, the appearance to some may look like plain vanilla, but one glance at the functional hood scoop, big tires and the awesome sound of the 500-cubic-inch Hemi V-8, and your perspective quickly changes.

In 1965, this was part of the real rapid transit system.


Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press