1965 Plymouth Belvedere - DR. Fran Kenstein
With A Home-Built 800hp Twin-Turbo 440, One Of The Roughest Cars To Ever Land In A Magazine Is Also One Of The Coolest.
From the November, 2007 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Stephen Kim
Photography by Stephen Kim
Think of it as the Joan Rivers of hot rods. Kevin Alexander's '65 Belvedere sports an assortment of wacky parts from an assortment of wacky sources that converge in a fashionably mutated end product. Granted, the Belvedere is still mostly Chrysler, but it contains bits and pieces from GMCs, Fords, Mercedes, Nissans, Lincolns, Mazdas, and even forklifts. It's the ultimate junkyard dog, and in fact, the only items on it that were purchased new are the cylinder heads, pistons, cam, and fuel pump. Combined with his deft fabrication talents, Kevin's ability to adapt components for purposes far outside their original periphery is how he built a twin-turbo 440 for $2,800 and an entire car for $13,000. Unlike Ms. Rivers, however, with 657 rear-wheel horsepower on tap, the Belvedere is a science project gone right that frightens onlookers in a good way. So give the man an honorary Ph.D., and change his last name to Frankenstein because that's an alias that most certainly defines his M.O.
Although this Belvedere ended up transforming into a cobbled-together hybrid, that wasn't Kevin's original intent. It just sort of happened. Even among the Mopar faithful, the Belvedere isn't a highly coveted machine, and not surprisingly, Kevin bought it in order to build something different. When he pulled it out of a field nearly 10 years ago, it came equipped with a 383 and a perforated driver-side quarter-panel. He scored a complete 440 from a salvage facility for $125, hopped it up a bit, and went cruising. "The place where I found the motor was pretty clueless, so I got a sweet deal on the motor," he explains. It didn't take long for the mixing and matching of DNA to begin, and spotting a Lincoln Continental at the recycler set it all into motion. "The Lincoln's hood was such a nice, flat piece of steel that I decided to cut it up and use it to patch the quarter-panel."
If that seems like a haphazard method of performing bodywork, it's because Kevin doesn't give a hoot about aesthetics. "Until recently, I never took this car seriously," he says. "It's always been a toy and a cruiser, and I never cared about pretty stuff." That explains why it wears holes in its body panels-from where the side trim and rocker panels used to be-without a hint of shame. We could have easily removed them in Photoshop, but to do so would dilute the car's utterly unique character. The looks-be-damned attitude also explains the car's $250 quickie paint job. "The paint is a proprietary process performed in my friend's garage guaranteed to trap dog hair and provide award-winning drips and runs."
Few cars flaunt their purposeful crudeness as glamorously as this machine, but it's what's underneath the Belvedere's unrefined sheetmetal, cracking paint, and rusted hood pins that reveals the true handiwork of a mad scientist. After throwing some basic mods onto the Belvedere's salvage 440, Kevin grew tired of its lumpity cam and poor street manners. "I bought an '86 Shelby Charger, and had more fun with it than I thought I would, which really got me thinking about turbos," he recollects. "I got tired of having a big cam and short gears, and I wanted a streetable car I could drive cross-country in but still have fun." Not one to submit to a challenge, Kevin did some research, and fabbed his own turbo system. "A lot of people are afraid of turbos because they're not familiar with them, but they're very simple, and welding up the hot parts isn't hard at all. I read some books, like Corky Bell's Maximum Boost, which outlined the basics of putting a turbo kit together in great detail. It was a little intimidating at first, but I learned the skills I needed as the project progressed." Along with the turbos, Kevin freshened up the motor with a $400 rebuild kit from Summit that included new 8.7:1 forged slugs.
Fab skills are always a plus,...
Fab skills are always a plus, but having a machine shop at home doesn't hurt either.
The 440 has been paired with two separate turbo setups during its time, and the first combo was surprisingly simple. Kevin got an old set of Hooker headers for a '74 Road Runner he had laying around, flipped them upside-down, and welded flanges to hang the 60mm turbos off of. Hacking into the inner-fenderwells bought some extra space for the turbos, and the compressed air was routed into a blow-through carb arrangement. "I wasn't making much money at the time, so out of necessity I only had $2,800 into that turbo setup, including the motor," he says.
