Big Hemi


The horsepower wars started long before you think they did, and no other company was as serious about going fast as Chrysler Corporation. The early ‘60s were a wondrous time in terms of technology and market forces pushing for greater and greater performance, and all of that trickled down to the street, where even family sedans could be had with big honking V8s designed to turn tires into stinky white smoke. Styling was often a matter of taste, but the industrial-strength looks of ‘60s Mopars just scream horsepower today and in comparison to some of the big, bulky cars coming out of Ford and GM, machines like this 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury look long, lean, and athletic. It’s a sure bet that seeing one of these hardtops on the road that it’s packing some serious blasting powder under the hood, and this car nails the period performance look without sacrificing full-sized comfort, all at a very reasonable price.

Industrial-strength Mopars always look best in dark colors, and this Sport Fury’s black-on-black wardrobe is only the first warning you’ll get that it’s serious about its business. It comes from the collection of a long-time Mopar enthusiast and appears to be wearing all its original sheetmetal and all of it is in great shape. Those long quarter panels are prone to rust and getting bumped, especially over the course of five decades, but a glance down the flanks shows nice, straight bodywork that’s got nowhere to hide thanks to the glossy black finish. The new-for-1964 cantilevered roofline is pure Chrysler and it’s as attractive here as anywhere else, lending the big car a lithe, athletic look that belies its size. It also helped sales, as earlier Furys were kind of odd-looking. The paint is probably 15 years old, so it’s not perfect, but for a cruiser that’s going to get driven, it looks pretty darned good and stands up to the scrutiny it’ll get at the local cruise night. Nobody will be ashamed to be seen in this street brawler. Nobody.

You also get some pretty nice chrome and stainless trim. The grille is nicely preserved and probably original, because you just can’t replicate that satin finish that the factory used on the aluminum. The side trim with its engine-turned inserts pretty much ensures that the bodywork is straight, and we love the SPORT FURY block letters on the quarters. There’s some light pitting on the heavy cast parts, particularly the hood and trunk ornaments and spears, but it’s really not worth chasing because it’s only visible upon close inspection. Bumpers are very nice, the taillight surrounds are in good order, and the trim that showcases the dramatic roof line looks great.

Finding bucket seats and a console inside one of these is a pleasant surprise, suggesting that the original owner was someone who appreciated performance at least as much as full-sized comfort. We believe the seats have been reupholstered at some point, and the materials and patters are quite correct, including the neat silver piping on the seats. The carpets are in excellent condition and the door panels are wonderfully ornate pieces of ‘60s industrial art, complete with speaker grilles and chrome bezels that look like they belong there. The fat wood-rimmed steering wheel is aftermarket but really warms up the interior, and all the original gauges are fully functional save for the vacuum economy indicator on the console (which is really begging to be a tachometer anyway). The shifter seems intuitively designed to be shifted manually in the heat of combat, with sharp detents to keep you from doing any damage, and the pushbutton controls for the heater are just plain cool. The factory AM radio is still in the dash and should probably be upgraded and they’ve thoughtfully added heavy-duty floor mats to keep it looking fresh. The back seat looks like new and in the trunk you’ll find a correct mat and a full-sized spare that surely dates back a few decades, but no signs of critical body rot or panel replacement.

The engine is Chrysler’s rugged, reliable, and surprisingly eager-to-rev 383 cubic inch V8. Eminently smooth and effortless in almost everything it does, it has been recently freshened with a new carburetor and intake manifold, fresh distributor, and a professional tune by the pros at Bair Customs. Pump the accelerator once or twice to set the choke and it fires as quickly as your fuel-injected late-model and idles well even when it’s cold. On the road, it pulls cleanly with big block torque and despite the car’s size, it’s not particularly heavy, so it’s plenty fast. Experts will suggest that the engine is supposed to be corporate turquoise, but it’s wearing Hemi Orange now, a great contrast to the black engine bay and with chrome dress-up parts, it has a performance look. It’s not radical, so it’ll be a reliable, fun driving partner for years to come and it’s happy on pump gas, so go ahead and drive it all you’d like. Long-tube headers feed a brand new dual exhaust system that’s throaty without being annoying, further reinforcing the car’s street-friendly demeanor.

It’s backed by an indestructible 727 TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission, which always seems to be in the right gear. There’s some recent work here, too, including a cool billet transmission cooler up ahead of the radiator. Out back, the 8.75-inch rear end feels like it has 3.55 gears on a Sure Grip limited slip, so it’s mellow on the highway yet punchy around town. The undercarriage is pretty original, not detailed for show, but it’s also showing original seams and body mounts that haven’t been buried under undercoating, so it’s got nothing to hide. Not perfect, but nothing that should worry a new owner, either. The torsion bar front suspension still has that magic carpet ride and despite the lack of power assist, the freshly rebuilt brakes with new drums are plenty strong enough for the car’s capabilities. Out back you get a set of air shocks so you can fine-tune the attitude, and we like the way it sits with a bit of rake. Vintage-looking Torque Thrusts are exactly the right choice, with these wearing staggered 235/60/15 front and 275/60/15 Firestone radials that have less than 100 miles on them.

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