Mr. Belvedere: Nostalgia Super Stock Plymouth Is A Dragstrip Classic

Nostalgia Super Stock competition is a drag racing time machine of A/FX and Super Stock race cars from the muscle car era of 1959 to 1969. Doug and Debby Wright compete with this ’64 Plymouth Belvedere that was self-built in Doug’s personal shop and is not only one of the quickest, but among the finest examples of the golden era of Super Stock racing, thanks to its dashing, show-quality looks.

A humorous anecdote to this feature — it took some three years to complete, with rain falling on two different occasions in the middle of the shoot that resulted in the cancellation of the event, and thus, the postponement of the shoot.

“We actually shot it three or four times before completing the images,” Wright chuckled. “We’d try to shoot between rounds or before the raceday began and I would either be winning rounds, or it would start raining. It got to the point that we would look at each other, laugh, and plan for another day.”

The crossram intake manifold is currently topped with two Edelbrock 750 CFM carburetors mildly modified by Wright. The oiling system comes from a Charlie’s Oil Pans aluminum pan connected to an Indy Cylinder Head single-line external oil pump.

The effort was worthwhile as the Mopar is a gleaming example of a 60’s-era factory race car. Though it is not a restored relic from racing past, it is a purpose-built hot rod that Wright created from scratch just for nostalgia class racing. Doug works at Chrysler Engineering as a technician debugging prototype electrical problems. All his racing is financed through special projects he works at outside of his nine-to-five career. Over five winters and one summer, Doug explains that slowly financing and building the Belvedere into precisely what he wanted was just as much fun as racing it.

“My partner, Jim Flagg and I raced our Mopars across the greater Midwest in class racing up until the early 1990s,” Wright recalls. “We won a couple of championships together, but then we both decided to slow down for a while. I built a supercharged Volare street car that I mess around with, but the two of us finally decided to build a drag car again.”

Talk between the friends began when the barn-find Belvedere was located by Flagg and traded for an intake manifold and $1,300 cash. With the Belvedere in their possession, they started to talk about building it into an NHRA Super Stock setup.

One of the unique examples of new and old that Wright utilizes was a quick disconnect steeeing wheel hub located behind the restored Plymouth steering wheel. The vintage push-button shifter system that was modified for racing by Wright contrasts the headliner-mounted switch panel.

Ultimately, the renewed partnership effort ended when Flagg sold his business and moved to Arizona. Wright says, “A few years later while I was out there visiting, he told me to take the car and build it. This car wouldn’t even be here if not for him.”

At this point, Wright decided to build the car by himself purposely for the Nostalgia Super Stock class. His five-year journey to build the car was a meticulous one. “I decided I was going to build a nice race car myself,” Wright continues. “People asked me when the car was going to be completed. I would say when it’s done, it’s done.”

“I did a lot of fabricating I’d never done before. Sometimes, I made a part and didn’t like it, threw it away and made another one,” Doug shares.

The rules sheet for Nostalgia Super Stock allows for some liberties with newer technology engine internals, aftermarket brakes, and suspension components compared to pure 1960’s-era design. But also, many rules hold to the original spirit of the first-generation Super Stocker, like factory designed front suspension, stock firewall, and matched engine/body combinations.

The Plymouth unibody was the first significant chassis fabrication work that Doug had ever built. He lightened the factory K-member and updated the outer tie rod geometry with heim joints that eliminated bump steer. The crossmember was also modified to allow for easier oil pan removal.

Doug was exceptionally proud that when he took the car for NHRA 8.50 ET chassis certification, the inspector asked him what chassis shop did the impressive work. He proudly responded, “Me.”

Most of my life was spent as a Chevrolet dealer mechanic. I may be a hardcore Mopar guy, but if you could fix a broken GM, you could get a job anywhere.  – Doug Wright

More of the rolling stock hardware includes Strange Engineering components such as matched 35-spline spool and axles with a U.S. Gear 4:30 pro gear. In the front end, the K-member was lightened, and the classic trick of using 64 Plymouth 6-cylinder torsion bars was applied. AFCO Racing double adjustable shocks that were valved by Dick Myer are also up front.

With his careers in the greater Detroit auto industry, it’s no surprise that Doug builds his engines himself. His 573-cubic inch engine utilizes a Mopar Mega block with primary machine work performed by Fisher Precision. The 15:1 compression is a result of Diamond pistons, Molnar Technologies 7.100-inch connecting rods, and a Molnar 4.500-inch stroke crankshaft.

