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Plymouth Belvedere GTX
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- 426 V8
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What’s your ultimate muscle car? One of the best things about our hobby is the sheer diversity of cars and the guys that love them. I was at a car show over the weekend with my 1969 Dodge Charger R/T and was sitting enjoying the sun when I overheard a woman speaking to her friend. She commented that “each of these cars is a reflection of the owner’s personality.” Now, I’ve been around the hobby for 30 years and I have to admit this was something new, and it could only have come from a woman’s point of view. But as I sat there thinking about it, I realized that, for the most part, she was exactly right.
Getting lost in thought, I started to wonder what that said about me? After all, I was driving a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. Did that mean I was a closet Bo Duke, secretly desiring to outrun the local Sheriff? Naahhh, I just like Chargers. Besides, my favorite car is the 1967 Plymouth GTX.
I purchased my first 1967 GTX in 1986, at the age of 22. I spent a ton of money and hundreds of hours of my time restoring that car. Back when I was 20, I had the opportunity to purchase an ultra rare 1967 GTX Hemi Convertible out of an estate in Boardman, Ohio. The car could have been mine for the princely sum of $7,000.00, which was a ton of money for a ‘67 Plymouth back in 1984. Even then, I realized how rare the car was. I tried everything I could to raise the money to buy the car, but couldn’t pull it off. I often wonder where that car is today, now that the ‘67 Hemi convertibles are $200-$250K cars. Alas, it was not meant to be!
Since the mid 1980s, I’ve owned at least 20 1967 GTXs, with an equal mix of hardtops and convertibles. In 2009, we finished the restoration of the best one we’d ever done up that point, a white ‘67 GTX HEMI hardtop that came equipped from the factory with an R0 Super Stock HEMI motor and was most likely the last HEMI GTX built in 1967. You may have seen that car featured in Hemmings Muscle Machines in 2009 or on the show circuit. The restoration of that car was exhaustive, with all original or NOS parts from top to bottom. This car has traded hands over the past couple of years for north of $140K on two occasions.
So let’s get back to that ultimate muscle car. As stated, for me, it’s the 1967 GTX. But what does that say about me? Why do I love these cars so much? Well, for starters, they are smaller and lighter than the 68-71 HEMI cars-so they are relatively fast cars in stock trim. As Car & Driver pointed out, the ‘67 HEMI GTX is the 6th fastest muscle car ever built (in stock form). Second, they have a relatively simple, no frills design, with fantastic ornamentation, from the anodized aluminum grille to the fender mounted turn signals and bright wheel lip moldings. Third, they have fantastic interiors, with loads of chrome and bright shiny knobs.
I love these cars because, in my mind, they are a perfect blend of style and substance. Not too flashy or gaudy, with some classy touches throughout that let you know you’re in a higher end car. In short, the ‘67 GTX was the first true luxury muscle car Chrysler ever built and with a HEMI and 4-speed on board, a car that could not easily be trifled with on the streets. I think they are best summed up as walking softly, with some class, but performing when the money is on the line.
Now, whether you’re a ‘67 GTX fan or a ‘70 Chevelle fan or a ‘69 Mustang Mach 1 fan, we all have our ultimate “car within the car.” And, while I’ve owned 20 + 1967 GTXs in my life, I had to yet to find the ultimate version (for me) until last year. My criteria have always been: had to be a HEMI car, had to have a 4-speed, had to have an original drivetrain, had to have documentation, had to have original sheet metal (these cars were rust buckets), and it had to be black with a red interior, preferably with Medium Red stripes. Until last year, I had long given up on finding a 1967 GTX that fit all my criteria. After all, Chrysler only built 312 HEMI 4-speed GTX cars in 1967. That’s not very many. And, assuming that 6% of them were black, that’s roughly 18 black cars total. Out of those 18, how many had red interiors? And out of those, how many were actually out there with their original drive-trains and sheet metal. I’d never seen one and I’ve been going to Chrysler events since the early ‘80s.
