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Larry Hamblett's 1966 Plymouth Belvedere II
(from Volume 15, Issue 164)

In January of 1966 Chrysler performance engineers made a decision to produce a very limited number of Super Stock competition cars for the likes of Dick Landy, Ronnie Sox, the Ramchargers, and a few select others. They took 13 of their B-body cars and placed the entire body in acid tanks to eliminate as much metal weight from them as they could. Along with other weight loss regiments their efforts meant a 38 percent loss of gross vehicle weight, dropping the cars into the 2,800 pound range. This was done without the approval or knowledge of Chrysler executives, and was kept very quiet around the performance engineers division.

They followed the weight loss up by putting the A990 series performance Hemi (aka the NASCAR Hemi) under the hood, equipped with either a close ratio 4-speed or the race version 727 automatic transmission. The 4-speed cars were fitted with Dana rear differentials, while the automatics were equipped with a race version of the 8-3/4 inch rear end. In producing the race version cars, they quietly moved the rear differentials up 4 inches in the 4-speed cars, and 4-1/2 inches in the automatic equipped cars. The front and rear bumpers are aluminum which have been painted, and they also removed the back seats, installed plastic front seats, and used Corning featherlite glass in the side windows with a leather strap to raise and lower the driver’s glass only. There were no wipers, headlights, or any form of power accessories. For traction there were two very large batteries installed in the trunk, one over each inner wheel well, and the rear suspension was made very rigid for weight transfer.

The acid dipped cars soon became known as “Super Lites” if they were Dodge, or “Feather Lites” if they were Plymouth. The only designation on the car being the HP2 labels on both front fenders of the Plymouth versions, with the later few released with the 426 Hemi identification badges on the lower rear section of the front fenders.

The lite version cars soon garnered the class records for A, B, C and D Stock, for both stick and automatics. Chrysler racing divisions very heavily backed these cars with both financial and engineering assistance, as shown by the fact that the Ramchargers organization was in reality Dodge performance engineers working for the Chrysler Corporation.

From what records are left, they show there were a total of 13 race ready cars (modified and acid dipped), and 50 street version cars to make them legal for NHRA Super Stock competition. From the remaining records, it seems to indicate that today there are only 3 left of the original 13 race versions built. The car you see pictured here is one of the remaining 3, a 1966 Plymouth Belvedere II with an automatic transmission, and belongs to Larry Hamblett of Ponce Inlet, Florida. It was originally campaigned by the Sox & Martin race team for the 1966 season, and some of 1967. It was primarily used for match races, though it did win several individual championship titles during that time, as well as setting new Super Stock A elapsed time and mile per hour records in Indianapolis that year.

The car was retired early in 1967, when new ‘67 models were distributed to the race teams. It sat at the shop until late 1968, where upon it was sold to Larry Hamblett. He then took the car to Virginia and pretty much just stored it until late 2003. It was then that Larry decided to do a ground up restoration, which ended up taking the better part of 2-1/2 years. The engine was completely redone by Keith Black, the transmission was sent to ATI, and the rear end and driveshaft were done in Fairfax Virginia by Drive Lines Unlimited. All the necessary parts to make it a “streetable” original car were acquired when Larry purchased a rust free Arizona donor car. All the glass and window mechanisms, moldings, wipers, lights, instrument cluster, chrome trim, heater, various switches and controls, handles, seats, battery tray, visors, headliner, carpeting, and much more came from the donor car. While still keeping the original look whenever possible, several modern items were also utilized due to safety and reliability concerns. The car now has era correct 5-star Chrysler chrome wheels, replacing the rather ugly original steel wheels.

Larry restored the “Red Baron” to be a very nice show car that is still a driver, and has thoroughly enjoyed the times he is behind the wheel, or at various car shows. He told us that to satisfy his curiosity he did take it to the track one time, and made two passes in the high 9-second range with top end speeds of 138 and 141 miles per hour. It has won many car show awards, but more importantly has given Larry the pleasure of having a true piece of American muscle car history. He told us the older spectators look and smile, with that knowing nod of appreciation for what the car is. The younger people look and wonder, not sure as to what it really is and what it is capable of. However, his greatest joy is all the photos that have been taken of the very young kids sitting behind the wheel, or standing next to the car, knowing that at least they had the chance to experience American muscle car history - while hearing Grandpa explain what the car is. CN