Denis Altstadt (left) and Dale Altstadt show off the family’s 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury, which dad Denis bought near-new in 1965. Dale has since modified the ride for drag racing. (Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press)
For 1964, in response to the Chevrolet Impala SS and Ford Galaxie 500XL, the Sport Fury became Plymouth’s premium offering.
Standard equipment included special Sport Fury script, premium wheelcovers with knock-off hubs, bucket seats and V-8 power. Plymouth sold 23,895 Sport Fury coupes that year, and led the full-size Plymouth into the sport segment of the market.
In 1965, Denis Altstadt purchased his 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury from Eastern Sales in Winnipeg. A Chrysler lease vehicle return with only 12,500 kilometres on the odometer, it was a great buy. Well equipped with centre console, padded dash and seat belts, the car served the family well, and was eventually passed down to his eldest son, Dale, in 1974. Three years later, Dale sold the car to his sister Shelley, and after six years of her driving it, the car would sit in the family’s yard for the next four years until Dale Altstadt bought it back from Shelley and started his journey to make it a drag car.
Running for several years with a 440 V-8 engine, and doing regular refreshes and upgrades each season, Altstadt had the Plymouth running the strip at mid-10-second elapsed times in the quarter-mile. Upgrades included Sandale Fabrication back-halving the car to accommodate a four-link, coil-over rear suspension with a Strange Engineering nine-inch Ford rear axle with 4.86:1 gear ratio, to fit the huge 16.5 by 31.5 by 15-inch drag slicks. Up front, the Sport Fury saw an upgrade to a full chrome-moly tube chassis with tubular A-arms and rack and pinion steering. The modifications reduced the once full-size car’s total weight down to a scant 1,231 kilograms.
After several seasons on the track, Altstadt broke the 440 V-8 and the transmission. The decision was to step up and build a new supercharged engine for the Sport Fury. Health problems, however, cancelled the engine build, and the car sat in limbo until Altstadt’s best man and best friend, Robert Rempel, offered his engine to power the Sport Fury. Rempel pulled the 440 six pack V-8 from his 1971 Challenger show car and transported it in his pickup truck from Pitt Meadows, B.C., to Winnipeg. While unloading the engine out of the back of his pickup, Rempel told Altstadt to “drive it like he stole it.”
A newly built 727 automatic transmission from Precision Automatic with a high-stall converter, trans brake, reverse valve body and the original push-button controller installed on a pedestal atop the centre console was linked to the donated engine.
While the engine may look totally correct for a factory 440 six-pack from a 1971 Challenger, it is — and it isn’t. With a stroker crankshaft and 0.055-inch overbore, it now displaces 512 cubic inches and has produced more than 550 horsepower when tested on an engine dynamometer. While it isn’t the supercharged engine Altstadt planned, it should carry enough horsepower to get the Sport Fury back in the low 10-second range at the track.
Altstadt and friends Fred and Gareth Senkow thrashed every day, getting the Sport Fury ready for Piston Ring’s 44th annual World of Wheels, held last weekend. The engine installation was completed with the support of Dale Loewen at Sandale Fabrication, and the car was on display in the Sandale booth at World of Wheels. Now finished in its original Ruby Red and Ermine White colours, it is a standout car that really drew a crowd.
For Altstadt, who lives in Lac du Bonnet, his dream build was only achieved with the help of others.
“With all of the friends and family that put in a lot of effort to get us here, I am really happy,” said Altstadt, who took home third place in the Super Comp class. To cap off a great weekend, Altstadt also received a Drag Racing Lifetime Achievement Award from the World of Wheels.
All of which proves family cars are anything but boring.
Dale Altstadt poses with the family car in 1965, well before he transformed it into a quarter-mile hustler.
One look at the interior of Dale Altstadt’s 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury, and you get the idea it is purpose-built for drag racing.