Why haven’t you painted it yet? It will look great when it’s finished. Why did you show it before it was ready? These are sentences that anyone who has built a car of the grungy, ratty variety has heard. Throw in an unusual engine swap and the reactions range from shaking heads to general looks of disgust.
The car in this story is not the car for these people. Move along, nothing for you here.
No, the latest creation to come out of Oddball Kustoms is for people who get the idea of a post apocalyptic escape vehicle. Blue collar folks who might have to outrun a herd of zombies. People who yell “HELL YEAH” when they see a particularly cool ride rolling into their local gas station.
It was the frequency of those moments on the car’s maiden voyage that Chief Oddball Stony Smith decided to call this monstrous Mopar ‘HELL YEAH’.
The story starts in the Fall of 2018, when a friend of Smith’s tracked down a car for a client and came across this rolling shell in South Dakota that appeared at first glance to be a 1970 Road Runner, complete with the ghosts of giant Plymouth stickers on the quarter panels and paint marks where a tiny road runner emblem once adorned the trunk lid.
The holes that line the car’s hips, from stem to stern, are mounting holes for a chrome trim strip, which indicate that the car most likely was a Plymouth Satellite, which was turned into a Road Runner clone at some point in its life. At this point, Smith has affixed an aluminum plate to the spot where the original VIN would have lived that says, appropriately, “who cares”.
The day that I first saw the car, Smith told me that he was thinking about maybe installing a diesel of some sort and then taking it on a road trip to The South, in some sort of homage to good old boys everywhere.
With client builds out of the way, Smith spent the Winter thrashing to get his own ride completed in time for Toronto’s annual Spring car show, Motorama. It seemed like one day we were standing next to a rolling shell and the next, there was a video posted to Instagram of the car running.
The new heart of this old bird is a massive 8.3L 6-cylinder diesel which began life in a 1988 Isuzu NRP delivery truck. Weighing about the same as the 426 Hemi that might have been installed in the car at some point, this unit generates about 180 horsepower, less than half what the Hemi created. That may sound somewhat weak, but it also turns out a whopping 413 ft-lb of torque, which is close to what the Hemi produced. For comparison sake though, there is a pretty good chance that that this car probably had the base 318 ci V8 originally which created a paltry 155 hp and 260 ft-lb of torque.
Inside, Stony sourced a matching set of leather clad 6-way power seats from a BMW M-series car of some sort from a local wrecking yard, along with Honda seat belts which bolted right in to the stock mounting points.
A custom riveted aluminum centre stack features all the gauges needed to monitor the big diesel’s vital signs, along with a Clarion touch screen infotainment unit and usb ports to keep the personal electronics charged.
The attention to detail continues in the artfully created door panels and centre tunnel mounted cup holders.
Outside, you will find a healthy dose of skillful fabrication, which thoughtfully pairs with the as-found patina to create a safe and functional platform for cross country adventures. Smith’s metal working skills can be found in the roof rack, which holds a modern quartet of LED driving lights for back woods driving. Living in the country, Smith has had more than his fair share of deer hits, so the front bumper includes a custom bull bar to protect the radiator in case of encounters with wildlife. One has to look closely to realize that the expertly fabricated rear bumper, complete with tow hooks, isn’t an original piece.
Exterior lighting is again a combination of vintage and modern. The OE tail lights are complemented by LED bricks for reverse lights. On the sides, suitably crusty original marker lights are in place. Up front, the coolest modern LED halo style lights handle illumination and signalling. Driving ahead of the car on the road, I couldn’t help but smile every time I looked in the mirror. The Mad Max look is completed with those piercing eyes.
To give the car a properly menacing stance and some potential off road ability, Stony mounted General Grabber A/T2 tires on classic Cragar SS wheels, but really did nothing else to address the land yacht era suspension. Front brakes are from an Acura Integra Type R, while the rears are the original drum setup.
Immediately following the Motorama show, Smith and his kid Dutch set out on an epic Father – Son adventure, driving an un-tested 49 year old project car from Toronto to Miami.
It wasn’t long before the combination of 200 lbs of tools in the trunk, over-sized off road tires and aging rear leaf springs resulted in frequent growling noises as the rear tires rubbed on the inside of the fenders. The Smiths stopped for a visit with the folks at SPEEDCULT in Detroit, who offered up their shop so that Stony could fab up some longer spring shackles. Problem solved, and the boys kept on rolling.
As the trip continued, the exhaust gas temperatures seemed to be reading higher than Stony expected, accompanied by some strange noises from the engine. A few calls to diesel expert friends in Australia brought the suggestion that the engine’s valves were out of adjustment. Friends in Durham, North Carolina offered to hook them up with the diesel guys at a local shop called British 4×4. The decision was made to carry on and Stony cruised along at 60 mph, below the posted speed limit, in order to keep the EGT down. Suspicions were correct and once the valves were properly adjusted, the beast purred like a kitten, turning in surprisingly good fuel economy. How good? How about a trip total of 5,800 km for just $300 worth of fuel?
From North Carolina, the pair zig zagged their way down to Miami, where they visited with the folks at Supercar Rooms, who are the current owners of The Bootch, a car that Smith built 8 years ago. For some time, The Bootch, a replica of a French luxury machine from between the wars, was the most expensive retro/rat type car in Florida.
With all the bugs sorted out, the Smiths had an uneventful journey home and now that Spring weather has just about arrived, the Plymouth is being driven regularly, with the inevitable questions arriving every time the car stands still.
There is one other question that Smith was asked continually throughout the trip: “is it for sale?” As a guy who typically enjoys building more than driving, Smith has built this car to be driven, and driven by him. He intends to keep driving it and possibly even enter it in events like the Gambler 500, a sort of car rally for cheap and interesting machines and the Wasteland Weekend, which you could say is a post apocalyptic version of a renaissance fair.
Hell NO!, Hell Yeah is not for sale!