Firsatsaatleri archive – July 3, 2008 issue
Belvedere owner uncertain of car’s dragstrip history
Story and photos by John Gunnell
“I wish I could say that it is a famous racing car,” said Dave Glass. “But I have to be honest and admit that I just don’t know.” Glass is the owner of D & M Corvette Specialists, Ltd., in Downers Grove, Ill., and the car he was talking about is the ’65 Plymouth Belvedere “post coupe” that he rebuilt as a “Match Race Stocker.” It looks a lot like the factory-backed, altered-wheelbase Plymouths that drivers such as Lee Smith used to drag race back in the mid-’60s.
Dave Glass is an avid car enthusiast who fixes and sells all types of muscle cars and hot rods. Along the road to success as a Corvette specialist, he has also become a specialist in the recreation of “straight-axle” racing machines. (Cars with beam-type front axle set ups.) Glass has a wild-looking Corvette that is built up this way, as well as a Chevy-powered Willys coupe.
Dave’s red, white and blue ’65 Belvedere could probably pass for a high-dollar, factory-backed Super Stocker if it had the original type torsion-bar front suspension, but this car did not always look as nice as it does today. “The Plymouth was drop dead ugly when I first bought it,” Dave explained. “The crew in the D & M restoration shop redid just about everything — except the roof.”
The car’s roof is painted a medium blue color with multiple white stripes running front to rear. “Believe it or not, the paint on that roof is completely original,” Glass pointed out. “While we don’t know if the car was famous, we do know for sure that this Belvedere was an old racing car. We purchased it from a man in Indiana, but all the evidence suggests that it was drag raced in Kentucky.”
The car had no motor when Glass got it, but the four-speed gearbox was in it and looked to be 100 percent factory installed. “The car was not converted to a four-speed,” Dave said. “It had been tubbed and it carried a 6-point racing cage. The guys at my store really got involved with this Plymouth. Sometimes they think I’m eccentric or just plain nuts to take on projects like the Belvedere, but they know that I really enjoy the cars.”
Plymouth Division was forced go racing in the ’60s to keep up with Chevy, Ford, Pontiac and Mercury. Glass’ research shows that Plymouth built 11 acid-dipped Satellite coupes with 426 Hemis and four-speed gearboxes to race in the 1965-1966 season. “I grew up in that era and watched drivers like ‘Dandy’ Dick Landy and Sox & Martin run cars like my Plymouth,” Glass said. “That’s when I first raced my Willys, but it was also the onset of the ‘funny car’ era. So I decided to build a car like the ones I saw racing back then.”
The Belvedere was built a year and a half ago, with all of the mechanical restoration and bodywork done right at D & M Corvette. Glass’ complex in Downer’s Grove includes a fully-equipped restoration shop, as well as a body shop and a service building. Randy Ball was the only outside contractor on the Belvedere. He stitched up the red, bucket seat interior. Fiberglass front fenders are fitted and sit high off the ground.
The engine under the hood today is a 472 Hemi. The car goes to cruise nights in Downers Grove, but is not actually raced. “I got that out of my system years ago,” says Glass. “But when I ran into a rep from Comp Cams at a car show, I asked him to get me a snarly cam that made the same noises as a race car and he delivered in spades.” The engine drives to a sturdy Dana rear axle.
Glass says he loves the way the Belvedere came out. “It’s a racing car so it’s cold-blooded until it gets up to 150 degrees, then it drives and runs good,” he says. “The only thing that could make life better is if we found out more about the car’s early racing history. We keep hoping that someone will recognize the paint scheme on the roof and step up with documentation of the car’s drag racing career.”