In the spring of 2009, I received a call from a gentleman in Wisconsin, looking to trade a 1967 HEMI 4-speed GTX in on one of our restored Mopars. He explained that he purchased the car in the early 1980s, started a restoration, but never got much beyond some minor disassembly and some light body work. Intrigued, I asked him some questions. What was the color combination? Much to my surprise, it was a factory black car with red stripes and red interior! Was the drivetrain original to the car? The original engine and transmission were in the car and had never been touched. Even the original and impossible to find 1967-only distributor to coil wire was present and the original part number tag was on the original 1967-only distributor! Eager to get a deal done, I reviewed a few pictures of the car and passed on our normal physical inspection process. I tried not to get my hopes too high. After all, this was a Wisconsin car and, as we know, a car that a customer views as a cream-puff can turn out to be a nightmare.
When the trailer pulled into our parking lot with the car last spring, I nearly leaped out of my chair and tried not to knock anyone over as I ran out the door. Before the truck was in park, I had flung the trailer doors open and snuck inside and what I saw blew me away. A super clean, near-survivor 1967 GTX Hemi 4-speed with 99% of its original parts, perfectly and easily restorable. Present was the original fender tag, original distributor tag, original seat tags and all original sheet-metal. Crawling underneath the car, I could see that the original floors, trunk and frame rails were shockingly clean, with no rust to be found anywhere. As I looked further, my amazement grew. Original weather-stripping on the door and trunk. All original glass. Original interior. This GTX had the light package, which included the fender mounted turn signals. It also had an in dash clock and the rear speaker option. Front disc brakes? Nice! All of the original anodized aluminum, stainless steel trim and exterior/interior chrome was in excellent condition and easily restorable. In short, I was expecting to be disappointed with a car that needed everything and I was surprised to find a car that needed barely anything beyond some good old fashioned hard work.
With the expertise we picked up restoring the white HEMI car in 2007-2009, we made a fast decision to provide this HEMI GTX with a restoration equal to the that car and to debut the car at the 2010 Carlisle All Chrysler Nationals alongside our 1967 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S 383 4-speed convertible. A quick inventory of the car was done before the disassembly process was started and we determined that the ONLY parts we would need to find would be replacement rocker panel moldings and replacement wheel lip moldings. These parts had been badly mangled while in storage at some time in the past and were not usable. Aside from these parts and vinyl/rubber, we would reuse every metal part on the car, right down to the original door handles, fender mounted turn signals and HEMI only dog-dish wheel covers.
The restoration process began with a complete disassembly of the car. When we pulled the original carpeting out of the GTX, we were surprised to find a super rare “Hemi Engine” metal tag that had been there since the car was built in September, 1966. We found some tattered remnants of an original Chrysler Corporation Broadcast Sheet as well, but the document was too badly stained to be legible.
To be sure that we did the GTX right, we immediately ordered up Chrysler Historical documents for the car. To our delight, Chrysler Historical verified that the car was shipped on December 13, 1966 to Mertens Garage, Inc., in Medford, WI, and was configured as follows:
Paint: QB4 = Basic Color-Black, Sport Stripe Color-Medium Red Metallic
Trim: P6R = Red-Vinyl-Bucket Seats
Accessory Group 35: 5 = Light Package-Front Seat Courtesy Light, Glove Box Light, Trunk Light, Fender-Mounted Turn Signal Indicator Lights
Accessory Group 36: 5 = Unknown
Engine: 73=426 – 8 Cylinder 2-4 BBL (Dual Exhaust)
Transmission: 3 = Manual 4-Speed – Floor Shift
Axle Ratio: 6 = 3.55
Radio: 1 = Transaudio – AM
Tires: 48- Red Streak 7.75×14
Power Equipment: 1 = Brakes
Disc Brakes: 9 = Yes
Arm Rests: 5 = Center Front Seat & Folding Arm Rest
Radio Speakers: 6 = Rear Seat Speaker
Clock: 4 = Electric
Undercoating: 9 = Includes Hood Insulation Pad
These details matched what we found on the original fender tag as well.
