SEMA 2015 STAR: Rad Rides Builds a Twin-Turbo 526ci 1966 Belvedere from a Legit Hemi Car
http://www.hotrod.com/events/1510-sema- ... -hemi-car/
David Meyer’s “Northern Bel” will make you rethink everything you knew about street-car quality
We don’t mean to get all poetic, but David Meyer’s 1966 Plymouth Belvedere is the exact color of the evening sky at the very last moment of light. In the shadows, it’s a blue so dark you expect to see deep-sea fishes blinking from the quarter-panels, but then the sun hits it and every edge glows like the bright azure spark of an arc welder. What you’ve always thought of as a rather plain body style—the slab-sided mid-1960s Plymouth—is revealed as an elegant architecture of inset panels and ironed-sharp body lines. Revealing the beauty of an oft-overlooked body style would be impressive enough, but this is a Rad Rides by Troy build, and Troy Trepanier never stops the show after just one neat trick. The parachute on the back sort of gives away the secret: this Clark Kent car goes quickly to Superman status with a swap of the rear tires, and once it’s in costume, David should be able to wing off mid-8-second passes, thanks to a 526ci twin-turbo Hemi, then pop the hubcaps back on and idle on home with air conditioning and hidden stereo blasting.
David has had this Belvedere for eight years, but the story goes way back to the 1980s, when a teenage David built a 383-powered Belvedere with his dad. When Meyer Sr. decided to retire in 2007, he offered to freshen up David’s high school ride. Rather than spend the money and time on the 383 car, David decided to find something he’d always wanted, a real 426 Hemi car. Although the 426 was in race cars in 1964, the first “street” Hemis became available for the 1966 model year and the midsize Belvedere was an unexpected winner at many a street race. David found a car on eBay and won the auction with a $5,000 bid. Before you lose your marbles over a $5,000 Hemi car, realize the state of it. It had been wrecked, rolled, and completely stripped. “It was worse than I thought when I got it home,” David says. “The frame shop told me to give up on it. They said I should pull the VIN and start over on another car, but then it wouldn’t be real, not to mention that’s illegal.”
David found another body shop, US Car Tool, specializing in Mopars, and it brought the Plymouth back to a body-in-white stage. The bare metal was E-coated to keep it from rusting and shipped to Rad Rides in Manteno, Illinois. “I first saw one of Troy’s cars at HOT ROD Power Tour in Detroit,” David says. “And every car I saw afterward that I really liked was one of his. I knew he could put together a car at the level I envisioned and make it reliable enough for my parents to take it to cruises, or on the road.”
The original plan had been to build a F.A.S.T. class car, capable of running in the Factory Appearing Stock Tire drags, but by the time the car was out of bodywork, the evolution of the top cars running those classes had gotten so quick and so specialized that building one capable of winning and doing family-car duty became a nearly impossible task. “Once I abandoned the stock-appearance idea, it opened up a lot of options, including turbos.”
Since he has a background in industrial engineering, David was very involved in the engine build for the Belvedere. “I was probably more involved than [engine builder] Bob Sweeney [at FX Engines] would have liked,” David admits. “We went back an forth a lot on the parts and decisions. I wanted a huge Hemi, something with a lot of grunt, that could just drive along all lazy. He wanted to do a 426ci build so there would be lots of meat between the bores. We compromised on the 526ci Keith Black block. It’s a good number.”
The 9.0:1 KB block has a 4.375 bore and stroke. A Winberg Crankshaft crank moves Carillo rods topped with Gibtec forged-aluminum pistons. FX raised the cam, perfected the lifter angles, brushed the bores, and went all high-tech with piston oilers so nothing inside gets neglected. Troy’s father, Jack, suggested the dry-sump system, and Troy himself designed the billet intake manifold. There was no off-the-shelf option for a KB Hemi with aluminum Stage V heads. Like all of Troy’s builds, if components don’t fit perfectly, they are either modified—like the water pump, which was cut out and rewelded with thinner material to clear the cam end—or completely made from scratch by hand or in Rad Rides’ CNC mill. The fuel tank is a one-off piece that fits exactly in the spare-tire pocket in the Belvedere’s trunk. Twin Bosch pumps move the fuel. That’s twice as many as a Porsche 911 GT2 has!
The turbo setup is a remote-mounted pair of Turbonetics F1-65 turbines with C69 compressor wheels. “They aren’t huge, because I don’t want to go faster than mid-8s with this car,” says David. “I don’t want to make my 67-year-old mother climb over a Funny Car cage to go to a car show.” He pauses, then adds, “There is room there, though—I can always go bigger.”
Final horsepower numbers are still a question mark, as the car has only been on the dyno with minimal forced induction. With about 1 pound of boost, it put down 750 hp at the rear wheels. David expects to see more than 1,100 hp on pump gas once the progressive boost control in the BigStuff3 is dialed in and a full-on dyno pull is made.
The controller handles more than just air and fuel. It also controls the Bowler 4L80E transmission, which is backed by a Gear Vendors unit for road-trip rev control, and a traction-control system that measures wheel speeds at both rear wheels and one front so it can tell if one of the Michelin-wrapped 18-inch Circle Racing wheels is spinning when it shouldn’t. By the way, those steelies aren’t steel, they are custom billet aluminum, 18x7 in the front and 18x8 in the rear.
The rear wheels lead to a Strange S60 Dana 60 with 3.54 gears. All four corners are Wilwood disc brakes and a mix of Hotchkis and Ridetech keep the car suspended in traditional torsion-bar and leaf-spring style.
The interior is classic Rad Rides, which is to say it’s a classic car—just better. Troy has a real skill for implementing modern electronics and conveniences without losing the spacious, space-age details we love about old cars. A Racepak dash sits inside a squircle of vintage-looking chrome behind an elegant, leather-wrapped, three-spoke wheel. Classic Instruments gauges frame it on either side, and Vintage Air keeps the cabin cool with retro twisty knobs. Hidden in the rearview mirror is a rearview camera so not a scuff mars the complex rear trim. Of course, there’s a stereo, and a tap of the window cranks will activate power windows up or down. The seats and door panels are a tactile wonderland, all stitching and perforated leather in a deep blue with gunmetal accents.
So here we are, back to the blue. How did David decide on that color? “The car was originally Plymouth Dark Metallic Blue, so I wanted blue, but I wanted it to be more special than the stock color,” David says. “I drove everyone around me crazy trying to decide. I would follow people into gas stations and drive-thrus just to ask them what color their cars were.” The final spray is a custom mix based on an OEM import shade that David won’t share. You’ll have to stalk your own commuters to figure it out.
“If there is one thing I want people to know about this car,” David says, “It’s that it’s legit. The fire bottle and window nets aren’t there for looks, they are there because we had to have them to pass tech. The chassis is NHRA-certified to 8.50, there’s a scattershield over the trans. There are three seatbelts in the back seat so my kids can ride in it. It’s not going to sit in a garage. It’s going to get driven.”
This is a bad butt ride!