Sleek and stylish might not be the words you would come up with when someone says ’55 Plymouth, but in the case of Rick Talbot’s Belvedere, it would be more than appropriate. In 1955, Plymouth unveiled their “Forward Look” concept, which included a panoramic windshield and frenched headlights (rather than the standard headlight ring that had previously been used for decades). But Rick’s vision of the car saw well beyond what Plymouth’s designers were able to come up with more than 60 years ago, and what he created is the epitome of what a hot rod could and should be.
Clean and unusual—two words that accurately describe the engine compartment of Rick’s ’55
Most folks find a car they’d like to build and then find a motor to stuff into it, but Rick worked the other way around with this one, and he has his son, Rick Jr., to blame for it. Rick Jr. was working for Chrysler in the NASCAR Engine Group as the resident engineer at Arrington Engines in Martinsville, Virginia. There are a lot of strange and wonderful things that are developed at facilities like these, most of which never get into the hands of private citizens. At the time, more than six years ago, parts for an R5-P7 engine (an R5 block with P7 heads) began to be accumulated and Rick Jr. and his dad started talking about using one of the rare, race-only motors for a street car (you can find videos of these engines pulling 700-plus horsepower at 9,000 rpm on YouTube).
Once they were able to secure the engine, the hunt was on for a suitable vehicle to build around it. Rick was able to track down a ’55 Belvedere in Pennsylvania that had, at one point in its life, been built out in California. Rick sold a nice big-block ’56 Chevy he owned to finance the build, and picked up the red ’n’ black ’55 that still had an original-style interior.
As for a place to work on the car, Rick didn’t have any problems there. His 2,200 square foot garage in Ridgeway, Virginia, is equipped with all the things rodders dream about, including two Bridgeports (one manual and the other CNC), a 15-inch lathe, bead and slip rollers, an industrial sewing machine, plus a lift as well as a crossflow paint booth. With the exception of the machining of the engine and its assembly, the rest of the work done on the car, including paint and upholstery, was done by Rick in his garage.
Among the awesome collection of tools in Rick Talbot’s 2,200 square foot home garage is an
Rick started work on the car from the ground up by creating his own chassis using 2x4-inch-perimeter tubing coupled to a 2x3-inch centersection dialed in with a wheelbase of 115-1/2 inches. In building his own chassis, he incorporated pass-through holes for the 3-inch stainless steel exhaust tubing as well as a billet aluminum crossmember for the transmission mount. A 9-inch rear (4.30:1) made up of a nodular NASCAR housing, a Yukon posi clutch, and Strange Engineering 31-spline axles uses a triangulated four-bar made from Art Morrison parts, Aldan coilovers (250 pound), and an antisway bar. Ford Explorer brakes, with its DIH system (a drum-in-hat design where the drum brakes are inside the disc brake rotors), were used and 3/16 stainless steel line with 3AN fittings supply the fluid to the brakes.
Up front ’04 Pontiac Bonneville STS discs were adapted to ’84 Corvette uprights and the C4 suspension was attached without the factory cradle, and an Art Morrison antisway bar was also used. Billet Specialties Legacy wheels (16x7 and 17x8.5) are wrapped in BFGoodrich 225/55R and 255/50R KDW rubber, and other items (an owner-fabbed 22-gallon aluminum gas tank, an ’84 Corvette rack-and-pinion) completed the rolling chassis.
Danny Glad of Glad Precision machined the engine before he and Rick Jr. assembled the 348 using a Bryant NASCAR 3.250 crank, Carrillo rods, forged JE pistons, and a roller camshaft ground to Rick Jr. specs by COMP Cams all went into the short-block.