The combo put out 500 hp and knocked down 18 mpg, but Kevin scrapped it all three years ago in an attempt to improve the car's weight distribution. "I already had a K-member out of a '69 Road Runner in my garage, so I installed it in the Belvedere, which dropped the motor down 1.5 inches and moved it back another 2 inches," he explains. "Moving a 700-pound lump just a few inches back makes a huge difference in weight distribution, and it also gave me more clearance between the motor and radiator. The swap required working the tranny mount a little bit and shortening the driveshaft, but other than that, it dropped right in."
Unfortunately, relocating the motor meant the original turbo system would no longer clear the engine bay, so Kevin built another set of pipes. Using aluminized exhaust tubing, he welded some log-style headers and upgraded the turbos at the same time. The original turbo combo wouldn't run well over 4,800 rpm, so he installed larger turbine housings. With the assistance of a makeshift alcohol injection system, the new combo laid down 657 rear-wheel horsepower and 742 rear-wheel lb-ft on pump gas at 17 psi of boost. "I sprayed regular rubbing alcohol into the motor to make up for my lack of carb-tuning ability," he quips. Factoring in a conservative 20-percent driveline loss through the 727 trans and 8 3/4-inch rearend, that equates to more than 800 hp at the crank. That figure is even more astonishing considering it was all done through a factory crank, rods, and iron heads.
Since then, Kevin has taken the plunge and upgraded to Edelbrock aluminum heads and an Electromotive EFI system. This is typically a costly endeavor, but not for Kevin. He picked up the EFI system used for $500, and turned what was a $65 Weiand tunnel ram intake he found on eBay into a custom EFI manifold. His friend Bob Norwood unbolted the top of the intake, welded a custom plenum to the runners, and installed bungs for the injectors. Speaking of injectors, they're 55-lb/hr salvage yard finds off of factory Mazda RX7s. Furthermore, instead of splurging on an aftermarket throttle-body, Kevin installed a dual 58mm unit from an '01 Mustang Cobra, also found on eBay, for $35. The three-bar MAP sensor needed to run big boost is a factory replacement unit for a GMC Syclone purchased from AutoZone for $80. Relieving boost surge is a $5 blow-off valve from a 2.2L Chrysler turbo motor. "They leak a little boost at high rpm, but the turbos flow enough air that I don't feel much loss," Kevin explains. But wait, it gets even better. The rubber boot that connects the Vortech intake elbow to the intercooler pipe is from a forklift. Kevin confirms that driveability is much improved with the EFI system, and is diligently working on dialing in the tune. He also has an intercooler on hand waiting for installation.
Maybe it's because Kevin's had his fair share of fun thoroughly tinkering with the Belvedere's mechanicals, but he's finally thinking about addressing its appearance. "I sometimes get down on the car because it's so rough and I don't have the opportunity to fix it up the way it deserves," he says. "Getting a magazine story on it is a huge boost to my morale, and it just might be time to do something to improve the car's appearance." Should that day come, he'd probably figure out some way to chip the finish off of cars languishing in salvage yards, mix them with spit, and turn it into a coat of fresh paint. After all, he's not called Dr. Frankenstein for nothing.
Kevin works in the parts department...
Kevin works in the parts department of a Mercedes dealership, and has the freedom to peruse $2.4 million worth of inventory.
According to Kevin, Belvederes...