Understanding that we had a 100% correct, complete numbers-matching car, we decided to send the original engine, transmission and air cleaner off to Shepard’s Automotive. In case you’ve never heard of Shepard’s, they were founded by Larry Shepard, Sr., an engineer at Chrysler Corporation in the 1960s, who worked under Tom Hoover (the Godfather of the HEMI at Chrysler when they rolled out the street HEMI in 1966). Larry was later an engineer at Mopar Performance and has literally written the book on Mopar performance engines (in fact, I think he’s written five or six). With an impressive bank of NOS and original parts and an even more impressive knowledge base, there was nobody out there better suited to restore the drive-train in our GTX.
Larry and his son, Larry Jr., tore down the engine, hot-tanked it, and proceeded to rebuild it to stock specs, using a mixture of NOS, original, and high quality aftermarket internal parts. Note that the original restored 426 HEMI block retains its original intake, both rebuilt four-barrel carburetors (4139S front and 4343S rear), original exhaust manifolds, original distributor (2642482), NOS starter, NOS alternator, not to mention a host of details that most restorers overlook, including NOS pan bolts, a date-coded brake booster hose, a date coded PVC hose and NOS spark plug snaps at the valve covers. And yes, 1967 GTX fans, we reinstalled the 1967-only coil to distributor wire that was installed on this car on the assembly line in 1967. Mopar guys love to argue about what’s correct and what’s not, but I’m guessing we won’t find many guys that will argue with the engineer who helped develop and roll out the street HEMI.
Likewise, the original A833 18-spline four-speed manual transmission was expertly restored by Shepard’s with similar touches. How about an NOS backup light switch? We went all out on this GTX! All total, we spent about $14,000.00 with Larry’s shop, which included a concours restoration and triple plate chrome on the original air cleaner and a concours restoration of the original valve covers. Expensive? You bet. Worth every penny? Absolutely! All receipts for the drive-train rebuild, as well as a complete pictorial history of the process are present and accounted for. If you want to know how to properly rebuild a vintage street HEMI, it’s all there for you.
While the drivetrain was being rebuilt, an entire array of parts were cataloged and out-sourced for restoration. The chrome and stainless steel trim was entrusted to our friends at Advanced Custom Chrome in Erie, PA. Every single piece was and is original to the car, including the door handles, interior chrome including all knobs, bumpers, fender mounted turn signals, and the 426 hood emblem. The anodized aluminum grille, headlight bezels and deck-lid trim panel were shipped off to King of Trim in CA. If you’ve ever had similar pieces restored, you know how expensive these parts are to have done properly.
With the doors, fenders, deck lid and hood removed, the entire body was placed on a rotisserie and sent off for dipping and e-coating. After the body was returned to our shop, we completed the metal work quickly, which was limited to a few small patches in the lower driver’s side quarter panel. Because we replicated the original factory welds, you wouldn’t know that the work was done if we didn’t tell you. As we learned when we received the body shell back from the dip shop, the original floor pans, trunk floor and floor pans were perfect, with no prior rot or rust. Amazing for a car which was sold new in Wisconsin and spent every days of its life there until we purchased it 42 years later!
With the metal work complete, the car was primed, block-sanded, block-sanded some more and then block-sanded again for good measure and then painted in base coat/clear coat. Only after the base paint and clear coat were applied were the Medium Red Metallic sport stripes painted on, exactly the way it was done on the assembly line. If you ever see a restored 1967 GTX with the painted stripes flush with the base color, it’s WRONG. On the underside, our restoration shop replicated the factory primer processes, complete with blown overspray.
Our expert body-man and Restoration Manager, Mike Velek, outdid himself on this GTX. 1967 GTXs are basically square boxes with multiple lines down the side of the car. Throw in black paint and unless you have a super straight body with excellent panel fit and alignment, these cars can be a recipe for disaster. As I squatted down and started down the sides of this GTX, I was amazed at how perfectly straight the car was. The doors on this GTX fit better than any ‘67 I’ve ever laid eyes on. Visually, this car will impress even the most jaded car guy!
