A True Mopar Barn Find Story: ’56 Plymouth Belvedere

Everyone’s heard stories of finding a near-perfect 1930s car stored for 80 years in a dilapidated garage, right? How about that pristine ’40s sedan in a boarded-up barn since it rolled off the dealer’s showroom floor? Or, that gorgeous ’50s Mopar your second cousin’s, wife’s brother bought new, put less than 8,000 miles on it, then passed away and the wife still has it?

Stan Goodwin, of Casper, Wyoming, heard one of those stories several times, finally decided to investigate, and found the rumor to be T-R-U-E!

Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner certainly approve of Stan’s 1956 Plymouth Belvedere.

This story started back in the 1950’s in Glendo, Wyoming. Stan’s mom and dad owned a hotel and café, which just so happened to be next door to C.A. Thomas Motors, a Chrysler/Plymouth dealership, gas station, and garage. Through high school, Stan worked at the station doing normal gas station duties. Those early years fueled his passion for Mopar. He got to see the new Chryslers and Plymouths on the showroom floor, got to clean them, and occasionally drive them in and out. By luck, he got to present a customer from Casper, Wyoming, with his new, one-of-two 1955 Chrysler 300s available in the state.

Stan’s father thought the Chrysler 300 was a bit much for his family, so he bought a brand new 1955 Plymouth Savoy. What a great car it was to drive, including occasional-use driving to Casper Junior College. The next year would see Stan’s favorite car – the 1956 Plymouth Belvedere grace the showroom floor, but his father said the year-old ’55 would have to do for a few years. Eventually, the ’55 Savoy was sold to an uncle, who later sold it to another uncle.

Uncle Wilbur decided not to drive the Plymouth and stored it in a sawmill shed in the mountains west of Wheatland, Wyoming, where he worked for more than 20 years. Just before Uncle Wilbur passed, he gifted the Savoy to Stan with the thought of “I know you will do something with it.” In 1995, Stan and friends dug the car out of the shed.

Stan and Judy’s ’55 still looks good today. In 2016, Stan drove the ’55 to Fairmount, Indiana, for the James Dean Days show and won two awards in the Mopar portion of the show.

It took a few years, but Stan eventually did something with the ’55 Savoy. Today, 23 years and 70,000-miles later, he’s still driving the 383-powered, shaved, lowered, louvered, flamed, yellow car. Although, it’s time has given way to Stan’s new Mopar. Too bad Stan’s father and uncles never got to see what Stan did with the car — they’d be pleased.

In the August of 2006, Stan wasn’t certain what to expect from the barn find rumor he’d heard of a ’56 Belvedere, but he, wife Judy, and his friend Steve decided on a weekend trip to check it out. To say it was déjà vu all over again would be an understatement, as this car was also stored in a sawmill shed.

A cursory glance revealed it to be a convertible – even better than a sedan or hardtop — but how bad was the condition? Judy’s first impression was “Oh my God!”  The car was covered in sawdust and bird droppings, and hadn’t had sunshine on it for 32 years. It took some work to get the car out, but it was in remarkable condition.

Put on the road in early-2017, Stan's '56 has yet to accumulate road rash, but drive it he does. The Hemi will fry tires through the entire quarter-mile.

Judy had another “OMG” moment when they were cleaning it — she had to remove a couple of dead rabbits. Such is the life of a Mopar-loving, car-guy’s wife.

Stan’s intent was to restomod the convertible to look like an early-60s, mild-custom — an era he grew up in — except, of course, with modern running gear.

Left: the original stainless side trim was polished to perfection and reinstalled. Right: white vinyl covers the door panel along with more of the original stainless trim.

Starting with the idea of using a first generation 392ci Hemi, he decided to step-up and use a 2007 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Gen III 6.1-liter Hemi. An engine was located at an Ohio Pick-A-Part recycling yard and shipped to Stan and the build commenced. With the body off the frame, Stan installed a torsion-bar front clip from a 1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue, adapting it to the stocker for the front suspension. The rear suspension remains leaf-sprung with a 1998 Ford Explorer differential with 3:55-ratio gears and disc brakes.

Under the engine covers built by Stan is a true 2007 Hemi backed by a 545RFE transmission out of a Dodge Ram Hemi pickup.

With the engine settled into the frame on custom motor mounts, the next step was to get it running. Because of the four ECU computers in a passenger-car application, programming and wiring issues were complicated. Stan is a wiring expert, but even he had to contact another expert — Chris Squier at Hotwire Auto. Chris told him to find a 545RFE transmission out of a Dodge Ram Hemi pickup. That way he’d need only one ECU, with reprogramming, to control the engine and transmission and run the 6.1 Hemi.

Hotwire built the computer harness and programmed the entire system. Stan used a Painless Performance harness for the balance and placed the battery and computer in the trunk. The way Hotwire Auto laid it out, its all concealed and the car has a super clean engine and firewall.

Left: the trunk is finished with carpet and has a false floor. Right: the battery and computer are snuggled down inside the trunk keeping them both cool.

Gorgeous from any angle, Stan’s ’56 Belvedere convertible is one rare automobile.

Lokar provided the floor shifter, a drive-by-wire throttle assembly, and emergency brake system. Dakota Digital VHX gauges fit perfectly to emulate the original gauges. A Dakota Digital fan controller was used on the AFCO radiator to manage the cooling system. Jerrod Jardine made a custom header setup to solve the exhaust problem and a remote oil filter was installed along with a remote trans cooler and power steering reservoir.

Stan, brother-in-law Ron Chaney, good friends Randy Binfet and Steve Schaffer, handled the fabrication, bodywork, and getting the car in primer. Doug Walters at Starbrite Restoration did the final blocking and paint. Summit Racing provided the two-stage Sky Blue Pearl Metallic over Moonshine Pearl White. A convertible needs a vinyl interior and that was handled by Sam of Sam Parsons Upholstery in Casper. The bucket seats are from a 1969 T-Bird and displays the 50’s-look rolled and pleated inserts. Blue carpet matches the exterior and the trunk is finished as well.

Left: the dash has been updated with Dakota Digital VHX instruments. Right: T-bird buckets have been covered in white rolled and pleated vinyl, reminiscent of the late-50's kustom era.

The center console houses the shifter and Secret Audio stereo, a power-amplified six-speaker system. Stan installed the white convertible top. Lowered, louvered hood, wide whitewall tires, 1960 Dodge Polara hubcaps, and pinstriping highlight the exterior. Stan acknowledges his many friends and great businesses for making this dream come true. Long-time friend Rick Thurston at Rick’s Rod Shop provided much needed counsel and parts advice.

This rare car has exceeded Stan’s expectations with tire smoking, quarter-mile runs and it’s a fun car to drive and show.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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