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> 1966 Plymouth Satellite Convertible - From Swiss Cheese To Screamer
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post Feb 9 2011, 12:08 AM
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Steve Sommer's Online Find Is Now Hemi-Fied
From the March, 2011 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Scott Ross
Photography by Randy Lorentzen

Click thumbnails for larger images



You've seen 'em. Cars advertised for sale that not only look good from 20 feet, but from an even greater distance-from a picture in an ad (online or print) to your eyeballs. The ad copy lists the year, make, series, body style, and features the car has, at a price that seems nice.

Maybe there's something missing . . . something you wouldn't know without an up-close look. So it was when Steve Sommers found a '66 Plymouth Satellite convertible via an online ad. He's wanted one of these since high school, one of the 2,759 drop-top Satellites made that year-the second-rarest mid-size Plymouth body style made in 1966, after the Belvedere II convertible. "This was a car that I'd been looking for forever, a car I really wanted," says Steve. "I had been looking for the right one for about ten or fifteen years, and I really thought I'd found the one that I wanted, that was optioned correctly. I wanted a big-block car."


Greg Bolton-built 426 Hemi sports
Mopar aluminum heads topped by
an Edelbrock intake and two
600-cfm Holley four-barrels.


And that's what it was, one with a 383/727 powertrain. Advertised for sale in Maryland, as a "restored" car, Steve had it shipped to his Riverside, California, home after he bought it. He drove it for about a year and then looked into turning his score into a "Hemi tribute."

As soon as Steve pulled the 383 out, he started to see what was really inside and under his B-Body. Or, more precisely, what wasn't there. "I'd finished the Hemi and dynoed it, took the existing engine out, and started finding rust," he says. "I just found more and more and more of it." At that point, Steve was referred to Pat McCarthy at PSM Performance in Riverside (by Bob Mazzolini, who was set to build a 727 for the Satellite). After finding even more rust under layers of undercoating and filler, Pat recommended a complete teardown and rebuild. "We put it on a frame machine and got the ride height to where I knew I wanted it," says Steve. "We completely gutted it, cut the entire floor out of the car, and then we built the frame underneath it on the frame machine." That square-tube frame added the structure the Satellite needed, and-thanks to channelling the floorpan over it-the Satellite sits lower than stock, with no trace of the frame visible without lifting the car.


Custom-fabbed four-link suspension with
QA1 coilovers and a Speedway Engineering
sway bar hold the Strange
Engineering-built Dana 60 in place.


Underneath, major changes were in store. At Pat's suggestion, Steve scrapped the OEM front torsion bar/rear leaf suspension system for No Limits' tubular A-arms in front and a four-link rear setup in back with a Strange Engineering-built Dana 60 rearend filled with a 3.73-geared True Track differential. Also included in the chassis hardware: Rack-and-pinion steering, Speedway Engineering sway bars front and rear, QA1 coilovers at each corner, plus a set of Wilwood discs and Toyo-shod Boyd Coddington Classic II wheels.


After the rust was cut out, the
Satellite needed structure to handle
the Hemi's torque-in the form of a
2x4-inch square-tube frame.
Mufflers are custom-made Spintecs,
while the fuel tank is a custom
30-gallon unit built by PSM.


After all that work by PSM-which included shaving off the stock body trim-the Satellite was just about ready for the Hemi, which patiently awaited its new home during the body-resto process. Instead of a crate engine, Steve had Greg Bolton in Jefferson City, Missouri, build one with an Eagle crankshaft, Manley rods and KB pistons, a Comp Cams solid-lifter camshaft, Mopar aluminum heads, and an Edelbrock dual four-barrel intake wearing a pair of 600-cfm Holleys. To make sure the Hemi has enough lube, the guys at PSM also fabricated a custom oil pan and modified the stock pickup to work with it. Behind it is that Bob Mazzolini-built 727 shifted by a B&M Quik Stick using the original Satellite console shifter stick, and a Gear Vendors Under/Overdrive. Knowing that a factory 22-inch radiator wouldn't cut it, Steve added a Be Cool system to ensure no steam-emitting cruises


The underneath is just as clean as
the top side, and you can see the
Gear Vendors Under/Over drive unit,
and the custom made PSM oil pan.


Once all the hardware was fitted to the B-Body, off it all came for paint, but not just any paintjob or a re-do of the original acrylic enamel. Steve called on one of the top body and paint men in the West. "The paint was done by Freddy Valdez," says Steve of Freddy's work, which included smoothing the sheetmetal. Steve adds, "More than one person has told me that's the finest paintjob that they've ever seen. I was at a show with it one time, and a guy walked up and said, 'Who painted this? It had to be so-and-so or Freddy Valdez.' I said, 'Yeah, that was Freddy Valdez,' and he said, 'Nobody else paints like that!'"


Period-correct looks at each corner
are thanks to Boyd Coddington Wheels'
Classic IIs, which wear wide Toyo Proxes T-1S tires.


Inside, the reproduction bucket-seat interior, featuring seat covers, door panels and other cabin items by Legendary Auto Interiors, was installed by Henry Toro at The Upholsterers in Riverside. Henry also stitched the interior side panels' custom vinyl trim, as well as the cloth convertible top and custom top boot.



The result, after a three-year build, is a '66 Plymouth that's worth taking a good look at-as well as a good look at yourself in that mirror-like sheetmetal. What's it like to drive? "The best way to describe it is it doesn't do anything ill," says Steve. "Everything it does is very predictable. It tracks incredibly well. You get on it around a corner, the rear end doesn't try to come around-it drifts out perfectly. It's very, very easy to drive." But that's not all. Steve says with a big laugh, "It's remarkable how well it corners and how well balanced it is."

If this inspires you to seek out a potential Mopar project via the classic-car ads, Steve has these words of caution: "If something has undercoating, be very, very careful. Go and look at the car-investigate it in person. Don't take somebody's word for it."

Steve adds, "Dare to be different. Anybody can build a Chevelle, Camaro, or Mustang. Use some imagination!"






Legendary's repro seat covers and door panels make the Satellite's interior look like a fresh-from-the-factory 1966



No, this isn't from the '66 Plymouth showroom sales brochure-it's the business office of Steve Sommers' Satellite. Stock steering wheel stirs a rack-and-pinion steering setup, while Painless Wiring replaced the well-worn OEM wiring behind the dash.



Restored OEM '66 Satellite console hides a B&M Quik Stick shifter for the 727.



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