According to Kevin, Belvederes had smaller engine compartments than other B-bodies, so there wasn't enough space in front of the motor to run a fan clutch.
|WHERE THE |
|MONEY WENT |
|1965 Plymouth Belvedere: ||$2,500 |
|Paint & body: ||$250 |
|Wheels: ||$1,300 |
|Tires: ||$500 |
|Stock 440 short-block: ||$125 |
|Pistons, rings, bearings: ||$400 |
|Machining: ||$140 |
|Cam: ||$225 |
|Lifters: ||$100 |
|Pushrods: ||stock |
|Rockers: ||stock |
|Timing set: ||$150 |
|Cylinder heads: ||$1,200 |
|Intake manifold: ||$1,000 |
|EFI system: ||$500 |
|Plug wires: ||$45 |
|Turbos: ||$600 |
|Wastegates: ||$225 |
|Blow-off valve: ||$5 |
|Throttle body: ||$35 |
|MAP sensor: ||$80 |
|Injectors: ||$100 |
|Oil pan: ||stock |
|Oil pump: ||stock |
|Gaskets: ||$100 |
|Headers: ||$60 |
|Mufflers/collectors: ||$150 |
|Fuel system: ||$450 |
|Radiator: ||$25 |
|Water pump: ||stock |
|Cooling fan: ||$25 |
|Trans: ||$150 |
|Converter: ||stock |
|Shifter: ||included w/trans |
|Rearend: ||stock |
|Rear suspension: ||stock |
|Front suspension: ||$250 |
|Brakes: ||$2,300 |
|Seats: ||$25 |
|Gauges: ||$300 |
|Total: ||$13,315 |
By The Numbers
|’65 Plymouth Belvedere |
|Kevin Alexander, 36 • Irving, TX |
|Total cost to build: $13,315 |
|Type: ||Chrysler 446ci big-block |
|Block: ||Chrysler block bored to 4.350 inches |
|Oiling: ||Milodon oil pump, stock pan |
|Rotating assembly: ||stock crank and rods; |
| ||forged 8.7:1 Speed-Pro pistons |
|Cylinder heads: ||Edelbrock Performer |
| ||aluminum castings |
| ||with 2.14/1.88-inch valves |
|Camshaft: ||COMP 236/232-at-0.050 hydraulic roller, |
| ||.474/.483-inch lift, 112-degree LSA |
|Valvetrain: ||COMP Magnum lifters, |
| ||Pete Jackson gear drive timing set, |
| ||stock rockers |
|Induction: ||Weiand tunnel ram intake manifold |
| ||with custom plenum and injector bungs, |
| ||dual 58mm Ford throttle-bodies, |
| ||Vortech intake elbow |
|Ignition: ||Electromotive distributor-less ignition, |
| ||ACCEL plug wires |
|Fuel system: ||Electromotive stand-alone EFI system, |
| ||55-lb/hr injectors, stock tank, |
| ||Vortech T-Rex inline pump, custom fuel rails, |
| ||Mallory regulator and filter |
|Exhaust: ||custom 2-inch log-style |
| ||turbo headers and down pipes |
|Power adder: ||twin Garrett 60mm turbos |
| ||with 60mm T4 compressor wheels |
| ||and Turbonetics T3 Stage III turbines |
| ||(.96 A/R); TiAL wastegates |
|Cooling: ||stock water pump, |
| ||’74 Chrysler New Yorker radiator, |
| ||’90 Nissan Maxima electric fans |
|Output: ||657 rear-wheel hp |
| ||and 742 rear-wheel torque on 17 psi of boost |
| ||through carb; 456 rear-wheel hp and |
| ||490 rear-wheel torque on 7 psi with EFI |
|Built by: ||Kevin Alexander |
|Transmission: ||Chrysler TorqueFlite 727 trans, |
| ||stock converter, B&M Mega shifter |
|Rear axle: ||Chrysler 8 3/4-inch rear, |
| ||stock axles, 3.23:1 gears, Sure Grip diff |
|Front suspension: ||rebuilt stock components |
| ||with ’69 Plymouth Road Runner K-member |
| ||and ’80 Dodge Diplomat spindles |
|Rear suspension: ||stock with owner-built |
| ||Super Stock-style leaf springs |
|Brakes: ||AMG 14.2-inch rotors and 8-piston calipers, |
| ||front; TSM 11.75-inch discs, rear |
|WHEELS & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||Boyd Coddington Smoothie II |
| ||18x8, front; 18x10, rear |
|Tires: ||Nitto NT555 |
| ||245/45R18, front; 295/45R18, rear |