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Date: August 10, 2000
Fellow Forwardlook Enthusiasts,
I recently realized that there are no new cars under $40,000 that excite me. Therefore, I propose to turn a í57 Plymouth Savoy 2 door sedan into a daily driver to replace my dying Nissan. Iím not looking for blistering acceleration; handling, comfort, durability, and fuel economy are higher on my list. I just want to keep up with traffic. Iím not overly concerned with originality, but want to minimize the number of original parts that are modified and hope to maintain as stock an appearance as possible. This car will drive around New Orleans, known for itís pot-holed streets, mentally deficient drivers, and hot climate. Most front wheel drive econoboxes get the stuffing beaten out of them. My budget for non-bodywork related items is approximately $15,000. I know several skilled automotive frame welders and bodyshop people. In the paragraphs below, I discuss my proposals for each automotive subsystem. I pose a lot of questions and look for ideas and recommendations. Let me know what you think!
Engine: The car currently has no drivetrain. I believe it was originally equipped with the 301 V8. I want to install a new MoPar Performance 300 hp Magnum 360. A 380 hp version is available, but people have said that the single-plane manifold and radical cam would adversely the driveability. Other people recommend that I install a big block, but concerns about fuel efficiency, cooling, and handling steer me away from that option. What motor mount work must be done to fit the 360 engine? What parts do I need? What frame modifications (if any) are needed to cradle this powerplant? Does anybody have experience with this kind of swap? I hope to install a small oil cooler behind the lower part of the grille, below the front bumper. To supply fuel, I want to install a programmable Holley throttle-body style fuel injection system with an electric fuel pump. I canít remember the exact model number, but it is a 700 cfm version. I havenít really given the exhaust system much thought..any ideas? Iím also looking for a bulletproof alternator with a pulley compatible with the Magnum engine.
Transmission: The car was originally equipped with an automatic transmission. The transmission is gone, as are the pushbuttons, so I donít know whether it had a Powerflite or Torqueflight (was there a choice with the 301?). This is an area where Iím not quite sure how to proceed. I want a modern A500/518 4 speed automatic transmission; I do a lot of highway driving and really want the overdrive. Iíve already heard that the overdrive transmission would entail significant work on the transmission mounts and frame. Can anyone elaborate on what exactly needs to be done? Does anyone foresee any clearance problems with the firewall or floors? Iíd also like to keep the pushbuttons. This is another challenge. Surely, somebody at one time has thought of ways to convert the motion of the old transmission cable into a means to shift the modern transmission? Iíve actually considered a system of levers which would be moved by the action of the buttons. These levers would open and close electrical switches, which would, in turn, activate a servo motor which would push or pull the transmission yoke. Maybe I could attach a cable to the shifter (as in the original configuration), and the cable end itself would activate the switches? I know these ideas sound like MacGyver meets Radio Shack, but I think thereís a way to make this work.
Suspension/Steering: I intend to keep the original torsion bars in front. In back, I plan to switch to an early 70ís 8 3/4" rear end. Based on the rest of this letter, does anyone have any suggestions for a rear end ratio? New leaf springs and a custom driveshaft would be installed (any recommended fabricators)? The front steering components will be dismantled, cleaned-up, and rebuilt with new rubber parts. Would anti-sway bars (front or rear) be worthwhile additions? If so, can anyone recommend any suppliers? The car currently has manual steering. I originally intended to keep it this way, but I have since reconsidered. I am now looking for complete power steering setups for Ď57-í59 Plymouths (including pump, column, and gearbox). Would P/S setups from Dodges, Desotos, or Chryslers also work?
Brakes/Wheels/Tires: The car is currently equipped with the original manual brakes. I intend to install a Wilwood disk brake conversion kit up front. From discussions on this board, it appears that I will need to change to 15" wheels. As for tires, I want to use wide whitewall radials produced by Coker or BF Goodrich. Does anyone have any experience with these tires? The sizes I was considering include 235/75R15 or 255/70R15. Does anyone know of any Chrysler Corp. wheels from the 60ís-80ís that would accommodate these tires and fit the original plain-jane "pie plate" hubcaps? Does anyone anticipate any problems with the wheelwells? I plan to keep the original rear brakes from the 8 3/4"rear end mentioned earlier. The Wilwood guy told me that his companyís disk brakes require a minimum amount of foot pressure to operate. Regardless, I want to upgrade to power brakes. Is there any consensus with regards to a good donor vehicle for the booster/master cylinder? Reliability and ease of installation is key. Can anyone recommend an easy-to-install, reliable brake light switch?
Body/Interior: The car will be repainted in itís original blue and white two tone. By the way, Iím still looking for two stainless side trim pieces (1756574 and 1756575). The car currently has no outside rearview mirror; I hope to install one on the driverís side fender. A fixed antenna mounting is already on the passengerís side. I want to install lap belts in both the front and rear seats. I would also like to give the driver (me) a shoulder belt. The sedan has a nearby pillar to mount the shoulder strap to. I know this compromises the originality of the car, but given the number of miles I hope to put on this car, I need to seriously consider safety. I donít want to eat the horn ring. Are there any ideas on how to tastefully achieve this? Also, for safety reasons, Iíd like to lock the front seat in the vertical position. I donít want to get squeezed like a sandwich during a wreck. Ideally, Iíd like a mechanism to lock and unlock the seat. Iím going to evaluate this possibility during the next few months. I also plan on converting the original radio-delete panel into a secret door, concealing a modern receiver/CD player. Two small speakers will mount under the dash and two more will reside under the rear shelf. The frame, trunk, floors, ceiling, firewall, and insides of the doors wills be mummified in POR15 after a chemical dipping process that will remove all contaminants. This should keep the rust at bay. An aftermarket A/C system will go under the dash. Does anyone have any good soundproofing ideas?
Thanks for reading. I plan to keep track of my progress with an illustrated webpage. Look for updates in the following weeks and months! Justin