Other key engine components are twin Edelbrock Performance carburetors, an Indy Cylinder Head intake manifold and heads that are ported by Jeff Kobylyski. Valvetrain hardware includes a COMP Cams solid roller cam, T&D Machine Products 1.7-inch rocker arms, Trend Performance 7/16-inch x .165-inch tapered pushrods along with Pac Racing Springs 1224 valve springs, titanium retainers, and locks. The ignition is primarily MSD Performance with a 7AL 2 ignition control, crank trigger, and Pro Power coil surrounding a 440 source brand distributor.

Along with narrowing a Dana 60 third member that was scavenged from an E-350 Ford van, S&W Racing 36-inch ladder bars with Koni double-adjustable shocks make up the rear suspension. The sunburst orange paint continues throughout the inside of the car as well.

Hooker Super Comp 2 1/8-inch tube headers are combined with, 3 ½-inch collectors. In true vintage Super Stock fashion, Doug modified the headers for his big engine and Mopar K-member application. His plumbing throughout the car consists of a combination of Fragola Performance Systems and Earls Performance Plumbing.

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Wright also builds his own transmissions; his 1965 vintage 727 trans with a 518 Dodge truck oil pan is still operated by the Believer’s original push-button shifter system. The Torqueflite contains a lightened sun shell, aluminum front and rear drums, and aluminum rear clutch carrier.

A late model oil pump and straight-cut planetary gears and a Turbo Action manual reverse valve body finish the Torqueflite specs. An Ultimate Converter Concepts 9-inch custom built torque converter flash stalls at 5900 RPM.

“It’s fun to compete with no transbrake, throttle stop, or RPM shifts, none of that stuff,” says Wright. “We’re racing as they did in the day, and it’s very competitive. The Nostalgia Super Stock guys are outstanding, so you’ve got to be ready all the time.”

Doug and Debby mainly compete at National Muscle Car Association events, but also race more locally with the Great Lakes Stock/Super Stock Association and special Mopar events in their Michigan-Ohio region.

Wright is currently running in the A/FX class which has a 9.25-second index. The Belvedere’s best elapsed time has been a 9.005 right at 150 mph. We asked Wright if getting the Belvedere into the 8’s is a goal. He responded, “I hate to hop up the motor any more. It could use a bigger .800-lift camshaft, but it is currently so easy on the valvetrain.”

Setting up the Mopar for consistent hook was straightforward for this power level, as well. The Belvedere runs a set of original American Racing 200S wheels of ‘60s vintage. Mickey Thompson tires are all around with M/T 10.5W x 31 ET Drag rear slicks.

Race gauges are carefully incorporated within the stock bezel assembly while hardware like the MSD ignition is hidden withing the glovebox. Detail interior work by Virginia Frasier includes seat covering, cage padding and door panels all in swirled brown vinyl.

“Hooking the 10 1/2-inch tire on a less than perfect surface was quite the learning curve. It would make five perfect passes then blow the tires off,” Wright explains,  “Once we concentrated on shock adjustment instead of moving around the ladder bars, we were close. A friend suggested installing tubes in the slicks to stiffen the sidewall, and that was it. It has hooked consistently ever since.”

One of the very few things Doug did not do on the car is applying the attention-grabbing sunburst orange paint. He completed lots of bodywork, fender well widening, and rust repair himself.

When it came to the finish sanding and laying on the paint, Doug has a friend and neighbor, Ted Smith, who painted it in his garage. The longtime friendship has Ted helping Doug with paintwork while favors are exchanged with Doug doing mechanical work for Ted in trade.

Five years of detailed fabrication is shown off in the spacious trunk with the fuel system, twin Optima batteries and a fire suppression system that routes to a custom handle within the driver's reach.

“I did the paintwork in the trunk, engine compartment, and interior,” Doug laughs as he continues. “I wanted to say that I had a hand in painting the car, so he let me lay on the paint between the tail lights.”

Whether Wright is competing in the NMCA or local Nostalgia Super Stock racing, the popularity of this class is strong. “Fields at the NMCA races can be as large as 65 cars,” Wright adds. “The Great Lakes Stock/Super Stock event this year had 85 entries. It’s excellent competition wherever we race.”

Armed with a lifetime of hands-on automotive knowledge, Doug accomplished something few have the time or the talent to do: assemble a racecar — a spectacular machine inside and out at that — with his own two hands. Now, enjoying the fruits of his labor, Doug gleams with pride every bit as much as the sunburst shade on his Plymouth glows in the sunlight. This is his car, done his way.

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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