The Wagon Man: Dale Jolley’s Old School Plymouth Belvedere Wagon

The fan base for station wagons in drag racing may be small, but they aren’t afraid to show their affection for these monstrous people-movers. Dale Jolley joined the station wagon fan club as a kid rolling around in his family’s wagon and that led him to own several himself. Jolly’s current 1966 Plymouth Belvedere II is a boatload of fun with big Mopar power that he rows the gears in at the track.

As a kid growing up, Jolly used to play with his Hot Wheels in the back of his family’s station wagon. Every time the car would make a turn the cars he had lined up would race across the cargo area of the car. Between in-car races and his father’s cool collection of Mopars that he got to see, Jolly was set for a life of wanting to have vehicles that just went fast or looked good.

Eventually Jolly would get is own wagon: a 1967 Plymouth Fury just like his father had. This car was purchased, driven, and ultimately received a full resto-mod makeover that brought it to a whole new level. The car was now more of a showpiece, won numerous awards, and didn’t see as much driving as it once did. That led Jolly to search for another Mopar wagon just to drive, and that’s where the Belvedere came in.

“I was working for Team Rahal at the time and was in California for some wind tunnel testing. I would grab the local Classic Car Autotrader out there just to browse the rust-free California offerings. There was the 1966 Belvedere wagon listed and was part of an estate sale. I unfortunately didn’t have time to look at it but I did call on it. I ended up finding out that it was being listed on eBay in just days and the car was being offered for sale locally right away,” Jolly explains.

The pictures were enough to get him hooked and after some convincing, the family sold Jolly the rust-free car and shipped it to Ohio. But there was one problem. The title was lost and that led to a California salvage title to be issued, which led to an interesting meeting with the Ohio State Patrol for Jolly to get his new car titled in Ohio. In the end, Jolly got the car titled in Ohio and he was able to fully enjoy it.

The Belvedere was used for weekend driving, trips to work, and even grocery runs, but Jolly just couldn’t leave it stock.

“As with every vehicle I own I can’t seem to leave it as-is. That following winter I decided the car needed a big-block, and why not, I had a 383 short block under the workbench. The next summer saw the Belvedere running around with 383 power and the ability to row gears with an 833 four-speed behind it. This upped the fun-factor and the wagon now started to become cool with others who saw it with the white cue ball and chrome stick coming out of the floor.”

To further fuel the fun build of the Belvedere, Jolly sold his Fury Wagon and went all-in. Instead of making the car look pretty to start with and run out of money for the driveline, Jolly decided to start with the driveline on this build.

“This approach has turned out to be the most enjoyable build I have done to date. I was out enjoying the car and tearing up the pavement. The slight weathering and mostly original paint was okay by me, and made driving it more enjoyable not being afraid to park it out somewhere.”

To help his 4,200-pound beast move, Jolly added a whole lot more horsepower with a 451 cubic-inch stroker motor from Muscle Motors. Inside is a 440 steel crank, Diamond pistons, and Eagle rods. To help the Mopar mill breathe, Jolly bolted on some Edelbrock RPM heads that were CNC-ported, a Comp Cams solid roller camshaft, and Crane rocker arms. To bring the air into the motor, a Mopar M1 intake and 850cfm Demon carburetor were implemented.

With over 600 horsepower on tap Jolly needed a pretty stout gearbox to put all the power down, so a Tremec TKO 650 transmission got the call along with a SPEC clutch to aid in the gear banging process. To make sure all the power reached the pavement, Jolly added a Dana S60 with Strange Engineering axles and 4:10 gears. After some initial rear suspension issues, Jolly had a set of custom rear leaf springs made to eliminate huge amounts of wheel hop the car was experiencing.

With some additional tweaks and a pair of 275 drag radials, the wagon was finally working at the track. Jolly was able to rip off consistent passes in the 11’s, with a best of 11.70 at over 118 mph — not bad for a 4,200-pound car that’s driven to the track and other car-related functions regularly.

For Jolly, this car is everything he wants and he enjoys getting as much use out of it as possible.

“It’s so much fun to drive the car to the track, unpack the pop-up tent, coolers, chairs and swap meet tote cart for the day. I get to have a picnic, make some 11-second passes, buy some swap meet parts, and load it all up and drive home. It’s a great vehicle — you just can’t beat an old station wagon and that’s why I love it.”

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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