Autostick GTX


Written by: Randy Holden photos by: Robert Wolf Reprinted with permission Mopar Collector's Guide 2/'02

A Hurst pistolgrip automatic... not your typical GTX !

Ron Jones of Newark, IL has a long history of involvement with B-body Mopars. His first car was a used '69 Coronet 500 that he eventually turned into a circle track stock car racer he campaigned at Sante Fe Speedway just outside of Chicago. When that car finally died, he raced a Charger on the clay surfaced short oval. In addition to his "go fast turn left" cars, Ron also had at least one streetable Mopar in the garage.

rear photo of GTX Back in 1992, Ron had an overpowering urge to build a Superbird clone fot a fun street cruiser. This started the search for a suitable starting point. He located just what the doctor ordered in Rock Island - a 1970 GTX that had been reduced to a gutted shell. The formerly 440, automatic motivated Tor-Red GTX was missing its drivetrain and had a pieced together black intereior. The body was sound except for the driver's quarter panel, which had suffered wreck damage years before. The asking price of $500.00 was more than reasonable and Ron carted the forlorn B-body home.

Work on the project began soon after its acquisition, and the route initially taken was to change the car into a Superbird clone. A pair of '70 Coronet fenders were mounted, along wiht a '70 Coronet hood. Then, a Challenger project interrupted and the GTX was placed on the back burner for a while. As it turned out, this interruption turned out to be a major turning point in the GTX's future.

 GTX in front of shop After having spent more time with the GTX, Ron changed his mind about converting the car to 'Bird clone. After having seen a lot of beautifully restored GTXs at the shows, he decided rather than convert this one, he'd restore it back to exactly as he would have ordered one in 1970 if he'd bought one new. Since the car was missing so many of its original components and was a fairly low option car to begin with, there was certainly no harm in performing a restification to create a higher profile machine. So, the Cooronet fenders came off, and work started to create a standout '70 cruiser.

As with any project, gathering parts took as long as the actual work of putting things together. Ron was fortunate in finding a 1970 casting 440 lying in a local salvage yard! He then located an original 1970 iron Six Pack intake and carbs, giving him the basic ingredients for the drivetrain he wanted. The engine was built to stock '70 Six Barrel specs with the exceptions that the compression ratio was lowered to 9:1 in order to ensure driveability on pump gas. The cam is a .530 lift Mopar Performance job.

A new driver's full quarter panel was installed by Jeff Tourt, who also handled the rest of the GTX's bodywork. As you cna see, in his parts gathering, Ron managed to locate a clean Air Grabber hood; another feat that's hardly easy these days. Once the body was slicked to perfection, Al Pierson at Princeton Auto Body laid on multiple coats of FJ5 Lime LIght green. Amazingly, what you're looking at is straight acrylic enamel with no clear coat! This stuff looks a mile deep! The matte black hood stripe and white reflective side stripes add a fantastic contrast to the brilliant green hue.

Do not get the impression though that Ron didn't get his hands dirty. Aside from the paint and body work, most everything else was don by Ron and several friends in his garage. No rotisserie here, just jackstands and countless hours spent under the GTX scraping, cleaning, and wire wheeling everything before the underside was sprayed green. The rest of the undercarriage is detailed just as well as most concours jobs. Anyone who's ever tried cleaning the underbelly of a thirty-year-old car lying on his back on a creeper appreciates what a daunting and time consuming task this was! interior view of car

A white Legendary interior replaced the mismatched blue seating. Reproduction or NOS pieces filled out the rest of the cockpit area. Notice the large Pistol Grip shifter protruding from a four speed console? On-lookers assume this is a four speed car. The clutch pedal further affirms this. But, peeking under the car, something is awry - 833 four speeds don't have big pans on them, do they? And do four speed cars have kick down linkage attached to their carbs? Get ready for a very elaborate sneaky trick!

Ron had a B-body Pistol Grip shifter hanging on the wall of his garage. He always liked the looks of the impressive Hurst stick. But, he likes the easy driving characteristics of the TorqueFlite. So what's a guy to do? Well, if you're extraordinarily imaginative, you combine the best of both realms.

Since the GTX's floors were immaculately clean and Ron knew he wanted to retain the automatic, he left the floorpan alone. What we have here is a modified Pistol Grip shifter welded onto the base of a stock TorqueFlite console shifter. Once the two sticks were mated together, the handle was rechromed to look like new.

GTX engine compartment This is more than just a case of a tricky shifter handle. Ron wanted more of a four speed attitude. The shifter is attached to the clutch pedal via a stock vent cable, and depressing the clutch pedal now acts just like pushing the button down on a stock TorqueFlite shifter! In other words, the shifter doesn't move without the clutch pedal being depressed! And, to ensure he doesn't accidentally shove the stick into reverse, the reverse and park positions were notched out, requiring a bit of moving the handle over and up to get into those positions.

Is this slick or what? This took a serious amount of trial and error engineering. When we asked Ron why he went through so much trouble, he smiled and simply implied he liked to mess with people's heads! This one will definitely do just that!

One other little trick Ron incorporated is a vacuum operated decklid release mechanism that he pirated from an early 1970s Imperial. Depress te little button in the glove box, and the decklid pops open with a little hiss of air! Most people look at this and think it was a rare factory option. Indeed, front to back, the entire mechanism does look factory installed.

hroughout the whole project, Ron took great pains to make the car look like a stock restoration. There's a factory AM/FM on board to provide tunes, power steering, but no power brakes. Most enthusiasts who view this one think it's a four speed GTX that's been treated to a full bore by-the-numbers restoration. His pals in the Chicagoland Mopar Connection know better, because since finishing the GTX, Ron has been a regular at club events and cruise night activities. Despite its prowess as a show car, this one was built to be a driver. Far from being a trailer queen, the brilliant green Plymouth has traveled extensively in the last year.

Does Ron have any regrets that he didn't stick a giant wing and nose on this one? Hardly! He's having too much fun to worry about what might have been. And besides, being a genuine Mopar guy, he knows darned good and well that Superbird clone project will happen sooner or later. And when it does, the 'Bird will have a very cool stablemate to keep it company!

UPDATE:

Ron has sold this car to a collector for undisclosed amount and is on to his next project.