With less than two weeks to go to the 2010 Carlisle All Chrysler Nationals, our restoration shop began the final assembly process. The first step was assembling the engine and transmission onto the original HEMI K-member and assembling the front suspension, and then lowering the body shell into place. Our shop prefers this method, as it reduces the possibility of damage to the restored body.
After the drivetrain was properly bolted into place, our shop installed the original and now restored Dana 60 rear axle and restored rear suspension. We installed brand new stainless fuel lines, brake lines, brake hoses, grommets, weather-stripping and gaskets. A new fuel tank was bolted into place, and a complete, reproduction concours HEMI exhaust handles the soundtrack. The entire braking system was reinstalled, using a combination of restored original and replacement parts. After the front suspension was in place, the restored and extremely hard to find 1967-only HEMI steel wheels were bolted up to the car, complete with four brand new reproduction redline tires. Finishing off the restored rolling stock were the four original, restored HEMI-only dog dish caps.
With the GTX now in full rolling form, the rest of the engine compartment was carefully assembled. The restored original wiper motor which feed the restored original wiper arms was installed. The restored power brake booster was installed in the car. The restored steering column was eased into place. Complete new wiring harnesses were routed throughout the body, along with correct reproduction positive and negative battery cables. The original, restored radiator (2785934) was dropped into place, along with the usual assortment of correct reproduction Mopar hoses, plug wires, clips and fasteners. Last, but certainly not least was the obligatory maintenance-free Turbostart Group 27 reproduction battery. These batteries are a bit pricier than the acid-filled reproductions, but there’s nothing worse than acid spilling in your freshly restored engine compartment.
With a week to go to Carlisle, it was time to put the pedal to the metal. All of the exterior trim was installed on the GTX, including the stunning restored chrome bumpers, anodized aluminum bright-work and stainless steel trim. The restored 426 hood emblem required some careful hand painting, as did the roof side moldings. As these pieces were reinstalled on the car, the GTX began to look like – well – a GTX. We were never able to find suitable NOS or original wheel-well trim and rocker panel moldings, so excellent reproductions were installed. If and when we find suitable originals, we will replace these parts. The restored deck lid panel trim surrounded by the original re-chromed tail light bezels are simply stunning. Equally impressive is the 1967 GTX-only NASCAR-style gas cap with a textured argent surround.
Next up was the glass. We ordered a complete brand new date coded glass set for this GTX, and while reproduction glass for these cars is pricy, it’s worth every penny. After the glass was carefully installed with new gaskets, the final exterior trim was carefully put into place using the correct factory clips. Beautiful!
Turning our attention to the interior, our in-house interior expert Ralph Farinacci went to work. The front and rear seats and most of the interior parts had been finished by Ralph over the prior three months and simply needed to be installed. Ralph is a big believer in using original parts, right down to original screws and that’s how he approached the restoration of the interior on this GTX. Of course, there are new door panels and vinyl seat covers, but every other piece is original to the car. The original dash pad was restored, along with the original gauge cluster. The original steering wheel was expertly refinished to better-than-new condition. Small touches like original restored kick panels and an original rear seat speaker set this car apart from the “catalog restorations” we see so often. 1967 GTXs have boatloads of interior chrome and every single piece was redone to concours standards. Ralph worked tirelessly through the July Fourth holiday weekend to assemble all of these parts, and the end result is nothing less than breathtaking. The restored red vinyl interior is beautiful and reminds me why I love these cars as much as I do.
With the interior out of the way, our shop turned their focus to the trunk. A correct reproduction spare tire board was installed, along with a correct spare and restored original jack components. Finishing off the trunk is a correct reproduction trunk mat.
With no detail left undone, the GTX was finished. Some gas was poured in the fuel tank and after a few cranks, the 426 HEMI engine spun to life for the first time in who knows how many years. Running beautifully, she sat there, reborn, ready for the summer show circuit and perhaps a few magazine photo shoots.
Since the restoration was completed, this amazing GTX has been gently and carefully broken in and dialed in and is a true investment grade car which can be enjoyed on summer nights or rolled off a trailer at any concourse event. We all have our ultimate cars-if the 1967 HEMI GTX is yours, you can’t do much better than this one! Call today!
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